A three-day pretreatment of olive somatic embryos (SE) with 0.75 M sucrose, combined with cryoprotection (0.5 M DMSO, 1 M sucrose, 0.5 M glycerol and 0.009 M proline) and controlled rate cooling, supported regrowth (as 34.6% fresh weight gain) and resumption of embryo development after cryopreservation. Pretreatment with mannitol or sorbitol did not support regrowth. Profiles of sugars, proline, antioxidant enzymes, Reactive oxygen species (ROS), secondary oxidation products and ethylene were constructed for the most successful (0.75 M) pretreatment series. Sucrose was the optimal pretreatment for supporting recovery, it also elevated glutathione reductase (GR) activity compared to controls, whereas superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase and guaiacol peroxidase activities remained relatively unchanged. Superoxide dismutase activity was higher in SE pretreated with sucrose, compared with those pretreated with polyols; H2O2 was enhanced in SE pretreated with sorbitol and sucrose compared to mannitol. The overall trend for ethylene and OH production revealed their levels were highest in SE pretreated with polyols albeit, for individual treatments this was not always the case. Generally, pretreatments did not significantly change embryo secondary oxidation profiles of ThioBarbituric Acid Reactive Substances (TBARS) and Schiff's bases. In combination these studies suggest oxidative processes may influence regrowth of cryopreserved olive SE and that optimal pretreatments could, in part, increase tolerance by an overall enhancement of endogenous antioxidants (particularly GR), proline and sugars. Highlights ► Biomarkers may be used to make evidence based decisions to optimize olive cryostorage. ► Osmotica can affect antioxidant, ROS, sugar and proline profiles in olive somatic embryos. ► Data suggests a putative involvement of ROS in cryopreservation-induced stress in olive cultures.