Safflower oil and olive oil are two common cooking oils with several properties in common and many differences. Here is a look at how they compare to each other in this SPICEography Showdown.
How does safflower oil differ from olive oil?
Safflower oil and olive oil come from different plants. Safflower oil is extracted from the seeds of the safflower plant, a plant in the sunflower family. Olive oil is pressed from the olive fruit, which originated in the Middle East and other regions.
Safflower oil and olive oil taste different in most cases. Safflower oil is renowned for its neutrality. It is low on flavor and does not interfere with the flavors of ingredients. Olive oil can differ in taste and flavor intensity depending on the type.
For example, extra virgin olive oil has a grassy taste with hints of pepper. With refined (light-tasting) olive oils, the flavor profile might be closer to safflower oil since those oils are not as strongly flavored.
Safflower oil and olive oil burn at different temperatures. The smoke point of refined safflower oil (the most common kind) is very high at about 510 degrees Fahrenheit. It has one of the highest smoke points of any cooking oil.
The smoke point of olive oil depends on the kind of olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point that lies in the 350-degree to 375-degree range, but refined (light-tasting) olive oil can be used at temperatures as high as 475 degrees.
Safflower oil and olive oil have different health effects. While both are generally considered to be healthy oils, they are not both healthy in the same ways. Safflower oil is not a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for heart health and brain health along with the proper functioning of many other bodily systems.
In comparison, olive oil does contain omega-3 fatty acids. Safflower oil contains less of the saturated fat that is associated with clogged arteries when compared to olive oil but slightly more of the healthy monounsaturated fat. While both safflower oil and olive oil are rich in vitamin E, you get considerably more of it from the same serving size of safflower oil than olive oil.
Can you use safflower oil as a substitute for olive oil and vice versa?
Safflower oil won’t be a good substitute for extra virgin olive oil, which is usually used with its flavor profile in mind. Safflower oil is neutral and won’t provide the distinctive notes of cold-pressed olive oil. It won’t give the most important health benefits either.
Safflower oil can replace refined olive oil that should be used at high temperatures, and that is closer to having a neutral flavor. This is where safflower oil shines since it has less of a taste than light-tasting olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil won’t be a good alternative to safflower oil unless you are trying to add more flavor to a dish. If that’s the case, it may work in some applications. Not only will it enhance flavor, but it will improve the dish’s nutritional profile as well. You will need to serve the dish raw or cook it at a low temperature.
When should you use safflower oil, and when should you use olive oil?
Use safflower oil in stir-fried dishes and for deep-frying where its smoke point matters more than its flavor. Use extra virgin olive oil in dishes that you won’t be cooking at high temperatures and where you want the distinctive olive flavor. Use refined olive oil for the health benefits from olive oil that you can’t get from safflower oil.