The 7 best olive varieties for making olive oil

INDEX

Picual, Hojiblanca, Arbequina… Do these names ring a bell? They’re types of olives, the most well-known ones. But they’re not the only ones. In this post, we’ll tell you about the olive varieties most commonly used to produce olive oil.

At Oliveo Escapes, we invite you to join us for one of our tastings where you’ll learn to taste and differentiate between the various types of olives and oils. Contact us for more information. We also offer unique experiences centered around olive oil: week-long tours (similar to wine and food tours), oil tastings, visits to oil mills or presses…

What are the most consumed/produced olive varieties in the world?

There are hundreds of olive varieties cultivated worldwide, each with its distinctive characteristics in terms of flavor, texture, size, and color. Some estimates suggest that there are over 2,000 olive varieties worldwide, but not all are used for olive oil production.

Mediterranean regions, especially Spain, are particularly known for the diversity and quality of their olives. However, olives are also cultivated in other places such as Italy, Greece, Morocco, California in the United States, and Australia, as we discuss in our post: Where is the best olive oil tourism in the world?

In fact, in the list of the top 10 olive varieties with the highest consumption worldwide, 6 are native to Spain, 3 to Italy, and 1 to Greece:

  1. Picual: Spain
  2. Arbequina: Spain
  3. Hojiblanca: Spain
  4. Manzanilla: Spain
  5. Kalamata: Greece
  6. Cornicabra: Spain
  7. Leccino: Italy
  8. Frantoio: Italy
  9. Coratina: Italy
  10. Gordal: Spain

What are the best types of olives for producing olive oil?

Spain, land of endless olive groves and home to some of the finest olive varieties in the world, is a paradise for olive oil lovers like us. The rich diversity of soils and climates in different Spanish regions has resulted in a wide range of olives, each with its own unique characteristics and distinctive flavors, reflected in the various types of oil. If we consider the varieties that are most widely consumed as table olives, the Manzanilla, Hojiblanca and Gordal varieties are the winners.

If we were to talk about all the varieties of olives used to produce oil, we would have to write a book, so to summarize, let’s talk about the top 7 varieties:

1. Picual: the queen of olive oil

Olives of the Picual variety for olive oil, from Andalusia, Spain | Oliveo Escapes

Known as the «Queen of Olive Oil,» the Picual variety is one of the most widespread in Spain, especially in the region of Andalusia. This high-yielding olive is characterized by its fruity, bitter, and slightly spicy flavor, as well as its high antioxidant content. Extra virgin olive oil made from Picual olives is prized for its stability and durability, making it a popular choice for both cooking and dressing salads.

2. Arbequina: elegance in every drop

Olives of the Arbequina variety for olive oil, from Andalusia, Spain | Oliveo Escapes

Originating from Catalonia, the Arbequina variety is known for its elegance and smoothness. Arbequina olives yield an olive oil with a mild and delicate flavor, featuring notes of almond and a subtle spicy touch. This oil is perfect for light and delicate dishes, such as fish, seafood, and salad dressings.

3. Hojiblanca: versatility in every bite

Olives of the Hojiblanca variety for olive oil, from Andalusia, Spain | Oliveo Escapes

The Hojiblanca olive is another widely cultivated variety in Spain, especially in the region of Andalusia. Known for its versatility, this olive produces an olive oil with a perfect balance between bitterness and sweetness, featuring herbaceous notes and a subtle flavor of green banana. Hojiblanca olive oil is ideal for both cooking and seasoning, adding a touch of freshness to any dish.

4. Cornicabra: robustness and character

Olives of the Cornicabra variety for olive oil, from Andalusia, Spain | Oliveo Escapes

Originating from the region of Castilla-La Mancha, the Cornicabra variety is prized for its robustness and character. Cornicabra olives produce an olive oil with a fruity and slightly bitter flavor, featuring notes of fresh grass and a spicy touch on the finish. This oil is perfect for dishes with intense flavors, such as grilled meats, strong cheeses, and game dishes.

5. Empeltre: treasure of the Spanish land

Olives of the Empeltre variety for olive oil, from Andalusia, Spain | Oliveo Escapes

The Empeltre variety, originating from the Aragon region, is known for its smooth and sweet flavor, with notes of almond and nuts. The olive oil made from Empeltre olives is delicate and aromatic, perfect for mild and balanced dishes such as roasted vegetables, baked fish, and gourmet desserts.

6. Manzanilla: sweetness and delicacy

Olives of the Manzanilla variety for olive oil, from Andalusia, Spain | Oliveo Escapes

The Manzanilla variety, mainly cultivated in the region of Seville, Andalusia, is known for its smooth and fruity flavor, with a subtle hint of bitterness on the palate. This olive oil is perfect for use in traditional Andalusian dishes, such as gazpacho, salmorejo, and fish stews.

7. Verdial: a gem from the south

Olives of the Verdial variety for olive oil, from Andalusia, Spain | Oliveo Escapes

Native to the region of Malaga, in Andalusia, the Verdial variety is known for its high oil yield and its fruity and smooth flavor. This olive oil is perfect for use in cooking and baking, as well as for dressing salads and seafood dishes.

What type of olives are most consumed in Spain?

If Spain is the heart of olives and olive oil in the world, Andalusia, in southern Spain, is the soul. This region simply offers the best conditions for cultivation and production.

Not only is it the center of production, but also of tradition. In Andalusia, you can find the most olive mills or oil mills. It’s also where the most olive oil, food, and wine tours are conducted in Spain. Like many other olive tourism activities: oil tastings, visits to olive groves and presses, rural and gastronomic tours around olive oil, etc. You can see all our experiences here: Escapes.

List of the 30 most produced olive varieties in Spain and their region of origin:

  1. Picual: Andalusia
  2. Arbequina: Catalonia
  3. Hojiblanca: Andausia
  4. Cornicabra: Castilla-La Mancha
  5. Empeltre: Aragon
  6. Picudo: Andausia
  7. Manzanilla: Andausia
  8. Verdial: Andausia
  9. Lechín: Andausia
  10. Koroneiki: Andausia
  11. Blanqueta: Valencia
  12. Changlot Real: Andausia
  13. Nevadillo: Andausia
  14. Royal: Andausia
  15. Alfafarenca: Valencia
  16. Llumeta: Catalonia
  17. Farga: Catalonia
  18. Morrut: Valencia
  19. Villalonga: Valencia
  20. Canetera: Valencia
  21. Millarenca: Valencia
  22. Nana: Andausia
  23. Serrana de Espadán: Valencia
  24. Sevillenca: Catalonia
  25. Changlot: Andausia
  26. Alfafara: Valencia
  27. Gordal: Andausia
  28. Genovesa: Andausia
  29. Farga: Valencia
  30. Rojal: Valencia
 

These are just some of the many olive varieties cultivated in Spain to produce the precious olive oil. Each of these varieties brings its own character and flavor to Spain’s liquid gold, creating a rich palette of options for olive oil lovers worldwide. What’s your favorite Spanish olive variety?

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