The yellow flowers of the canola plant produce pods of oilseeds that are harvested and pressed.
Canola is the market name for a type of all-purpose cooking oil that comes from pressed canola seed. This specifically bred variety of rapeseed was originally developed in Canada in the 1970s, and thus the name "canola" is derived from the words "Canadian" and "oil." It is also commonly referred to as "LEAR" oil, short for "low erucic acid rapeseed" oil.
When it comes to cooking oil, canola is considered to be one of your heart-healthiest options. It is the lowest in saturated fat, containing just 7% compared to the 12% in sunflower oil, 15% in olive oil and 19% in peanut oil. It is also high in monounsaturated fats (the good fats that help lower cholesterol) and Omega-3 fatty acids, which are reputed to lower cholesterol and triglycerides and contribute to brain development. Clinical studies confirm that when used as part of a balanced diet, canola has been shown to decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Light, clear and mild, canola is a very versatile ingredient for everyday cooking and baking. It's a great choice for making marinades and salad vinaigrettes as it doesn't separate from other ingredients and remains free-running when stored in the refrigerator. With a high smoke point, it can also be heated to a higher temperature (428-446°F or 220-230°C) for better stir-frying, fondue cooking and deep fat frying.
When baking, canola can be used to grease cake pans and cookie sheets or as a substitute for other oils to lower the amount of saturated and trans fats in your recipes. You can use also use canola in place of solid fats like butter and shortening, but the texture of your baked goods will be softer and moister. Be forewarned: a pie crust made with canola won't be crisp and flaky.
Oils change flavor when exposed to light, heat and air. For maximum shelf life, store tightly covered in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Mind the expiration date on the container and discard any oil with an "off," rancid smell.
Try one of our favorite canola oil recipes:
View BigOven's canola-oil recipes