Do Lebanese prefer old olive oil?

I was eating at a Middle Eastern restaurant last night which had a Lebanese chef. I ordered the hummus, which came with a small bottle of olive oil. When the chef came and asked us for comments on the food, I informed him that the olive oil was a bit old (it was clearly rancid). He told us that back in Lebanon, they prefer their olive oil old, as fresh olive oil is too harsh.

This was surprising to me, as it’s the first time I’ve heard of something like this. Google did not yield any useful results. Is there any truth to what the chef claimed or is he merely BS-ing me? Really curious to know. Thanks!

There’s a difference between old (i.e. not freshly pressed) olive oil and rancid olive oil.


Sounds like bullshit to me. Cooking oil ain’t wine.


I can understand pressing from an older tree. But oil, you can’t keep forever.


Yes, the Lebanese prefer it old, but it depends on which body part you are rubbing it on.

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In Italy Greece and Spain fresher is better especially for high end extra virgin as it preserves more of the green notes (volatile esters) that give truly great olive oil its “fruity” taste.

I don’t know what they would be pressing in Lebanon that would be “harsh” but it sounds to me like something you should avoid.

And rancid oil can make you sick.

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I personally never tried any Lebanese olive oil, but recently, I bought a bottle of Tunsian. Compared to Spanish, Greek or Italian oil, the taste is much stronger, much more bitter and “deep” doesn’t have the “fresh” or the fruity taste. I don’t know if it’s this taste they are referring to.

I did tried some French olive oil that is on the pungent and peppery side… when I was at a food salon, a French producer gave me a tasting on his whole range of olive oil (around 7-8 different bottles), from the mild taste ones to very strong tastes. The stronger taste ones used black olives to extract the oil. Green olives gives a fresher, grassy or fruity taste depending on different types of olives.


I saw this article talking about good and bad olive oil:

You may think that you would know just by tasting if an olive oil is bad, but that is not the case, particularly when olive oil has not been part of your diet initially. A study from the University of California, Davis had found that 44% of consumers in the U.S. liked defects like rancidity, fustiness, mustiness and winey flavor in their olive oil. The authors indicate this may be due to the large amount of defective olive oil labeled as extra virgin available to consumers. In other words because there is such a large amount of defective oil in the market and people are used consuming it, they think that this is what olive oil is supposed to taste like.

The whole article is here:


To quote Not JR, “Eeuuwww” !!!

I always check dates and country of origin carefully, especially for EVO.

You would be surprised how many times the label looks Italian, but the oil is Spanish or Tunisian.

In this regard be especially aware of a brand named Palermo, which should more accurately be called Tunis.

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There are many brands (Italian or French that found in supermarket), mix oils from different origins and countries to achieve the same taste or for reason of profit.

In 1 French consumer council test, Italian Carapelli organic olive oil, was known to have used rotten olives for the extra virgin extract.


Yes !!! You have to be very careful.

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Thanks so much for your comments. I guess the chef must have thought giving a semi-plausible BS explanation was preferable to owning up to using rancid oil. Doubt I will be going back.

Maybe he didn’t taste the oil, and didn’t know it was rancid. It seemed that they are kind of serious about the cooking if there was the chef coming around and asking for comments.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold

Market stall in Lima
Credit: TXMX 2