Which is Better Butter or Olive Oil?

Olive oil and butter are two of the most popular and versatile cooking fats in the culinary world but which one is better?

Which is Better Butter or Olive Oil f

This affects their smoking points.

Fat is one of the four basic elements of good cooking and butter and olive oil are staples in almost every kitchen.

Fat gives food good flavour, moisture and mouthfeel.

When it comes to butter and olive oil, people have differing opinions on which one is better.

For some people, butter is their go-to cooking fat while for others, olive oil is the preferred choice.

We compare and contrast these two cooking fats as well as when to use each one when cooking.

We also explore whether or not you can substitute one for the other.

What are the Differences between Butter & Olive Oil?

Olive oil is a plant-based oil that is extracted from olives.

On the other hand, butter is an animal-based fat that is typically derived from cow’s milk.

Butter is made by churning cream or milk. Good quality butter will not contain palm oil and will be a hard solid at room temperature.

Olive oil is typically extracted through pressing or centrifugation, producing a golden liquid at room temperature.

This affects their smoking points.

Olive oil’s smoking point ranges between 199 and 243°C, making it more suited for high-heat cooking.

Butter is better for low-heat cooking as its smoking point is 150°C.


Olive oil is high in healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Both of these have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.

In contrast, butter is high in saturated fats that have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease when consumed in excess.

Unlike other cooking oils, olive oil is very stable, meaning it does not break down to form harmful compounds when exposed to high heat.

Moderation is key when it comes to using any type of fat in cooking.

Here is a nutritional profile of different types of olive oil and butter, based on 15ml.

Olive Oil (Extra Virgin)

  • Calories: 120
  • Polyunsaturated: 1.5g
  • Monounsaturated: 10g
  • Saturated: 2g
  • Trans: 0g
  • Total Fat: 14g
  • Cholesterol: 0

Olive Oil (Light/Pure/Regular)

  • Calories: 120
  • Polyunsaturated: 1.5g
  • Monounsaturated: 10g
  • Saturated: 2g
  • Trans: 0g
  • Total Fat: 14g
  • Cholesterol: 0

Olive Oil (Virgin oil)

  • Calories: 120
  • Polyunsaturated: 1.5g
  • Monounsaturated: 10g
  • Saturated: 2g
  • Trans: 0g
  • Total Fat: 14g
  • Cholesterol: 0


  • Calories: 102
  • Polyunsaturated: 0.4g
  • Monounsaturated: 3g
  • Saturated: 7.3g
  • Trans: 0.5g
  • Total Fat: 14.2g
  • Cholesterol: 30.5mg

Replacing Butter with Olive Oil

Given that olive oil is a healthier option than butter, it might be an idea to use it more.

Not only is it healthier but according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, swapping butter for olive oil can add years to your life.

Researchers found that people who consumed more than half a tablespoon of olive oil a day were less likely to die from heart disease, cancer and lung disease than people who consumed butter or margarine.

This was the same for cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The main reason is that olive oil contains several nutrients linked to longevity that butter does not have.

Dr Jessica Titchenal says: “Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which are well-known for their anti-inflammatory benefits, supporting heart health and healthy cholesterol levels, lowering cancer risk, and more.

“Monounsaturated fatty acids have also been shown to prevent DNA damage and activate SIRT1, which is a type of enzyme that plays an essential role in cellular function, metabolism and has been shown to improve lifespan in animal studies.”

But Dr Titchenal pointed out that there are some benefits to consuming a little butter.

She continued: “Moderate amounts of saturated fat, like you find in butter, can be part of a healthy diet as well, and butter contains nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins.”

Given that butter and olive oil are completely different fats, they will not always work when subbing out one for another in a dish.

Dr Titchenal added:

“Both butter and olive oil can be included in a healthy diet.”

Dietitian Melissa Rifkin agrees: “Balance is everything.”

She recommends using butter when it will really add something to the dish. If it doesn’t, opt for olive oil.

Rifkin says: “When able to, cut back on butter and replace it with olive oil as you gain the nutrient-dense benefits highlighted in the study.”

According to the study, it is important to have an overall diet full of nutrient-rich foods – replacing butter with olive oil alone is not enough to extend your life.

Dr Titchenal says: “If you’re eating for longevity, focus on a variety of nutrient-dense foods.

“Include an abundance of colourful fruits and vegetables rich in phytonutrients, healthy fats, and proteins.”

There are also factors linked to longevity that are not food-related. Rifkin says that managing stress, staying active and enough sleep is just as important.

Dr Titchenal says: “Studies like this are important for helping us gain a deeper understanding of why certain foods are beneficial, but using them to make blanket recommendations is a reductionist approach that leads to foods or nutrients being demonised.”

She says that she cooks with both butter and olive oil.

As far as taste goes, butter has a richer flavour while olive oil tastes fresher.

Naturally, olive oil will have a hard time competing with butter on popcorn, but it tastes amazing when drizzled over anything from salmon to salads to even ice cream.

For instance, vanilla ice cream tastes decadent when it is topped with Himalayan sea salt and drizzled with blood orange or lemon-infused olive oil.

When to use Butter?

Which is Better Butter or Olive Oil -butter

In cooking, there is one situation where you should not replace butter with olive oil and that is when you need to cream softened, but still cool butter, a common step in baking recipes.

Using a completely liquid product, such as olive oil, will result in a batter that is thinner and will therefore cook faster than what the recipe calls for.

This means the texture of the final bake will be affected. You might even burn the batter if you leave it in the oven too long.

But if you are really opposed to creaming butter, then you can try to replace the butter with stick margarine.

Tub margarine has a thinner consistency.

Even if it is not melted, it will result in a batter that is too thin, which is why you need stick margarine.

Note that margarine is not necessarily a healthier alternative to butter.

Although it does not contain the cholesterol and saturated fat found in butter, it has a higher percentage of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

When to use Olive Oil?

Which is Better Butter or Olive Oil - oil

Olive oil can be used in almost every other scenario.

Due to its high smoking point, olive oil is ideal for sauteing and roasting both meat and vegetables.

It is also a great addition to homemade marinades, dressings and other condiments.

Olive oil can also be used in baking. Flavoured olive oil is an excellent way to add even more flavour to your dishes while still retaining the healthy properties of olive oil.

Olive oil is a versatile ingredient that has many different applications in the kitchen.

You cannot go wrong keeping at least one bottle of high-quality olive oil in your pantry.

Olive oil is generally considered to be healthier but it is important to note that moderation is key.

Butter may contain saturated fats but that does not mean you have to abandon butter altogether.

Butter has its own health benefits, and a closer inspection reveals that both have their own advantages that can really complement your meal and cooking as a whole.

No food is “good” or “bad” and, unless something is going to make you ill, there is room in everyone’s life for all foods.

Ultimately, the choice between butter and olive oil depends on your individual needs and preferences.

Dhiren is a journalism graduate with a passion for gaming, watching films and sports. He also enjoys cooking from time to time. His motto is to “Live life one day at a time.”

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