In this definitive guide, we cover all things cooking fats and cooking oils, including their sources, extraction techniques, nutrition and dietary information, smoke points, and what they are best used for.
With 42 distinct oils/fats, the list is quite extensive, so if you want to read the entire thing, you will be a fats and oils pro by the end of it, but if you are looking for specific information, then we recommend that you utilize the hyperlinked table of contents just under this introduction to jump to the relevant section.
Can’t find your favorite? We tried to be as comprehensive as possible, but with so many oils now on the market, we may have a couple that we have missed. Feel free to let us know in the comments if an oil you love hasn’t been included and why it should be!
Table of contents
- Oils vs. Fats: Is there a difference?
- The Four Different Kinds of Fat
- Animal vs. Plant-Based Oils and Fats
- How Oils & Fats Are Processed
- Solid or liquid at room temperature
- Oil and fat smoke points
- The oils/fats I actually keep in my own kitchen
- If you only want one oil in your kitchen…
- Most popular fats and oils
- Healthiest fats and oils
- Our ultimate list of cooking oils and fats, usage, and substitutions
- Almond oil
- Apricot kern el oil
- Avocado oil
- Beef tallow
- Canola oil
- Cashew oil
- Chicken fat (schmaltz)
- Coconut oil, Virgin/Unrefined
- Coconut oil, Refined
- Corn oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Duck fat
- Flaxseed oil
- Ghee (clarified butter)
- Grapeseed oil
- Hazelnut oil
- Hemp oil/hemp seed oil
- Lard (Pork fat)
- Macadamia oil
- Margarine (hard stick)
- Margarine (soft)
- Olive Oil (Extra Virgin)
- Olive Oil (Light/Pure/Regular)
- Olive Oil (Virgin oil)
- Olive pomace oil
- Palm kernel oil
- Palm oil/Red palm oil
- Peanut oil
- Pecan oil
- Pistachio oil
- Pumpkin seed oil
- Rice bran oil
- Safflower oil
- Sesame oil
- Soybean oil
- Sunflower oil
- Vegetable oil
- Vegetable shortening/Crisco
- Walnut oil
- Wheat germ oil
- Oil & Fat Cooking Tables (for easy reference!)
- Oil & Fat Nutrition Table
- Diet/Allergy Table
Oils vs. Fats: Is there a difference?
Oils and fats are both lipids, with a few key differences that set them apart. Oils are usually liquid at room temperature, while fats are mostly solid. Fats tend to be more shelf-stable than oils, as they contain more saturated fatty acids. In contrast, oils contain more unsaturated fatty acids, which are more prone to becoming rancid or oxidizing.
Fats also often have a higher calorie content than oils because they are more concentrated, meaning they provide more energy per gram than oil. They also have significant differences in flavor profiles and use in the kitchen, but we will get into that soon!
The Four Different Kinds of Fat
The four main ‘types’ of fats and oils are usually classified according to their chemical structure; monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, and trans fat. Whatever one is listed on the label indicates that it is the predominant type of fat in that product, though it may contain small percentages of the other kinds.
Let’s go from the two considered the healthiest to the two considered less healthy…
Polyunsaturated fat is considered an essential fatty acid, like the ones found in fish oil! These fats contain more than one double bond between their carbon atoms (hence the term “‘poly”’…and, yes, the next one, “mono,” has just one double bond!). Polyunsaturated fats help reduce LDL cholesterol and make hormones essential for proper body functioning.
A brief note on two types of polyunsaturated fat, omega-3 and omega-6. In today’s modern diet, we don’t tend to eat enough omega-3. While omega-6 is medically considered healthy, we should be having more omega-3 than we do in order to balance our omega-3 to 6 ratio. There is a growing debate on the inflammatory nature of some seed and vegetable oils due to their high omega-6 levels. We recognize that this is an evolving debate, but as this is a cooking-focused article, it is not our focus.
Monounsaturated fat is a beneficial dietary fat that can improve cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fats are often liquid at room temperature but can become solid when refrigerated. Examples of these include olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
This kind of fat can be found in animal and vegetable products. The term ‘saturated’ indicates they have been ‘saturated’ with hydrogen atoms (and hence have no carbon double bonds). Examples of saturated fats include butter, lard, beef tallow, and coconut oil. This kind of fat is often considered ‘unhealthy’ as it can raise cholesterol levels in the blood.
A trans fat is a type of fatty acid that has been tampered with by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats to give it a more solid texture like saturated fat. Examples of trans fats include margarine and shortening. Trans fats are considered unhealthy as the way they are processed creates trans fatty acids that can raise cholesterol.
See our table later in this article, where we break down how much of each of these four fats are in our 42 oils and fats.
Animal vs. Plant-Based Oils and Fats
Oils and fats are sourced from plants and animals. Oils from plants and fats from animals. The extraction methods vary depending on what the fat/oil is being extracted from, but it is usually pressed for plant-based oils and rendered for animal-sourced fats.
|Animal-sourced fats:||Plant-sourced oils:|
|Beef tallow, |
Chicken fat (schmaltz),
Ghee (clarified butter),
Lard (Pork fat),
|Almond oil, |
Apricot kernel oil,
Virgin/Unrefined Coconut oil,
Refined Corn oil,
Hemp oil/hemp seed oil,
Margarine (hard stick),
Olive oil (Extra Virgin),
Olive oil (Light/Pure/Regular),
Olive oil (Virgin oil),
Olive pomace oil,
Palm kernel oil,
Palm oil/Red palm oil,
Pumpkin seed oil,
Rice bran oil,
Wheat germ oil
Extraction methods used
Plant-sourced oils for food are processed mainly by pressing or extraction. Pressing uses physical force to push out the oil from the plant, while extraction involves dissolving it in a solvent to separate it from the other plant material. There is cold pressing, expeller pressing, and centrifugation. Cold pressing is considered the gold standard for processing cooking oils, as it helps preserve all the oil’s nutrition and does not use any chemicals. When shopping for your oil, check the label where the extraction method should be listed.
