Best Substitute for Vegetable Oil: 9 alternatives [frying, baking]

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  October 28, 2020

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Oil acts as the ultimate catalyst for your ingredients and is therefore a very important part of cooking.

Not only does it help prevent food from sticking to the pan, but it can improve the taste and texture of food by enhancing the flavors of other ingredients.

The type of oil you use can have an additional impact on flavor as well as the final outcome, and so should be selected with some thought.

Best substitutes for vegetable oil

If you would like to substitute vegetable oil in a dish, it is good to know which alternatives are suitable.

Here we will run you through all options to replace vegetable oil when you are cooking or baking.

Let’s look at your option real quick and then get into each of these in more detail of when to use them and when not to:

Vegetable oil substitute Uses
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Works well for frying on medium heat, for dressings but not for baking
Coconut Oil Perfect for baking and frying on high heat
Avocado Oil Good for baking and frying but can be expensive
Peanut Oil One of the healthiest oils
Flaxseed Oil Great for marinade and drizzles but not baking
Sesame Oil Best for seasoning or sauces but strong flavor
Hemp Seed Oil Low smoke point but perfect for drizzling
Canola Oil Great neutral flavor
Sunflower Oil Mild taste and high smoke point for frying

Is Vegetable Oil Healthy?

Most oils have different flavors. Vegetable oil is often a mix or blend of different types of oils. It is considered a ‘neutral oil’, due to its neutral flavor.

Though generic and inexpensive, certain vegetable oils come with unsaturated fats that, when heated, tend to oxidize.

This can be a danger to body tissues and lead to inflammation, which can then cause other health issues such as heart problems and high blood pressure.

Alternatively, you might be avoiding vegetable oil exactly because of its bland taste, and prefer something that gives your cooking an extra dose of flavor.

Whatever the reason, you can rest assured because there are plenty of substitutes, regardless of what you’re making.

Read on for an extensive guide of all your varied choices, and when is best to use each.

Best Substitutes for Vegetable Oil

Before we look at the best way to substitute vegetable oil in particular dishes, let’s see what alternative oils are great candidates.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Arguably the healthiest substitute for vegetable oil; extra virgin olive oil is high in good fats and rich in antioxidants.

It works well for frying on low to medium heat and is excellent for dressings or marinades.

However, its strong flavor means that it is not ideal for baking.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is perfect for baking, particularly in recipes that need a subtle hint of coconut flavor.

It is also great for frying due to its high smoke point.

Some experts suggest the healthy fatty acids in coconut oil can lower blood cholesterol, and provide quick energy to your body and brain.

While it can also do wonders for your hair and skin, coconut oil is quite high in saturated fats and so should be consumed in moderation.

Avocado Oil

The unrefined quality of avocado oil makes it another great substitute for vegetable oil.

It is high in healthy fats and vitamin E, and has a creamy, buttery taste that is good for baking.

It has a high smoke point that works well for frying, roasting, or grilling.

However, the downside is that avocado oil tends to be more expensive.

Peanut Oil

Peanut oil is considered one of the healthiest oils. It is a vegetable oil that is naturally trans fat-free and low in saturated fats.

It is high in unsaturated fats like the ones found in olive oil, and some studies suggest it might help reduce fat build-up in blood vessels.

Flaxseed Oil

Also known as linseed oil, flaxseed oil is derived from the seeds of the flax plant.

It is a good source of fiber and omega-3 acids, and a great vegetable oil substitute for marinades and salad dressings.

It has a mild taste but can enhance flavor when drizzled over other grilled or cooked foods.

However, it is not good for frying or baking as it is not heat-stable.

Sesame Oil

Though it is often overlooked, sesame oil can be a healthy and tasty substitute for vegetable oil. It works particularly well in seasonings and sauces.

However, it’s not the best choice for baking due to its distinct flavor, and should generally be used sparingly as it can easily overpower other flavors.

Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp seed oil is another alternative that gets overlooked but is high in vitamins and omega fatty acids.

