By Megan Redgate
Most of the common recipes you’ll find on the back of a box of cake, within a cookbook, or in HelloFresh meal cards will require one or more of the 3 most commonly used oil or fat sources: vegetable or canola oil, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), and butter.
With 1 single gram of fat from an oil bringing in 9 calories, it’s easy to make a dish become very calorically dense simply from going heavy on the oils – however there are many oils and fat sources available to use that don’t just add more calories to your meal, but provide a myriad of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats to your dish that your body will thank you for!
In this article, I’ve listed out 11 different oils you may have never cooked with before, their ideal temperature for cooking, their flavor profiles, health benefits, and recommended means for storage and preservation. I’ve also included details on which are vegan and dairy free, for anyone like me who has a dairy intolerance!
Avocado Oil (Refined):
We all know avocados are jam packed with healthy fats, but not many people regularly use avocado oil in their cooking or dressings!
Avocado oil has a 520 degree smoke point, so it is best used for high-temperature grilling, baking, sautéing, stir-frying, roasting, frying. Like an avocado, the oil from avocados offers a healthy dose of monosaturated fats and vitamins A, D, and E.
For optimal preservation and usage, store avocado oil in a cool, dark place.
Avocado Oil (Unrefined):
Just like refined avocado oil, the unrefined version of this oil offers a variety of vitamins and healthy fats, but this kind has a smoke point of 480 degrees. This means it is best used for cooking at lower temperatures, such as grilling, baking sautéing, stir frying, roasting, frying, searing.
To spice up your salad, try making your own dressing using sesame oil! Sesame oil has a smoke point of 350-400 degrees so it is best used for stir frying, sauteing, or uncooked as a condiment or used in a home-made dressing! It is packed with antioxidants and monosaturated fats and has a flavor profile that brings in a rich, nutty, even toasty element that can add to any meal.
Store your sesame oil in the refrigerator for longer preservation.
Coconut Oil (Refined):
Coconut oil has recently had its moment of fame. People often use coconut oil for body lotion, smoothies, hair masks, you name it! Coconut oil is not as often used in cooking, however.
If you are looking for a light, neutral taste that doesn’t scream, “coconut” flavor, opt to cook with refined coconut oil. It is packed with vitamin E and has a smoke point of 450 degrees so it is best used for high-temperature roasting, sauteing, and even baking. It’s also vegan and dairy free!
Coconut Oil (Unrefined):
If you’re looking to add more coconut flavor to a dish, opt for unrefined coconut oil. Unrefined coconut oil has a lower smoke point, at just 350 degrees so it is not ideal for high-temperature cooking. Opt for unrefined coconut oil for any low-temperature baking or sauteing.
Unrefined coconut oil offers more of the signature coconut flavor you may want to add into a thai dish with tons of vegetables and some curry! It can also be used to bake with a 1:1 ratio for butter or other oils and is vegan and dairy free, so this might be the perfect butter substitute for you!
Olive Oil (Extra Virgin):
The Old Trusty, EVOO! You’ve likely used extra virgin olive oil in more recipes than you can count, cooked and uncooked, but did you know that EVOO is an excellent source of antioxidants, heart-healthy fats, and may be linked to preventing cancer?1
EVOO is best used uncooked in dressings or cooked at low temperatures (due to its smoke point of 375 degrees), but its rich, signature flavor adds to any meal! Olive oil is easy to find, affordable, and is vegan and dairy free so it’s a friendly option for nearly everyone! Be sure to store your olive oil in a dark, opaque container and in a cool, dark place so it does not denature. It is also advised that you don’t keep your EVOO next to the stove for best preservation and health benefits.
Olive Oil (Light):
With most of the same health and flavor benefits as EVOO, light olive oil can be cooked at a much higher temperature. With a smoke point of 470 degrees, it is a much better option when sauteing, roasting, and grilling at temperatures above 375 degrees.
Just like EVOO, make sure you store your light olive oil in a cool, dark place away from the stove and heat, in a dark, opaque container (preferably glass).
Peanut Oil (Refined):
Refined peanut oil is well known for being featured in most Thai, Chinese, and other Asian cuisine because of its high smoke point, which makes for delicious stir fried dishes. It has a 450 degree smoke point and offers a unique flavor profile from oils with similar smoke points, like light olive oil.
Unrefined and refined peanut oils are filled with antioxidant vitamin E and are vegan and dairy free so this oil offers great versatility in most dishes – however it is not safe for anyone to consume with a peanut allergy.
Peanut oil should be stored in a cool, dark place.
Peanut Oil (Unrefined):
Unrefined peanut oil is not the same as refined peanut oil, in that it has a smoke point of only 320 degrees and should not be used for most cooked dishes, especially dishes that require high temperature heating like stir frying or roasting.
Instead, use unrefined peanut oil for uncooked dips, dressings, and marinades that are vegan and dairy free! This will ensure your toppings are filled with antioxidant vitamin E and taste delicious.
Butter (Cow’s milk):
Cow’s milk butter, or traditional butter is very commonly used in cooking and baking. People often see butter for its saturated fat but delicious taste – causing an unfortunate battle between health and palatability - however, butter is not all bad! It is a rich source of vitamins A, E, B12, and K so it can be perfectly healthy in a well-balanced meal and in small doses, so long as you are not vegan or dairy intolerant.
Because butter is a saturated fat, it is hard and solid at room temperature, so it can be stored in the refrigerator or covered anywhere in your kitchen.
Ghee (Clarified butter):
Ghee is a class of clarified butter than originated in ancient India. It is commonly use din cuisine of the Indian subcontinent, Middle Eastern cuisine, traditional medicine, and religious rituals, however ghee isn’t as commonly used in Western culture just yet.
Ghee is made from cow’s milk butter, which is then treated with low heat until the water evaporated, leaving behind only the milk solids. The solids are then skimmed or strained if needed to produce
Clarified butis less popular in Western culture than butter, that provides only a small amount of lactose and casein, so it may be a better option for someone with a dairy intolerance, however it is not vegan.
Ghee has a similar flavor profile to butter; however most ghee does not come salted like butter. It has a higher fat content than butter, so it is a bit more calorically dense.
Ghee has a smoke point of 485 degrees so it is useful in cooking at some of the highest temperatures without becoming carcinogenic! It is also packed with healthy fats, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K!
There are so many options in choosing which oils to cook with – we aren’t limited to the basic 3! Though oils can be expensive and take up space in our pantry, I suggest choosing one new oil to purchase and try each month to become a bit more versatile and creative in the kitchen, while reaping the benefits of a broader variety of health benefits from trying different oils!
If you do try a recipe with a new oil because of what you learned in this blog, please be sure to share it with us! Happy cooking!
Garone S. Complete Guide to Cooking Oils: Health Benefits, Best Uses, and More. Healthline. 2018
Talbot G. Specialty Oils and Fats in Food and Nutrition : Properties, Processing and Applications, Elsevier Science & Technology. ProQuest Ebook Cenral. 2015[06-23]. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/uneedu/detail.action?docID=2079968.
Bergenstrom A, et al., Under the Walnut Tree : Good Ideas from Our Kitchen. Hardie Grant Books. ProQuest Ebook Central. 2012.
Biggi A, et al. Avocaderia : Avocado Recipes for a Healthier, Happier Life. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. ProQuest Ebook Central. 2018
McGrath S. Coconut Oil for Health and Beauty : Uses, Benefits, and Recipes for Weight Loss, Allergies, and Healthy Skin and Hair. Skyhorse Publishing Company, Incorporated. ProQuest Ebook Central. 2014.