Choosing what cooking oil to use can become quite daunting because there are so many options available. One of the most commonly used is peanut oil. It is especially popular in Asian cultures.

What is peanut oil?

Overview

Peanut oil, also known as groundnut oil, is derived from the edible seeds of the peanut plant.

Peanut oil has many potential health benefits. However, some experts have also issued warnings against its use due to its potential side effects. They advise using alternative types instead.

Facts

There are different types of peanut oils:

  • Refined – bleached and deodorized and commonly used in restaurants
  • Cold-pressed – made by crushing peanuts to produce the oil, known for its pleasant nutty aroma and sweet flavor
  • Gourmet – an unrefined specialty oil that has a more intense flavor
  • Peanut oil blends – a more affordable variety which blends peanut oil with other similar tasting oils.

Peanut oil is high in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. It may help reduce risks for heart disease, improve insulin sensitivity, aid in weight loss, and prevent cancer. When used topically, it can help with skin disorders, such as eczema, and scalp crusting, among others.

Despite these benefits, peanut oil is not safe for everyone, especially for those who have peanut allergy. It may cause anaphylaxis which is dangerous and can be deadly. Inflammation is likewise a concern because of its high omega-6 content and it is also prone to oxidation, which may increase the risk of some diseases.

Best Used For

Peanut oil has a high smoke point of 437°F (225° C) and this is why it is most commonly used in frying food.

Expert tip

Peanuts are often referred to as a tree nut, similar to walnuts and almonds. However, they are actually legumes. Peanut plants flower above ground. However, the seeds grow underground unlike other nuts like walnuts and almonds, which grow on trees. This is why they are also called groundnuts.

Carl Lawrence

Grapeseed Oil

Overview

Grapeseed oil is one of the most common alternatives to peanut oil because it is clean, crisp, and also has a high smoke point. It provides several health benefits and can be used for cooking in different ways.

Grapeseed Oil

Facts

Grapeseed oil is extracted from the grape seeds left behind after the process of pressing grapes in winemaking. It is a painstaking task because each little seed only produces a tiny bit of oil. In fact, you will need a ton of grapes to produce just 1 bottle of grapeseed oil.

It has several health benefits as well although this is also controversial because a lot of commercially available grapeseed oil is made using hexane, an air pollutant, and neurotoxin.

Grapeseed oil may also oxidize and go bad due to being heated in very high temperatures during processing. However, cold-pressed or expeller-pressed grapeseed oil do not use high heat during processing nor do they use chemical solvents.

This oil is a good source of vitamin E, which supports the immune system and protects the skin from damaging free radicals. It is also commonly used in beauty products to moisturize and lighten the skin, remove make-up, and tighten pores, among others.

Best Used For

Grapeseed oil is great for stir-frying, sauteing, searing meat, grilling, and roasting vegetables because of its neutral taste. However, because it is more expensive than other oils, it is not highly recommended for deep frying. You can use it as an alternative to extra virgin olive oil though, so it’s also perfect for drizzling on salads.

 

Sunflower Oil

Overview

Sunflower oil is a healthier alternative to peanut oil. It provides a lot of benefits but is not recommended for those with peanut or sunflower seed allergy.

Sunflower Oil

Facts

Sunflower oil is extracted from pressed sunflower seeds. It is a non-fat oil that is high in oleic acid and rich in vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acid.

It is low on saturated fat and high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which makes it healthy because it reduces cholesterol levels and does not contribute to coronary diseases. Each teaspoon of sunflower oil already contains 8.9 grams of omega-6 polyunsaturated fat.

Semi-refined sunflower oil is a heat-stable oil that has an extremely high smoke point of 450°F or 232°C. Another great thing about it is that it has a considerably longer shelf life so you can use it for a lot longer than other oils. With proper storage, you can keep it up to one year in your kitchen. Just make sure to store the bottle in a cool, dry place and keep it away from direct sunlight and heat.

