There are many different kinds of cooking fats.
But what about fat specifically for deep frying?
Of course, deep frying is far from the healthiest cooking method.
But some people enjoy deep fried food from time to time, and it’s important to know the most suitable oil.
This article presents the best oil for deep frying, as well as some important considerations to take into account.
Deep Frying Considerations
You may have heard talk about precise smoke points and ‘low in saturated fat’, but it’s best to forget about those things.
In reality, the health impacts of frying with an oil depend on how heat stable the particular fatty acids are (1, 2).
And the most stable fats of all are saturated fats. So, choosing a cooking oil that is low in saturated fat makes no sense at all (3).
In contrast, if you choose a vegetable oil then these oils are full of polyunsaturated fats, which are the least resistant to oxidation (4).
In other words, vegetable oils are not stable at high heat.
As a result, deep frying these fats will likely result in the formation of oxidative products, and these have strong links to inflammation and associated diseases.
And by associated diseases, I mean Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and a whole lot more (5, 6, 7, 8).
How Do We Deep Fry Food?
When we are deep frying food, we need to fully submerge the food into boiling hot cooking oil.
The temperature of this oil is set at somewhere between 350°F (177°C) and 375 °F (191°C) (9).
If the temperature is wrong, then the food’s surface might form too slowly, causing the food to absorb large amounts of oil.
On the other hand, if the heat settings are too high then the surface of the food will burn.
Because we need an extreme temperature to make deep fried foods, we need to carefully consider the type of cooking oil.
With this in mind, the healthiest fat for deep frying is a little different to the best oil for stir-frying or general cooking.
For example, making a pan-fried steak with a little butter is fine. But butter contains dairy sugars and proteins, which can burn at high heat and this makes it a poor choice for deep frying.
To avoid burning our food, and the formation of carcinogens and oxidative products, we should steer clear of polyunsaturated fat (10).
5 Healthy Oils For Deep Frying
Here are five cooking oils that are suitable for your deep fryer, all of which retain stability at a high heat.
SFA = Saturated Fat MUFA = Monounsaturated Fat PUFA = Polyunsaturated Fat
Lard is rendered fat from a pig. Sometimes it can be hard to find, but if it’s not in your local shops then you can always inquire at a local farm or butcher.
And if not, you can easily arrange an online delivery.
It’s actually a very traditional cooking fat which was popular with our grandparents and great-grandparents before that.
And it’s also one of the very best options for deep fryers.
The heat stability and fat-soluble vitamin content make lard a healthy choice for deep frying (11).
Furthermore, it makes food taste delicious – giving it a crispy taste full of flavor.
When you buy lard, look out for a ‘grass-fed’ option. Lard from pigs raised on pasture has the extra advantage of a smaller amount of polyunsaturated fat and more fat-soluble vitamins.
Fatty Acid Composition (source: USDA)
- SFA: 38%
- MUFA: 49%
- PUFA: 13%
While butter may not be the best oil for deep frying, ghee is a very solid option.
Ghee is pure butterfat, which means that the dairy proteins and sugars (lactose) have been removed.
This gives ghee a higher resistance to burning than butter, and it’s heat stable at higher temperatures.
See this guide to butter vs ghee for full differences.
As one of the best cooking fats for deep fryers, frying with ghee gives food a lovely taste. And in my opinion, it’s the best tasting cooking oil of all.
Just like with lard, it’s best to choose a grass-fed ghee for a better fatty acid and fat-soluble vitamin profile (12).
You can either buy ghee from a health food store, online, or you could even make it yourself.
In fact, making ghee doesn’t take long at all. It’s easy to make from butter and this video shows you exactly how to do it:
Fatty Acid Composition (source: USDA)
- SFA: 66%
- MUFA: 30%
- PUFA: 4%
3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil in a deep fryer? Really?
There is a persistent myth that olive oil is a healthy fat, but only when used as a salad dressing.
However, the truth is that olive oil is fairly stable at high temperatures. There are two reasons why:
- Olive oil is very low in polyunsaturated fat and mainly consists of monounsaturated fat, which has a relatively good heat stability (13, 14).
- Extra virgin olive oil contains large amounts of health-protective polyphenols, which help protect the oil from oxidative damage (15, 16).
And if you’re not convinced, then we can look at several studies that test olive oil’s oxidative stability:
- A study evaluated olive, corn, sunflower, and soybean oil in a deep-frying test. Olive oil had the lowest deterioration in quality and the greatest resistance to oxidative damage (17).
