While Extra Virgin Olive (EVO) oil has become one of the most mainstream products and an irreplaceable ingredient when it comes to Mediterranean cuisine, hazelnut oil has been in the limelight lately for its unmistakable flavor and versatility in cooking.
Both oils can enhance your dishes and give them a touch of unique taste. Both also boast remarkable nutritional properties. However, it would be wrong to consider one as a substitute for the other since the two oils complement each other very well.
To fully appreciate their differences, you can start trying them on raw vegetables with a delicate flavor, such as on a valerian salad, or on fish and grilled meat. However, hazelnut oil can also be used to “season” fruit salads or over sweet flavors of ice-cream, such as cream or fior di latte. In this case, the alternative to hazelnut oil would be aceto balsamico di Modena rather than EVO oil
The two oils in Italian food culture
While EVO oil is one of the most iconic elements of Italian gastronomic culture and needs no introduction, hazelnut oil is perhaps a bit less known. Its origins lie in areas of the Italian peninsula without access to the sea, with a more inclement weather than that of the coast. During the mid-twentieth century with the situation of instability and difficulties caused by the war, some farmers who could no longer find olive oil began to produce hazelnut oil directly at home for food use. This use in some geographical areas particularly rich in hazelnut trees led to the popular tradition of including hazelnut oil in the recipes of typical local dishes. This oil has been rediscovered in the last decade all over Italy, but especially in the North West, in the Monferrato area, where it is closely associated with the local gastronomic tradition
While EVO oil is made up of a myriad of products with different flavors, ranging from fish carpaccio to roasted meat, pasta and salad, hazelnut oil is optimal for dishes that match its sweet flavor. It should not necessarily be seen as a substitute for olive oil, but more as something complementary.
For example, it can be combined with olive oil and sweet vinegar or lemon juice to season legumes and fish. It can be used in the preparation of sauces and main dishes (pasta, meat) adding a fine and elegant flavor to your meals.
With its sweet and fragrant taste it can accompany salads and vegetables (raw and cooked) and it can also be used to enhance other cold dishes, such as cheese. It also adds the fine taste of hazelnuts to marinated foods and mayonnaise. A few drops can transform a fruit salad or an ice cream (cream or fiordilatte) into a superfine dessert.
Both oils have a rather similar composition, although with some small differences related to the breakdown of fatty acids.While EVO oil is richer in polyunsaturated fatty acids, the amount of omega-9 fatty acids appears to be greater in hazelnut oil.
Both oils help prevent cardiovascular diseases, but EVO oil is also associated with anti-inflammatory and immune system strengthening properties.
The best way to enhance your creations in the kitchen is to have both types of oil and choose the one that goes well with the flavor of the dish. Normally, each dish can be seasoned with just one of the two types of oil, but sometimes they can be combined by adding a few drops of hazelnut oil over the olive oil to give the dish a particular flavor. Furthermore, it is always a good idea to have a bottle of hazelnut oil to give a unique taste to some desserts, such as fruit salad or certain types of ice cream. For such type of desserts, hazelnut oil could be used as a substitute for balsamic vinegar of Modena.
EVO oil and hazelnut oil in summary
|EVO OIL||HAZELNUT OIL|
|Ingredients and processing||• Extracted from olives using natural methods and standardized for purity and certain sensory qualities like taste and smell|
• Considered the healthiest type of olive oil
|• Made by pressing the oil from hazelnuts.|
|Flavour||• Its flavour really depends on the olives used and their harvesting / processing||• It has an intense distinctive flavour—slightly sweet, roasted, and nutty|
|Use||• With a wide variety of products. It can enhance the flavour of different meals, from fish carpaccio to pasta and soups||• It adds a rich flavor to salad dressings, pasta, grilled meat and especially fish, not to mention fruit salads and ice-creams|
|Nutrition||• Very high in monounsaturated fats (mainly omega 3 and 6) |
• contains a modest amount of vitamins E and K.
• Loaded with antioxidants
|• Contains omega 3 and 6 , although in smaller quantity than EVO oil|
• Contains a greater level of omega 9 compared to EVO oil
|Health benefits||• It helps prevent heart attacks|
• It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, fights free radicals and it’s also a natural painkiller.
• It reinforces the immune system
• it has many benefits essential to a child’s healthy growth and development
|• It helps mitigate the risk of cardiovascular related diseases with its balanced proportion of omega 3 and 6 along with a high level of omega 9|
|Pricing||• From mildly expensive to relatively expensive, depending on the product||• Relatively expensive on average; however you don’t need to use much for the potent hazelnut flavor to come through|