Best Used For

You can use either refined high-oleic sunflower oil or semi-refined sunflower oil to replace peanut oil for all-around cooking. They are both great for deep frying because of their high smoke point.

Sunflower oil is also known for its subtle flavor, which makes them an excellent choice for baking. You can use it for greasing your baking pans or as a healthier replacement to butter in some baking recipes.

Canola Oil

Overview

Canola oil is another highly versatile alternative to peanut oil that provides many health benefits. Although some people may warn you of certain dangers in using this oil, it is safe and especially great for those with acute peanut allergies.

Canola Oil

Facts

Derived from the rapeseed plant, canola oil is an edible oil that does not contain much-saturated fat, which makes it heart-friendly. It also contains essential omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower chronic diseases. Using it without heating in any form allows you to benefit the most on these fatty acids as it keeps your arteries unblocked and boosts good cholesterol in your body.

It is a highly versatile oil because it does not have a very strong flavor and can tolerate extreme temperatures well. Refined canola oil has a smoke point of 400°F or 204°C.

Because canola oil contains erucic acid, a substance often associated with heart tissue impairments, some people think that it is toxic. However, this should not be a cause for concern because canola oil only has very little amounts of this acid.

Similar to grapeseed oil, there’s also a concern that canola oil makes use of hexane in chemical extraction. However, manufacturers claim that the use of this chemical solvent is no longer being done. If you’re still concerned though, you may use cold-pressed canola oil instead, which may be pricey but does not involve the use of chemical solvents during processing.

Best Used For

Canola oil is best used for grilling as it has a very high smoke point. However, since it also does not have a strong flavor, it is likewise a great ingredient to use in baking.

Walnut Oil

Overview

Walnut oil is another healthy alternative to peanut oil but also one of the most expensive. It is extracted from walnuts and can be used for a variety of purposes.

Walnut Oil

Facts

Two types of walnut oil are commercially available – cold-pressed and refined. The more expensive one is cold-pressed organic walnut oil, which also consists of most of the healthy nutrients. On the other hand, refined walnut oil is normally used in beauty products as it consists of low quantities of the essential nutrients.

Walnut oil contains vital vitamins, such as vitamin C, E, B1, B2, B3, and niacin, which is good for brain health. It is likewise an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids as well as healthy minerals, such as calcium, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and iron. Calcium is good for your bones while zinc helps boost your immune system. Selenium, on the other hand, helps keep your hair and skin healthy.

Best Used For

Because it does not come cheap, walnut oil is not normally recommended for deep frying or any high-temperature cooking. It tends to taste bitter when heated and so it is best used for food that is already cooked or those that don’t require cooking.

Walnut oil has a rich and nutty flavor. It is great for flavoring fish, chicken and steaks, pasta, and salads. Unrefined walnut oil is also wonderful for drizzling over salads, especially ones that contain bits of walnuts as well. Using walnut oil in dessert recipes also enhances the nutty flavor of the dessert.

Almond Oil

Overview

Another healthy but more expensive option is almond oil. Although it does not possess as many nutrients as whole almonds, it still provides several health benefits.

Almond Oil

Facts

Almond oil has been around for centuries, typically used in ancient practices for treating skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, because of its soothing effects.

It is derived from almond fruit seeds using either of two methods. Refined walnut oil is produced via a mechanized system that removes much of the walnut’s flavor and natural color. This gives the oil a milder flavor and allows them to be heated in higher temperatures without burning. Cold pressed almond oil, on the other hand, is not heated during pressing, which helps retain the walnut’s natural flavor and nutritional benefits.

Almond oil consists of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, specifically omega-6 and omega-9, which help you maintain good cholesterol levels. These, combined with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, help prevent cardiovascular-related problems. It is, likewise, high in antioxidants and a great source of vitamin E.

Best Used For

Almond oil has a mild, nutty taste which makes it a great ingredient to add to a variety of dishes. Cold pressed almond oil, however, should not be used for sauteing or deep frying because high temperatures can destroy its nutritional value. It is best used as a finishing oil to add to cooked food and other cold applications, like chilled dishes or salads.

