Are Olive Oil and Vegetable Oil the Same Thing? (Answered)

If you go to the cooking oil section of the store, you’ll see hundreds of different oils. However, two oils that most people can recognize and have used are vegetable oil and olive oil. They are frequently used in similar ways, but does this make them close to the same thing?

Olive oil is a type of flavorful oil that is made from cold pressed olives. It is frequently used in Italian foods and is commonly used as a main ingredient in salad dressings. Vegetable oil is like the budget version of olive oil and is made from a mixture of multiple types of oils.

In some cases, they can be used in similar ways but in others, you’ll never want to use them in place of each other. This could cause the flavor of your recipe to go funny or, in some cases, could ruin it in the case of the oil burning.

Are Vegetable Oil and Olive Oil the Same Thing?

Although they can both be used in similar ways, vegetable oil and olive oil are not the same things. Olive oil is made by pressing olives and it only contains one type of oil. Vegetable oil is made by pressing multiple vegetables together like sunflower, corn, and soybean.

Out of the two, olive oil is usually much more expensive than vegetable oil. This is especially true with extra virgin olive oil where the oil is extracted from the first press of the olives and is minimally processed. This means that you’ll get a much more distinct flavor with the olive oil. It is so distinct that some people even use it as a condiment.

Vegetable oil was basically created to be the budget version of more expensive oils. Since it is a mixture of several cheap oils, it has a very neutral flavor that pairs well with many dishes. You can use it as the fat source in a boxed cake without having to worry that the flavor will impact the overall flavor of the dish.

Comparing Olive Oil and Vegetable Oil

When looking at olive oil and vegetable oil, you’ll notice that there are several similarities and differences between the two. To decide which to use, you’ll want to know the benefits and downsides of each. Olive oil is more suitable for certain things and recipes whereas you’ll want to use vegetable oil for others.


There are multiple similarities between the two types of oil. If the recipe you’re using relies on these similarities, then chances are you could use either product without noticing too much of a difference.

Smoke Point

The first similarity you’ll notice between the two is the smoke point. The smoke point of an oil is the point where the oil begins to burn instead of just heating up. Certain oils have a really low smoke point and should never be used on the stovetop or in the oven. Other oils have a very high smoke point and can safely be used for searing seafood or other dishes. 

Olive oil has an average smoke point of about 390 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that you’ll be able to use it for most baking recipes without having to worry that the oil will burn. However, you’ll want to use caution if you’re cooking something on the stovetop. It is easier to accidentally overheat the pan and burn the oil when cooking this way.

The same goes for vegetable oil. It has a slightly higher average smoke point of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. This also makes it good for baking, one reason that so many people use it as a fat source in boxed cake recipes. However, it can easily burn if you don’t carefully monitor the heat of your pan on the stovetop.


Another major similarity that you’ll want to be aware of between the two products is their nutritional composition. Both of these products, no matter if they’re from a high-end brand or budget tier one, are made of fat. They are pure fat in the same way that fruit juice, like an apple or orange juice, is pure sugar. 

If you are trying to reduce the amount of fat or the overall calories in your diet, try looking at how much oil you’re adding. With just a few tablespoons of oil, you can have eaten a couple of hundred calories without feeling like you’ve eaten enough.

Several other factors impact health, but caloric content is a very important one to consider from the get-go. That way you’ll understand how much oil you can healthily include in your diet. 


Although they are both types of oil that can be used for cooking, there are a lot more differences between them than there are similarities. 

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The first difference that you’ll notice between the two is the difference in price point. 

Olive oil is typically much more expensive than vegetable oil, especially if you’re buying virgin or extra virgin olive oil. These types of olive oil are collected from the first pressing of the olive oil. This helps to prevent the oil from becoming bitter, allows for the purest taste, and has the least amount of processing.

More highly processed olive oils will be cheaper, but they will still be more expensive than most vegetable oils. You can usually tell which are the most expensive because they are made in high-quality, tinted glass bottles whereas the cheaper oil is stored in plastic bottles.

Vegetable oil is usually some of the cheapest cooking oil that you can find at the supermarket. This is because it’s made from a mixture of oils so the company doesn’t have to worry as much about cross-contamination. It is also made from a combination of cheaper oils that are often considered scrap oils that come from making other products.

You will typically find vegetable oil in a thin, plastic container that is cheap to make. It is made to store the oil, not to maintain its quality or flavor the same way the glass does for olive oil.

If you are on a budget, chances are vegetable oil is going to be the one you go for. Even the cheapest olive oil will likely be more expensive than vegetable oil. 


Another big difference between olive oil and vegetable oil is the flavor. Olive oil, especially high-quality olive oil, is known for its distinctive flavor and is often used as a dressing for bread and salads. On the other hand, vegetable oil is made to be as flavorless as possible.

Olive oil is made from cold pressing olives. When you do this, the oil comes out and is then filtered, sterilized, and bottled. Overall, this is a very minimal amount of processing, especially with high-quality olive oil. This short processing time helps to keep the flavor as olive-y as possible and the flavor isn’t diluted with any other oils.

Vegetable oil is made with a mixture of many different oils. Each of these oils has to be collected and sterilized. Then they will all be mixed together, checked for impurities, then they can be bottled. The combination of the extended processing time and mixture of oils makes for a very neutral flavor. It is hard to pick out the individual flavor of any of the oils.

