The 6 Best Vegetable Oil Substitutes for Healthier Recipes

Chris Starks
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Health Benefits of Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil is made up of fats and oils extracted from plants harvested for use in certain food products. The most common types of vegetable oil used in the U.S. are canola, corn, safflower, soybean, sunflower, and peanut oil.

Vegetable oil is generally known as neutral in taste, odorless, and flavorless. This makes them versatile for use in cooking, in a variety of foods, and in food preparation.

Vegetable oil is used to add flavor, crunch, and fattiness to many popular foods, such as donuts, salad dressings, French fries, and deep-fried appetizers. It’s also incorporated into many processed foods because it’s inexpensive and lasts longer than animal-based fats.

They are rich in Omega-6

S, Omega-9s or Vitamin E and help reduce your risk of heart disease.

Vegetable oils are great for cooking, but they also may offer some health benefits. But it’s important to know that as with other cooking oils, some vegetable oils are much better for you than others.

Before you head to the grocery store to pick up some new cooking oil, here’s a list of the best vegetable oil substitutes for you to pick from.

They can cause inflammation

Every recipe that’s worth its salt these days is touted as “healthy” because it’s low in fat or low in calories. That’s good news if you’re trying to lose weight or get healthier but bad news because a lot of the ingredients that take the place of fat are not that good for you.

But what are the best vegetable oil substitutes for weight loss and healthy living? Here’s a list of the 6 best vegetable oil substitutes to keep your heart and waistline healthy.

Vegetable oil is made by pressing or squeezing the main ingredient from plants and then processing the vegetable oil using high temperatures, potentially chemical solvents, and deodorants (to get rid of unwanted smells). The end product is often much more unhealthy than its vaunted original!

Not all vegetable oils are equal.

If you’re trying to reach the recommended intake of about 25 grams of unsaturated oils per day, here’s a list of the best vegetable oil substitutes you can use in place of vegetable oil:

Olive Oil

They contain lots of chemical and additives

Partially hydrogenated oils are not naturally occuring substances. The only difference between partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats is the amount of hydrogen that has been added. While both belong to the same chemical compound group, trans fats are usually produced for commercial purposes whereas partially hydrogenated oils can be found in the grocery store.

Partially hydrogenated oils are cheap to make, and thus, a popular choice for restaurants that want to save money. Because partially hydrogenated oils are cheap, are usually labeled as vegetable oils, and appear harmless, they are used regularly in cooking and in a wide variety of processed foods.

Trans fats are linked to a whole host of health problems. They reduce the body’s ability to absorb some essential vitamins such as A, D, and E. Because of their structure, partially hydrogenated oils resist oxidation, which means they can store for a longer period of time. This characteristic makes trans fats a popular choice for fast food restaurants, since they can be used for a prolonged period of time. In food products, partially hydrogenated oils are used for flavor enhancement since they resist breakdown and oxidation.

Take a look at the following infographic for a list of oils that are good alternative choices to partially hydrogenated oils.

They’re not good for developing babies

They’ve been linked to cancer, and they can really wreck havoc on your cardiovascular system.

Are you wondering; ‘Are vegetable oils healthy?’

Look at the ingredients on the back of your products, and if you see vegetable oil, you might be surprised at how often vegetable oils are used in processed foods.

The answer is, no. Vegetable oils like corn, vegetable, canola and soybean oils are not healthy.

Why you ask?

THEY ARE CRAFTED IN A PROCESS KNOWN AS HYDROGENATION

Vegetable oils are extracted from their sources via chemical and heat processes. Hydrogenation is where hydrogen gas is added to the vegetable oil, which converts the liquid oil into a solid, which makes the oil last longer and transport better. Rocket science isn’t it?

The problem with the resulting product is that it increases the level of pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fats and prevents the HDL cholesterol from keeping your cardiovascular system healthy.

THEY CAN LEAD TO CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE

The way in which vegetable oils are processed causes them to oxidize and turn rancid. This creates free radicals which can form deposit in your arteries which could lead to cardiovascular disease.

Vegetable Oil Substitutes

Finding healthy recipes is often a struggle. A major issue is often the oil being used, as vegetable oil is usually high in trans fats. These trans fats are very bad for your body, and research has shown that they can significantly increase your risk of getting heart disease. That’s why it’s important to ensure you avoid recipes that use vegetable oils high in trans fats.