Animal fats are typically extracted from the tissue of animals and either rendered or processed. Rendering is when animal fat is heated to separate out the fatty acids and glycerol molecules; this process also involves removing moisture and other elements so that the fat can be used in cooking. Processing involves combining the animal fat with other ingredients such as vegetable oils, emulsifiers, or stabilizers to create a product like lard or shortening.
How Oils & Fats Are Processed
Unrefined oils are minimally processed and retain their original flavor, aroma, and nutritional value. Examples include olive oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and almond oil, though you can also now find refined varieties of many of these oils if you don’t love their taste.
Refined oils are those that have been processed to remove impurities, such as chemicals and odor. They often have a longer shelf life, a higher smoke point, and generally have a neutral taste or smell. Common examples include canola oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, and cottonseed oil. It is important to note that the refining of oils may come at the cost of some of their nutritional value.
Hydrogenated oil is a type of processed oil that has been treated with hydrogen gas to make it less likely to spoil. Hydrogenated oils are often found in processed foods, as they are cheaper and have a longer shelf-life than other fats or oils. Partial hydrogenation creates trans fat (bad), but fully hydrogenated means it will be zero trans fat (not so bad). Check your labels!
Solid or liquid at room temperature
Whether or not a fat or oil is solid at room temperature (60-70 degrees F) depends on their level of saturated fat. Saturated fat has stronger molecular bonds, which give the fat a more stable shape and a solid structure. In contrast, unsaturated fatty acids have weaker bonds making them liquid at room temperature and solid only when chilled or refrigerated.
When looking at the label on the fat or oil you are about to purchase, chances are if the saturated fat percentage is the predominant fat, it is more likely to be solid at room temperature.
Coconut oil and the other tropical oils fit in weirdly here. While, for the most part, I find it solid or slightly melty at room temperature, some brands seem to turn to liquid even at a mild room temperature, as this oil has a low melting point of around 75 degrees…which is my ideal room temperature!
|Solid at room temperature||Liquid at room temperature|
|Beef tallow, |
Chicken fat (schmaltz),
Ghee (clarified butter),
Lard (Pork fat),
Coconut oil (sometimes!),
Palm oil and palm kernel oil (Sometimes!), Margarine,
|Almond oil, |
Apricot kernel oil,
Coconut oil (sometimes!),
Hemp oil/hemp seed oil,
Olive pomace oil,
Palm kernel oil (Sometimes!),
Palm oil/Red palm oil (Sometimes!),
Pumpkin seed oil,
Rice bran oil,
Wheat germ oil
Oil and fat smoke points
The smoke point is precisely what it sounds like and simply means the temperature at which a heated fat or oil starts producing smoke. This temperature varies significantly between different oils.
It’s important to know because you don’t want the oil to heat to its flashpoint, which is the temperature where it could ignite on your stovetop and cause a fire.
The smoke point indicates how fast oil breaks down into free fatty acids. If you are cooking with oil that has reached its smoke point, it will affect the flavor of your food and release free radicals, which can damage your health.
Generally, fats and oils with a very low smoke point are best not heated at all and used in smoothies and salads, and high smoke point oils can be used in higher-heat cooking methods. The oils that fall in the middle of that spectrum can be used for cooking at moderate temperatures, such as slow roasting and pan frying.
Our Oil & Fats Cooking Tables later in this guide give you the smoke point for each of the 42 oils and fats we cover here. But for now, here’s a feel for how hot different cooking techniques get.
|Cooking Technique||Temperature range|
|Stir-frying||Above 450 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Broiling||400-550 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Roasting||Above 400 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Searing||375-450 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Deep frying||360-375 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Quick pan-frying||350-375 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Shallow frying||320-375 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Sauteing||300-400 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Baking||Below 375 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Grilling||250-400 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Raw (dressings, marinades, sauces)||Under 104 degrees Fahrenheit|
The oils/fats I actually keep in my own kitchen
Friends, this is a tough one as depending on what style of food you cook you could have all kinds of preferred oils (for example, if I cooked loads of Indian dishes I might keep ghee, but I don’t so it is not something I keep on hand)…but here is my rundown of what I do keep on hand. My reasoning is simply to keep all the oils that cover most of my recipes:
- EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) for drizzling on soups and salads and dipping bread into. I love the taste, and it is excellent for your health. I find it covers any Greek/Mediterranean/Balkan dishes I’m cooking.
- Sesame oil for most of my Asian cooking and dipping sauces. It is an ingredient in numerous recipes, particularly South East Asian, and has a unique flavor that is hard to replicate!
- Butter, for my French cooking, spreading on bread, and mixing into scrambled eggs. It may not be healthy, but it is delicious!
- Coconut oil for making sweet treats, like bars and balls, vegan frosting, and chocolate that I want to solidify once it goes into the fridge. It’s so good at holding stuff together and giving it a nice consistency and flavor. Plus, I also use it to moisturize my legs when they are dry!
- Avocado oil, for its neutral but nice flavor in blended dressings and dips that I make (think green goddess dressing and guacamole). Sometimes the extra virgin olive oil flavor is too strong. Its super-high smoke point is also handy to have around for any higher-heat cooking.
- Some neutral vegetable or canola oil for greasing muffin tins and pans and frying when I occasionally do that.
If you only want one oil in your kitchen…
I realize the list above may be pretty intense for people who don’t cook as often as I do. If you’re looking for just one flexible oil for all your cooking needs, here are the three top contenders:
- The All-Arounder: Sunflower oil is neutral-tasting, so the flavors of your other ingredients will come through, it’s versatile, and its fairly high smoke point makes it usable for just about any type of cooking you’d like to do.
