Walnut oil and olive oil both have strong reputations for their health benefits. Each is versatile and highly flavorful, but they are not always interchangeable. Here is a look at how these two cooking oils compare to each other.
Table of contents
How does walnut oil differ from olive oil?
Walnut oil and olive oil have different sources and are extracted with different methods. Walnut is cold-pressed or expeller-pressed from the nut-meat of walnuts. Olive oil comes from olive fruits, which are typically ground to extract their oil.
Because they come from very different sources, walnut oil and olive oil have different flavor profiles. Virgin walnut oil has a delicate nuttiness while refined walnut oil is less flavorful. Similarly, olive oil will have a different flavor profile depending on how much refining it has undergone. Extra virgin olive oil’s flavor is grassy and vegetal while refined olive oil has an almost neutral flavor.
Walnut oil and olive oil can have different appearances. Walnut oil ranges in color from pale yellow to light amber. Olive oil varies from the bright green of extra virgin olive oil to the yellower shades of refined olive oil.
Walnut oil will have a low smoke point when it is unrefined. Typically, walnut oil will start to burn and smoke at about 320 degrees Fahrenheit (160 °C). Refined walnut oil has a high smoke point of around 400 degrees. Extra virgin olive oil typically has a low smoke point of about 325 degrees. Refined or light olive oil can be heated to over 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232.22 °C).
Walnut oil has a relatively short shelf life. It is good for about a year. It should be kept refrigerated to keep it from going rancid. The shelf life of olive oil will vary depending on its degree of refinement. Generally, it will last between 18 months and two years.
Can you use walnut oil as a substitute for olive oil (and vice versa?)
Walnut oil and olive oil are both nutritious oils. If you are mainly looking for a healthy oil, you can use either. If you are trying to use one to replicate the flavor of the other, the substitution won’t work. Their flavors are too different; however, both can be used in the same kinds of dishes. The nuttiness of walnut oil will complement dishes just as well as the herbaceousness of extra virgin olive oil and vice versa.
They stop being decent substitutes for each other once you start comparing virgin walnut and olive oils to refined ones. Refined walnut and olive oils won’t make good substitutes for virgin oils because they lack flavor. The virgin oils won’t be good alternatives for the refined ones because they have low smoke points and too much flavor.
When should you use walnut oil and when should you use olive oil?
Use walnut oil wherever you want a nutty flavor. It works as a finishing oil on proteins like salmon and chicken. Combine it with vinegar, mustard, and garlic to make a flavorful vinaigrette. The walnut flavor works in desserts as well. Drizzle roasted or virgin walnut oil over fruit that you plan to bake or use it in fudge brownies.
Use extra virgin olive oil in salads and other raw preparations. It is a great finishing oil for pasta dishes and tomato-based sauces. It is great as the oil component in a vinaigrette.
Use refined olive oil for frying and for baked goods that require a neutral-tasting oil.