Have you ever made a recipe that used vegetable oil, and in the midst of pouring the oil into the measuring cup, you’ve thought, “Hmm… I wonder if I could use something healthier in place of this?” As an avid baker I run into this question a lot.
Spoiler alert! I no longer even keep vegetable oil in my house, so you can see where this discussion is going…
The Short Answer: Yes, Make the Switch from Vegetable Oil to Canola Oil
The short answer is, yes, you can replace vegetable oil with a number of different options. In all honesty, as a baker or chef you do anything you want. That's your artistic initiative! Swap out your vegetable oil for olive oil, safflower oil, virgin coconut oil, or many more options. Just be aware of what you’re doing and how it’s going to change your recipe.
The Long Answer: ... But Make The Change Wisely
Have you ever wondered what’s actually in vegetable oil? You’re not alone-- surprisingly, many people outside of the oil industry don't actually know what vegetable oil is made up of. Next time you go to the grocery store, flip a vegetable oil bottle over and look at the ingredients. For the most part it's going to be made up of soybean oil. It may also be mixed with corn oil, cottonseed oil or a few other options. Primarily, it’s going to be made up of the cheapest seed oils available (and is often full of GMOs).
Vegetable oil has almost no flavor or color. That’s actually why so many chefs and bakers like it. It doesn’t affect the final color or taste of their finished product. So you need to be careful about what oil you switch it out for, to make sure that it doesn’t negatively affect your recipe.
Canola oil is one of the easiest things to swap vegetable oil out for because a) it also has a mild taste and color and b) it’s in the lower pricing range so that you’re not making a huge cost leap. If you need a non-gmo oil, look for expeller pressed non-gmo canola oil, which is really popular right now.
This is a really feasible switch to make and still not have to change your recipe; the flavor profiles of each oil are very mild and light in color, so you won’t see a difference in your finished product. The smoke points of these oils are also pretty similar (within about 50°), so that shouldn’t affect your product too much either-- just be aware of the difference.
On the health scale, canola oil is a sizable step up from vegetable oil. Many actually claim canola oil to be one of the healthiest oils available in the world right now. I know there’s a big debate going on about whether this claim is true or not. So, what I will stand up for, is that canola oil is better than for you than many other types of oils, particularly if you get the non-GMO version. Also, here’s an interesting side note: the healthiest oils that are most in demand by food manufacturers today are 1) Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2) Expeller-Pressed Non-GMO Canola Oil, 3) Expeller-Pressed Non-GMO Safflower Oil and 4) Expeller-Pressed Non-GMO Sunflower Oil.
No matter what you believe about the healthiest oils, we can agree that exchanging vegetable oil for canola oil is a reasonable thing to do. It’s an easy change, it’s healthier and won’t affect your final recipe. Happy cooking!
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