25 Types of Cooking Fats and Oils: Nutrition Facts, Benefits, Drawbacks

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Last Updated on August 24, 2020 by Michael Joseph

There are many different choices of cooking fat, and most of us use them to cook our food from time to time.

Choosing the right option and using it in sensible amounts is very important, as we can compromise the benefits of healthy foods if we use excessive amounts of added fat.

This article provides a list of 25 common cooking fats and oils alongside their full nutrition profiles, sourced from the USDA’s FoodData Central Database.

Additionally, we take a balanced look at their potential benefits and drawbacks.

1) Avocado Oil

Avocado Cooking Oil In a Glass Jug.

Avocado is a relatively new oil on the mainstream scene, and like olive oil, it is high in the monounsaturated fat oleic acid.

Here is the full nutrition profile for avocado oil per tablespoon serving (1):

Name Amount
Calories 124 kcal
Fat 14.0 g
Saturated Fat 1.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat 9.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.9 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 134 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 1754 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated fat: 12%
  • Monounsaturated fat: 74%
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 14%

Points To Consider

  • Since avocado oil consists of more than 80% saturated and monounsaturated fats, the oil displays relatively good oxidative stability. Studies show that it performs similarly to olive oil at high heat, but its antioxidants last for a slightly shorter time (2).
  • Avocado oil has a relatively mild and bland flavor, so it will not impart its flavor on food like strong-flavored coconut and extra virgin olive oils can.
  • Although the price has fallen over the past few years, avocado oil is often more expensive than other healthy cooking oils.
Key Point: Avocado oil is a good choice for high-heat cooking, but it can be a little expensive.

2) Butter

Firstly, butter is arguably the tastiest cooking fat money can buy.

However, taste and nutrition are two separate topics, so is butter a good choice?

The nutritional values for one tablespoon of butter are as follows (3):

Name Amount
Calories 102 kcal
Fat 11.5 g
Saturated Fat 7.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 4 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 26 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated fat: 66%
  • Monounsaturated fat: 30%
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 4%

Points To Consider

  • Butter is mainly saturated fat, which means it will display relatively good oxidative stability for cooking. Saturated fatty acids tend to be the most resistant to oxidation, and they are less likely to generate oxidation products with exposure to heat (4, 56)
  • The taste – butter is delicious.
  • Butter contains lactose and casein (milk sugars and proteins,) which can burn with exposure to high heat.
  • Since butter contains (minimal amounts of) lactose, it could potentially cause issues for people with severe lactose intolerance (7).
  • Butter is high in saturated fat; studies have demonstrated that moderate butter intake can increase levels of LDL cholesterol, which is associated with increased cardiovascular risk (8, 9, 10).
Key Point: Butter is a delicious cooking fat, but it can burn when exposed to prolonged high temperatures.

3) Canola (Rapeseed Oil)

Canola (Rapeseed) Oil In a Glass Jug.

Canola is otherwise known as rapeseed oil and it is primarily a source of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Firstly, here is what one tablespoon of Canola oil offers (11):

Name Amount
Calories 120 kcal
Fat 13.6 g
Saturated Fat 1.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 8.6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3.8 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 1240 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 2590 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated fat: 8%
  • Monounsaturated fat: 64%
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 28%

Points To Consider

  • Canola oil has a relatively high smoke point of between 220°C (428°F) and 238°C (460°F) (12, 13).
  • Cheap price.
  • Several trials have found that Canola oil generates higher amounts of polar compounds than other cooking oils when heated. However, this tends to happen over time and may not be a concern for short cooking times (14, 15).

See here for a deeper look at Canola oil.

Key Point: Canola has a high smoke point and it contains a large amount of monounsaturated fats. However, some studies suggest it may degrade when used at high temperatures for long periods.

4) Cocoa Butter

It is possible to buy cocoa fat (the fatty part of the cocoa bean) and it can even be used in cooking.

The only problem? It’s rather expensive, and for the majority of people, it doesn’t offer good value.

Cocoa butter is mainly a source of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.