Refined almond oil, on the other hand, is great for roasting and sauteing because it has a higher smoking point of 420°F (215°C).

Safflower Oil

Overview

If you’re looking for an alternative to peanut oil that is especially great for high heat cooking, refined safflower oil is the one for you because it has the second highest smoke point among other cooking oils.

Safflower Oil

Facts

Safflower blooms have at least 20 – 25 seeds each that are crushed and processed to extract oil. You can find high-linoleic and high-oleic variants of safflower oil in the market. High-linoleic safflower oil is rich in polyunsaturated fats while high-oleic is rich in monounsaturated fats.

Monounsaturated safflower oil is a good substitute for peanut oil as it is low in saturated fat. On the contrary, you should avoid consuming polyunsaturated safflower oil because too much of it on a regular basis can be harmful to your body by provoking and accelerating metastasis.

Safflower oil has a lot of wonderful health benefits though! So if you enjoy eating fried food, this is the oil for you. Aside from its high smoke point of 510° F or 266° C, safflower oil is also tasteless, unlike peanut oil.

Best Used For

The monounsaturated safflower oil’s high smoke point makes it great for sauteing, deep-frying, stir-frying, and searing. You can likewise use it as an alternative to olive oil because it has a milder flavor and can be heated in higher temperatures.

In baking, you can use it as a substitute for butter or shortening although this might affect the texture of the final product.

Polyunsaturated safflower oil, on the other hand, can be used as dressing over salads. Just make sure to store it in your refrigerator or a cool, dark place because it can go bad quickly.

Vegetable Oil

Overview

If you’re concerned about your budget and prefer a more affordable alternative to peanut oil, then vegetable oil is a great option for you. Just take note that you will need to choose one wisely because it is not the healthiest oil available.

Vegetable Oil

Facts

Vegetable oil is usually a general classification used to categorize certain oils. However, it is often a mix or a blend of different types of oils combined. It is a generic oil, usually an inexpensive option, used for all kinds of cooking.

The problem with this though is in the difficulty of knowing the exact ingredients used in developing the oil, such as which types of plants were used to extract the oil and how they were processed. Because of this, the amount of saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat varies a lot depending on which oils were included in the blend.

Some people say that vegetable oil is not a healthy option. If you prefer to use it though, just make sure that you check the level of saturated fat stated on the nutrition label on the back of the packaging. Anything more than 20 grams of saturated fat per 100 grams should be avoided.

Best Used For

You can make this your default oil because vegetable oil is inexpensive. Since it also has a high smoke point of 450° F, it is best used for stir-frying and deep-frying food, such as fried chicken. It is likewise a standard oil in a lot of professional kitchens because it has almost no flavor.

Corn oil

Overview

Corn oil is one of the most accessible and most inexpensive cooking oils available in the market. It is also very versatile and can be used in a variety of ways in cooking.

Corn oil

Facts

Corn oil is extracted from the seed of corn by pressing the corn germ and/or extracting the germ with hexane. It can also be extracted from ground corn kernels or corn fiber.

It is known for its pleasing, nutty flavor and is easily digestible while adding nutritional value. This is why you can find it as an ingredient in a lot of food and bakery products, such as in spreads, sauces, salad dressings, margarine, and shortening.

Just like peanut oil, refined corn oil also has a high smoking point of 450° F (232° C). However, the unrefined version only has a medium heat smoke point of 320° F. Refined corn oil loses its aroma and taste during processing though, while the unrefined on gives you a hint of corn taste on your food.

Healthwise, you need to limit your intake of corn oil because it contains huge amounts of polyunsaturated fat, which could lead to increased risks of prostate cancer and breast cancer.

Best Used For

Since refined corn oil has a very high smoke point, it is best used for sauteing, searing, and deep-frying food. Unrefined corn oil, on the other hand, is more suited for light sauteing and sauces as well as in making salad dressing, margarine, and other cold uses.