Peanut oil and canola oil are both popular general-purpose cooking oils. They are relatively healthy, and the refined versions have neutral or almost-neutral flavors that make them suitable for a wide range of cuisines and ingredients. When deciding between them, consider the information in the SPICEography Showdown below.
How does peanut oil differ from canola oil?
Peanut oil and canola oil come from different places. Peanut oil is extracted from peanut kernels, which are legumes. Most of the peanut oil that you will see in grocery stores has been processed and refined, but there are cold-pressed peanut oils that retain many of the peanut’s flavors and nutrients. Gourmet peanut oil is made with roasted peanuts and is highly flavorful and aromatic.
Canola oil is made from a variety of rapeseed that was bred for its mild flavor. Most of the canola oil used in the world is refined, which means that it is odorless and tasteless, but you may be able to find cold-pressed canola oil in some specialty stores. Cold-pressed canola oil has a more robust and buttery flavor profile.
Peanut oil and canola oil have different smoke points, which are the temperatures at which they emit toxic smoke. Peanut oil has a significantly higher smoke point of 450 degrees Fahrenheit while canola oil smokes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Both are considered suitable for high-temperature cooking, but you can go a little hotter with peanut oil.
Peanut oil and canola oil differ when it comes to their effects on health. Peanut oil does contain more saturated fat than canola oil, which means that it is not quite as good for your heart. It is also rich in both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Both of those are beneficial for heart health.
Refined peanut oil is usually more expensive than refined canola oil, which is one of the least expensive cooking oils on the market.
Can you use peanut oil as a substitute for canola oil and vice versa?
Refined peanut oil is an excellent substitute for refined canola oil. Both are flavorless, and peanut oil’s extra-high smoke point will work in any stir-fried or deep-fried dish that requires canola oil.
Because of peanut oil’s saturated fat content, you may not want to use peanut oil as a long-term substitute for canola oil. Still, it should be acceptable as an emergency alternative. While gourmet peanut oil may work in some of the dishes that require cold-pressed canola oil, it will dramatically change the flavor profile.
Refined canola oil can work as a substitute for refined peanut oil except in dishes that you need to cook over very high temperatures. The 50 degrees difference between the two oil’s smoke points may make a difference in a handful of recipes. Refined canola oil won’t work in many dishes that require the more flavorful peanut oils since its flavor profile is so different.
When should you use peanut oil, and when should you use canola oil?
Peanut oil is best when you need to cook at very high temperatures. The fact that it contains saturated fat means that you should reserve it for occasional deep-fried and stir-fried foods to protect your health. Use the more flavorful peanut oils like gourmet peanut oil for finishing dishes.
Canola oil works better as an all-purpose cooking oil. You can use it to deep-fry and stir-fry, but it is also versatile enough to be used for baking or in vinaigrettes as well.