- The Highest Smoke Point: Avocado oil has the highest smoke point of any oil so there’s zero thought needed on if it’ll work for your cooking method. Also, its subtly buttery flavor won’t overpower your dishes, and it has some good nutrients to boot!
- The Budget Option: Standard vegetable oil is the cheaper alternative to sunflower oil. It’s often a mix of refined vegetable oils like corn, soy, and canola, so your particular blend will vary. Its smoke point tends to be a little lower than the other two choices (again, depending on the exact blend you get), so you’ll have to be careful on the high-heat end of the cooking spectrum. But its low price point and neutral flavor make it a favorite of many a household!
Most popular fats and oils
This also depends on where you are from and what you eat! Butter is a widely used spread (widespread, hahaha), as is olive oil, particularly in Europe. Vegetable and peanut/sesame oils are prominent in China, and some Southeast Asian countries, and ghee is a staple in Indian cuisine.
Surprise alert: If we could make a definitive list of the most popular oils and fats by consumption per capita in the USA, it would probably lead with soybean oil as it is predominantly used in restaurant fryers and packaged goods. Even if it is unlikely that you would buy it and have it in your pantry at home, it’s likely the one you are consuming the most of if you eat fried and packaged foods.
Healthiest fats and oils
The healthiest cooking fats and oils are those that are unrefined and high in mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Some examples are extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, hemp seed oil, and flax seed oil. Any fats that are partially hydrogenated/trans or saturated are not considered healthy.
Our ultimate list of cooking oils and fats, usage, and substitutions
- Almond oil for cooking may also be labeled as sweet almond oil.
- It is high in healthy fats and vitamin E and can be used on the skin as well as in your food!
- It has a light and mildly nutty flavor that works nicely in both sweet and savory dishes.
- Best substitute: Walnut oil for the nutty flavor profile.
Apricot kern el oil
- Extracted from the seeds of apricot, this oil is used as both a food ingredient and a topical one.
- It has a beautiful golden color and a strong, almost marzipan flavor.
- It goes well with fruit dishes and desserts or Asian marinades.
- Best substitute: Almond oil due to the nutty profiles in both.
- One of the healthiest cooking oils out there!
- Has a very mild and subtle flavor, almost buttery.
- It has a higher smoke point than many other plant oils, so it is great for sauteing, stir-frying, pan-frying, and baking, as well as raw in dressings.
- Best substitute: While not as healthy, general vegetable oil due to the neutral flavor. Macadamia oil also works well for buttery notes, though the smoke point is not quite as high.
- This fat is usually rendered from beef and is high in triglycerides and saturated fat.
- It has a relatively high smoke point, so it can be used for high-heat cooking.
- It has a very savory flavor and does not work well in sweet dishes.
- Best substitute: Lard, butter, or vegetable shortening.
- Sweet, creamy, salty, and versatile, it is complimentary with sweet and savory recipes.
- Depending on the source of the butter, it will have different flavor profiles (for example, sheep butter straight off the farm is a lot more pungent than cow butter from the supermarket!)
- Best substitute: There are so many substitutes, depending on what you are using it for, from mayonnaise or yogurt to margarine! Ghee and avocado oil are two that work well, though, for sauteeing/pan frying.
- A pressed oil from the rapeseed plant, it is sometimes labeled as rapeseed oil.
- It has a neutral flavor, so it is good for frying and cooking when you don’t want to impart specific flavor profiles into your dish.
- Best substitute: Vegetable oil, but many people prefer canola as they know exactly where it comes from, rather than the unspecified ingredients in vegetable oil.
- Nutty, rich, and really really good with chocolate!
- It is especially great for Asian-style cuisines like Thai curries or Indian dals.
- Best substitute: Almond oil. It has similar properties to cashew oil and can provide the same benefits for skin, hair, and health, as well as similar flavor profiles in recipes.
Chicken fat (schmaltz)
- Chicken fat has a rich and creamy texture and a nutty, buttery flavor.
- Schmaltz is often used in Jewish cuisine to flavor dishes like latkes and matzo ball soup. It can also be used for cooking vegetables, meats, or sauces.
- One of the best dishes to make with schmaltz is a traditional Jewish chicken soup, or ‘Jewish penicillin,’ as it’s often referred to. This dish (aka matzo ball soup) is made with matzo balls cooked in a broth of chicken fat and vegetables.
- Best substitute: Rendered goose or duck fat.
Coconut oil, Virgin/Unrefined
- Coconut oil also has a high saturated fat content, making it solid at room temperature. It is, therefore, not great for salad dressings or cold dishes unless you use it as a solidifying agent.
- It adds a coconutty sweetness to dishes with its distinctive flavor. I love to stir it into white rice and pretend I’m having a side of coconut rice with my Asian dishes. It honestly is so versatile and has so many uses.
- Best substitute: Refined coconut oil, which has a higher smoke point and less flavor.
Coconut oil, Refined
- Great for cooking and baking due to its higher smoke point. Refined coconut oil is also a good alternative to unrefined coconut oil if you don’t really like a strong coconut flavor.
- Best substitute: Unrefined coconut oil, but you could also consider avocado oil, especially if you use it for cooking with any heat.
- Refined corn oil has a high smoke point, so it is often used for frying in commercial kitchens, also due to its more neutral flavor.
- It is one of the most affordable oils on the market.
- Best substitute: Any other kind of neutral vegetable oil, such as canola or sunflower oil.
- Cottonseed oil is a type of vegetable oil from the seeds of the cotton plant. It has a mild, nutty flavor and is often used for cooking because it has a high smoke point.
