Corn oil and vegetable oil are a couple of affordable cooking oils that are known for their versatility. They have mild flavors and won’t burn at high temperatures. They are believed by many to be relatively healthy but are they interchangeable? Are there any significant differences between them? The SPICEography Showdown below takes a closer look.
How does corn oil differ from vegetable oil?
Corn oil and vegetable oil have different sources. Corn oil is technically a vegetable oil since it does come from a plant, but it comes only from one plant: the corn plant (also known as the maize plant) and the cereal grain that grows on that plant.
Vegetable oil is usually a blend of plant-based cooking oils, but in most cases, it will be particularly heavy on soybean oil and canola oil. Some blends may even contain corn oil. Its composition varies from blend to blend, so there is no one definitive vegetable oil.
Because the composition of vegetable oil can differ depending on the kind of vegetable oil, the health benefits can vary as well. The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat content of vegetable oil can vary because it may be made up of soybean, canola oil, or any other blend of plant-based oils.
If the oil is canola based, it is likely to contain more monounsaturated fats than corn oil and lower levels of polyunsaturated fat and saturated fat. If it is soybean-based, vegetable oil may have roughly the same amount of all of those compounds as corn oil.
Corn oil is a good source of vitamin E, as are both forms of vegetable oil. It is not a good source of vitamin K, which you can find in canola- and soybean-based vegetable oils.
Corn oil has a mild buttery flavor that some people liken to the taste of cornmeal. Vegetable oil is likely to have a neutral flavor profile since the oils used to make it will have been filtered and deodorized.
Corn oil is typically a noticeably deeper yellow than most other cooking oils, including most kinds of vegetable oil, which is usually paler and champagne colored.
Can you use corn oil as a substitute for vegetable oil and vice versa?
Because it has a relatively mild flavor profile, corn oil can stand in for vegetable oil in most applications, whether that vegetable oil is made mainly with canola or soybean oil. It will work as an alternative in both uncooked dishes and those cooked over high temperatures. Corn oil and vegetable oil are high-temperature oils with smoke points above 400 degrees Fahrenheit, so they are interchangeable for deep-frying and stir-frying.
Vegetable oil usually has an even more neutral flavor than corn oil, which makes it an excellent corn oil substitute.
When should you use corn oil, and when should you use vegetable oil?
Corn oil is mild enough to use for most applications without being too obtrusive; however, it is best for baking where its flavor can enhance everything from brownies to cornbread. That said, it will work in everything from salad dressing to shallow-fried dishes.
Because of its ultra-clean and neutral flavor profile, you should use vegetable oil when you want your ingredients to shine instead of the oil they were cooked in. Use it for mild-tasting ingredients that might be obscured by a flavorful oil. It is also one of your best choices for stir-frying and deep-frying.