Corn oil and canola oil are known for being mild-tasting and healthy cooking oils. How different are they from each other? Do they have any similarities? Let’s compare them in the SPICEography Showdown below.
How does corn oil differ from canola oil?
Corn oil and canola oil come from two unrelated plants. Corn oil is extracted from maize; a cereal grain first domesticated thousands of years ago in what would eventually become Mexico.
Canola oil comes from a kind of rapeseed, which is a member of the Brassica family along with mustard and cabbages. The variety that provides canola oil is a relatively new plant. It was developed by Canadian scientists in the middle of the 20th century. Its name is short for Canadian oil, low acid.
Corn oil and canola oil differ in their appearance. Corn oil typically has a deep yellow appearance, while canola oil is a lighter yellow.
You will find flavor differences between the two oils. Corn oil – including refined corn oil – has a very light flavor that is often described as buttery and which may also be likened to the taste of cornbread. Canola oil is closer to being a completely neutral cooking oil, which means that it is almost tasteless.
Corn oil and canola oil are both good sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. With cooking oils, the more monounsaturated fat a particular cooking oil has, the healthier it will be. Corn oil has half as much monounsaturated fat as canola oil. Even though both oils are low in saturated fat, corn oil does have twice as much of it as canola oil.
Can you use corn oil as a canola oil substitute and vice versa?
Corn oil is one of the best substitutes for canola oil for a few reasons. Corn oil has a mild enough flavor profile to not stand out too obviously in a dish that would normally be made with canola oil. It does have a buttery note that you won’t get from canola oil, which means that you may notice it in mildly flavored dishes and some baked goods.
In dishes with more robust flavors, it will be virtually indistinguishable from canola oil. It may not always be a perfect substitute, but it should be a reasonably good one in most recipes. The smoke point is not an issue since both of these oils will start smoking at about the same temperature.
Even though corn oil’s buttery flavor is generally considered an asset, it is rarely ever used because of it. In other words, it is not an important element in most dishes. Usually, a neutral oil is what cooks want when corn oil is required. As a result, canola oil’s ultra-neutral flavor profile makes it an excellent corn oil substitute in most dishes.
When should you use corn oil, and when should you use canola oil?
If you want the most benefit from its buttery flavor profile, use corn oil for shallow frying. It also works for Asian-style stir-frying, as a deep-frying oil or in raw preparations like vinaigrettes. Corn oil is also great for baking items where the buttery flavor won’t be out of place. Cornbread, cookies, and similar items are great examples of dishes that can benefit from it.
Because of how neutral it is, canola oil may be slightly better than corn oil for dishes where you want the ingredients to be the star and not the oil. Canola oil is excellent for stir-frying or deep-frying dishes, even those with mild-tasting ingredients.