- Cottonseed oil also has various industrial uses, such as manufacturing lubricants and plastics.
- It is also used in the production of margarine and shortening, as well as a base in many processed food products.
- Best substitute: Vegetable oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, or refined olive oil.
- One of the more luxurious fats, this stuff is expensive but makes a delicious gravy, or my favorite, potatoes cooked in duck fat.
- It is pretty high in cholesterol, so it shouldn’t be used all the time, but it is a bit healthier than some other animal fats.
- Best substitute: Any other kind of animal fat, butter or vegetable shortening, but it won’t have quite the same flavor.
- Flaxseed oil is high in omega-3 and is an excellent addition to your diet.
- It has a robust nutty flavor, but some people report a fishy taste if too much is used.
- It oxidizes quickly and must be kept in a dark bottle in the fridge. Because of this, it is best in salad dressings, smoothies, and dips rather than heated.
- Best substitute: Hemp seed oil for nutritional value and flavor.
Ghee (clarified butter)
- If you didn’t think it was possible to make butter taste better, ghee might change your mind.
- It’s made by cooking butter until the water in it evaporates and leaves you with something richer in flavor.
- It has a higher smoke point than regular butter and is lower in lactose.
- Best substitute: Butter or vegetable oils, margarine, and vegan butter.
- Grapeseed oil is a less expensive oil than extra virgin olive oil. It is often used in kitchens for salad dressings and cooking, as it works well with other ingredients and is not overpowering in flavor.
- Yes, grapeseed oil is actually made from the seeds of grapes as a byproduct of the winemaking industry.
- Grapeseed oil works well in most recipes due to its ability to mesh nicely with other ingredients.
- Best substitute: Canola oil is the most similar substitute.
- The flavor profile of hazelnut oil is delicate but nutty, making it a great addition to salad dressings or drizzled overcooked vegetables, and it goes surprisingly well with fish!
- Hazelnut oil is often used in pastries and desserts due to its sweet flavor.
- It is rich in good fats, and some studies have suggested it may reduce non-alcoholic fatty liver disease progression!
- Best substitute: Almond and walnut oil are the best substitutes if you don’t have hazelnut.
Hemp oil/hemp seed oil
- Much like flax oil, this is not an oil you want to heat, as it is very sensitive and will oxidize. Be sure to keep it in the fridge.
- Best used as a finishing oil for soups and smoothie bowls or added to salads, dips, and dressings.
- It has a grassy and nutty flavor which can be pretty intense, so if your recipe calls for a lot of oil, “water” it down with another, more neutral oil, like olive.
- Best substitute: The best sub for hemp oil is flaxseed oil.
Lard (Pork fat)
- Makes a great pie crust but tastes like a farmyard if it isn’t as white as possible.
- Lard is easy to render yourself at home if you have the time and the fat available!
- It has a bad reputation due to its high saturated fat content, but it contains many essential nutrients and is fine for healthy individuals in moderation.
- Best substitute: Shortening or Crisco.
- Smooth, buttery, great flavor! This oil can be used in multiple things, from marinades to fried foods.
- It’s excellent in both savory dishes (think Asian-style foods) and also as a replacement for butter in sweet treats.
- High in good, non-inflammatory fatty acids!
- Best substitute: Avocado oil for the smoke point and the buttery flavor.
Margarine (hard stick)
- The more solid a margarine is, the higher its concentration of saturated fat.
- Usually made from water and vegetable oils rather than animal fats.
- It was considered a healthy alternative to butter due to its lower saturated fat content, though that is being debated more recently.
- Can be used wherever you would use butter in a recipe.
- Best substitute: Soft margarine or butter.
- Margarine is a non-dairy spread originally made to replace butter.
- It can also be used wherever you would usually use butter in a recipe.
- It is usually made from partially or fully hydrogenated vegetable oil and might contain trans fats.
- Best substitute: Spreadable butter, butter, or hard-stick margarine.
Olive Oil (Extra Virgin)
- Made by crushing olives in some kind of press and extracting the oil.
- Depending on where the olives are grown and processed, the flavors will vary, but the flavor is usually strong and grassy.
- Best used as a finishing oil on salads, soups, dips, and sauces or as a dip on its own with bread.
- Best substitute: Virgin olive oil or regular olive oil
Olive Oil (Light/Pure/Regular)
- Usually made from a blend of extra virgin olive oil and refined olive oil, and is not quite as high in nutrients.
- The smoke point will vary depending on the mixture and brand, but it is usually higher than extra virgin olive oil.
- Can be used to bake and saute at lower heats and in dressings and sauces.
- Best substitute: Refined olive oil or extra virgin olive oil.
Olive Oil (Virgin oil)
- Olive oils are graded by the International Olive Council (IOC).
- If the olive oil is defect-free, fruity, and has a free acidity of up to 0.8, it is extra-virgin. It is virgin if it has minimal defects and a free acidy rating between 0.8 and 2.0.
- Best used as a finishing oil for sauces and soups and as a marinade, but it also makes a delicious lemon and olive oil tea cake!
- Best substitute: Extra virgin olive oil or regular olive oil.
Olive pomace oil
- Pomace is the name given to the skins and flesh of the olives left over after the oil has been extracted.
- The oil left in the pomace is minimal, so chemicals and heat extracting are often used to remove it, thereby not passing the International Olive Council requirements for it to be considered ‘olive oil.’
- It is flavorless, refined, and can be used for high-heat cooking, though it has faced some bans and warnings in some countries.
- Best substitute: Refined olive oil, regular olive oil, or vegetable oils.
Palm kernel oil
- Palm kernel oil is extracted from the seed of the oil palm fruit. It’s related to palm oil (as the names suggest, they’re extracted from the flesh of the same fruit) and to fellow tropical oil, coconut oil.
