BEST OLIVE OIL
FOR INFUSING WITH
Walk down the aisles of any gourmet food store and you’ll almost certainly find a variety of infused olive oils. And while the sleek glass bottles holding sprigs of dried herbs look fancy, dried herb-infused oils are actually super easy to make at home.
What’s particularly awesome about using dried herbs for infusing in olive oil is that the essential oils in the herbs are especially concentrated when they are dried. This means your oil will become intensely flavorful—if you use the right olive oil, that is.
The key to making a great infused oil with dried herbs isn’t so much about the herbs as it is the oil you use. In order for that wonderful herbal flavor to come through you must use the right olive oil. Keep reading if you want to know how to choose the best olive oil for infusing with dried herbs and how to make your own at home.
Dried Herbal Infusions: Choosing the Best Olive Oil
When making dried herb-infused oil, you’re going to want to make sure you use the highest quality olive oil you can get your hands on. Unfortunately, though, this is easier said than done. If you’ve heard of the olive oil mafia and the scamming that’s going on in the industry, you’ll know that much of the stuff that is sold as olive oil is hardly that. In many cases it’s either really poor quality olive oil or it’s vegetable oil that’s been dyed and flavored to mimic olive oil. And you can bet the oil used in those seemingly fancy infused oils isn’t any better.
Poor quality oil will mask the flavor of the herbs, making it a poor choice for your infused oil. Instead, you want your olive oil to taste amazing on its own so that the herbs add another dimension. With this in mind, here are a few things to look for when choosing the best olive oil for infusing with dried herbs:
Many olive oils, or those masquerading as olive oil, have a very high acidity that does not work well for herbal infusions. You’ll want to look for something with as little acidity as possible, to help downplay the bitter tannins in your herbs. Typically, extra virgin olive oil will be your best bet. Look for one with 0.3% acidity, as it will let the flavor of the herbs shine through and provide a smooth finish.
A Recent Harvest DateBelieve it or not, most olive oil on the grocery store shelf is pretty old. In fact, it’s probably from last year’s harvest. For the freshest tasting and most nutritious oil for your infusion, choose an olive oil with a harvest date on the bottle and make sure it is recent (no more than 18-24 months old). Better yet, look for a company with a tree to table philosophy that aims to get the freshest oil on your table as soon after production as possible.
Unfortunately, olive oil is often treated with a bunch of funky chemicals and additives that can negatively impact its flavor—and health benefits. Do your research and make sure the olive oil you choose isn’t processed with chemicals and is additive-free. That way, those chemicals won’t compete with the herbs when it comes to flavor.
If you’re going to go to the trouble of making your own infused oil, then starting by selecting a low-acidity, fresh, and pure extra virgin olive oil is important. It’s the only way to make sure you’re satisfied with your finished product. Plus, it will taste a million times better than any infused oil you can buy in the store.
Delicate aromas of fresh-cut grass and sweet tropical fruits. Medium bitterness. Rich and creamy on the palate. This oil will pair best with any floral infusions or complex blends of herbs.
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Fragrant aromas of tomato bush and fig leaf. Sharp notes of green olives. A fine balance of bitter and peppery flavors. Clean and bright on the palate. This oil will hold up well to your boldest flavor combinations and hottest peppers.
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How to Make Infused Olive Oil with Dried Herbs
Once you’ve got your high-quality olive oil, you’re just about ready to start infusing. Before you do, though, there are a few things you should know. First, let’s talk about shelf-life. The great thing about making infused oil with dried herbs (as opposed to fresh) is that they last a lot longer. While fresh-herb infused olive oil has to be stored in the fridge and only lasts a few days, dried herb-infused oils can be kept at room temperature for up to a month. Just be sure to store in a clear glass bottle with a good seal.
While they do last longer, it’s important to know that dried herb-infused oils can be dangerous if not made properly. You’ve got to make sure the herbs you use are absolutely dry so they don’t harbor any bacteria that could end up in the oil. This is particularly important if you are drying the herbs yourself. Other than that, you can follow this method using whatever herbs or combination of herbs you like. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
RECIPE: OLIVE OIL INFUSED WITH DRIED HERBS
- 2 cups olive oil
- 3 sprigs or 2 tablespoons dried hearty herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano)
- Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium-low heat until it reaches 145⁰F (use a digital thermometer to test the temperature). Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
- After ten minutes, add the dried herbs and stir. Let the herbs steep while the oil cools completely.
- Use a funnel to pour the oil and the herbs into a clean and dry glass bottle. This oil will last up to one month at room temperature. The longer it steeps, the more powerful the flavor of the herbs will be.
- Heating the oil slightly helps to bring out the essential oils in the dried herbs, making for a more potent herbal infusion.
- Don’t forget, moisture is your enemy here—it allows bacteria to breed. If you’re not sure how dry your herbs or storage bottle are, you can place them in the oven and let them dry on your oven’s “warm” setting for a while. Don’t go hotter or you’ll release all those precious essential oils too soon.
- For an extra-impressive infused oil, hold back a few sprigs of the herbs you’ll be using and add them to the bottle before you pour in the final infusion. These can make an excellent gift or accessory for your kitchen.
Create your own infusion
Rosemary oil is one of the most versatile infused oils. Its woodsy, earthy flavors pair well with just about any food you can think of. It’s a great finishing oil for pizza and a perfect pairing for grilled vegetables and meat.