Vegetable oil is easy to find and affordable. It has a high smoke point — the point at which heated cooking oil emits smoke — and a neutral flavor profile. Its flavorlessness is an asset since you can use it for cooking a variety of ingredients in many different styles. If you find yourself out of it unexpectedly, try one of the vegetable oil substitutes below.
Your best bet: Canola oil
With its high smoke point and neutral flavor profile, canola oil is easily the best vegetable oil substitute in existence. The vegetable oil that you will find in grocery stores is usually made up mostly of canola oil along with oils from other sources.
It is unlikely that anyone using canola oil in place of vegetable oil will be able to tell the difference. Not only do these two cooking oils match up perfectly in terms of how they would be used, but they are also both affordable.
Canola oil comes from a kind of rapeseed that has been bred to minimize unpleasant taste and undesirable health effects. Canola oil’s health benefits may make it an upgrade from vegetable oil. Canola oil has high levels of monounsaturated fat and low levels of saturated fat. Monounsaturated fat can improve cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
The downside of canola oil is that it is often lower in nutrients than other oils because of how much processing it undergoes.
A decent second choice: Avocado oil
Like vegetable oil, avocado oil has a high smoke point, so you can use it for stir-fried dishes. Its flavor profile is also mild, like vegetable oil, which means it won’t stand out in dishes and dominate the flavors of other ingredients. It does have a nutty, buttery note in its flavor profile, but this shouldn’t be a problem in most recipes that require vegetable oil.
Avocado oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and vitamin E. You can use avocado oil in most applications that require vegetable oil. Use it to make mayonnaise or add vinegar and seasonings to it to create a vinaigrette.
Avocado oil has a significant downside in that it is quite a bit more expensive than vegetable oil. Vegetable oil is a budget cooking oil that is widely affordable.
In a pinch: Grapeseed oil
The grapeseeds from which grapeseed oil is extracted are leftovers from winemaking. The seeds are separated from the rest of the grape after the wine is pressed and cooking oil is extracted from them. Grapeseed oil has a high smoke point and a neutral flavor very much like that of vegetable oil. It is a rich source of omega-6 fatty acids, making it a healthier option than some forms of vegetable oil like shortening.
You can use grapeseed oil in most of the same applications as vegetable oil. It is commonly used in vinaigrettes as an alternative to extra virgin olive oil because it is less expensive and does not have extra virgin olive oil’s strong flavors.
Grapeseed oil’s drawback is that while it is cheaper than extra virgin olive oil, it is more expensive than vegetable oil. While omega-6 fatty acids are important for heart health, experts recommend that you consume them in moderation. Too much omega-6 can cause inflammation.
Sunflower seed oil is pressed from sunflower seeds and has a high smoke point. While its flavor profile is not as neutral as vegetable oil’s, it is understated enough to work well in many of the same applications. It works well for deep-frying and baking without dominating other flavors.