For this reason, vegetable oil is a popular ingredient in recipes where you don’t want to be able to taste the individual oils. For example, if you’re making a dessert and choose to use oil as the fat source, you won’t want the strong flavor of grapeseed oil behind the chocolate. Instead, you’ll use an oil-like vegetable oil that will be easily covered up by the other ingredients.


The next category where you’ll notice a difference between the two is how they are used. 

Olive oil originated in the Mediterranean and has since spread throughout the world. It is especially popular in Italian dishes where it is frequently used as both an ingredient and a garnish.

In most salad dressings you’ll find olive oil listed as an ingredient, usually mixed with some type of vinegar to cut down on the fat and balance the flavor of the dressing. It is also used to dip bread, typically mixed with balsamic vinegar or fresh garlic. As long as it is kept to a low heat, you can also use olive oil to saute your food. 

Vegetable oil can also be used for a variety of different purposes. It can be used for frying as long as the temperature is kept to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or below however, its most popular use is baking. 

In baked goods, vegetable oil works as a good source of fat to help the bread stay moist. With its neutral flavor, you can place it in super light cakes, like strawberry shortcake, without having to worry that the flavor will overpower the flavors you’re trying to showcase.


The vitamin content of these two oils is another factor that differentiates them. 

Olive oil is less heavily processed and comes from only one original product, olives. This means that oil contains a lot of the vitamins that olives naturally have. Two of the vitamins that you will find in olive oil are vitamin K and vitamin E. 

Vegetable oil only contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals from the different types of oils that it contains. The processing also takes away some of the vitamins as they degrade throughout the mixing and sterilizing process. This means that you won’t be getting the same nutritional boost with this type of oil that you’ll get when consuming olive oil.

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The last category where you’ll see a difference is in the antioxidant levels of these two oils.

Since olive oil is minimally processed, it has a much higher antioxidant content. This is especially true of extra virgin olive oil where the oil is extracted from the olives during their initial pressing.

Highly processed vegetable oils do not contain antioxidants. This is okay and does not make them automatically bad for you, but you won’t get the same level of nutritional benefits from this oil.

When to Use Vegetable and Olive Oil Respectively?

Now that you understand the differences between the two, you’ll need to understand when to use each of these products. They should be used for different things and each product will shine in different recipes.

Vegetable Oil

If you’re wondering when to use vegetable oil over different types of oil, know that the best time is anytime that you need an oil that won’t affect the overall flavor. This means that if you’re ever making a stir fry and you want to flavor it with other ingredients, using vegetable oil could be a great option. Just make sure it doesn’t get too hot.

Pouring cooking oil into glass bowl, closeup

Vegetable oil is also a fantastic option for baking. It can be a great fat source and is often a suggested ingredient in boxed cake mixes. It adds moisture to the recipe without adding an extra flavor that you don’t want. It is also cheaper and easier to mix into dry ingredients than butter, which needs to be softened and beaten.

Olive Oil

Olive oil can be used for things like frying, but it is best suited to recipes where it serves as an ingredient, not a tool. One of the best ways to eat olive oil is with some fresh bread. Just add some balsamic vinegar or fresh garlic to the olive oil to enhance the flavor. You can also make a simple salad dressing from olive oil and a few seasonings.

If you use olive oil in a baked good, chances are you’re going to be able to taste it. The only recipes where you won’t be able to detect the flavor are strongly flavored recipes like an intense chocolate cake or brownies.

However, some baked goods actually make use of the intense olive oil flavor. Olive oil cake is a light, slightly sweet cake that is typically flavored with vanilla and almond extract. Sometimes a light icing is drizzled over the top to take the sweetness up a notch. 

Can You Substitute Olive Oil for Vegetable Oil and Vice Versa?

As long as you consider the differences between the two, they can be used as substitutes for each other. You’ll simply want to make sure that the flavor of the olive oil won’t ruin the recipe that calls for vegetable oil.

If you try to use vegetable oil in place of olive oil, you may want to add in extra seasonings to make up for the lack of flavor.  

Which Is Better Between Vegetable Oil and Olive Oil?

It is difficult to say which oil is better between the two. Olive oil definitely comes out on top nutrition-wise. It has healthier types of fats and also contains vitamins that can help to improve your health. It also has a much stronger flavor which is desired for many recipes and can be used as a topping on salads and bread.

However, this will not be ideal for every situation. If you are baking a cake, you don’t want the strong flavor of olive oil shining through. For this reason, it is best to use vegetable oil in certain situations. The best oil will depend on how you are planning on using it so that it mixes well with the rest of the ingredients.

Final Thoughts

Although they are both common oils that are used in cooking, olive oil and vegetable oil are not the same thing.

Olive oil is made from cold pressed olives and has a much more intense flavor. It is frequently used as an ingredient in salad dressings and is flavorful enough that you can eat it on its own with bread to dip.

Vegetable oil is a cheaper oil made from a mix of various oils. It has few vitamins and antioxidants since it is a highly processed oil. It has a very neutral flavor and can be used in various recipes for both frying and baking. Since the flavor won’t affect the overall recipe, you can use it without worrying about the flavor of the other ingredients.