Olive Oil Powder (Snow): What is It, How to Make It & Common Uses for It

You think you already know everything about cooking and about the different kinds of ingredients you could use, but then you hear of olive oil powder and how it is used in molecular gastronomy, and you realize there is more you need to know. So what is olive oil powder or olive oil snow, and how do you make and use it?

Olive oil powder or snow is simply olive oil in powder form. It is made by applying a technique used in molecular gastronomy, wherein you combine a high-fat liquid with modified starches to produce a powder. Once you put it in your mouth, the powder reconstitutes and becomes a liquid again.

It may not make any sense why there is a need to transform olive oil into powder when it already works well as it is. As such, it is also important to understand the concept of molecular gastronomy. In this article, you will learn about these two, including the steps in making olive oil powder and its different applications.

What Is Molecular Gastronomy?

When you hear the term olive oil powder, it is usually accompanied by the words molecular gastronomy.

Molecular gastronomy is a relatively new sub-discipline of food science that explores the phenomena taking place during culinary transformations. This progressive culinary movement, which is credited to French chemist Hervé This and Hungarian-born British physicist Nicholas Kurti, applies scientific principles to solve certain culinary issues.

These physical and chemical principles are also used for food preparation and artistic presentation to produce innovative dishes that give diners a unique experience.

The objective of molecular gastronomy, according to This, is to seek for the mechanisms of culinary processes and transformations in these three areas:

  • Social phenomena linked to culinary activity
  • The technical component of culinary activity
  • Artistic component of culinary activity

To put it simply, molecular gastronomy puts a modern spin on otherwise ordinary ingredients. One example of these ordinary ingredients is olive oil, and it gets converted into its powder form.

Converting Liquids Into Powder

One technique used in molecular gastronomy is converting high-fat liquids like oils into powder. Chefs do this by using tapioca maltodextrin. Tapioca maltodextrin is a modified starch that is slightly sweet. It is derived from special tapioca with a low bulk density, so it is very light and can therefore absorb more than its weight in liquid and turn fat into a powdery substance.

Tapioca maltodextrin will stabilize and thicken liquids that have high-fat content. In the food industry, tapioca maltodextrin is also used to increase the volume of frozen food items and dry mixes.

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This technique is fairly easy and simple. If your high-fat ingredient is solid, like oil that has been kept in the fridge, it needs to be heated and liquefied first, then chilled. Mix the liquid with tapioca maltodextrin. The starting ratio would be 60 percent fat to 40 percent tapioca maltodextrin. Add more tapioca maltodextrin if necessary. You can make the powder fluffier by passing it through a tamis, which is a drum sieve.

Some of the powders created by molecular gastronomy chefs using maltodextrin are:

  • olive oil powder
  • coconut oil powder
  • caramel powder
  • peanut butter powder
  • Nutella powder
  • bacon powder
  • white chocolate powder

Olive Oil and Olive Oil Powder

In the kitchen, olive oil is mainly used for salads and pasta.

Olive oil is classified according to its fatty acid content. This fatty acid is called oleic acid, and it occurs naturally in various vegetable fats and oils. For instance, ordinary olive oil has 3.3% free oleic acid, virgin olive oil has 2%, and extra virgin olive oil has up to 1%.

Meanwhile, unrefined olive oils containing more than 3.3% free oleic acid are not considered fit for human consumption. The fatty acids in olive oil possibly reduce cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. They might be able to kill microbes, too, and thus have anti-inflammatory effects, too.

As such, olive oil is the oil of choice for those who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, or heart disease. It is also used by some people suffering from diabetes, constipation, and breast cancer.

Why Use Olive Oil Powder?

Olive oil powder, which is also called olive oil snow, is simply olive oil that has been transformed into a powder. But you may be wondering why some people put in the extra effort and go through the extra work of turning the oil into powder when the original form does its job just fine.