- There are sustainable and non-sustainable brands and varieties of both palm kernel oil and palm oil, with sustainable ones not contributing to deforestation.
- It is a pale yellow color, with a mild flavor and hint of nuttiness, that can be used in various recipes.
- Best substitute: Coconut oil is the most popular alternative for both cooking and cosmetic uses.
Palm oil/Red palm oil
- Red palm oil comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree rather than the seed.
- It is orange-red in color and is often used as a replacement for butter and in West African cuisine, adding a smoky and floral flavor.
- Stay environmentally conscious by purchasing one that is naked as sustainable.
- Best substitute: Depending on what you are using it for, the best substitutes are palm kernel oil, coconut oil, or butter/ghee.
- Peanut oil is a popular frying oil, particularly in Asian dishes.
- The unrefined varieties have a strong nutty flavor, while the refined are more subtle.
- Refined peanut oil is excellent for frying, with a higher smoke point than unrefined.
- Best substitute: Sesame oil for the nutty flavor, or pecan or canola oil if you are frying at a high temperature.
- Pecan oil is a high-smoke point oil that is great for high-heat cooking, and yes, it tastes like pecans with a sweet, nutty flavor.
- Pecan oil is lower in saturated fat than olive oil and is considered healthy.
- It is very versatile and tastes great in oven-roasted vegetables, chicken, and pork and drizzled on salads or on desserts.
- Best substitute: The closest in flavor to pecan oil is walnut oil.
- A green-tinged, potent flavored oil, pistachio oil is extracted by pressing pistachio nuts.
- It is excellent as a finishing oil for enhanced flavor but not great for heat cooking due to its low smoke point.
- It is a popular oil in France, drizzled over salads and vegetables.
- Best substitute: Pistachio oil is hard to substitute as it has a unique flavor. Still, almond oil may be able to mimic the nuttiness, and extra virgin olive oil could mimic the color and woody/piney tones. You might try mixing the two together!
Pumpkin seed oil
- Pumpkin seed oil is a rich, nutty oil full of healthy fats and antioxidants.
- It makes excellent salad dressings and marinades for meat. It has a lower smoke point, so it works best as a raw/finishing oil.
- It tastes bitter if it goes rancid, so keep it in the fridge or a cool place.
- Best substitute: Walnut oil or sesame oil are the best substitutes for flavor.
Rice bran oil
- Rice bran oil is versatile and light tasting and is a popular cooking oil due to its high smoke point.
- Good for high-heat cooking, such as stir-fried Asian dishes and deep frying.
- Best substitute: Other neutral oils with a high smoke point, such as canola.
- Usually flavorless and colorless, this oil is suitable as a neutral oil for cooking.
- It is considered a form of commercially cultivated vegetable oil.
- Good for fried food like french fries and is often used in cosmetics as a moisturizing agent!
- Best substitute: The best substitute is sunflower seed oil for its high smoke point and not overpowering flavor (people often get these two confused for each other anyway!).
- Unrefined sesame oil has a nutty and rich flavor and does taste like tahini/sesame seeds. A little goes a long way!
- You can also get refined sesame oil with a higher smoke point and a more neutral flavor.
- Toasted or dark sesame oil has a more robust flavor. I use it in most Asian marinades and stir-frying for its unique flavor.
- Best substitute: Perilla oil if you have it (used a lot in Korean cooking); otherwise, another nut oil.
- Shortening is a solid fat that is used to give pastry its crumbly and flaky texture.
- It can be made from various hydrogenated oils or animal fat.
- It is high in saturated fat and trans fats in some countries.
- Best substitute: Vegetable shortening or lard if it doesn’t have too strong of a flavor, margarine, or butter.
- A form of vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of the soybean plant.
- It has a high smoke point and neutral flavor, so it is often used commercially for frying and baking and in processed/packaged products. It is also used in livestock feed.
- It is unsuitable for people avoiding genetically modified ingredients, as most soy in the US is genetically modified.
- Best substitute: Vegetable oil or canola oil.
- Sunflower oil is an all-purpose cooking oil often used for frying.
- It is high in vitamin E and has a neutral flavor that won’t affect the taste of other ingredients in the recipe.
- Best substitutes: Any other high smoke point neutral oil such as vegetable, canola, or safflower.
- Vegetable oil is the term given to an oil made with a mix of different refined oils such as corn, soy, or canola.
- It has a neutral flavor, making it easy to use in various recipes.
- It’s a popular frying oil as it is low-cost.
- Best substitute: Any neutral vegetable oil such as canola or sunflower.
- Vegetable shortening (Crisco is just a popular brand of it), is shortening made from 100% vegetable oils that have been hydrogenated to make it solid at room temperature.
- It is solid white, neutral flavored, and high in saturated fat.
- Good for cookies that don’t spread, frosting, and pie crusts.
- Best substitute: Regular shortening or butter.
- A delicious nutty oil with delicate walnut flavors.
- It has a low smoke point, so it is best in raw dishes or as a finishing oil for flavor in salads and desserts.
- It is high in healthy omega-3 and can also be used topically!
- Best substitute: Pecan oil
Wheat germ oil
- Made from cold-pressed wheat kernels, this oil has topical and culinary uses.
- It is high in vitamin E and essential fatty acids and has a toasty, nutty flavor.
- It is unsuitable for high-heat applications and is better as a finishing oil. It also goes rancid quickly and should be kept in the fridge.
- Best substitute: Flaxseed oil has similar properties and flavors and is the closest replacement.
Oil & Fat Cooking Tables (for easy reference!)
In this section, you will see two tables to help you select the right oil for your cooking task at hand!
