Soybean oil and olive oil are two widely used cooking oils with many of the same properties; for example, they do have some of the same health benefits and are both flavorful. They also have significant differences and are often not interchangeable. We will compare them in the SPICEography Showdown below:
How does soybean oil differ from olive oil?
Soybean oil and olive oil don’t look the same. Soybean oil has a pale yellow color while olive oil’s color ranges from very pale green to a deeper green. Light or refined olive oil will have a paler color while extra virgin olive oil will be greener.
Soybean oil has a different flavor from olive oil. The flavor of soybean oil is supposed to be neutral and usually is because it has been deodorized; however, the flavor can return during storage. The return of soybean flavor is referred to as reversion. The flavor is vegetal — some describe it as beany — with a slight fishiness.
The flavor of olive oil differs depending on which kind you use. Refined olive oil will have a neutral flavor profile while extra virgin olive oil will have a grassy flavor with a hint of pepperiness in some cases.
Soybean oil and olive oil have different smoke points. The temperature at which a cooking oil begins to generate smoke and degrade is called its smoke point. Soybean oil is considered a high-temperature cooking oil with a smoke point that is approximately 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Olive oil’s smoke point varies depending on the type of oil. Refined olive oil can have a smoke point of about 470 degrees; extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point of about 375 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that it can’t be used for high-temperature cooking. Use it for light sautéing instead.
Soybean oil and olive oil are both healthy but not in the same ways. Even though both oils contain omega-3 fatty acids, soybean oil contains much more of them. It also contains much more vitamin K than olive oil. Olive oil contains less saturated fat than soybean oil and significantly more vitamin E.
Can you use soybean oil as a substitute for olive oil and vice versa?
Soybean oil can work as an olive oil substitute if you are using neutral-tasting soybean oil to replace refined olive oil. Both oils are high-temperature cooking oils, so they won’t burn easily.
Soybean oil won’t make a good olive oil alternative if its flavor has reverted since it may negatively affect the overall flavor profile of any dish that contains it. Soybean oil also won’t be a good substitute for extra virgin olive oil since it lacks the distinctive grassy flavor that is one of that oil’s hallmarks.
Refined olive oil will work in any dish that typically requires soybean oil, but it can add to the cost. Extra virgin olive oil won’t be a good idea in high-temperature dishes because of the low smoke point and because of the flavor profile, which may affect the flavor profiles of dishes that require soybean oil.
When should you use soybean oil and when should you use olive oil?
If it is odorless and neutral-tasting, soybean oil works best as a general-purpose frying oil. Use it for deep-frying and stir-frying. You can also use it for making salad dressings and for baking.
Use refined olive oil for general frying or in salad dressings. Extra virgin olive oil should be restricted to uncooked preparations, but you can use it for low-heat sautéing as well. It works best as a finishing oil and in salad dressings.