Can You Substitute Canola Oil for Vegetable Oil?

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Most cooking recipes are made with a specific type of vegetable oil in mind but some times we’ve ran out of that.

This often begs the question if you can substitute canola oil for vegetable oil when you’re baking or frying.

Will canola oil alter the taste or texture of the final dish in any way?

And is it actually any different than regular vegetable oil?

To find out the truth, I put both of these cooking oils to the test and examined their fat composition.

In this article, I’ll share my discoveries and discuss when you can use canola oil instead of vegetable oil.

Can you use canola oil in place of vegetable oil and vice versa?

Canola oil and vegetable oil are one of the most widely used cooking oils.

Both are inexpensive and have a high smoke point which makes them great for deep frying.

They’re also low in saturated fats and are often used as a healthier alternative to butter.

But despite their similarities, canola oil and vegetable oil don’t share the same fat composition.

Canola oil is high in monounsaturated fats and rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.

Vegetable oil on the other hand is mostly made of polyunsaturated fats and contains more Omega-6.

So are they interchangeable?

Canola oil has a mild flavor and a high smoke point. Due to this, you can substitute it for vegetable oil when you’re sauteing, deep frying or making a salad dressing. Having said that, baked goods and fried foods made with canola oil can often give off a fishy smell.

This is because the Omega-3 acids in the oil get oxidized during cooking and form carbonyl compounds.

This effect is more pronounced when the oil has gone rancid or you’re using it for baked goods with less sugar.

This light fish smell can actually work in favor for some pastry recipes like my Authentic Bulgarian Banitsa which is essentially a phyllo dough pie with feta cheese.

But in general, if you’re making pie crust or brownies I recommend you stick to regular vegetable oil.

In case you’re used to cooking with canola oil, you probably won’t notice any unusual smells.

It’s also worth pointing out that you shouldn’t use cold-pressed canola oil for cooking.

Cold-pressed canola has a lower smoke point and its quality degrades when it’s used for baking or frying.

Canola oil vs Vegetable oil in cooking

What exactly is Vegetable oil?

Vegetable oil is an umbrella term that’s used for a variety of oils made from nuts, seeds and fruit, but excluding olive oil.

Soybean oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil and sunflower oil are all examples of vegetable oil.

Since these oils have similar properties they’re often blended together and sold as vegetable oil.

However, most of the vegetable oil you’ll find on store shelves is primarily soybean oil.

What exactly is Canola oil?

Canola oil is made from a hybrid species of the rapeseed plant (Brassica napus).

The term canola was coined by Canadian scientists who managed to create the first edible rapeseed cultivar.

Before that, the oil extracted from rapeseed was mostly used as a component in lubricants for ships and steam engines.

Similarities and differences when it comes to their use in cooking

Fat composition is an important difference between vegetable oil and canola oil.

Canola oil is mostly made of monounsaturated fats and contains twice as less saturated fats than vegetable oil.

It’s also a better source of Omega-3 fatty acids which can help lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Compared to canola, vegetable oil contains predominantly Omega-6 fatty acids and barely has any Omega-3’s.

And according to research, the overabundance of Omega-6 can impact our health.

Which does make sense, since in the past the Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio in our diet was 1:1, while today it’s a whopping 16:1.

So if you’re concerned about your health, then experts suggest that canola oil may be the better choice.

Lastly, even though both of these oils are regarded as flavorless, canola can sometimes give off an unpleasant smell during cooking.

That’s why I’d recommend vegetable oil over canola for those of you who are more sensitive to smells.

How to properly store canola oil?

The best way to preserve the quality of canola oil is to keep it in a cool dark place.

Avoid storing it in places with direct sunlight as this will break down its fatty acids.

Make sure you always seal it properly after each use.

Repeated exposure to air can lead to oxidation and make it rancid.

If you’ve stored it for too long it’s also good to check if it has gone bad before using it.

You should toss it out if it tastes unusual or smells off.

To prevent spoilage, it’s best to buy smaller bottles that get used up more quickly.

My short recap

Canola oil can be a great substitute for vegetable oil due to its high smoke point.

This makes it well suited for sauteing, frying and deep-frying.

However, if you’re baking it may be more wise to stick to regular vegetable oil.

Canola oil is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which can give baked goods a fishy smell.

This will be more noticeable in pie crust, pizza dough or pastries with less sugar.

If you have any thoughts or questions, feel free to share them down in the comments.

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