Now a commonly used cooking oil, canola oil was developed in Canada in the 1970s from rapeseed plants. Fun fact (well, I’m not sure it’s a fact, but a Canadian told me), the name canola is derived from “Canadian oil, low acid.”
Canola oil, like many refined vegetable and seed oils, became popular as saturated animal fats were slowly going out of fashion due to health concerns and have remained popular even today as a long-lasting, budget-friendly, neutral-tasting oil for all sorts of cooking.
But if you find yourself wanting or needing an alternative to canola oil, it can be substituted with a whole bunch of things! Let’s talk about them.
- Grapeseed oil
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
- Avocado oil
- Vegetable oil
- Canola Oil
- Refined olive oil
Best All-Around Substitute For Canola Oil: Grapeseed Oil
Grapeseed oil is probably the closest oil in flavor and cooking properties to canola oil. They are both seed oils, both usually refined, and have a similar nutritional profile. If you can’t find grapeseed oil, you can also use sunflower oil, vegetable oil, refined olive oil, soybean oil, rice bran oil… basically any of the refined neutral flavored oils. Just check the smoke points of each before using them in high-heat cooking.
Best Raw Cooking Substitute For Canola Oil: Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil is a popular oil to use in raw food cooking, particularly as a salad dressing or dip, or mayonnaise ingredient. It has a very light and neutral flavor and allows the flavors of everything else in the dish to shine through.
I personally prefer to use unrefined oil, like olive or pumpkin seed oil, in my raw dishes, just for the health benefits and to give it a bit of flavor, but if we are talking for a closer substitute for canola oil, sunflower oil is the one.
Best Canola Oil Substitute for Regular Cooking and High Heat Cooking: Safflower Oil
Safflower oil is the oil of choice when using cooking methods that require some heat. It has a smoke point of 475 – 500 degrees, which is higher than many other refined oils, so for most cooking methods, you don’t even have to think about it exceeding the smoke point.
Safflower oil is made from the seeds of the safflower plant and has a mild, neutral flavor. It can be found in large containers at most supermarkets, perfect for deep frying. It is also worth noting that although safflower oil has a higher smoke point, it still contains polyunsaturated fats, which tend to oxidize more quickly at high temperatures than monounsaturated.
Canola Oil Substitute that is Closest in Flavor (and Most Neutral): Grapeseed Oil
Canola oil is super duper neutral, as are most oils that have been heavily refined. Though, if I were to pick an oil that is closest in its almost nothing flavor, it would be grapeseed. Vegetable oil can vary depending on its ingredients, refined oil can still have a slightly grassy tone, and rice bran oil, to me, actually tastes like rice bran. Grapeseed tastes like nothing, much like canola.
Best Healthy Canola Oil Substitute: Avocado Oil
If you are looking for a healthy alternative to canola, there are plenty of more nourishing oils, but avocado gets my vote. Why? Because it can be used in so many dishes. It is tasty in raw treats and also great for cooking at a higher heat due to its high smoke point, and its flavor is not overpowering.
Avocado oil is high in monounsaturated fats and a great source of Vitamin E. The downside is that it is pretty expensive, so it is not something to use for, say, deep frying.
Best Keto/Paleo/Whole30 Canola Oil Substitute: Avocado oil
Avocado oil is also an excellent substitute for keto, paleo, and Whole 30 diets. Not only is it a healthy fat, but its high smoke point makes it perfect for cooking. Avocado oil is unrefined and is not from seeds, grains, or legumes. You could also experiment with other unrefined oils from nuts and even extra virgin olive oil for all three diets.
You can get the lowdown on all these oil substitutes and many more in our ultimate guide to all things cooking fat and oil!
There has been increasing debate in recent years about the health effects of seed oils such as canola, with many choosing to no longer incorporate it into their diet. For the most part, more research is needed on its health effects, and small amounts within a well-balanced diet aren’t likely to do harm.
Most canola oils come from genetically modified crops, and the way the oil is processed involves chemicals, so some choose to go with healthier options for this reason too.
Olive oil is the healthier choice, especially if it is cold-pressed, unrefined, and extra virgin. It has an excellent nutritional profile, with higher levels of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants like vitamin E. It has a lower smoke point than canola oil though, so it’s better for cooking at lower temperatures.
No! It has a different name in some places in the UK and Europe and is called rapeseed oil, but it is the same thing.