Just like olive oil in liquid form, olive oil powder is typically used in salads, too. More specifically, it is used to decorate salads and certain other dishes. Some people prefer using olive oil powder in their salads as it keeps the other ingredients, especially the leafy vegetables and the fruits fresh and crispy.

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And this makes sense, considering liquids tend to run and quickly spread throughout the ingredients. This could make the other salad ingredients, such as lettuce, soggy and droopy in no time.

Additionally, olive oil powder melts in the tongue without any gritty or powdery sensation, thus allowing you to taste the oil. Using olive oil powder will add dimension to your dishes and will give them a uniquely rich feel in the mouth.

Aside from its functional food applications, virgin olive oil powder is also used in dietary supplements. The powder is put into empty clear capsules.

How to Make Olive Oil Powder

To make olive oil powder, you will need two ingredients: olive oil and food-grade maltodextrin. It is best to use extra virgin olive oil. Meanwhile, maltodextrin is sold under many names, including Tapioca Maltodextrin, N-Zorbit M, Maltosec, and Malto. Tapioca maltodextrin is the most common type, but polysaccharide is made from other starches like potato starch, corn starch, or wheat starch.

You can pick whatever maltodextrin is readily available to you.

The procedure is easy. You just need to whisk the maltodextrin and olive oil together. You can also opt to combine these two ingredients in a food processor. Or you can use a spoon or fork if you don’t have a whisk.

To make a fine olive oil powder, you can sift the powder using a strainer or a sifter.

No Exact Measurements for the Ingredients?

The amount or ratio of olive oil to maltodextrin varies. The recipe by Thought Co. suggests 4 grams of powdered maltodextrin and 10 grams of extra virgin olive oil. Another recipe, from the North American Olive Oil Association, recommends 5 grams maltodextrin and 50 grams extra virgin olive oil.

The recipe from Serious Eats says 31 grams tapioca maltodextrin, 100 grams extra virgin olive oil, and a small pinch of fine salt.

The best way to go about these differences in the ratio is to do it Modern Recipes style, where they started with two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and just a very little amount of N-Zorbit M. They just gradually added a little amount of N-Zorbit M at a time to the olive oil until the mixture thickens and becomes a powder. Afterward, they seasoned the powder with Maldon salt.

According to Thought Co., you would want about 45 to 65 percent maltodextrin powder according to weight. As such, a good starting point in case you don’t like to measure is to go half and half with both ingredients. They also suggest the other method of slowly stirring the olive oil into the powder then stopping as soon as you reach the consistency you desire. 

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Seasoning and Plating

You can add flavor to your olive oil powder by heating the oil in a pan with seasonings like garlic, rosemary, parsley, and other herbs and spices. When you do this, you can expect an olive oil powder with a much deeper color.

After you have made your powder, you can plate or serve it in a decorative spoon. You can also top it on dry dishes and food items, such as crackers. Make sure not to put the powder in contact with any water-containing ingredient as it will liquefy.

Storing Olive Oil Powder

Your olive oil powder is only good for a day if you keep it at room temperature. As such, you should make sure to use it right away. However, it can last several days if you put it inside a sealed container and then keep it refrigerated. Make sure to also keep your olive oil powder away from high humidity and moisture to make it last longer.

Since the olive oil powder’s shelf life is not that long, it is best if you make your powder in small batches only. It is even better if you make it right before using it in your cooking or immediately before consuming it.

Final Thoughts

The culinary and gastronomic world is constantly evolving, giving birth to new cooking and food preparation techniques and new ingredients. With these come new flavors and unique dining experiences. So it isn’t really surprising if we hear of things like molecular gastronomy and olive oil powder.

Olive oil powder may be a product of chemical transformation, and the science behind how it is made may sound daunting. But the process of producing it and the reason why it exists are rather basic. Olive oil powder comes with all the benefits of olive oil but without the disadvantages of oil in its liquefied form.

The powder version can keep your salad fresh and crispy, and make your dishes extra delightful with the sensation of powder melting in your mouth. So be a true-blue foodie by giving olive oil powder a try and at least see what the buzz is about.