Per tablespoon, here are the nutritional values it offers (16):

Name Amount
Calories 120 kcal
Fat 13.6 g
Saturated Fat 8.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 4.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 10 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 380 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated fat: 62%
  • Monounsaturated fat: 35%
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 3%

Points To Consider

  • Cocoa butter tastes good.
  • Cocoa butter contains little more than 3% polyunsaturated fat, which makes it very heat stable.
  • However, cocoa butter is very expensive, and it does not offer good value for the majority of consumers.
  • Cocoa butter can be difficult to find.
  • While it does not increase LDL levels significantly, cocoa butter contains palmitic acid and raises LDL more than liquid vegetable oils do (17).
Key Point: Rich in saturated and monounsaturated fat, cocoa butter is a delicious and heat-stable fat. However, it is difficult to recommend due to its expensive price tag.

5) Coconut Oil

A Jar of Coconut Oil Next To Half a Coconut.

With a long history as a traditional fat in the tropical regions, coconut oil has surged in popularity over the past decade or two.

Although it can sometimes leave things tasting slightly coconutty, this popular oil has some positive (and some negative) points.

First, here are coconut oil’s nutritional values per tablespoon (18):

Name Amount
Calories 121 kcal
Fat 13.5 g
Saturated Fat 11.7 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 230 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated fat: 92%
  • Monounsaturated fat: 6%
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 2%

Points To Consider

  • Coconut oil is more than 92% saturated fat, and this gives the oil excellent oxidative stability. On this note, studies consistently show that coconut oil displays excellent resistance to oxidation when exposed to heat (14, 19).
  • However, coconut oil can sometimes influence the flavor of a dish, leaving a mild coconutty taste.
  • Due to its high saturated fatty acid content, coconut oil tends to increase LDL cholesterol levels (20, 21).
Key Point: Coconut is a popular cooking oil, but some people may dislike the slight aftertaste it leaves.

6) Corn Oil

Also known as maize oil, corn oil comes from the maize germ, and it is a type of seed oil.

Similar to other seed oils, corn is predominantly a source of omega-6 polyunsaturated fat.

Per tablespoon, here is what corn oil offers nutritionally (22):

Name Amount
Calories 122 kcal
Fat 13.6 g
Saturated Fat 1.8 g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 7.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 160 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 7290 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated fat: 14%
  • Monounsaturated fat: 29%
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 57%

Points To Consider

  • Corn oil is one of the cheapest available cooking oils.
  • It has a relatively high smoke point of 232°C (450°F) (23).
  • Compared to coconut oil, corn oil lowers LDL levels in adults with elevated cholesterol (24).
  • Possibly due to its high polyunsaturated fat content and lack of polyphenols, several studies show that corn oil has relatively poor oxidative stability (25, 26).
Key Point: Corn oil is a very affordable cooking oil with a high smoke point, but it may not be as heat-stable as oils such as olive oil.

7) Cottonseed Oil

A Jar of Cottonseed Oil Next To Cottonseed Plants and Seeds,

Cottonseed oil has a long history, and it was the primary ingredient in partially hydrogenated (trans fat) shortening products like Crisco and Cottolene.

There is a robust scientific consensus on the harmful effects of trans fat, but how does cottonseed oil perform in its lesser processed liquid state?

Below you will find the nutritional values per tablespoon serving (27):

Name Amount
Calories 120 kcal
Fat 13.6 g
Saturated Fat 3.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 7.1 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 30 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 7030 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated fat: 27%
  • Monounsaturated fat: 18%
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 55%

Points To Consider

  • Cottonseed oil is very cheap.
  • Some small studies have shown that cottonseed oil may decrease total cholesterol without affecting HDL levels (28).
  • Cottonseed oil is very high in polyunsaturated fat, which makes it less stable than oils with higher saturated or monounsaturated fat levels. In one study, cottonseed oil deteriorated much faster than palm oil (29).
Key Point: Corn oil is a cheap and affordable cooking oil, but it isn’t suited for long cooking times at high temperatures.

8) Extra Virgin Olive Oil

We can often hear claims of extra virgin olive oil being the healthiest oil in the world.

However, there seems to be a common belief that olive oil is excellent for use on salads but not suitable for cooking. Is that true or is it just a myth?

