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Using Extra Virgin Olive Oil in Sweet Dishes

Using Extra Virgin Olive Oil in Sweet Dishes

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is commonly associated with savoury dishes such as salads, pasta, grilled fish and stews and less so sweet dishes and baked goods. However, EVOO is a great cooking companion when it comes to sweet dishes and in this article, I will be sharing exactly why and ways to use it, so you can feel confident giving it a go.


Most, if not all, sweet recipes call for the addition of fat in the form of butter, refined oils or even copha. Fats not only add flavour but they also help with structure, moisture and texture. Afterall, there is nothing worse than a dry and bland muffin. Unfortunately, these kinds of fats are high in saturated fat, which should be limited in the diet.

Conversely, EVOO is a rich source of healthy monounsaturated fat (mostly oleic acid), which is protective against heart disease1-2 and also an array of antioxidant compounds.3-4 EVOO can also be used for cooking at high temperatures and the strong flavour of EVOO can help to balance out the sweetness of dishes and enhance the overall flavour. All of these factors make EVOO a better option when it comes to cooking certain sweet dishes.

Ways to use EVOO in sweet dishes?

EVOO is a great substitute in most sweet dishes, but it won’t work for all. Specifically, if a recipe calls for creaming butter and sugar or for working butter and flour/sugar into a crumb, EVOO won’t suit. Additionally, butter and copha are saturated fats which are generally solid at room temperature. This means, when fat is being used for setting purposes, such as chocolate crackles, then EVOO will not work because it is an unsaturated fat and will be liquid at room temperature.

However, if a recipe calls for melted butter or oil in liquid form, then you can be confident that EVOO is an equal replacement.

In terms of how to substitute, a good general rule is 3 parts EVOO to 4 parts butter. This translates to:
• ¼ cup butter = 3 tbsp. EVOO
• ½ cup butter = ¼ cup + 2 tbsp. EVOO
• 1 cup butter = ¾ cup EVOO

In terms of substituting EVOO for other oils, a 1:1 ratio can be used.

Remember EVOO does have a strong taste, so if you want a more subtle flavour throughout your baked dish, then opting for light EVOO is a good idea.

The types of sweet dishes which EVOO work best for include:
• Banana breads and loafs;
• Doughnuts;
• Biscotti and shortbread;
• Cakes including flourless cakes and upside-down cakes; and
• Mousse, custard and ice-cream.

Overall, as a nutritionist and chef, I am passionate about using the highest quality and most nutritious ingredients without compromising on taste. Part of this philosophy means making subtle tweaks to less healthy dishes, to improve their nutritional profile. As you will have learnt, a great way to put this into practice is by using EVOO in sweet dishes, in replace of unhealthier kinds of fats.

As an example of how to use EVOO in sweet dishes and just how delicious it can be, enjoy my Extra Virgin Olive Oil Orange Cake. View the full recipe here.

View article references

1. Wang D, Li Y, Chiuve S, Stampfer M, Manson J, et al. Association of Specific Dietary Fats with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality. JAMA Intern Med [Internet]. August 2016; 176(8):1134-45.
2. Guasch-Ferre M, Hu F, Martinez-Gonzalez M, Fito M, et al. Olive oil intake and risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality in the PREDIMED Study. BMC Medicine [Internet]. May 2014; 12(1):78.
3. Yubero-Serrano E, Lopez-Moreno J, Gomez-Delgado F & Lopez-Miranda J. Extra virgin olive oil: more than a healthy fat [Internet]. November 2018; 72: 8-17.
4. Fito M, de la Torre R & Covas M. Olive oil and oxidative stress. Molecular Nutrition Food Research [Internet]. October 2007; 51(10):1215-1224.