- A further study shows that olive oil is “clearly resistant to frying conditions”. This particular study used olive oil for deep frying over a continuous 24 hours – and tests showed only minor levels of oxidation (18).
While olive oil is not the best oil to fry with, it does a reasonable job and stands up to heat fairly well.
Another simple option would be avocado oil.
Fatty Acid Composition (source: Nutrition Data)
- SFA: 14.2%
- MUFA: 75%
- PUFA: 10.8%
Beef tallow is rendered fat from a cow.
Deep frying with beef tallow is a very traditional practice, and it’s also one of the smartest choices for your deep fryer.
Tallow is predominantly a saturated fat, with almost as much monounsaturated fat. Additionally, there is only a small amount (4%) of polyunsaturated fat (19).
Tallow also has a very light flavor, so it doesn’t overpower the food you are frying as some oils can.
Fatty Acid Composition (source: USDA)
- SFA: 52.1%
- MUFA: 43.7%
- PUFA: 4.2%
For more information, see this full guide to beef tallow.
5. Coconut oil
Given that coconut oil has a saturated fat content of 91%, it’s perhaps the most suitable oil for the deep fryer (20, 21).
As a result, frying with this tropical oil is unlikely to cause harmful amounts of oxidation products.
Coconut oil also contains lauric acid, which is also present in mother’s milk and has beneficial antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties (22, 23).
However, it’s important to note that despite its natural image, coconut oil can also be a refined oil (24).
So, if you want to avoid fats that use solvents like hexane in their extraction process, then look for “cold-pressed” on the label.
Aside from that, perhaps the only problem with coconut oil is the strong flavor, with some people feeling the taste of coconut on their food. Personally, I have never noticed this — but many people do.
Fatty Acid Composition (source: USDA)
- SFA: 91.1%
- MUFA: 7%
- PUFA: 1.9%
The Best Oil For Deep Frying?
Okay, so there are five oils mentioned here and you’re only looking for one.
Which one is best?
For me, that depends on what you are looking for – health or taste.
Regarding heat stability and resistance to oxidation, I’d choose coconut oil every time. It has the highest proportion of saturated fat and barely any polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Ghee is the best-tasting fat in my opinion, but it also influences the overall flavor of the food with its buttery taste.
So, to give food a great but not overpowering flavor, I think tallow is the best choice.
Never Use Polyunsaturated Vegetable Oils High Heat Frying
No matter what you might hear, the fact remains that these vegetable oils are full of unstable omega-6 polyunsaturated oils.
Deep frying these oils is likely to result in the formation of carcinogens and oxidation products (25, 26).
Here are a few common vegetable oils to avoid:
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Soybean oil
- Sunflower oil
Cooking Food in a Deep Fryer is Not a Healthy Choice
It’s important to realize that high heat cooking is not health-supportive.
So, while using an oil that has good resistance to high heat is important, it doesn’t make deep frying good for you.
Deep fried food is generally bad because it exposes food to extremely hot temperatures.
In fact, cooking food at high temperatures can result in the formation of potentially harmful compounds such as advanced glycation end products (AGEs), aldehydes and various carcinogens (27, 28, 29).
AGEs can cause widespread oxidative damage in the body, and some studies suggest that aldehydes are carcinogenic (30, 31).
There are many delicious deep-fried foods like chicken, fish and various vegetables, but it’s better to choose less abrasive forms of cooking.
Gentler Cooking Methods
Some of the least abrasive cooking methods include:
With each of these cooking styles, you can easily control the temperature and prevent food from overheating.
Make Deep Fried Food Healthier
While deep frying is not generally healthy, there are some methods we can use to make a deep-fried meal healthier.
- Use the correct temperature
- Use one of the healthy oils in this article – coconut oil being the optimal choice
- Don’t re-use old oil; every time we heat oil, it becomes less resistant to oxidation. It’s understandable to want to save money, but using the same deep frying oil, again and again, is a bad idea (32).
- Drink some wine with the meal; wine is high in polyphenols that are known to help protect against oxidative damage in the body (33, 34).
To sum up, if you like to eat deep fried food then enjoy the experience, but try not to do it too often.
Coconut oil is the best oil for deep frying, and ghee, lard, olive oil, and tallow are also fairly healthy choices.
48 thoughts on “What is the Best Oil For Deep Frying?”
I really enjoyed your article but you never addressed the use of peanut oil and where that sits in the line up.
Thanks for commenting! Peanut oil contains a higher proportion of monounsaturated fat which is more heat stable, so it better than most “vegetable” oils.
Having said that, it still contains a high amount of omega-6 and most of the peanut oil in stores is ultra-processed using hexane.
