Vegetable oils pop up in recipes for everything from fried foods to baked goods. But the health benefits -- or lack thereof -- of vegetable oil are a topic of debate, and figuring out what to use as a healthy vegetable oil substitute can be a challenge.
Some people are uncomfortable consuming vegetable oils derived from the chemical extraction process, as opposed to the pressing process. Some oils that go through an unnatural extraction process include canola, corn, sunflower, peanut, cottonseed, soybean, and safflower.
However, not all oil substitutes work for every recipe. Flavor profiles and smoke points are important things to consider when using oil. You should also remember that even though these substitutes are healthier than most vegetable oils, they are still fats and still contain calories.
Here are our eight favorite substitutes that are both effective and full of flavor.
Substitute one cup of olive oil for one cup of vegetable oil.
One of the healthiest oils you can buy, olive oil comes from the fruit of the olive tree and contains healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These lower the risk of heart disease and can help regulate blood sugar.
However, many of the Italian oils you will find on supermarket shelves are fake. Read the labels carefully to make sure the oils come from Sicily or Puglia (olive oil-producing Italian regions) or consider buying olive oil online directly from Italian producers. You can also use American olive oil, usually made from olives grown in California, if you want a cheaper and more accessible option.
Olive oil is the perfect substitute for vegetable oils when you are sautéing over low or medium heat or when you are making dressings or marinades. Like we mentioned earlier, be sure to investigate the label. Extra virgin olive oil, made solely from pressed olives, is perfect for dipping or drizzling on a finished product. Regular olive oil, made from a blend of refined olive oil and a small amount of extra virgin olive oil, has a more neutral taste and a higher smoke point. This means it's great for general sautéing and cooking.
Extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point, so don't use it for any recipe that calls for high heat. Its more prominent olive flavor can also pair poorly with some foods, so keep its taste in mind when considering it. While olive oil can be used for baking in a pinch, it may affect the flavors of the final product.
Substitute one cup of avocado oil for one cup of vegetable oil.
A delicious alternative to vegetable oil, avocado oil comes from pressed avocado pulp. It is the perfect substitute to use when cooking with hot temperatures. It contains monounsaturated fatty acids that reduce inflammation, and it also contains carotenoids, lutein, oleic acid, and vitamin E.
With its creamy, buttery taste and high smoke point, avocado oil is perfect for grilling, stir-frying, baking, and sautéing. Plus, you can use it in marinades and dressings. Avocado oil is one of the most versatile oils you can have in your kitchen.
While it does have a wide variety of uses, avocado oil is also one of the most expensive oils on the market. In any recipes that use a large amount of oil, we recommend using a cheaper alternative. Additionally, if you don't want its buttery, slightly nutty taste in your dish, consider using another oil.
Substitute one cup of melted butter (or a little more) for one cup of vegetable oil.
Butter never deserved its bad reputation. It is a much better option than vegetable oil thanks to the healthy saturated fats and vitamins A, E, and K2 it contains. Butter lowers the risk of heart attack, and it is arguably the most delicious alternative to vegetable oil that you will find in the grocery store.
Butter is perfect for low-to-medium-temperature cooking. All you need to do is melt the butter before substituting it for vegetable oil. Use either the same amount the recipe calls for or a little bit more to make up for the difference in fat content. Just remember that when you use butter as a substitute, it can change the flavor and consistency of your food, making it different from what you are used to. Plus, it's great in pretty much any baking recipe that calls for vegetable oil.
Butter does have a low smoke point, so unless you're using it in combination with a high smoke point oil, we don't recommend using it for cooking above medium or medium-low heat. It can't be used in any frying, either. If you're anticipating any vegetarian or vegan dining guests, it might be wise to use one of the other items on this list.
Substitute one cup of hemp seed oil for one cup of vegetable oil.
Made solely from the hemp seeds and loaded with nutritional value, hemp seed oil contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Plus, according to one 2014 study, hemp seed oil can be used to treat skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis. Just remember to store it in the refrigerator to prolong its freshness and effectiveness.