The first is a temperature range for raw cooking all the way up to high-heat cooking and which oils we think are best to use in those ranges. Using oils whose smoke points are too low for what you’re doing can result in your oils oxidizing and making your food tasty funky.
|Temperature||Types of cooking||Best Oils|
|Raw||Usually under 104 degrees||Salad dressings, sauces, finishing oil, dips, anything cold. Do not use it for heat cooking, but it’s usually okay to add the oil to something after it is cooked when you serve it for flavor.||Depends on your taste; get creative! I love pistachio oil, walnut oil, and extra virgin olive oil.|
|Low heat||104 degrees to 250 degrees.||Low heat grilling, baking, and slow cooking.||I use animal fats, olive oil, coconut oil, or butter, depending on the flavor of the dish I am cooking.|
|Moderate heat||250 degrees to 400 degrees||Higher heat baking and grilling, sauteing, shallow frying, quick pan frying, deep frying, and light searing.||I use avocado oil or butter if I’m cooking up to 300 degrees.|
|High heat||Over 400 degrees||Searing, stir-frying, broiling, and roasting.||Avocado oil or peanut oil for Asian food.|
In the second table, we give you a cheat sheet to choose among the 42 oils and fats.
We tell you whether the oil/fat is good for cooking in each of the four categories from the first table (raw, low heat, moderate heat, and high heat), as well as what it tastes like, what its smoke point is, whether it’s liquid or solid at room temperature, and its primary fat (a more detailed fat breakdown is later in the guide).
- If the smoke point is a broad range (e.g. canola oil), we have listed the smoke point value from the unrefined product (low end) to the refined product (high end).
- Caution: Just because an oil may have a certain smoke point doesn’t mean you should cook it up to those temperatures. Hemp oil, for example, should only be used for raw or low-heat cooking to retain flavor and nutrients and so it doesn’t oxidize, even though the smoke point is up to baking temperature. We factor this in for the “best used for” checkboxes in the table (i.e. raw/low heat/moderate heat/high heat).
- Solid or liquid at room temperature can depend on your room temperature and the season! Some fats and oils have a melting point that could be around room temperature, and I’ve described those as ‘semi-solid.’
- The values for blends such as margarine, vegetable, and sunflower oil may vary depending on brand and composition.
- The “Good for Cooking…” column shows which cooking techniques the oil/fat works well for. These are the four categories detailed in the table above (19 of the 42 work for all four!):
- R = Raw
- L = Low Heat
- M = Moderate Heat
- H = High Heat
|Oil/Fat||Solid or Liquid?||Smoke Point (Fahrenheit)||Primary Fat||Taste||Good for Cooking…|
|Almond oil||Liquid||430 degrees||Monounsaturated||Marzipan||R,L,M,H|
|Apricot kernel oil||Liquid||480 degrees||Monounsaturated||Marzipan||R,L,M,H|
|Avocado oil||Liquid||520 degrees||Monounsaturated||Buttery||R,L,M,H|
|Beef tallow||Solid||400 degrees||Saturated||Beefy||R,L,M|
|Canola oil||Liquid||225-445 degrees||Monounsaturated||Neutral||R,L,M,H|
|Cashew oil||Liquid||410 degrees||Monounsaturated||Nutty||R,L,M|
|Chicken fat (schmaltz)||Solid||375 degrees||Monounsaturated||Caramelized chicken||R,L,M|
|Coconut oil, Virgin/Unrefined||Semi solid||350 degrees||Saturated||Coconutty||R,L,M|
|Coconut oil, Refined||Semi solid||400 degrees||Saturated||Neutral||R,L,M|
|Corn oil||Liquid||450 degrees||Polyunsaturated||Neutral||R,L,M,H|
|Cottonseed oil||Liquid||420 degrees||Polyunsaturated||Neutral||R,L,M,H|
|Duck fat||Solid||375 degrees||Monounsaturated||Sweet, rich||R,L,M|
|Flaxseed oil||Liquid||225 degrees||Polyunsaturated||Crisp, nutty||R|
|Ghee (clarified butter)||Semi solid||480 degrees||Saturated||Buttery||R,L,M,H|
|Grapeseed oil||Liquid||420 degrees||Polyunsaturated||Neutral||R,L,M,H|
|Hazelnut oil||Liquid||430 degrees||Monounsaturated||Nutty||R,L,M,H|
|Hemp oil/hemp seed oil||Liquid||330 degrees||Polyunsaturated||Grassy||R,L|
|Lard (Pork fat)||Solid||375 degrees||Monounsaturated||Mildly porky to neutral||R,L,M|
|Macadamia oil||Liquid||410 degrees||Monounsaturated||Nutty||R,L,M|
|Margarine (hard stick)||Solid||410-430 degrees||Monounsaturated||Buttery||R,L,M|
|Olive Oil (Extra Virgin)||Liquid||350 degrees||Monounsaturated||Grassy||R,L|
|Olive Oil (Light/Pure/Regular)||Liquid||390-470 degrees||Monounsaturated||Neutral||R,L,M,H|
|Olive Oil (Virgin oil)||Liquid||350 degrees||Monounsaturated||Mildly grassy||R,L,M|
|Olive pomace oil||Liquid||460 degrees||Monounsaturated||Bland||R,L,M,H|
|Palm kernel oil||Semi solid||430-450 degrees||Saturated||Mild and nutty||R,L,M,H|
|Palm oil/Red palm oil||Semi solid||450 degrees||Saturated||Mild carrot||R,L,M,H|
|Peanut oil||Liquid||440-450 degrees||Monounsaturated||Nutty||R,L,M,H|
|Pecan oil||Liquid||470 degrees||Monounsaturated||Nutty||R,L,M,H|
|Pistachio oil||Liquid||250 degrees||Monounsaturated||Nutty, earthy||R|
|Pumpkin seed oil||Liquid||320 degrees||Polyunsaturated||Intense, nutty||R,L|
|Rice bran oil||Liquid||450 degrees||Monounsaturated||Neutral||R,L,M,H|
|Safflower oil||Liquid||475-500 degrees||Monounsaturated||Neutral||R,L,M,H|
|Sesame oil||Liquid||350-450 degrees||Polyunsaturated||Nutty||R,L,M|
|Soybean oil||Liquid||450-475 degrees||Polyunsaturated||Neutral||R,L,M,H|
|Sunflower oil||Liquid||400-450 degrees||Monounsaturated/ polyunsaturated||Neutral||R,L,M,H|
|Vegetable oil||Liquid||400 degrees||Polyunsaturated||Neutral||R,L,M|
|Vegetable shortening/ Crisco||Solid||360 degrees||Polyunsaturated||Buttery||R,L,M|
|Walnut oil||Liquid||225-320 degrees||Polyunsaturated||Nutty||R,L|
|Wheat germ oil||Liquid||225 degrees||Polyunsaturated||Grassy||L|
Oil & Fat Nutrition Table
Fats and oils are predominantly made up of lipids (fat) and sometimes contain cholesterol; Most contain no carbohydrates, sugar, fiber, or protein, except occasionally and in trace amounts.