You can read more about that in this article: https://nutritionadvance.com/dietary-fat-guide-saturated-unsaturated-trans-fats/ (number 13).
Lard can be found at most supermarket meat departments, it is not an uncommon item.
Try to purchase it from a local farmer who raises pasture-fed pigs. It will be more expensive since pigs not fed carbs have less fat. But so much healthier, especially for what I call deep-pan-frying, where I take a heavy, deep sided cast iron skillet with oil and fry fish, livers, potatoes and salmon cakes! A bit more wasted oil, though, since I don’t save the oil for two or three more uses as in the deep fryer. But, lard is the cheapest of any oil, so no biggie.
Last year we rendered a bunch of venison fat, and the resultant “lard” was rock hard when in the refrigerator–much, much harder than pork lard. I guess that tells me it has a high percentage of saturated fat. And surprisingly, it has a very mild flavor if rendered correctly so that it is all white. And it’s organic!
Thanks very good information but only a few people will understand who wants to know about the benefits of healthy cooking in turn to good health
Yes, unfortunately not enough people know the difference between good and bad fats.
Thanks Michael for acknowledging my comment on cooking oil looking for more information on health related products
Good luck with your health journey.
What about rice bran oil?
Oh, and what about Avocado oil?
A summary on avocado oil and rice bran oil can be found here: https://nutritionadvance.com/healthiest-cooking-oil
Avocado oil is pretty good but a little expensive, and rice bran oil…not so much.
could I use a mix of lard and coconut oil to reduce cost? coconut oil and ghee are so expensive
Sure – that’s fine!
Just in case you’re not aware, it’s quite easy (20-ish mins) to make ghee at home – it’s so much cheaper than buying it.
Thank you so much for your reply! I really appreciate your attentiveness. I just got my first deep fryer for a gift, and it is a 3.5 L tub. I want to use a “healthy” oil option, which of course makes all my options so expensive. Have you got any suggestions about what oil/oil mix is the best balance between cost vs healthier vs capable of multiple uses? We won’t be using it VERY often but would like to be able to reuse the oil a few times. I am on a tight budget, unfortunately.
Thanks again for your reply. Your articles are very interesting to read.
Thank you! Hope you enjoy your new gift 🙂
Refined coconut oil could be an option – it’s not as “clean” as the cold-pressed version, but it’s cheaper, more heat stable and has fewer oxidation products when re-using it.
Unfortunately, the balance between cost and health isn’t so good with the coconut oils though – they’re very heat stable, but so expensive!
Personally, I’d probably just use lard or tallow….they are pretty cheap and relatively heat-stable. I’d also add some antioxidant sources in there to reduce the susceptibility of the oil to oxidation – you can do this by adding some spices or herbs (such as rosemary or turmeric). Choose whichever ones are your favorite!
For further reading, there’s a study on that here (Section IX): https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282701462_OXIDATION_OF_COOKING_OILS_DUE_TO_REPEATED_FRYING_AND_HUMAN_HEALTH
I just saw that you can get 1 gallon of refined coconut oil for $24… not too bad! Available here.
One year later, the cost on Amazon is now $36. Costco sells 54 ounces for $14.50 and periodically has instant coupon savings of $2 or $3 for its virgin oil. Vitacost has frequent percentage off sales and even half price sales on its refined coconut oil, making it cheaper per ounce than any other source.
Thank you for this info – sounds like a great price!
This was a fantastic answer! Thank you so so much!! I really appreciate the link you sent! I did not know about the refined coconut oil, I will for sure check it out. Your answers are so informative and I am so grateful for your thoroughness and prompt reply. Five stars!
That’s no problem!
If you need any more help, feel free to ask.
Superb Post Always good to read your articles … keep up the good work
Just to bust the low temperature myth, frying at a lower temperature does not cause foods to absorb more oil. For the same given time, frying at a lower temperature will result in a lighter and less crispy surface, which gives the false sense that the food is more oily. A hard, crispy surface gives the feel of a less oily product. If you need proof, simply fry a few batches of food and weigh your oil before and after; make sure the batches are large enough to give you a large delta so that there is less error.
Thanks for the myth-busting!
Since cooking at a higher temperature is generally worse health-wise, that’s a good thing.
I dont think extra virgin is good for deep frying, its smoking point can be very low and it varies based on the variety of olive is made from, when it was picked, and few other variables.
Normal olive oil is another story (NOT extra-virgin), its smoking point is usually very high.
