Olive oil is a great addition to any meal. The Mediterranean diet staple is loaded with antioxidants, reduces inflammation, and—let's be honest—it makes everything it touches taste so much better. But if you really want punch up the flavor of your meal, you'll need a few infused olive oil recipes.
"Infusing olive oil is not only a fun DIY kitchen project, but the final project is a flavorful and versatile cooking ingredient. It's also a great way to use up leftover herbs from a recipe, or save the overflow from your garden," says Katie Cavuto, MS, RD, executive chef for Saladworks. "Toss them with vegetables prior to roasting, or add a drizzle after cooking. Infused oils are also a great addition to most marinades and salad dressing. You can even add a drizzle of infused olive oil to cooked pasta."
How to make infused olive oil
First thing's first. Before trying out one of Cavuto's infused olive oil recipes, gather top-quality ingredients. "Start with the best quality ingredients—herbs, spices, and oil—that you can afford, as good quality ingredients will produce the best results," she says. That's especially important for olive oil. Pick up a bottle of California Olive Ranch Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($19), Gaea Fresh Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($21), or Corto Truly 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($25). Then, use one of her techniques below.
1. Simple method
This is by far the easiest method, but it also takes the longest.
- Gently massage your herbs and whole spices to release the oils, then place them in a sealable jar.
- Cover the ingredients with oil so they are fully submerged. I like a 4:1 or 5:1 ration of oil to herbs/spices.
- Store in a cool/dark place for two weeks so the flavors can infuse.
- After two weeks, strain the herbs/spices or keep them in the bottle for appearance purposes.
- Lasts for one month.
2. Heated method
This method is quick, but it won't result in as much flavor. "While heating your oil and flavoring ingredients speeds up the process and reduces the risk of bacterial growth, it might negatively impact the flavor as you’re heating the oil," says Cavuto.
- Add your oil and flavoring ingredients to a saucepan and heat on medium-low to around 180 degrees.
- Don't overheat the oil. Use a kitchen thermometer ($12) to get the right temperature.
- Lasts for one month.
3. Blended method
This method—which is Cavuto's favorite!—is quick, easy, and keeps your infused olive oil fresh for months.
- Use up leftover fresh herbs by blending them (in your blender) with olive oil.
- Pour the herb oil into ice-cube trays and freeze for later use.
- Stays fresh in the freezer for up to three months.
The best infused olive oil recipes
For Cavuto's favorite infused olive oil recipes, she recommends a 4:1 or 5:1 ration of oil to herbs/spices/ingredients. But feel free to add in as little or as much of each ingredient as you want; the higher the ration, the stronger the flavor of your infused olive oil.
1. Rosemary olive oil
Aside from whole rosemary sprigs looking beautiful in the jar, Cavuto says the hearty, savory herb also adds a strong flavor into your meals. Rosemary also improves brain health, helps prevent diabetes, and fights off bacterial infections.
2. Garlic and basil olive oil
Cavuto says blending your desired amount of basil and garlic into olive oil gives you a pesto-like flavor that you can add into your favorite dishes.
3. Oregano, thyme, and rosemary olive oil
This combo is both healthy and delicious. "Oregano, thyme, and rosemary—either steeped or blended into the oil—is rich in antioxidants and is a tasty addition to salad dressings and marinades," she says.
4. Citrus olive oil
Using citrus rinds—like lemons and oranges—adds a fresh and bright flavor to your olive oil. "This works best with the heated method," says Cavuto. "The outcome is a vibrant oil that works well with chicken and fish marinades, or as the base of a bright salad dressing."
5. Fennel seed olive oil
Fennel seeds have a slightly sweet flavor that makes for a unique olive oil. "Fennel seeds work well with the simple method. Just make sure to massage the seeds together in your hands prior to add to the oil," she says. "Fennel infused olive oil is a delicious addition to fish, pork, and chicken recipes." Fennel seeds are also great for your gut.
6. Turmeric olive oil
You can reap even more anti-inflammatory benefits by adding turmeric into your olive oil. It works best with the simple method, letting it sit for two weeks before using it.
7. Garlic olive oil
If you're a big garlic fan, you can't go wrong with keepings simple and adding garlic into your olive oil—especially since garlic supports a healthy immune system and is anti-inflammatory. Prepare the olive oil using the heated method, adding in as many garlic cloves as you want. Pro tip: If you smash them before adding them into the oil, the garlic will release more flavor.
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