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Choosing the best olive oil dipping sauce is largely a matter of taste. One of the most important things to consider with the sauce is the taste of the olive oil that is used as a base, because some can be very naturally spicy, while others can have a more fruitlike taste. For the most part, an olive oil dipping sauce is flavored with traditional Italian and French herbs such a oregano, parsley and basil, giving many sauces a similar underlying taste, although the exact amount and type of spices used can greatly affect the final flavor. In many instances, olive oil dipping sauce is mostly used for bread and cheese, so the flavor is somewhat subtle, although more strongly flavored sauces can contain ingredients such as balsamic vinegar, lemon or other flavored oils and can be used for a wider range of foods, including fruits. Some sauces might have only a few ingredients, such as sea salt or black pepper, and will depend more on the taste or blend of olive oils to achieve a subtle or intense flavor.
Unlike other dipping sauces, which can rely on a suspension of ingredients to provide flavor, an olive oil dipping sauce generally uses ingredients that are not necessarily intended to be eaten on their own and provide only subtle flavoring to the oil. For this reason, an olive oil dipping sauce usually is made from a very pure and high-quality extra virgin olive oil. The taste of the oil can range from being very sharp and spicy with powerful notes of black pepper to more mild flavors that are reminiscent of olives and fresh fruits. When choosing a dipping sauce, no matter what additional ingredients are included, the flavor of the olive oil will make a large difference.
Some of the most common ingredients in an olive oil dipping sauce include oregano, parsley, basil and garlic. A cooked sauce may have a more subtle and developed flavor than a raw sauce. Certain dipping sauces include a spicy ingredient such as red pepper flakes or chili powder, although, when used in large amounts, the oil can become incredibly hot as the peppers release their oils into the mixture.
Bold flavors can be added to an olive oil dipping sauce by combining it with aged balsamic vinegar, making the sauce a good choice for fruits and hard cheeses. Flavored oils such as truffle oil, walnut oil or sesame oil can change the inherent character of the sauce, allowing it to stand up to toasted bread or roasted vegetables. Some dipping sauces include ingredients such as grated Parmesan cheese, capers, anchovies or even crushed olives to give it a rich, deep flavor that simple herbs might not be able to achieve alone.