Powdered Olive Oil

    Kids, what is molecular gastronomy?  It's food science that seeks to understand the chemical and physical transformations that occur during cooking.  It uses chemistry to put a modern spin on traditional foods. In this experiment, you will combine maltodextrin powder with olive oil to make a powdered oil.  Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate powder derived from starch that dissolves the instant it hits your mouth.  It melts away with no gritty or powdery sensation, so you taste the oil. You will need maltodextrin and olive oil.  Food-grade maltodextrin is sold under many names, including N-Zorbit M, Tapioca Maltodextrin, Maltosec, and Malto.  Maltodextrin is derived from a number of sources, and, depending on your source, you may get different results.  Most of these references recommend a tapioca-based maltodextrin.

    Please note:  All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision.

    Whisk together maltodextrin and oil or combine them in a food processor. You can use a fork or spoon, if you don't have a whisk. Use about half and half oil and maltodextrin by weight for your first experiment.  If the resulting mixture is too oily, add more maltodextrin; if too dry, more oil.  For a fine powder, you can use a sifter or push the powder through a strainer. You can serve the powdered olive oil by itself in a decorative spoon or as a topping on dry foods, such as crackers.

    An alternative method is to combine maltodextrin with other fatty products such as peanut butter. The only 'rule' is to mix it with a lipid (a fat-based material), not water or a high-moisture ingredient.

    Note: Don't put the powder in contact with a water-based liquid because it will dissolve. The powder will last for a day at room temperature or for several days if sealed and refrigerated. Be sure to keep the powder away from moisture or a high-humidity environment.

    A couple of videos of the process:

    To view all past “ChemShorts for Kids”, go to:

    The Primary Education Committee of the Chicago Section ACS presents this column and hopes it will reach young children and help increase their interest in science. Please print it out and pass it on to your children, grandchildren, or elementary school teachers. Teachers are encouraged to incorporate the projects in this column into their lesson plans.