Plus, it’s a real waste to deep fry in extra virgin olive oil considering the price, and all the effort that went in to extract it using cold pressed methods, to preserve the polyphenols and other important nutrients that you lose by cooking (even at lower temperatures than frying).
Those are good points – saying that EVOO is a bit expensive for deep frying would be an understatement.
Providing the temperature is reasonable, it has been shown as very stable over longer periods of time though – likely due to the polyphenolic compounds.
Tallow/lard are probably the best and most economical options.
I haven’t seen any feedback or details from readers, after using coconut oil.
What are you intrigued about?
I use coconut oil for deep frying chicken livers, catfish nuggets and my homegrown potatoes. I can detect a bit of coconut taste only in the potatoes, which is to be expected since potatoes are known to be highly absorbent of surrounding substances (they’re great for tempering a soup to which you’ve mistakenly added too much salt). The refined coconut oil does leave little to no taste of coconut.
Ghee is perfect for potatoes, however. Ghee is so expensive, though, that I use it only every now and then. Coconut oil has become very reasonably priced for the individual who doesn’t deep fry often, cheapest being Costco or a good sale at online seller Vitacost.
Hi can you recommend me oil that is recommended for highheat frying and higher smoking point
I’d look at coconut oil or avocado oil for that in general.
For commercial use perhaps refined coconut oil to keep the cost down or animal fats are an option.
If you have to go with a “veg” oil, peanut is a better choice than most.
Please guide me which oil is best used for deep fried fried chicken which can be repeatedly used(for commercial use). And with high smoking point
Hi.iwould love to know about mixing oils. SIMPLY CANNOT find anything on line. I know you dont recommend canola, but mixing oils is important if you cant get to the store ie live in the middle of nowhere. Is there a chart? Can canola and coconut oil be mixed?
I’m not aware of any specific resources, unfortunately, but I don’t see why you can’t mix them.
Thank you very much for your article. I want to ask a question.
If I want to use olive oil for deep frying at 190 °C (at home), which one sould I prefer, extra virgin olive oil or regular olive oil? As far as I understand, the former has more polyphenols as antioxidants, and the latter has a higher smoke point.
Thanks for your reply.
Health-wise, I would presume extra virgin is better. However, since it’s also quite expensive for deep frying it might be better to go with the standard olive oil? Or a coconut oil maybe?
Thank you so much for this detailed and easy reading about cooking with oils-the video was great👍Please keep up the good work👋-Is it possible to get tallow & ghee by mail order?Thanks for posting this life-saving pertinent & entertaining info!😊
Thanks, Linda! No problem – you should be able to get lard and ghee by mail order. I’m not sure where you are based, but they are both available on Amazon for example!
Ghee is available at Costco in a very large size at the cheapest price relative to any other source, including Amazon. Lidl (not found in all states) has the second best price in a smaller size. The cheapest ghee is what you make yourself after purchasing a lot of butter at a good sale price.
What makes ghee an even better oil is it’s shelf stability. Coconut oil and ghee both last for years longer than the packaging expiration date, which is only the date a company uses to legally remove manufacturing records, not the actual spoilage date.
Thank you for all the information! We are attempting churros for the first time. Due to time and financial constraints, we will be using what we have in the house already – coconut and avocado oils. We’ll let you know how it turns out. (Or doesn’t 😉
Hope it works well and that they taste good!
Hi Michael i hope you are ok with posting your article online for others to read …
No problem, but could you leave a link to the original location please?
Food for thought!
Coconut is not the best at all, both avocado oil and ghee has much higher smoke point.
I think that oxidative stability is a better measure, and studies show that coconut oil generates the least amount of polar compounds at high heat. If the only consideration was the smoke point, it would mean things like rice bran oil and ultra-processed soybean oil would be better choices too.
My Mother is elegiac to tree 🌲 nuts so would coconut 🥥 oil bother her you think?
According to the Anaphylaxis charity;
“Tree nuts include almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashew nuts and pistachios. People who are allergic to tree nuts sometimes ask us if they are likely to react to coconut because of the name. Foods that are close biological relatives often share similar proteins, which can lead to a process called cross-reactivity – where a person allergic to one food also reacts to another. But the coconut is a member of the palm family and only distantly related to tree nuts. The botanical distance between coconuts and tree nuts would suggest that people with tree nut allergy should be able to tolerate coconut and studies have shown that this is generally true. Therefore there is no general recommendation that patients with tree nut allergy should avoid coconut.” https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/knowledgebase/coconut/
This backs up my own reading on the topic too. However, I suggest running any concerns past her doctor (and possibly ordering extra allergy tests if you have any worries).