First, here are the nutrition facts per tablespoon (30):

Name Amount
Calories 119 kcal
Fat 13.5 g
Saturated Fat 1.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat 9.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 103 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 1320 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated fat: 14%
  • Monounsaturated fat: 75%
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 11%

Points To Consider

  • Although extra virgin olive oil is low in saturated fat, it contains only minimal amounts of polyunsaturated fats. As a result, it displays a reasonably high degree of oxidative resistance.
  • In recent lab tests analyzing commercial cooking oils, extra virgin olive oil outperformed all other oils—including coconut oil—in that it contained the least amount of polar compounds after heat exposure (14).
  • Extra virgin olive oil is a significant source of polyphenols, which help to protect the oil against oxidation from heat, light, and oxygen (31).
  • Unfortunately, fraud has plagued the olive oil industry, and there have been numerous cases of products fraudulently claiming to be genuine extra virgin olive oil. See this guide to trustworthy olive oil brands for help finding an authentic oil.
  • Genuine extra virgin olive oil is more expensive than most other cooking oils, so it may not be suitable for all budgets.
Key Point: Extra virgin olive oil is a healthy cooking oil option. Contrary to the popular myth, it displays excellent stability at high temperatures.

9) Ghee

Ghee (Pure Butterfat) In a Glass Tub.

Ghee is a traditional cooking fat from India.

This fat is also very similar to butter, with the only difference being that it doesn’t have the additional water, lactose, and casein content of butter.

Here are the nutrition details per tablespoon (32):

Name Amount
Calories 112 kcal
Fat 12.7 g
Saturated Fat 7.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 190 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 290 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated fat: 65%
  • Monounsaturated fat: 31%
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 4%

Points To Consider

  • Ghee does not contain lactose or casein (milk sugars and protein). As a result, ghee is a better choice than butter for individuals with milk allergies or lactose intolerance/sensitivity (33).
  • Ghee has a similar fatty acid profile to butter, and it provides the same heat-stable properties. However, since ghee does not contain milk sugars and proteins, it will not burn as quickly at high heat.
  • The only real negative of ghee compared to butter is that ghee is more expensive.
  • Like butter, ghee contains large amounts of a saturated fatty acid called palmitic acid. As a result, ghee is likely to increase LDL levels (34).

If you’re wondering how ghee compares to butter and the major differences, see this guide.

Key Point: Ghee offers better performance than butter as a cooking fat, especially at higher temperatures. However, you have to pay more for the privilege of using it.

10) Goose Fat

Goose fat is widely considered to be one of the best-tasting cooking fats available.

Nutritionally, this popular fat offers the following values per tablespoon (35):

Name Amount
Calories 115 kcal
Fat 12.8 g
Saturated Fat 3.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat 7.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 60 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 1250 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated fat: 29.3%
  • Monounsaturated fat: 59.3%
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 11.4%

Points To Consider

  • Goose fat is primarily a source of monounsaturated fat, similar to the main fats in olives and avocados. It contains a moderate amount of saturated fat and minimal amounts of polyunsaturated fat. Due to this fatty acid profile, goose fat is relatively stable at high temperatures.
  • Goose fat adds a substantial amount of flavor to anything you use it with. If you’re making a roast dinner, then using a bit of goose fat can add a lot in the taste department.
  • However, depending on the location/country, goose fat can be difficult to find.

See this guide to goose fat to find out more.

Key Point: Goose fat is a delicious cooking fat that performs well at higher temperatures.

11) Grapeseed Oil

Grapeseed Oil In a Glass Bottle Next To Fresh Grapes.

First introduced as a byproduct of the winemaking industry, producers make grapeseed oil by pressing leftover grape seeds to extract their oil.

As is the case with most seed oils, grapeseed is primarily a source of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Per tablespoon serving, grapeseed oil offers (36):

Name Amount
Calories 120 kcal
Fat 13.6 g
Saturated Fat 1.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 9.5 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 14 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 9480 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated fat: 10%
  • Monounsaturated fat: 16.9%
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 73.1%

Points To Consider

  • Grapeseed oil is reasonably cheap.
  • It’s a good source of vitamin E (36).
  • Due to its fatty acid profile, grapeseed oil is susceptible to oxidation at high heat temperatures. Several studies have shown that this oil can generate significant numbers of polar compounds during cooking over longer time durations (14, 37).

