Avocado Oil: A New Oil From An Ancient Fruit

Avocado is a member of the laurel family, which also provides us with bay leaves and cinnamon. Botanically speaking, the avocado fruit is considered a berry.

There is archaeological evidence of wild avocados being gathered and consumed 10,000 years ago in central Mexico. Mesoamericans were cultivating the trees 5,000 years later.

The Spanish became the first Europeans to eat avocados when they arrived in the Americas in the 16th century. The fruit was first described by Martin Fernandez de Enciso in 1519. The Spaniards dubbed them aguacate, which they derived from the Nahuatl word ahuacatl. By the time that the Spaniards arrived in the Americas, avocados were no longer limited to Central America but had spread to parts of South America. They brought the fruit back to Europe.

Bernabe Cobo was a Spanish priest and the first European to identify the three main Avocado varieties in the 17th century: Mexican, Guatemalan, and West Indian.

George Washington was known to have eaten avocados. He encountered them on a trip to Barbados in 1751 and referred to them as agovago pears.

A horticulturist named Henry Perrine planted avocados in Florida in 1833. These were the first avocados grown within the mainland US. In 1871, Judge RB Ord of Santa Barbara purchased three avocado seedlings from Mexico. Ord’s trees were the start of the present-day California avocado industry. They would eventually become popular in the following century. Even though they were well-known and widely enjoyed in Florida and California, they weren’t well-known in the rest of the country. It took until the 1950s for Middle America to discover and begin using the fruit.

Avocado oil

The extraction and culinary use of avocado oil are relatively new, even though the fruit has been around for thousands of years. The potential of the fruit to provide oil was first noted by the British Imperial Institute but there is no evidence that avocado oil was being produced at this point. By 1934, the use of blemished fruit for oil extraction was documented. The earliest methods for producing avocado oil included drying out the fruit and then using a press to squeeze the oil out.

Solvent extraction was described in the early 1940s and cooking oil shortages due to World war 2 led to experiments with avocados for oil production. It wasn’t until the 1990s that a method of cold pressing avocados for culinary purposes was discovered. It was based on the method used to extract oil from olives and produced avocado oil that could be used for cooking.

The name avocado was applied in 1915 by the California Avocado Association.

Avocado oil flavor profile

The flavor profile of avocado oil is essentially neutral with a very mild nuttiness and a buttery mouthfeel.

Health benefits of avocado oil

Avocado oil is particularly rich in compounds that are important for health such as:

  • Oleic acid: Avocado oil is a great source of oleic acid, an omega 9 fatty acid.
  • Lutein: Avocado oil is an excellent source of the antioxidant lutein, which is important for eye health.

A diet that includes avocado oil may be effective at treating or preventing conditions like:

  • High cholesterol: Studies have shown that avocado oil can help to lower levels of bad cholesterol and increase levels of good cholesterol.
  • Eye problems: Lutein can reduce your risk of developing cataracts and other age-related eye conditions.

Common uses

Avocado oil has a very high smoke point, which makes it great for high-heat applications like searing steaks and stir-frying. Its butteriness makes it a great oil for salad dressings though it is not as flavorful as olive oil.