To save you from staring at a bunch of zeroes for the non-fat macronutrients, we’ve excluded them from our nutrition table.
Instead, we give a breakdown of the four main fats (polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated, and trans) we covered at the beginning of the guide. The primary fat source is bolded.
We also list calories and cholesterol (for comparison, a small egg has 141 mg of cholesterol while a jumbo egg has 234 mg).
- Values are per tablespoon serving (15mL)
- Values will vary a bit by brand.
- If you’re a particularly careful reader, you may notice that the sum of the poly, mono, saturated, and trans columns doesn’t add up to the total fat column. Even beyond normal rounding differences. The reason is that the four components listed are technically fatty acids, and total fat is made up of more than just the fatty acids (see: the glycerol part of a fat molecule). If that little science detour has you scratching your head, just know that the columns aren’t supposed to add up to total fat, and you can still compare them relative to each other.
|Apricot kernel oil||120||4.0g||8.2g||0.9g||0g||13.6g||0|
|Coconut oil, Virgin/Unrefined||120||0g||1g||13g||0g||14g||0|
|Coconut oil, Refined||120||1g||1g||12g||0g||14g||0|
|Ghee (clarified butter)||123||0.5g||4.0g||8.7g||0g||14g||35.8mg|
|Hemp oil/hemp seed oil||125||11g||2g||1g||0g||14g||0|
|Lard (Pork fat)||115||1.4g||5.8g||5g||0g||12.8g||12mg|
|Margarine (hard stick)||100||3.4g||5.5g||2.1g||0g||11.3g||0|
|Olive Oil (Extra Virgin)||120||1.5g||10g||2g||0g||14g||0|
|Olive Oil (Light/Pure/Regular)||120||1.5g||10g||2g||0g||14g||0|
|Olive Oil (Virgin oil)||120||1.5g||10g||2g||0g||14g||0|
|Olive pomace oil||120||2g||10g||2g||0g||14g||0|
|Palm kernel oil||117||0.2g||1.6g||11.1g||0g||13.6g||0|
|Palm oil/Red palm oil||126||1.2g||5.0g||6.7g||0g||13.6g||0|
|Pumpkin seed oil||130||7.5g||6g||1.5g||0g||14g||0|
|Rice bran oil||120||5.3g||6.2g||2.5g||0g||14g||0|
|Wheat germ oil||120||8.4g||2.1g||2.6g||0g||13.6g||0|
If you are following a specific diet, or have allergens you need to watch out for, this is the table for you. We break down potential allergens in oils and whether they suit gluten-free, keto, paleo, or vegan diets. A few important notes:
- Most allergies stem from the food’s protein, and oil doesn’t usually contain the protein. However, we decided it’s better to be safe than sorry, and we have included possible allergens in the table, even if they are protein-related allergens.
- Paleo is ONLY if the oil is unrefined and not chemically processed. Refined oils are never paleo.
- Ghee is considered okay on the paleo diet as it is from a dairy source but no longer contains lactose or casein, though some paleo purists debate it.
- “Mostly yes” as an answer in the paleo column means most sources cite the oil is okay to consume on a paleo diet, but there is some debate.
- Most cooking oils and fats are naturally gluten-free, but there is a chance they come into contact with gluten when processing, so if you are severely allergic, look for certified gluten-free labels.
