Peanut oil is a type of vegetable oil that is derived from, you guessed it… peanuts. Its pale yellow color and very mild flavor make it a popular ingredient in many cuisines and is especially popular in Chinese, Thai, and Indian cooking. It is also occasionally used as a carrier oil for massage!
While refined peanut oil usually has very, very subtle flavor notes (if any), some of the less refined ones have a mild and nutty flavor that can enhance the taste of food and the depth of dishes without overpowering other flavors.
But what do you do when you don’t have any peanut oil on hand? You go for one of these 5 substitutes!
- Refined sesame oil
- Unrefined sesame oil
- Sunflower oil
- Walnut oil
- Pecan oil
- Other raw nut oils
Best All-Around Substitute For Peanut Oil: Refined Sesame Oil
Refined sesame oil is an excellent substitute for peanut oil due to a few factors, the primary one being that they both work wonderfully in the same types of dishes. Sesame oil’s mild, nutty flavor is comparable to peanut oil, making it a no-brainer substitute for recipes that call for the latter.
Another reason why refined sesame oil is a great substitute for peanut oil is its high smoke point, so it can be used in most recipes that call for peanut oil. Be aware that unrefined sesame oil will have a lower smoke point than its refined counterpart, though, meaning the unrefined varieties don’t do well at high heat.
For those who suffer from peanut allergies, refined sesame oil is a safe alternative. Provided it is not made with peanut oil as a base oil, of course!
Best Raw Cooking Substitute For Peanut Oil: Unrefined Sesame Oil
If you are making a raw dish, such as a dip or a salad, then unrefined sesame oil is a great substitute for peanut oil. Unlike refined sesame oil, unrefined sesame oil has a stronger flavor profile and a better nutrient profile but a much lower smoke point.
To raw dishes, it can add a delicious toasty and nutty flavor that reminds you enough of peanuts for it to be an ideal substitute. I love it in a honey soy sesame dressing! Be aware, though, some unrefined sesame oils pack a punch when it comes to flavor, and a little will go further than you think.
Best Peanut Oil Substitute for Regular Cooking: Refined Sesame Oil
For regular heat cooking, while unrefined sesame oil can technically be used, I find once it gets close to its smoke point, the flavor degrades fast, making dishes taste a little burnt. So, for cooking above about 300 degrees, a refined version with a higher smoke point is a better option, as it has a smoke point of around 410 degrees.
Best Peanut Oil Substitute for High-Heat Cooking: Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil has a high smoke point of approximately 450 degrees, which makes it ideal for high-heat cooking methods such as frying and grilling. Sunflower oil is pretty neutral, but some brands may have a slightly nutty flavor. It is also light and thin, so it won’t leave your food feeling greasy or heavy.
Peanut Oil Substitute that is Closest in Flavor: Refined Sesame Oil
Peanut oil is primarily sold in its refined form, which does not have much flavor but does have very mild and nutty tones to it. Refined sesame oil is similar in taste, though I find it a little more intense. Other nut oils, such as walnut or macadamia, also have nutty tones, but given that they are usually sold only in their unrefined forms, the flavors are much more robust; therefore, they may not be suitable for some of the dishes that call for peanut oil.
Best Neutral-Flavored/Budget-Friendly Peanut Oil Substitute: Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil is the most neutral-flavored substitute for peanut oil. It is also the most budget-friendly! The flavor of sunflower oil is very light, and it will not affect the taste of your recipe. Sunflower oil is easily found in supermarkets, so it is an excellent option for those looking for an affordable alternative to peanut oil.
Best Healthy Peanut Oil Substitute: Walnut Oil And Other Raw Nut Oils
If you are ditching all your refined oils for healthier varieties, then there are a few options to replace your peanut oil with, though keep in mind they may have much more robust nutty flavors. My first pick is walnut oil. Walnut oil is great for baking and working on the lower moderate heat cooking range, as its smoke point is around 320 degrees. It has a distinct nutty flavor, so you may want to use it in recipes with other nuts or in small amounts when substituting it for peanut oil.
If walnut oil isn’t your thing, or you need a higher smoke point, you could try pecan oil. It is not quite as healthy as walnut oil but has a higher smoke point with a similar flavor.
Other raw nut oils, like almond, pistachio, hazelnut, and cashew, could also work, but keep their flavor profiles and smoke points in mind when making the switch.
Best Keto/Paleo/Whole30 Peanut Oil Substitute: Walnut Oil
Walnut oil is an easy substitute for keto, paleo, and Whole30 dieters, as it is suitable for all three. It also contains plenty of healthy fats, such as polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and omega-3 fatty acids.
When buying walnut oil for its health benefits, look for 100%, cold pressed, and unrefined if you can, as it is more likely to have retained its nutritional benefits. You can read more about which fats and oils are most suitable for your diet in our guide to all things fat and oil!
Depending on the oil’s heat, deep frying in peanut oil may not be the healthiest choice because the smoke point is around 410 degrees. When heated past this temperature, harmful compounds can form that could result in adverse health effects with long-term consumption.
It is important also to note that deep frying, in general, is unhealthy.
There is no one answer to this question. The worst thing you can probably do is use an oil with a low smoke point in a dish that requires an oil with a high smoke point. Why is this? Because oils heated beyond their smoke point can produce harmful compounds that can be detrimental to your health in the long term.