See here for a full overview of grapeseed oil.

Key Point: Grapeseed oil is a cheap cooking oil but it isn’t the best choice for extended cooking times at high temperatures.

12) Lard

Lard is rendered pork fat, a traditional cooking fat that was once common in households. However, lard declined in popularity alongside the rise in trans fats, shortening, and vegetable oils over the preceding decades.

In recent years, animal fats such as lard have started to become more popular once again.

One tablespoon of lard provides the following nutritional values (39):

Name Amount
Calories 115 kcal
Fat 12.8 g
Saturated Fat 5.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 5.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 128 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 1300 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 41%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 47.5%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 11.5%

Points To Consider

  • Lard is extremely cheap, and it has a great effect on the flavor of food. Lard tends to make everything taste better.
  • Since lard is almost 90% saturated and monounsaturated fat, it is very stable for cooking at high temperatures. Studies demonstrate that lard offers greater oxidative stability than regular vegetable oils and is comparable to high OLEIC oils. It produces very few oxidation products during cooking (40).
  • Lard is high in saturated fat and tends to increase levels of LDL cholesterol (41).

See this full guide to lard for more.

Key Point: Lard is a traditional cooking fat that stands up to high-heat cooking well. However, it contains high amounts of saturated fat.

13) Macadamia Nut Oil

Macadamia Oil In a Glass Jug Next To Macadamia Nuts.

Macadamia nuts are delicious, and since they are full of fat, they can be used to make good cooking oil.

Per tablespoon serving, macadamia nut oil provides (41):

Name Amount
Calories 130 kcal
Fat 14.0 g
Saturated Fat 2.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 11.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 15%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 81%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 4%

Points To Consider

  • Macadamia nut oil is extremely low in polyunsaturated fat, and it offers good oxidative stability. In one study testing the oxidative stability of culinary oil, macadamia oil outperformed all the other oils (grapeseed, rice bran, avocado, and walnut oils) (42).
  • Macadamia oil also contains a range of antioxidants/polyphenols, which may help to preserve the oil (43).
  • Macadamia oil is one of the most expensive cooking fats, so it doesn’t offer good value for money.

See this complete guide to macadamia nut oil for more information.

Key Point: Macadamia oil displays excellent heat stability, but it can be expensive.

14) Margarine

Margarine was once thought to be a healthy replacement for butter. However, that soon changed when we found out the harms of the trans fats it contained.

In recent years, margarine no longer contains trans fat and its nutrition properties may vary depending on the specific vegetable oils used to make it.

That said, here are the general nutrition facts of a typical margarine per tablespoon (41):

Name Amount
Calories 76 kcal
Fat 8.6 g
Saturated Fat 1.7 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3.8 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 275 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 3128 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 21%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 33%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 46%
Key Point: Margarine used to contain trans fats, but modern varieties do not. The exact profile of margarine depends on the oils used to make it.

15) Palm Kernel Oil

A Glass Jar of Refined Palm Oil.

Palm oil is one of the biggest sources of fat in the Western—and global—diet.

Large numbers of processed foods use this oil in their products, and it is also available as cooking oil.

Palm oil is a type of seed oil, and manufacturers produce it from the seeds within palm fruit.

Palm oil offers the following nutrition values per tablespoon (42):

Name Amount
Calories 117 kcal
Fat 13.6 g
Saturated Fat 11.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.55 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.22 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 220 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 86%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 12%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 2%

Points To Consider

  • Palm oil is cheap and readily available.
  • Palm oil appears to have similar oxidative stability to high-OLEIC oils, and it offers better performance at high temperatures than seed oils like Canola and sunflower (43, 44).
  • Palm oil is a significant source of palmitic acid, a saturated fatty acid that can raise LDL levels (45).
  • Despite its low polyunsaturated fat contents, palm oil’s oxidative resistance appears to vary. Some studies show that it produces excessive amounts of volatile oxidation products during frying. This may be due to the ultra-processing palm oil goes through and the lack of antioxidant compounds in the oil (46).
  • The palm oil industry is responsible for mass deforestation and threatening the habitats of animals in the tropics. Ideally, ‘certified sustainable’ palm oils are a more ethical choice.
Key Point: Palm oil is an extremely popular oil with a range of pros and cons.

