This Cooking Oil Is Made Using Algae—And TBH, It’s as Amazing (and Versatile!) as Olive Oil

Photo: Stocksy/ Helen Rushbrook
A splash of olive oil is typically the first thing to hit the pan the moment I start cooking. With a smoke point of around 400ºF, a little bit of olive oil goes a long way—from kickstarting the Maillard reaction for perfectly crispy and charred foods to dressing up a simple vinaigrette. The ubiquitous, versatile, relatively affordable oil, has long been a mainstay in my kitchen.

But according to Daniel Humm, a plant-based chef and the club culinary officer of the newly-launched brand Algae Cooking Club, EVOO may soon be dethroned from its reigning spot in my pantry. Yep, there’s a new(ish) oil in town promising to deliver some fabulous liquid gold for all of your cooking needs with just as many, if not more, benefits than regular ol’ olive oil: algae oil.

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I had the opportunity to try Algae Cooking Club’s chef-grade algae oil, and let me say, it’s certainly heating up (pun intended) the competition when it comes to high-quality cooking oils—here’s why.

What makes algae oil so special?

Although algae oil isn’t exactly new—with brands like Thrive previously attempting to break into the culinary oil space—Algae Cooking Club is looking for a permanent spot on your pantry shelf. And, frankly, the high-quality product builds a strong case for it.

From a home cook standpoint, algae oil has a lot of selling points. Kas Saidi, founder of Algae Cooking Club, argues that algae oil's subtle flavor amplifies, but doesn’t mask the flavors of a dish. This is not necessarily the case with olive oil, which can have grassy, slightly bitter notes that burn the back of your throat when sipped. Those are signs of high-quality olive oil, yes, but unfortunately can overwhelm subtler flavors that you might want to taste instead.

Then, there’s the superior smoke point of algae oil. It can be heated up to 535ºF without breaking down or smoking—which is more than 100 degrees higher than EVOO—ideal for your high-heat grilling needs. Saidi attributes algae oil's uniquely high smoke point is due to a special type of microalgae used to make Algae Cooking Club's product: terrestrial microalgae. These single-celled organisms live on land and in the soil, and play an important role in capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Microalgae produce oil that's high in unsaturated fat—the stuff that's good for cardiovascular health.

"[Our algae oil has] 93 percent omega-9 monounsaturated fat, ensuring exceptional oxidative stability and a high smoke point," Saidi adds. Research also shows that omega-9 fatty acids have powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties2 that promote overall well-being.

Other oils, meanwhile, tend to have higher proportions of omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids. "While we can't speak for other algae oil companies, our focus remains on delivering the purest and most stable oil for your culinary needs," Saidi says. For comparison's sake, it’s worth noting that avocado oil has an equally high smoke point, although it's much more prone to oxidation (meaning that it can break down faster when exposed to heat or sunlight) than algae oil.

Algae Cooking Club also claims that its product has a thinner consistency than other oils on the market, which lends itself for emulsifying with other ingredients effortlessly. (A vinaigrette’s dream.) Meanwhile, other oils can separate in an emulsion more easily due to their higher viscosity.

Finally, Saidi claims algae oil is more environmentally friendly than other oils, as production creates less carbon emissions than canola and avocado oils. Although more research is needed to understand all the various potential environmental impacts of algae oil compared to others on the market.

How is algae oil made?

Making algae oil at Algae Cooking Club calls for a three-step process that’s similar to brewing beer or making wine. To start, it sources microalgae (tiny single-cell organisms), rather than macroalgae (such as kelp or seaweed). This is because, according to Saidi, microalgae produces “unparalleled purity of omega-9, fats that are good for cooking and good for you.” Then, the microalgae is fermented in large stainless steel tanks, and is fed sugar to help them grow; a byproduct of that is oil. (Think of it like yeast, a living organism that creates alcohol and carbon dioxide when it's fermented.)

A few days later, the algae turns into 80 percent oil by weight and is ready to be “harvested.” Then, the plumped-up algae are "expeller pressed," which is a common term used in the olive oil industry, but in this case the algae is squeezed to release its oils (instead of olives). Finally, the oil is ready for packaging.