Don’t throw away your vegetable oil just yet though, as there are still some good vegetable oils that can be used in cooking and baking. If you’ve been making recipes that contain vegetable oil and are looking for healthier alternatives, there are a few options that you may want to consider.

Applesauce

Applesauce is a common vegetable oil substitute, but its store-bought counterpart can be high in calories. Homemade applesauce is a much healthier option for your recipes. It’s also a great choice for replacing oil in bread-making.

Many professional recipes call for applesauce as a vegetable oil substitute.

Yogurt

This is my favorite by far. Yogurt will deliver the creaminess and tanginess you want to wake up your vegetable oil substitute dish. You can use yogurt in most recipes that call for a can of oil, such as in a marinade or dressing.

Butter

Of course, what you choose varies based on what you’re aiming for in your recipe, for example, which one will give the flakiest pie crust? But more important to a lot of us is what is the healthier choice? So which one is better for you, butter or vegetable oil?

For most people, butter is the more palatable choice, because of the higher fat and lower calorie content. The average stick of butter contains around 100 calories and 11 grams of fat and 12 grams of saturated fat. In comparison, vegetable oil contains 120 calories and 13 grams of fat and 2.75 grams of saturated fat for every tablespoon. So when it comes to butter, you get a higher amount of calories and less fat and saturated fat.

On the other hand, vegetable oil contains more polyunsaturated fats, which don’t carry the same health risks as saturated fat. Having said that, saturated fat does not equal fat, and there are different types of saturated fat in your diet.

Olive Oil

Vs. Canola Oil vs. Safflower Oil…

Some people claim that certain oils are healthier than others. Why? The way the oil is produced and the nutritional profile of the oilseed are two of the main reasons. Generally speaking, the more processing the food goes through, the less nutritional value it retains. So it comes as little surprise that some oils add more than flavor to your favorite dishes.

Olive oil comes from the fruit of the olive tree. It is extracted by pressing a combination of the fruit, tree bark, and leaves. The process is slow and laborious, leaving very little room for mistakes and oversight. In addition, no chemicals or solvents are used in the process. The result is an oil that has been shown to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, along with other health benefits.

In contrast, canola oil is extracted by pressing the seeds of the rapeseed plant. Although canola farmers may use pressure to extract the oil from the seed, using high temperatures or solvents to press the seeds is not good for the health. For home cooks, canola oil is a good choice for sautéing, frying, and baking.

The oils listed here are all high in monounsaturated fats, low in polyunsaturated fats, and relatively neutral in flavor…because of their mildness, they all make great vegetable oil alternatives and delicious cooking oils.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, which makes it a solid at room temperature. It’s also one of the best non-GMO vegetable oil substitutes for cooking. The clear oil provides a warm, tropical taste to a variety of dishes. Coconut oil is unique in that it is more resistant to heat-damaging compared to other vegetable oils. It is particularly helpful for cooking at higher temperatures because of its stability. That’s why it’s an excellent choice for high-heat cooking like stir frying, deep frying, and sautéing. Coconut oil is also used for less intense cooking methods such as baking, roasting, and grilling indirectly over low heat since it can withstand the higher heat.

For health reasons, you should avoid over-heating it. It’s also important to note that if you want to use it for high-heat cooking, you need to be sure that it’s virgin or extra virgin coconut oil, because refined coconut oil will burn and release free radicals that are really bad for your health.

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil comes from the pulp of the avocado fruit. It’s one of the healthiest oils (aside from olive oil) on earth, but it’s actually quite expensive! That’s why it’s just a little extra virgin, which makes it more affordable. Avocado oil is very rich in monounsaturated fat (the good kind!) and is often recommended to heart patients. It’s also a good source of vitamin E and contains all sorts of antioxidants. Avocado oil is deliciously creamy and rich, and it works well for pretty much anything from sautéing to frying and even as a salad dressing.

Other Substitutes That You Might Want To Try

Making healthy food choices is a smart way to include more vegetables and whole grains in your diet.

If you’re trying to reduce your consumption of unhealthy fats, you’re probably using vegetable oils when cooking or baking. But you don’t always have to reach for canola oil or extra virgin olive oil. Here are six healthy vegetable oil substitutes you might want to try.

