Vegetable oil

Vegetable oil may be made from a single ingredient or a blend of several. Refined oils are recommended for high-heat frying. Unrefined specialty oils are generally better tasting in salads and other cold dishes.

Oils are extracted from seeds, nuts, and the flesh of fruit, as in the case of olive oil.


Vegetable oils include safflower, peanut, corn, soybean, olive, and canola. There are many more and each may have specific uses for fried, baked, or cold-service foods.

Most oils will be available as either refined (lighter in color and bland) or unrefined. Depending on the refining process, oils will have varying smoke points. For high heat cooking, use refined peanut or safflower oil.

Unrefined oils are best as dressings, as an ingredient in marinades, and for low-temperature sautéing. Some of these are a healthier choice and will be full-bodied.

Buying Tips

Most vegetable oils will add no discernible taste in frying. However, peanut oil is one that can impart some flavoring to foods.

For healthier choices, check labels for levels of fats. Avoid those that state “partially hydrogenated” and “saturated.” The “good” fats will be listed as unsaturated, polyunsaturated, or monounsaturated. Canola is at the top of the heart-healthy list as it is the lowest in saturated fats.

Blended oils may not list every ingredient. Generic “cooking oils” are generally soybean-based.

Storage Tips

  • These oils do not require refrigeration and may turn cloudy when cold.
  • They will be good for about twelve months if stored properly (out of sunlight).

Usage Tips

  • Do not use vegetable oil as a dressing.
  • When reusing frying oils, remember that the smoke point may be lower than when it is fresh.
  • Use extra virgin or extra light olive oils for cooking. Unrefined olive oil will begin to smoke at about 320 degrees F.

Substitution Tips

  • Butter, margarine, or lard
  • Cooking spray if used as a coating

Try one of our favorite vegetable oil recipes:
Chicken Amandine
Easy-Glazed Pearl Onions