Cottonseed oil falls under the umbrella category of refined seed and vegetable oils. As the name suggests, it is made from the seeds of the cotton plant and refined to the oil you see on supermarket shelves. I do not know many recipes that specifically call for cottonseed oil, but if your recipe calls for “cooking oil”, then this is one of them.
This also means there are plenty of other substitutes if you don’t have cottonseed oil on hand. Here are 5 that you could use instead:
- Grapeseed oil
- Virgin olive oil
- Safflower oil
- Vegetable oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
Best All-Around Substitute For Cottonseed Oil: Grapeseed Oil
Grapeseed oil is a byproduct of the winemaking industry, made from the leftover seeds of the grape! It is extracted in a similar way to cottonseed oil and is a refined, high-smoke point (420 degrees) oil suitable for multiple cooking methods. Both cottonseed and grapeseed oil have a very similar neutral flavor, and similar price point too.
Like most vegetable and seed oils, the texture is light and smooth and does not overpower any other flavors in the dish you are cooking.
Best Raw Cooking Substitute For Cottonseed Oil: Virgin Olive Oil
If you need an oil for regular cooking or salad dressings, you can’t go wrong with a reliable choice like virgin olive oil. This olive oil is a mix of extra virgin olive oil and refined olive oil, so it is milder in flavor than extra virgin olive oil while still containing some of the health benefits.
Used in its raw form, it is excellent in salad dressings, homemade mayonnaise, dips, or drizzled over soups, grilled meats, roasted vegetables, or bread for a finishing touch.
Best Cottonseed Oil Substitute for Regular Cooking: Virgin Olive Oil
Virgin olive oil has a smoke point of around 350 degrees, so it is suitable for most kinds of regular or moderate-heat cooking. It is a great replacement for the more refined cooking oils in many things, from savory baked dishes to muffins, cookies and cakes, though the smoke point is too low for deep frying or high-heat cooking.
Best Cottonseed Oil Substitute for High-Heat Cooking: Safflower Oil
Refined safflower oil has one of the highest smoke points of the refined seed oils, around 510 degrees. Cottonseed oil is considered a high smoke point oil, and it is 90 degrees less!
Safflower oil is a commercially cultivated vegetable oil derived from the seeds of the safflower plant, a thistle-like plant with vibrant yellow or orange flowers. You can use it for any type of cooking, but it thrives in high-heat environments!
Cottonseed Oil Substitute that is Closest in Flavor: Grapeseed Oil
Cottonseed oil is a popular choice for cooking and baking due to its mild flavor and versatility. Grapeseed oil has a similar mild flavor, making it an excellent all-around substitute for cottonseed oil.
To my palette, both oils are incredibly neutral (i.e., they taste like nothing!) As they are refined oils, this means the process has removed all “impurities” from the oil, including those that give it flavor. If you want an oil with a bit more taste, then look for cold-pressed, unrefined oil like extra virgin olive oil.
Best Budget-Friendly Cottonseed Oil Substitute: Vegetable Oil
Cottonseed can get surprisingly pricey, up to $20 per gallon. A 4 oz bottle at Walmart as of 2023 is $7.50. Vegetable oil pricing can vary significantly by brand but is often under $9 or $10 per gallon. Vegetable oil is also very neutral in flavor and can be found in most supermarkets and grocery stores.
Keep in mind, though, that the smoke point of some vegetable oils may be lower than that of cottonseed oil!
Best Healthy Cottonseed Oil Substitute: Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil, affectionately known as EVOO, boasts high levels of polyphenols and antioxidants, making it the recommended oil on the Mediterranean Diet. Its flavor is usually strong and grassy, and it’s rich in monounsaturated fats, which are good for your heart.
Extra virgin olive oil is not refined like vegetable and seed oils are, which means it retains more of its nutrients. It is also lower in inflammatory-causing compounds than refined seed oils.
Best Keto/Paleo/Whole30 Cottonseed Oil Substitute: Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil, renowned for its multitude of health benefits, is widely regarded as the ultimate oil choice for those following a keto lifestyle. It also holds a special place in paleo and Whole30 diets, especially when it is cold-pressed to maximize nutrient retention.
Refined seed oils like cottonseed are strongly discouraged across all three diets due to their high level of processing and lack of whole food status.
No, cottonseed oil is not the same as vegetable oil. Vegetable oil is usually a blend of various seed oils such as sunflower, safflower and soybean. Cottonseed oil is more specialized and only derived from the seeds of cotton plants.
Cottonseed oil has a higher smoke point, but it is by no means better or healthier than olive oil. Olive oil has a higher concentration of antioxidants and healthy fats, which makes it the superior choice.
Yes, cottonseed oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids. While it is essential to have some omega-6 in the diet, an excess of these fats can lead to inflammation and other health problems. For this reason, cottonseed oil should be used sparingly.