Hemp seed oil is darker and more flavorful than vegetable oil, and its nutty and earthy taste makes it perfect for non-sweet salad dressings. It's also a great alternative to vegetable oil in dips or sauces. It also makes a good addition to homemade hummus or drizzled over fresh bread.
Its strong flavor makes it unsuitable for anything sweet or delicate where it could be overpowering. And because of its low smoke point, you can't deep-fry or stir-fry with it, so use other alternatives for recipes that use high heat and restrict its usage to toppings or recipes without a lot of heat.
Substitute one cup of coconut oil for one cup of vegetable oil.
Thanks to its medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), coconut oil may have long-term weight loss benefits. Studies have shown that MCTs help improve memory, curb your appetite, and work as a natural antibiotic. That being said, coconut oil does contain a lot of saturated fat, meaning it should be used with moderation.
With its relatively high smoke point, you can use coconut oil in just about any recipe, including frying. Due to its high amount of saturated fats, it's a fantastic substitute for vegetable oil for deep-frying -- Healthline even calls coconut oil the healthiest choice for deep-frying. Just make sure you're using refined coconut oil, which has a much higher smoke point than unrefined. Its sweet flavor makes it a natural fit for baking, as well, serving as a great complement for cookies and brownies. It's versatile enough to even be used in homemade deodorant and toothpaste.
One tablespoon of coconut oil contains 12 grams of saturated fat. In comparison, a tablespoon of olive oil has 1.9 grams. It's best used sparingly if you're concerned about your saturated fat intake. Like we mentioned earlier, refined coconut oil can be used to fry foods, but unrefined coconut oil shouldn't be used in any high-heat situations. It also doesn't pair too well as a topping or in some more savory salad dressings.
Substitute one cup of sesame oil for one cup of vegetable oil.
Traditionally found in Asian, Indian, African, and Middle-Eastern cuisine, sesame oil has a distinct taste that can amplify a dish's flavors. With multiple varieties with different flavor profiles, sesame oil is a versatile product that's often overlooked. Sesame oil is loaded with vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory ingredients.
Manufacturers produce light, dark, and toasted sesame oil, and it has a rich, nutty flavor that makes it perfect for seasoning and sauces. Both light and dark sesame oils' smoke points are high enough that you can use them to sauté -- they also work extremely well in a stir-fry. Light sesame oil can even be used to deep-fry foods. Toasted sesame oil has a much stronger flavor, making it great for finishing dishes with just a small drizzle or in a marinade.
Toasted sesame oil's flavor is strong, which works for some dishes. It can easily overpower other flavors, and it should be used delicately. Sesame oil isn't the best choice for baking or sweeter dishes, and its flavor profile should be considered before using it.
Substitute one cup of flaxseed oil for one cup of vegetable oil.
Flaxseed oil, also known as linseed oil, is a fantastic source of soluble fiber, has laxative effects, and may help to lower cholesterol and reduce heart disease.
Flaxseed oil is perfect for salad dressings, marinades, or drizzling over foods. It can also work well in sweeter recipes that don't use heat. If you're interested in its health benefits, it can also be added to smoothies.
This substitute doesn't work well for cooking over heat or baking due a low smoke point. It may also impact blood clotting, so the Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding it if you have an upcoming surgery or are pregnant.
Substitute one cup of ghee for one cup of vegetable oil.
Ghee is clarified butter, which means the milk solids and water have been removed. It is also perfect for people who are lactose intolerant, and it is full of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Unlike regular butter, it is perfect for cooking with high heat -- like frying -- because it has a high smoke point. Similar to butter, it works great with baking recipes. It's fairly versatile and can be used in most instances where butter would be used. It's also a good creamer substitute for coffee, with the combination being referred to as bulletproof coffee.
Ghee can be fairly pricey, and, although you can make it at home, it can be a time-consuming process the first few times you make it. As with butter, it's also worth considering the dietary restrictions of any dinner guests before using it. Like coconut oil, it also has a decent amount of saturated fat in it, so it should be used sparingly.
Any of these eight alternatives can be used instead of vegetable oil. Just be aware of what you can use cold or with high heat. Not only will these alternatives load your recipes with flavor, but they are also a much healthier choice.