Sunflower Oil – Whole plant and seeds

Sunflower oil is made from the seeds of the sunflower plant. It’s the most widely used vegetable oil and is also the least likely to become rancid. It’s a heart-healthy choice, and it has a neutral flavor, making it great for sautéing. But dietitians caution that the saturated fat content of sunflower oil is slightly higher than that of other vegetable oils so use it in moderation.

Corn Oil – Whole plant

Corn oil is extracted from the corn plant, but most of it is genetically modified, so many people choose to avoid it. It’s high in omega-6 fatty acids, though, which makes it good for frying. One drawback is that it has a relatively high smoke point, meaning it doesn’t stand up well to high temperatures.

Mashed Fruits

Fruit and vegetable smoothies have been gaining in popularity lately. Adding a small amount of fruit or vegetable into your favorite healthy juice is a great way to boost the nutritional content. If you are looking to create a puree with fruit or vegetables, the food processor is a great option. For most fruits and vegetables, you don’t even have to peel them – any peeling that’s required will happen while they’re being processed.

Although some foods can be a bit tricky to work with, and require a little bit of finagling, a blender is still the best option in most cases for pureeing foods. All you have to do is chop up your fruit or vegetables, add them to the blender along with a little water or juice, and then puree. You should have no problem at all getting smoothies or purees out of a blender.

Because both kitchen appliances do such a great job pureeing foods, you’re unlikely to get significantly preferable results in your food if you use the food processor versus the blender. As such, you should think about what your particular needs are when it comes to food processing.

Molten Mayonnaise

Many recipes call for oil or mayonnaise to prevent the dish from becoming dry. The problem is that meat, fish or vegetables are often fried in cooking oils that are not good for us. One solution is to use healthier oils to replace the traditional vegetable oil or crisco.

The easiest way to make mayonnaise is to make it in a double boiler. The top bowl of the double boiler can be made of aluminum foil and placed over a saucepan of boiling water. One problem with this is the amount of mayonnaise that gets burnt onto the bottom of the pan. This can be prevented by lining the bottom of the pan with an over of aluminum foil and then lining the bowl with a sheet of wax paper cut to fit.

A potential problem with making mayonnaise in the bottom of a saucepan is that you can't see what's happening and if the mayo seems to be getting too thick, you may end up with scrambled eggs. One solution is to create a lid for the top bowl of the double boiler. Cut a circle of foil just smaller than the bottom of the bowl. Place this over the bowl and make several holes in it for steam to escape.

When the mayonnaise is almost done, you can then add mustard and garlic powder for garlic mayonnaise. Be careful with mustard because a little bit goes a long way.

Purees

When you need to replace vegetable oil in a recipe with something else you may have thought of replacing it with applesauce, yogurt, or eggs. In fact, any purees will work in a recipe as a vegetable oil substitute, but there are issues, the most notable being texture. Pureeing your aromatics, or adding pureed vegetables isn’t often the best solution. A better pureed option is ground nuts seeds and beans.

Ground nuts seeds and beans give a similar texture to purees but without the sweetness sometimes present in vegetable purees.

The best vegetable oil substitute for ground nuts seeds and beans is peanut butter. The texture and appearance is almost exactly the same and only very subtle differences can be detected in the cooked dish.

Nuts and beans are also great egg replacers. To replace 1 egg in a recipe you can try replacing it with ground nuts or peanuts and a small amount of baking soda. The baking soda replicates the unique leavening ability that chemical leaveners like baking powder or baking soda provide.

Let’s Wrap It Up!

As we saw, there is a number of different vegetable oils out there, each with its own characteristics. Some are better for some recipes than others, depending on taste and texture, and they also vary in terms of healthiness.

If you want to bake a healthier treat, you'll want to know which types of oils are better for baking and which you should avoid for the sake of your health. Once you have included your new oil of choice into your baking recipe, you can expect the following differences:

Vegetable oil is better at retaining the texture and taste of whatever food it is baked into. That means it really holds up in breads and cakes, which is great for taste.

Vegetable oil can be used to fry and sear just like other cooking oils, and the results are pretty good.

Let's Wrap It Up!

You have probably noticed that the shelf life of vegetable oils is relatively short. This is the case even for sealed bottles. Vegetable oil has a tendency to go bad, even if it is unopened. The reason for this is that vegetable oil is usually derived from vegetables, nuts, or grains that can go bad and be spoiled.