It is made from hemp seeds and, despite common misconceptions, does not contain any THC (the substance in marijuana that produces the ‘high’).

Though it has a low smoke point, it makes a flavorful finishing oil for drizzling onto soups, vegetables, or pizza. It can also act as a substitute for olive oil when added to rice.

The rich flavor is a great base for salad dressings and sauces, but is not suitable for any sweet or more delicate dishes.

Canola Oil

Most vegetable oils usually have a high percentage of canola oil, so it makes sense to go to the source instead.

This substitute is derived from rapeseed. It is considered a neutral oil, making it perfect for foods that have enough of their own flavor and need a flavorless oil.

It has a lower level of saturated fats compared to other oils but is often more highly processed meaning it has fewer nutrients.

Sunflower Oil

Sunflower oil is another mild-tasting substitute that is high in vitamin E and low in unsaturated fats.

However, it also contains a lot of omega-6 fatty acids, which can lead to inflammation.

The high smoke point of this oil makes it great for roasting and frying.

How to Choose a Vegetable Oil Substitute

Each of these options works great as a substitute for vegetable oil.

However, the key to choosing between them depends entirely on what you’re making.

Some are best for baking, whereas others work better for frying.

The main consideration, therefore, depends on the kind of taste and/or texture you wish to go for.

Substitute for Vegetable Oil Baking

When it comes to baking, it’s best to opt for a neutral-flavored oil such as canola oil or sunflower oil.

This is because a strong-flavored oil can easily overpower or ruin the sweetness of your baked goods.

Alternatively, coconut oil is also a good substitute depending on what you’re making. It can give your baking a subtle coconut-flavored finish.

Substitute for Vegetable Oil in Brownies

The neutral flavor of canola oil makes it an excellent substitute for making brownies.

Strong-flavored oils like olive oil should be avoided. However, one hack is to use light or extra light olive oil.

The highly refined quality of this oil can improve both the taste and texture of your brownies.

Substitute for Vegetable Oil in Cake

The light and plain flavor of canola oil make it a popular vegetable oil substitute when it comes to baking cakes.

Coconut oil can also be used. Its high smoke point makes it perfect for high-heat cooking or baking.

However, since it is solid at room temperature you will have to melt the oil if your recipe requires liquid oil.

Looking for stylish cookware for your baking? Here we discuss the 5 Best Copper Baking Pans & trays | these will be perfect for your oven!

Substitute for Vegetable Oil in Muffins

As neutral oils, sunflower oil, and canola oil are known for their weak and subtle flavors.

This makes them the perfect substitute for vegetable oil when it comes to making muffins, as their light taste won’t overshadow the sweet taste of your baked confection.

Substitute for Vegetable Oil in Waffles

For waffles, you have a choice between canola oil, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil.

The neutral flavor of canola oil makes it a good and common substitute.

To improve texture and ensure your waffles have that crispy exterior-tender interior finish, coconut oil is your best bet.

For a healthy substitute, the low-calorie-high quality of extra virgin olive oil is the obvious choice.

Make sure to choose the one labeled ‘extra virgin’ or ‘extra light’, as normal olive oil will be too strong in flavor.

Substitute for Vegetable Oil for Frying

For frying purposes, you want an oil that has a high smoke point. This is the point at which the oil will start to burn, therefore the higher the smoke point the more heat it can take.

Sunflower oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and avocado oil are all good and suitable options when it comes to frying, because of their high smoke points.

Using an oil with a low smoke point that is not heat-stable will not only taste bad and ruin the flavor of your food, but it can contain harmful chemicals that are dangerous to consume.

Another oil with a high smoke point, which makes it a good oil for frying, is rice bran oil. We explain why rice bran oil is good for cooking here.

Substitute for Vegetable Oil in Pancakes

Unless you want your pancakes to have a particular taste, the best oil substitute for making them is one that does not have a strong flavor.

For this, canola oil is a good and cost-effective option.

Coconut oil is great if you want to give your pancakes a sweet and tropical flavor.

