Safflower oil is very similar to sunflower oil. In fact, these two popular cooking oils may have a lot more in common than they have differences. They come from plants in the same family and routinely get used for many of the same reasons, but they have some crucial differences as well. In this SPICEography Showdown, we look at how they compare to each other.
How does safflower oil differ from sunflower oil?
Safflower oil and sunflower oil come from plants with very different characteristics. Its blossoms have a round shape similar to chrysanthemum blooms, which is quite different from the disc-like appearance of sunflower blooms. The oil of each plant comes from its seeds, but those seeds differ a lot in appearance. Safflower seeds are white and similar to pumpkin seeds, while sunflower seeds are mostly black with white streaks.
The temperature at which a cooking oil begins to burn and break down is called the smoke point. Safflower oil has an extremely high smoke point of about 510 degrees Fahrenheit. It is safe up to that temperature. Sunflower oil is also known to have a high smoke point, but it is irrelevant since this oil is known to produce toxic aldehydes when it is heated above 180 degrees, so it may not need to reach its smoke point to be bad for you.
Safflower oil and sunflower oil have different nutritional profiles and, thus, different health benefits. Safflower oil won’t give you omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for heart health among several other important kinds of health.
Safflower oil does contain significant omega-6 fatty acids, which are important for health but are also already at high levels in the American diet. Too much omega-6 fatty acids can lead to inflammation and inflammation-related health problems, according to experts. Sunflower oil will provide you with omega-3s, thus maintaining a balance between those and the omega-6s.
Safflower oil contains less saturated fat than sunflower oil. Saturated fat is associated with clogged arteries and heart disease. On the other hand, high-oleic sunflower oil can provide more monounsaturated fat than safflower oil. Both safflower oil and sunflower oil will provide excellent amounts of vitamins E and K, but high-oleic sunflower oil will provide much more vitamin E than safflower oil.
Can you use safflower oil as a substitute for sunflower oil and vice versa?
In one sense, safflower oil and sunflower oil are virtually interchangeable in terms of flavor and most applications. They are both neutral-tasting and have high smoke points. However, safflower oil doesn’t produce aldehydes, which means that you shouldn’t ever replace it with sunflower oil unless you are using it in a raw application like a vinaigrette.
Safflower oil isn’t always a good substitute for sunflower oil. Sunflower oil will provide omega-3 fatty acids that you won’t get from safflower oil. If this is important to you, You may need to opt for another cooking oil with omega-3s instead of using safflower oil as a substitute.
When should you use safflower oil, and when should you use sunflower oil?
Use safflower oil when you need a neutral oil that can tolerate high temperatures. Use it to deep-fry and stir-fry.
Sunflower oil has a serious health drawback, which is its tendency to produce aldehydes even at moderate temperatures. Because of this, you will want to reserve it for raw applications where it won’t be exposed to heat at all.