16) Peanut Oil

Peanut oil is high in monounsaturated fat, and it has a tasty and slightly nutty flavor (at least in its unrefined state).

Per tablespoon, peanut oil provides (47):

Name Amount
Calories 119 kcal
Fat 13.5 g
Saturated Fat 2.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat 6.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4.3 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 4321 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 18.0%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 48.4%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 33.6%

Points To Consider

  • Peanut oil is rich in compounds that have antioxidant properties, such as tocopherols and phospholipids. Research demonstrates that these compounds help to improve (slow oxidation) peanut butter’s oxidative stability (48).
  • A recent laboratory study of plant-based cooking oils found that heating peanut oil generates one of the lowest amounts of oxidation products. In this extensive test, peanut oil was third to only extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil (14).
  • Unrefined peanut oil is relatively expensive. Given that extra virgin olive oil has more evidence for health benefits behind it, it doesn’t offer value-for-money.

See this full guide to peanut oil for more information.

Key Point: Peanut oil is reasonably heat-stable, but it is very expensive.

17) Red Palm Oil

Red Palm Oil Next To Palm Fruit.

Red palm oil comes from the same fruit (palm fruit) as palm kernel oil.

However, red palm oil is derived from the actual fruit rather than the seeds (kernel).

Nutritionally, one tablespoon of red palm oil supplies (49):

Name Amount
Calories 130 kcal
Fat 14 g
Saturated Fat 6 g
Monounsaturated Fat 6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.5 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 44.5%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 44.5%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 11%

Points To Consider

  • Red palm oil is full of carotenoids, which give the oil its deep red color. It also contains vitamin E, and all of these compounds collectively give red palm oil a high level of oxidative stability (50).
  • Red palm oil contains a small amount of polyunsaturated fat, and it is almost 90% saturated and monounsaturated.
  • Red palm oil makes everything taste like red palm oil. Additionally, it gives food an orange tinge. This one could be a ‘benefit’ if someone loves the flavor, or a negative if not.
  • Similar to palm kernel oil, commercial production of red palm oil has devastated rainforests and animal habitats. Preferably look for a ‘certified sustainable’ red palm oil.

For more information, see this full guide to red palm oil.

Key Point: Red palm oil provides excellent heat stability, but its color/taste may not be for everyone.

18) Refined Olive Oil

There are several different names for refined olive oil, and these may include both of the following;

  • Light olive oil
  • Pomace olive oil

While these oils still come from real olives, the manufacturing process is different.

Unlike extra virgin olive oil, refined olive oils make use of the leftover pulp after extra virgin olive oil’s extraction.

Next, this pulp goes through an extraction process using solvents such as hexane (51).

Since refined olive oil still comes from olives, the fatty acid profile doesn’t differ from extra virgin olive oil.

Per tablespoon, refined olive oil provides (30):

Name Amount
Calories 119 kcal
Fat 13.5 g
Saturated Fat 1.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat 9.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 103 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 1320 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated fat: 14%
  • Monounsaturated fat: 75%
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 11%

Points To Consider

  • Refined olive oils offer a similar fat profile to extra virgin olive oil for a lower price.
  • Refined olive oils are still relatively heat-stable owing to the minimal polyunsaturated fat content they contain.
  • The taste of refined olive oils is very “light” and bland, whereas extra virgin olive oil has a strong flavor. Some people prefer this lighter taste for specific recipes, such as homemade mayo.
  • Heat tests on refined olive oils show that they do not offer the same oxidative stability as extra virgin olive oil. The reason for this is that the refining process removes most of the beneficial polyphenols, which help to protect the fatty acids in the oil from oxidation (52).
  • Polyphenols appear to have some health-protective benefits, and refined olive oils barely contain any (53).
Key Point: Refined olive oils offer better stability to seed oils, but they are not as good as extra virgin olive oil.