My review of Algae Cooking Club's algae oil

Although fine dining isn’t everything, knowing that Algae Cooking Club has Humm’s seal of approval spoke volumes for me. After all, the culinary legend—best known as the owner of Eleven Madison Park, a three Michelin star restaurant—has been a huge advocate for plant-based eating at the fine-dining level. So, it has to be good, right?

The 16-ounce bottle—which retails for $25 via the Algae Cooking Club website or in select stores across the country—is comparable in price to other same-sized, good-quality olive oils on the market (Graza's 'Drizzle' Extra Virgin Olive Oil retails for $21 per equivalent-sized bottle). Plus, it's ultra sleek and cute enough to have hanging out on your countertops without totally ruining the aesthetics. The off-white aluminum packaging sports a minimalist design with a playful orange logo front and center that reads “Algae Cooking Club” in a font reminiscent of the disco era. But, of course, it’s what’s on the inside that really counts.

The taste and appearance

Upon first drizzle, I noticed the oil is far lighter in color than what I expected, which was especially noticeable when it nearly blended into the clear, glass ramekin I poured it into—it’s pale yellow and even lighter than canola oil—and is surprisingly scent-less. In terms of taste, I found it had a very mild, yet pleasant flavor, with mostly neutral, light, and slightly buttery tasting notes. No pungent, grassy olive oil taste here, fam. That said, you won't catch me dipping a freshly-baked baguette into algae oil (it's a little too plain for that alone) in the near future unless it's heavily seasoned with spices or spiked with a splash of aged balsamic.

The texture

What the product lacks for in terms of flavor, it makes up for in terms of texture. This product still has that luxurious, oily mouthfeel that coats your every taste bud, even though it’s less viscous than most olive oils on the market. I found this texture especially handy for making vinaigrettes or other emulsions where I didn't want to use a strong-tasting oil. Although I haven't tested it out yet, I imagine algae oil would be a great neutral-tasting contender (and replacement for canola oil) for baked good recipes, too.

Its high smoke point

In addition to the luxurious texture, algae oil is tough to compete when it comes to its super high smoke point. Even with the stove cranked up to high for a few minutes, much to my amazement, the oil didn't smoke. So, as summer quickly approaches, algae oil will definitely be my go-to option for all of my high-temperature grilling, searing, and sautéing needs.

How it cooks

To really get a feel for the oil, I made one of the simplest dishes possible—a fried egg—to really let the oil work its magic. In a small sauté pan over medium heat, I drizzled about a tablespoon or so of algae oil and gave it a good swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Thanks to its slightly looser consistency than olive oil, the algae oil had no problem getting into all the nooks and crannies and covering the surface area without pooling on one side or the other; This significantly helped the fried egg cook more evenly.

The final result? A perfectly-cooked fried egg that didn't leave any residual aftertaste or slickness on the tongue due to its cooking oil. In short, the egg's flavor was the star of the show, while the algae oil took the prize for best supporting actor as it didn't overpower the dish.

I found that the algae oil worked just as well as any other cooking oil I’d typically use to get the job done—but left no after taste whatsoever. That said, the real test would be grilling at high temperatures with algae oil, which I’ve yet to do. But from the looks of it, the results should be equally as promising.

Bottom line

Overall, what I liked most about the product is its ability to take the backseat and let other flavors shine. As effective as olive oil may be in so many different cooking scenarios, I find that iconic peppery aftertaste isn’t always the missing ingredient in recipes I’m making. Sometimes a more neutral-tasting oil can be exactly what I want—and this algae oil is that and so much more.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Xue, Zhaohui et al. (2018). Edible oil production from microalgae: A review. European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology. 120. 10.1002/ejlt.201700428.
  2. Farag, Mohamed A, and Mohamed Z Gad. “Omega-9 fatty acids: potential roles in inflammation and cancer management.” Journal, genetic engineering & biotechnology vol. 20,1 48. 16 Mar. 2022, doi:10.1186/s43141-022-00329-0
  3. Werman, M.J., Neeman, I. Oxidative stability of avocado oil. J Am Oil Chem Soc 63, 355–360 (1986).

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