While it’s relatively easy to find vegetable oil at your local grocery store in the US, sometimes you may be mid-recipe cooking and find that you’ve run out. There are various types of oils to use when you need a good substitute.
Vegetable oil is typically made by extracting oil from seeds, nuts, or parts of fruits. While vegetable oil can refer to a type of oil that’s directly made from one specific seed, nut, or fruit of a plant, it’s also generally labeled as “vegetable oil” because it’s a blend of different types of oil.
For example, soybean oil, grapeseed oil, and corn oil are all technically vegetable oil because they are derived from extracting oils (or fats) from that vegetable, nut, or part of a plant. When a bottle at the grocery store is labeled “vegetable oil,” this means that it’s a blend of different types of vegetable oils.
When recipes call for vegetable oil, it’s usually when you want to be using any “neutral-flavored oil.” Vegetable oil is typically light and translucent in color with a neutral flavor–unless it’s toasted sesame oil or some nut oils. Generally, vegetable oil has a high smoke point of about 400-450 ℉ and it’s a good option for deep frying, stir-frying, or adding into a salad dressing.
There are so many different types of cooking oils you can use as a substitute for general vegetable oil. Here is a list to help you figure out which one is best for each type of recipe.
Canola oil: for deep frying, sauteing & salad dressings
Can you substitute canola oil for vegetable oil? Absolutely. Canola is a good substitute for vegetable oil because it can be used in deep-frying, sauteing, baking, and even salad dressings because it’s got a relatively neutral taste and the same texture as vegetable oil.
I love using oil like vegetable oil or canola oil in recipes like pandan waffles, crispy Belgian waffles, or ube waffles because they are neutral in flavor and you get similar results. You can also use it for light oil dressings or garnishes like scallions and oil.
Avocado oil: versatile & healthier all-around
Another viable option for vegetable oil substitute is avocado oil because you can use it for deep-frying, sauteing, baking, and everything in between. I actually prefer using avocado oil over canola oil because it’s healthier. It has healthy antioxidants and can help reduce cholesterol.
Its extremely high smoke-point is great for deep-frying recipes like fried garlic chips, where you can also use the leftover oil later on. The only negative aspect about avocado oil is that it can be expensive to purchase, and you also need to buy from reputable brands to make sure you don’t get an oil-filled with fillers or is rancid. I like using Chosen Foods avocado oil.
Butter: for baking
One of the easiest and accessible substitutions for vegetable oil is butter, especially when you are baking. I like using butter for cookies, bread, brownies, cake, and even waffles. Not only does it give recipes a “buttery” and fatty flavor, but it also can adjust the type of texture you want for your recipe depending on how you prepare the butter. For chewier cookies, use melted butter (like ube crinkle cookies); for softer baked bread, use softened butter (like pandesal); and for crisp pastry puff, use cold butter (like egg tarts).
Extra virgin olive oil: for uncooked recipes
Since olive oil has a stronger aroma, can you substitute it for vegetable oil? For some recipes, yes. One of my favorite substitutions for vegetable oil is extra virgin olive oil when it comes down to recipes that don’t need cooking or heat applied, like Asian salad dressings or pesto.
Since extra virgin olive oil has a really low smoke-point, I would only use it to substitute uncooked recipes, sauteing, or light stir-frying. It also has a slight flavoring so keep this in mind when you want to use it. Like avocado oil, it’s also a healthier option when substituting vegetable oil. It’s full of fatty acids and antioxidants.
Vegetable shortening or Crisco: for baking crisp pies and pastries
When you’re baking and need a substitute for vegetable oil or butter, you can replace them with vegetable shortening or Crisco. Using shortening or Crisco will give your pies and puff pastry shells a very crisp and light texture. However, I try not to use this substitution too much since shortening does contain high amounts of saturated and trans fat.
Mashed bananas or applesauce: a healthier baking substitute and added moisture
If you need a healthier and vegetarian option for baking, you can substitute vegetable oil with mashed bananas or applesauce. Using these options will give your baked goods a moist and soft texture. I like to use them in waffles, cookies, or other baked items. Just make sure you are okay with getting a slight banana or applesauce flavor with your recipes since they are not neutral in flavor.
Not recommended substitutes
While there are plenty of substitutes for vegetable oil, there are a few that I would not recommend. For instance, sesame or toasted sesame oil has a very strong flavor and this may change the flavor profile of your recipe if you try to use it in place for vegetable oil.
While coconut oil has a lot of health benefits, it also has a very strong flavor and would give your recipe a coconut forward flavor–if this is your jam, then feel free to use it. In general, I like to substitute vegetable oil with other light and neutral flavored oils so you can’t tell the difference in the change.
What can I use in place of vegetable oil in brownies?
To keep a neutral flavor for brownie batter, you can use avocado oil in place of vegetable oil. You can also use butter for brownie batter as a substitute as well, just make sure to melt it down before adding it into your batter. For both avocado and butter substitutes, you can use the same amount of vegetable oil.
Can I use butter instead of vegetable oil?
You can use butter to substitute vegetable oil in different types of recipes. Since butter is not a neutral flavor, it will give it a buttery and fattier flavor than vegetable oil. Note, depending on the type of recipe it may be, you will need to melt or soften the butter to adjust the texture. For example, you can melt down butter for chewier cookies.
What can I substitute for oil in a cake?
To substitute for oil in a cake, you can use butter, avocado oil, or other mashed fruit like avocado slices, mashed banana, or even applesauce (however please note the different flavor profiles for these fruits because they might change the way the cake tastes after it’s cooked).
Can I use olive oil instead of vegetable oil in cake mix?
You can use olive oil instead of vegetable oil in a cake mix since they have similar consistency and fattiness. However, since olive oil has a stronger flavor profile than vegetable oil, it might change the taste of the overall cake.