19) Rice Bran Oil

Rice Bran Oil Next To a Bowl of Brown Rice.

Rice bran oil comes from the outer shell of brown rice, which is otherwise known as the chaff or husk.

This oil is especially popular in Japan and South Asia.

Per tablespoon, rice bran oil provides the following nutrition profile (54):

Name Amount
Calories 120 kcal
Fat 13.6 g
Saturated Fat 2.7 g
Monounsaturated Fat 5.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4.8 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 216 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 4509 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 21%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 42%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 37%

Points To Consider

  • Rice bran oil contains more saturated and monounsaturated fats than most “vegetable” oils, as well as some antioxidants. It offers better oxidative stability than Canola, sunflower, and other processed seed oils, so it may be better suited for cooking durations (55).
Key Point: Rice bran oil contains a mixture of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.

20) Safflower Oil

Safflower oil has been one of the most common oils over the past half-century, and it often turns up in food products.

This vegetable (seed) oil comes from the seeds of the safflower plant, and it provides the following nutritional values (56):

Name Amount
Calories 120 kcal
Fat 13.6 g
Saturated Fat 0.8 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 10.1 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 10100 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 7%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 15%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 78%

Points To Consider

  • Safflower oil is very cheap.
  • There is a high OLEIC version of safflower oil that is mainly monounsaturated fat. This version offers greater heat stability than regular safflower oil (57, 58).
  • Regular safflower oil is predominantly polyunsaturated fat, and studies demonstrate that it is prone to oxidation (59).
Key Point: Safflower oil is a cheap cooking oil that is also available in a high OLEIC variety, which offers better oxidative stability.

21) Sesame Oil

Sesame Oil Next To a Pile of Seeds.

Sesame oil is an excellent choice for use as a condiment, and it adds flavor to food that no other oil can match.

Sesame oil provides the following nutrients per tablespoon (60):

Name Amount
Calories 120 kcal
Fat 13.6 g
Saturated Fat 1.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat 5.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 5.7 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 40.5 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 5576 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 15%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 41.5%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 43.5%

Points To Consider

  • Sesame oil is deep and flavorful, and it adds a lot of taste to dishes.
  • Sesame oil has a slightly lower proportion of polyunsaturated fat compared to other seed oil choices, and it also contains polyphenols. As a result, it displays somewhat better heat stability than other refined vegetable oils (61).
Key Point: Sesame oil is delicious and it imparts lots of flavor to food.

22) Soybean Oil

Soybean is one of the most common cooking oils throughout the world, and it is hugely popular in the United States.

Here are the nutritional values per tablespoon of soybean oil (62):

Name Amount
Calories 120 kcal
Fat 13.6 g
Saturated Fat 2.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 7.9 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 930 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 6940 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 16%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 24%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 60.0%

Points To Consider

  • Soybean oil contains a moderate amount of vitamin E, which gives it slightly better oxidative stability compared to some other polyunsaturated oils (63).
  • Soybean oil is very cheap.
  • There is a high OLEIC version of soybean available, which offers higher oxidative stability for longer cooking times at high temperatures (64).

Find Out More

See this full guide to soybean oil for more information.

Key Point: Soybean oil is one of the most common cooking oils in the world.

23) Sunflower Oil

Sunflower Oil In a Glass Jar.

Sunflower oil is very similar to safflower in its fatty acid profile, and it comes from the edible seeds of the sunflower plant.

Nutritionally, sunflower oil provides the following values per tablespoon (65):

Name Amount
Calories 120 kcal
Fat 13.6 g
Saturated Fat 1.4 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 8.9 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 8900 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 11%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 20%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 69%

Points To Consider

  • Sunflower oil is another cheap and popular commercial cooking oil.
  • There is a high OLEIC version of sunflower oil that provides better heat stability than the regular version (66).
  • Regular sunflower oil is not very stable at high temperatures. For this reason, high OLEIC sunflower oil is a better option for cooking at high temperatures (67, 68).
Key Point: Sunflower oil is one of the most common cooking fat options.

24) Tallow (Beef Dripping)

Similar to lard, tallow is a type of traditional animal fat that once enjoyed great popularity.

