Flaxseed oil started gaining popularity as a health supplement in the 90s, around the same time as flaxseeds and flaxseed meal. The increasing awareness of the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha-linolenic acid, abundant in flaxseed oil, contributed to its growing popularity.
Today, flaxseed oil remains popular as a dietary supplement and is used in various food products and skincare formulations. It is, however, a rather sensitive oil! It has a low smoke point, meaning it can quickly become rancid when exposed to heat (even sunlight!), and most manufacturers recommend keeping it refrigerated in a dark bottle to avoid this.
So what are some alternatives if you’re looking for something more versatile or less temperamental than flaxseed oil? How about:
- Chia oil/chia seed oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Regular olive oil
- Walnut oil
- Wheatgerm oil
Best All-Around Substitute For Flaxseed Oil: Chia Oil
Chia oil is probably the most similar substitute for flaxseed oil, particularly regarding nutritional benefits. According to some internet sources, chia oil has a higher smoke point than flaxseed oil, making it more heat-stable and easier to use in cooking, but I disagree! When heated, chia seed oil loses its nutritional benefits, tastes yucky, and turns bitter. Best to keep it refrigerated and use it in raw cooking, just like flaxseed oil.
While chia oil is relatively easy to find, it can be pricey compared to other alternatives like olive or walnut oil.
Best Raw Cooking Substitute For Flaxseed Oil: Chia Oil
Chia oil would be my choice for raw cooking. Usually, if you are the kind of person to keep flaxseed oil in the home, you are doing so to add a nutritional boost to your diet, not because it tastes great. Chia oil has a very similar nutritional profile to flaxseed oil, and those nutrients are best for raw cooking.
Chia oil has a more neutral taste than flaxseed oil too, so you may even prefer it!
Best Flaxseed Oil Substitute for Regular Cooking: Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For regular cooking, a decent extra virgin olive oil can stand moderate heat without destabilizing like chia or flax oil. Extra virgin olive oil doesn’t have the same nutritional compounds as flaxseed oil but has its own healthy properties. Plus, it tastes better, in my opinion!
Extra virgin olive oil can be heated up to 350 degrees, so not too high, but enough for basic cooking and baking. It can even add some nice flavor as a feature ingredient. I make a lemon olive oil cake that is one of my favorite desserts!
Best Flaxseed Oil Substitute for High-Heat Cooking: Regular Olive oil
For high-heat cooking, the smoke point of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) is too low, so we need to look at a more refined version, which would be regular olive oil.
Regular olive oil has a smoke point of up to 470 degrees (check on your particular brand, as it may vary), so it can stand much higher heat without destabilizing. That makes it the perfect substitute for flaxseed oil for high-heat cooking and baking. Plus, you get some of the health benefits of EVOO, though not all of them.
Flaxseed Oil Substitute that is Closest in Flavor: Walnut Oil Or Wheatgerm Oil
Flaxseed oil has a really unique flavor. It is nutty, in a seedy way, and earthy, sometimes bitter and grassy. The best substitutes for it in terms of taste would be walnut oil or wheat germ oil.
Wheat germ oil has a distinct, robust, earthy, and slightly bitter taste, and walnut oil has a nutty flavor, although the nuances of that nuttiness compared to flaxseeds are slightly different. Walnut oil has a rich, somewhat sweet, and mildly bitter taste that can be reminiscent of the flavor profile of flaxseed oil.
Like flaxseed oil, walnut oil is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, so you’d still be getting some of those though not nearly as much.
Both oils have low smoke points, so they are best used in cold preparations like salad dressings, drizzled over finished dishes, or incorporated into dips and sauces. Avoid using them for high-heat cooking methods.
Best Neutral Flavored Flaxseed Oil Substitute: Chia Oil
Chia seed oil is the bland cousin of flaxseed oil. It has a very similar nutritional makeup but without the intense flavor. My nutrition clients often changed their flaxseed oil to chia seed oil as they preferred the neutral taste! As with flaxseed oil, chia seed oil is best used as a finishing oil and not for cooking.
Best Budget-Friendly Flaxseed Oil Substitute: Regular Olive Oil
Regular olive oil is probably the best budget-friendly substitute for flaxseed oil. Extra virgin olive oil can be pretty expensive, as can chia oil and wheat germ oil, and walnut oil, regular olive oil, however, is much more affordable and still healthier than even cheaper oils such as vegetable oil.
Best Healthy Flaxseed Oil Substitute: Chia Oil
Nutritionally, chia seed oil is considered the most similar to flaxseed oil. Both oils are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), known for reducing inflammation, promoting heart health, and supporting brain function. Like flaxseed oil, chia seed oil also contains other essential nutrients, including vitamins and minerals.
Both oils should be kept in the fridge to maintain their nutrients and quality to ensure you get as much out of them as possible. For some vegans and vegetarians, this is their primary source of omega-3, so preserving that is incredibly important.
Best Keto/Paleo/Whole30 Flaxseed Oil Substitute: Chia Oil
Flaxseed and chia oils are appropriate for keto, paleo, and Whole30 diets. Even though certain seed oils are not allowed on these diets, flax and chia are the exceptions as they are such nutritional powerhouses.
If you don’t have either, then walnut oil and extra virgin olive oil are also suitable for all three diets!
Yes, they are the same thing. The name flaxseed is more commonly used in North America, while linseed is more prevalent in Europe.
People with a history of an allergic reaction to flaxseed should not use it. There is also some evidence to suggest that women at risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers should not use it, as it may affect hormonal levels.
It is always best to speak with your healthcare provider if you are unsure about using any food item.
Flaxseed oil has a short shelf life and should be used within two months of being purchased. The oil can start to smell ‘rancid’ when it goes bad; to me, it smells and tastes a little bit like fish and paint. It is not at all pleasant!