Alternatively, if you’d like to make your pancakes more savory, olive oil or peanut oil can give your pancakes a richer but equally delicious taste.

Substitute for Vegetable Oil in Cookies

Canola oil is the best oil substitute for cookies since it has the most neutral flavor compared to other oils.

Its light flavor means it won’t affect the taste or texture of your cookies, so you can bake at ease and make your cookies as crisp and crunchy or soft and chewy as you like.

Sunflower oil is also a good substitute for its neutral flavor. Coconut oil is perfect if you’d prefer to give your cookies a hint of coconut as an additional treat.

Substitute for Vegetable Oil in Cupcakes

The mild tastes of both canola oil and sunflower oil make them good substitutes for baking cupcakes.

For more tropical-flavored cupcakes, coconut oil is the superior substitute. Not only does it add a subtle surprise in flavor, but it has the additional perk of being dairy-free.

Substitute for Vegetable Oil in Cornbread

Light olive oil is a great and healthy substitute when making cornbread. The mild, but less intrusive flavor of this oil can give your cornbread a richer and more complex taste.

It can also complement the texture to produce a crispy crust but soft and crumbly interior.

As vegetable oil and olive oil behave the same in baking, you can use a one-to-one ratio.

Butter and canola oil are two other options that also work well as a substitute in cornbread.

Substitute for Vegetable Oil in Banana Bread

Banana bread is always a fun treat that is packed with flavor.

Unsweetened applesauce, butter, and canola oil are all suitable substitutes when baking this well-loved snack.

Applesauce in particular lends moisture and can result in a more tender and delicate loaf.

For a more creative alternative, you can also replace the oil with ¾ cup of yogurt. Reduced-fat yogurt works as a great and healthy substitute.

You can even try different flavored yogurts to bump up the taste of your loaf. As yogurt adds extra moisture, slightly reduce the amount of liquid called for in the recipe.

More Tips For Substituting Vegetable Oil

Now that we have given you some good options to substitute vegetable oil in certain dishes, we will answer some more questions you might have regarding replacing vegetable oil.

Can you Substitute Crisco for Vegetable Oil?

All-vegetable shortenings like Crisco can be substituted for vegetable oil when it comes to both baking and frying.

Claiming to be a healthier alternative to butter, its flavorless quality makes it a great substitute for baking cakes or cookies.

The shortening itself gives baked goods and pastries a more tender texture, helping create perfectly moist cakes and irresistibly soft treats.

Is Butter a Substitute for Vegetable Oil?

Butter is a convenient substitute for vegetable oil, especially when it comes to baking.

It can replace vegetable oil with a one-for-one ratio and will create fresh and flavorful cakes, cookies, brownies, and other treats.

Butter has a low smoke point and burns quickly.

Therefore, it should not be used for frying on high heat. One solution is to mix butter with another oil substitute (e.g. canola oil).

Can you Substitute Applesauce for Vegetable Oil?

You can substitute vegetable oil for applesauce in baking recipes that require a moistening agent such as cakes, muffins, and brownies.

Replace at a one-for-one ratio and try to use unsweetened applesauce, as sweetened varieties contain sugar that may alter the taste or texture of your baked goods.

Can you Substitute Margarine for Vegetable Oil?

As a vegetable-oil-based, butter-flavored spread, margarine can certainly be substituted for vegetable oil at a one-to-one ratio in baking recipes such as cake mixes.

It has a higher smoke point than butter, and so could be used for frying on low heat or for simply greasing the pan.
Substitute for Vegetable Oil in Bread

Canola oil, sunflower oil, and light olive oil are all worthy substitutes for baking bread.

The rich flavor of olive oil is also great post-bake and can be used as a dip or drizzle.

Unsweetened applesauce is another alternative and works well as a moistening agent. Its naturally occurring sugars are great if you want to give a more subtle sweetness to your loaf.

Whether you try to reduce your intake of vegetable oil due to health reasons, or you simply prefer other oils, there are enough options to substitute vegetable oils!

Which substitute is your favorite?

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.