Can You Use Olive Oil In Place Of Vegetable Oil For Marinades?

Some dishes are just better when a marinade is involved. While you could simply add salt and pepper to a steak, there is something extraordinary about a skirt steak marinaded in miso. And while you can bake chicken in a simple spice blend, an easy chicken marinade with lemon, thyme, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and whole-grain mustard is downright divine. 

Marinades work by containing these crucial components: the fat, the acid, the flavor, and the salt. Taste of Home notes, the acid in the marinade penetrates the muscle fibers of meats and the exterior fibers of vegetables, the salt helps keeps the meat moist, the herb/spices provide the umami, and the oil ... let's come back to that.

According to The Cookful, there are three kinds of marinades. Enzyme marinades (think buttermilk, yogurt, or pineapple-based marinades), dry marinades (think spice rubs), and acidic marinades (like citrus or vinegar-based marinades). Taste of Home notes that oil is vital when marinating and serves several purposes. So when it comes to marinades, can you swap one oil for another?

Olive oil comes off the bench

Using a marinade without oil or fat can be difficult as the natural moisture of most meats and veggies doesn't allow for adequate lubrication between the food and the cooking surface. Also, something mainly water-based, like a garlic lemon juice mixture, will slip right off the chicken without oil helping to adhere the marinade to it. That's why oils are a pivotal part of most marinades — the acid, herbs, and spices that tenderize and impart flavor need to stick to the ingredients before and during cooking. 

When it comes to the oils you use in your marinades, it's a dealer's choice situation. Taste of Home explains that if your marinade calls for vegetable oil, but you don't have any on hand, you can use olive oil instead. Olive oil has more natural flavor than vegetable oil and can add richness to your marinade. Arlotta Food Studio says olive oil is also slightly acidic, so it will aid in tenderizing the meat, whereas a neutral oil wouldn't. When prepping your next marinade, take comfort in knowing that olive oil is a worthy and flavorful substitution in place of vegetable oil.