For example, is there any difference (taste, use, health, etc) between using an olive oil infused with lemon and a regular olive oil and adding lemon juice?

If there are differences, do they only apply when not cooking with the oil (e.g. in a dressing or garnish) or also when heating the oil?

2 Answers 2


There certainly are differences. Specifically regarding lemon there are differences not only in taste, because the lemon olive oil is flavored using the zest of a lemon, but also in acidity. Lemon juice is very acidic, olive oil is not. There are plenty of times where it is completely inappropriate to add an acid.

A better comparison would instead be lemon infused olive oil compared to olive oil and lemon zest. There would still be a difference, but it would be less noticeable. The infused olive oil has had more opportunity to capture the fat soluble flavor compounds in the lemon zest, however the flavor compounds that aren't fat soluble will be forever lost.

That is generally the trade-off when it comes to any infused oil. You will get lots of the fat soluble flavor compounds, but you will lose the non-fat soluble flavor compounds.

As for difference of use in the olive oil and lemon juice case, yes, definitely. You can't always add acids to foods. In the lemon zest case, apart from the slight flavor difference, there's also a texture difference. Of course, if you want something very smooth, pieces of zest wouldn't be a good thing. Apart from those though, not really.

All of these differences still apply both in uncooked as well as cooked preparations.

  • 5
    Excellent answer. For maximum flavor, it is often good to add the same ingredient in multiple forms. You can use both lemon or lemon zest infused olive oil, add fresh lemon juice to the cooking, and finish with a squeeze of completely fresh juice or grating of zest. All of these bring different flavors to the game. The same idea can be varied by using say, lime-infused oil but finishing with lemon zest. This is even more true when ingredients get browned, for example caramelized onions, and thinly sliced raw onions in a garnish. Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 17:01

An obvious one is convenience -- it's easier to just pour stuff out of a bottle if you're going to be doing it anyway for the oil, although you loose the ability to control the two separately, as you can't add more of the flavorant without also adding more oil.

As for questions about heating, if you're dealing with garlic infused oil, there's the advantage that it's much harder to burn than adding the garlic separately; also, it can be drizzled over at the end, without risking there being an overly garliced spot in the food.

In the case of garlic, the taste will be different depending on how you prepare the garlic (either when infusing the oil, or when cooking with it separately) ... so you might have an infused roasted garlic vs. unroasted garlic.

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