This cooking fat comes from rendered beef fat, and it gives food a flavorful taste.

Let’s now look at the nutritional data per tablespoon of tallow (69):

Name Amount
Calories 115 kcal
Fat 12.8 g
Saturated Fat 6.4 g
Monounsaturated Fat 5.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 76.5 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 395 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 52%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 44%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 4%

Points To Consider

  • Tallow is high in saturated and monounsaturated fat, and it contains minimal polyunsaturated acids. As a result, it is quite resistant to oxidation. The biodiesel industry even adds tallow to soybean oil to increase the latter’s oxidative stability (70).
  • Tallow contains relatively high amounts of saturated fat, so it may increase LDL levels (41).
  • Watch out for overpriced “100%” and “pure” tallow products in glass jars. These goods are mostly the same as the cheap bars of tallow in supermarkets, except for being about 10x the price.
Key Point: Tallow is a heat-stable cooking fat that adds a lot of flavor to food.

25) Vegetable Shortening

Glass Bowl of Vegetable Shortening On a Red Cloth.

Vegetable shortening became popular in the early 20th century since it provided the same cooking properties as lard for a much cheaper price.

Once marketed as healthy fat, it was later found that it contains a harmful type of fat known as ‘trans fat’ (partially hydrogenated oil).

In recent times, shortening should no longer include trans fats.

Shortening is a hard, white fat that somewhat resembles lard.

Per tablespoon, here is what the nutritional values of a modern vegetable shortening may look like (71):

Name Amount
Calories 113 kcal
Fat 12.8 g
Saturated Fat 3.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat 5.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3.6 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 240 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 3040 mg

Fatty Acid Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 26.5%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 43.5%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 30%

Points To Consider

  • Modern shortening products should no longer contain trans fatty acids.
  • Shortening tends to be more heat-stable than vegetable oils, so it is good for high-heat cooking.
Key Point: Old style shortening used to contain trans fats, but this is not the case for modern versions.

Which Is the “Best” Cooking Oil?

The answer to this question is somewhat subjective, and there are many different views.

  • Common vegetable oils such as Canola, soybean, and grapeseed are all cheap and affordable. However, they are primarily a source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are not very heat-stable. Thus, they are a poor choice for longer periods of high-temperature cooking.
  • High OLEIC varieties of vegetable oils contain more monounsaturated fat and less polyunsaturated fats. These oils are better suited to longer-duration cooking at high temperatures.
  • Animal fats such as ghee, goose fat, lard, and tallow also have relatively good oxidative stability.
  • Additionally, plant oils such as avocado, peanut, and (especially) extra virgin olive oil display excellent oxidative stability.

If we focus on cooking fat’s overall health benefits rather than just heat stability, then extra virgin olive oil is probably the most evidence-based choice.

Lastly, if you’re looking for an oil for deep frying, see this guide to some of the best deep-frying oils.

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Lukin
Lukin
1 year ago

Hi Michael, I came upon your writing while I was searching for the best oil to include in my child’s diet. She is underweight and doctors recommend adding oil to her food to help gain some weight. I have been using EVOO mixed directly into her food but the flavour is strong. But if that is what will give the best to her health I would continue. Or is there any other oil you suggest? Your kind response is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Lukin
Lukin
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Joseph

Thank you Michael! I think I’ll try that.

Anand Gulab
Anand Gulab
1 year ago

Micheal, Thanks for a great article. Very interesting. Nice to hear other factors than just the smoke point of a fat or oil. I’m interested in Aldehydes that are released in to food when oils are heated. Have heard that refined coconut oil creates the lowest and it has little or no taste of coconut. It’s not an oil you covered, but I’d be interested in your thoughts. Kind regards, Gulab.

Anand Gulab
Anand Gulab
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Joseph

Thank you Micheal. I will look at that.

Debby
Debby
1 year ago

Excellent! Thank you!

peter nyakondo
peter nyakondo
2 years ago

Good informative information.

Sandra
Sandra
2 years ago

Are the seed oils inflammatory if you do not heat them? Like mayonnaise made with soybean oil or canola oil? Like in chicken salad?