|Almond oil||Tree nuts||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Apricot kernel oil||Birch pollen, tree nut, apricot fruit||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Avocado oil||Avocado, birch pollen, latex (!)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Beef tallow||Mammalian meat allergy (MMA)||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Canola oil||Rapeseed, canola||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Cashew oil||Tree nuts, cardanol, cardol and anacardic acid||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Chicken fat (schmaltz)||Poultry||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Coconut oil, Virgin/Unrefined||Coconut, tree nut||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Coconut oil, Refined||Coconut, tree nut||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Corn oil||Corn (zein)||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Cottonseed oil||Cottonseed, gossypol||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Duck fat||Other meat allergies||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Ghee (clarified butter)||Milk||Yes||Yes||Mostly yes||No|
|Grapeseed oil||Grapes, grapseeds||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Hazelnut oil||Tree nut, hazelnut, hazel tree pollen||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Hemp oil/hemp seed oil||Hemp seed, cannabis||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Lard (Pork fat)||Pork, meat allergy||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Macadamia oil||Tree nut, macadamia||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Margarine (hard stick)||Soy, corn, etc||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Margarine (soft)||Soy, corn etc||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Olive Oil (Extra Virgin)||Olive, olive pollen||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Olive Oil (Light/Pure/Regular)||Olive, olive pollen||Yes||Yes||If it is not refined||Yes|
|Olive Oil (Virgin oil)||Olive, olive pollen||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Olive pomace oil||Olive, olive pollen||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Palm kernel oil||Oil palm fruit||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Palm oil/Red palm oil||Oil palm fruit||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Pecan oil||Tree nut, pecan||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Pistachio oil||Pistachio, tree nut||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Pumpkin seed oil||Pumpkin seed||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Rice bran oil||Rice bran, straw itch mite||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Sesame oil||Sesame seeds||Yes||Yes||Mostly yes||Yes|
|Shortening||Depends on ingredients||Yes||Yes||Palm shortening only||No|
|Sunflower oil||Sunflower seed||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Vegetable oil||Depends on ingredients||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Vegetable shortening/Crisco||Soy, palm, tree nut||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Walnut oil||Tree nut, walnuts||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Wheat germ oil||Gluten, wheat||May contain trace amounts||Yes||Yes||Yes|
The best all-around cooking oil depends on your preference and needs. Sunflower oil is a neutral, versatile option that is relatively low in saturated fat and has a high smoke point, making it suitable for frying. Vegetable oils are also a good choice as they are similar to sunflower oil but can be more affordable. Avocado oil is also a great option because of its high smoke point and nutritional profile.
For health purposes, extra-virgin olive oil is excellent due to its high levels of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants (the Mediterranean diet is living proof of this!). It has less saturated fat than other oils and also contains some polyunsaturated fats. Hemp seed oil, avocado oil, and pumpkin seed oil are also high in nutrients.
Tropical oils are a type of vegetable oil derived from plants that grow in tropical climates, such as palm oil, coconut oil, and palm kernel oil. These oils tend to be high in saturated fat compared to other vegetable oils.
It depends on your needs. If you are trying to lower your saturated fat and cholesterol intake, margarine. For flavor, butter. I personally use butter because sometimes I feel like margarine is a bit of a Frankenstein of hydrogenated vegetable oils, and it creeps me out.
That would probably be avocado oil! But a lot will depend on brands and refining processes. I’m sure someone out there has created a super high heat/smoke point refined vegetable oil mix.
Canola oil is super neutral, but if you are looking for a more nutrient-dense alternative that can be used in all kinds of cooking, avocado oil is a good choice as it takes on the flavor of what you are cooking well and does not overpower the dish.
A balance of both is generally recommended, and both contain different kinds of fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fats include essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6, and monounsaturated fats include have fewer essential fatty acids but are great for helping to keep your levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in check.
As per our note above on the inflammatory nature of too many omega-6 fatty acids without enough omega-3, which fat is better for you will come down to your own nutritional status and health status, and is something that should be discussed with your healthcare provider.
Avocado oil, olive oil, almond oil, and most nut oils (cashew, walnut, pistachio, etc.) predominantly comprise monounsaturated fat.
Corn oil, cottonseed oil, flaxseed oil, and grapeseed oil. In fact, many of the seed oils have the highest levels of PUFAs.
The solid-at-room-temperature oils and fats usually have the most saturated fat, so basically, all the animal fats like lard and tallow, butter, ghee, and also the tropical oils. Surprisingly, some animal fats are higher in monounsaturated fat than saturated fat!
Trans fats are usually found in processed and fried foods, though they have been greatly limited or banned in many countries! Read labels carefully. A product with partially hydrogenated ingredients or “hydrogenated” or “shortening” oils may contain trans fats.
It depends on what for! For baking cookies, for example, you want another kind of solid at room temperature fat to work with, like vegan butter or margarine. As a healthy cooking oil for things like frying, I like avocado oil for its slightly buttery notes. A not-so-healthy alternative might be ghee if I want that strong buttery flavor in my Indian dishes.
Olive oil has a unique flavor, so with the exception of other varieties of olive oil, I like to sub olive oil with something that has flavor to it, like hemp seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, or pistachio oil. Ultimately, it depends on what you’re using it for and if the flavor goes with what you are preparing.
Technically any oil can be used to season a cast iron, but there is a lot of debate on which is the best. Basically, it should not go rancid too easily, have a higher smoke point, and I prefer a neutral flavor so it won’t change the taste of whatever dish I cook in it next.
Originally it was done with lard, but I do not suggest that, as lard can go rancid fast and taste weird. I heard flaxseed oil is getting popular, and I have no idea why, as it has a low smoke point and a powerful flavor, particularly when it oxidizes. I think canola is fine if you want a cheap option, or avocado oil if you are feeling spendy.
Stir-frying usually means Asian food, so the tastiest oil to use for it with a high smoke point would be peanut oil!
I like a more neutral oil for broiling, as it usually means that I am trying to showcase the flavor of the product I’m cooking or I have a bunch of herbs and spices in there. So, avocado oil is my healthy option go-to, or, if I’m on a budget, a high-heat canola oil.
Peanut oil is good for deep frying because of its high smoke point and mild flavor. You could use avocado oil, too, but you need a lot of oil to deep fry, and avocado oil can get expensive for that purpose.
I love baking with butter and animal fats. Is it the healthiest? No. Is it delicious? Absolutely.
Like broiling, grilling is about the seasoning and the flavor of the charcoal grill, so I use a neutral oil to grill, such as a vegetable, canola, or refined olive oil.
I use olive oil, coconut oil, or butter for low to moderate heat when I pan fry or sesame oil for Asian dishes… it really depends on the flavor of the dish I am cooking.
Pistachio, walnut, extra virgin olive oil and flaxseed oil are all good options for dressings, marinades, and sauces. But get creative! There are so many fantastic nut oils out there with different flavor profiles that are awesome to experiment with.