16 Wonderful Substitutes for Vegetable Oil

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Knowing the best substitutes for vegetable oil is critical if you are in the kitchen and realize you are missing this key ingredient in so many recipes.

Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil is a triglyceride (a form of fat) that is extracted from a plant and used for a variety of culinary, industrial or medicinal purposes. More specifically, this type of oil is limited to those substances that remain a liquid at room temperature. Some of the most common types of vegetable oil are canola oil, cottonseed oil, and peanut oil, as well as combinations like canola, soybean, safflower, and palm oils. Depending on their concentration of fatty acids and antioxidants, some vegetable oils are healthier than others. These oils can be used in many different applications, both culinarily and medicinally.

Substitutes for Vegetable Oil

The most effective and popular vegetable oil substitutes include the following:

Let us discuss vegetable oil substitutes in detail below.

Butter

Butter can be a great substitute for vegetable oil in baked dishes and otherwise. Made from milk, it has a slightly creamier texture than the oil made out of vegetables. To make the best use of this substitute, you should melt it before use.

Several bottles of vegetable oil against a yellow background

Vegetable oils are low in saturated fats. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Margarine

With slightly fewer calories than butter, this is another ideal substitute for vegetable oil in cooking. Margarine is prepared with vegetable fat and you should make sure to melt it before adding it to any of your recipes.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is the most popular and healthy vegetable oil substitute, due to its high level of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. However, it is slightly heavier than vegetable oil and its taste is quite strong, so be careful if you are cooking a meal with delicate flavors.

Sesame Oil

This oil has one of the strongest flavors of any replacement for vegetable oil, so it should be used in limited quantities, mainly in sauces or oil mixtures. If you cook with this oil in normal meals, it will easily be the dominant flavor, which may not be desired. That being said, the oil is very healthy, much better than some saturated fat-filled vegetable oils.

Coconut Oil

Another favorite replacement for vegetable oil is coconut oil, as it shares many of the same beneficial volatile acids, but in higher concentrations. The unique flavor – nutty and light – make it appropriate for baked goods and sweets, as well as meat and vegetable dishes, making it an extremely versatile substitute for this common ingredient.

Applesauce

Although it doesn’t look much like oil, the sweetness and moist nature of these pureed apples can be ideal for replacing vegetable oil, particularly in baked goods. In savory dishes, however, a limited amount should be used to avoid overpowering the meal with sugar.

Mashed Fruit

Similar to applesauce, you can puree many other fruits, or simply mash them up – like a banana – and use them in a recipe in place of vegetable oils. Again, this is a better choice for sweet recipes, due to the high natural sugar content in fruit.

Beets

Nutrient-dense and delicious beets will provide moisture and a unique flavor to many recipes when used as a substitute for vegetable oil. While this is not appropriate for all recipes, it can be used when you are in a real pinch.

Greek Yogurt

One of the most popular replacements is Greek yogurt, as it can provide a unique sour bite to a dish, particularly in desserts and baked goods. The probiotics also help improve digestion, while contributing fewer calories to your diet than normal vegetable oil.

Avocados & Avocado Oil

Choose a soft avocado that is fully ripe, or one day past, and blend it up into a mash or paste. This can be substituted into recipes for brownies and will increase the nutrient density significantly. According to a 2019 research published the journal Molecules avocado oil has high amounts of monounsaturated oil and a desirable proportion of polyunsaturated fats, which makes it similar to olive oil’s composition. It also contains phytosterols and bioactive compounds. It can be used in high temperatures, making it suitable for cooking.

Tofu

Soft tofu is a surprisingly good replacement for the high-fat vegetable oils, offering a healthier and more protein-dense source of moisture in a recipe.

Black Beans

If you blend a can of black beans, it will create a mash that functions as a great vegetable oil substitute in savory dishes, and also boosts the protein and fiber content of the dish.

Mayonnaise

Most people forget that mayonnaise is basically just oil mixed with egg, so it is an excellent alternative to vegetable oil and will keep your baked goods moist and delicious.

Flaxseed Oil

According to the Penn State Health website, flaxseed oil contains beneficial omega-3, omega-6 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid, and DHA. However, Flaxseed oil should not be added prior to cooking. In research published in the Journal of the American Oil Chemist’s Society, it was found that flaxseed oil oxidizes at high temperatures and loses many of its beneficial values. Instead, it can be used as dressing for salads or in recipes where oil is added post-cooking.

Peanut Oil

Peanut oil makes for a great substitute for vegetable oil because of its high smoking point and neutral taste. According to an animal study published in the Journal of Food Science, peanut oil was found to reduce cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis risks.

Grapeseed oil

Grapeseed oil is a byproduct of winemaking. It is made from seeds of grapes left behind after the wine is made. A 2016 research published in the journal Nutritional and Metabolic Insight evaluated the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the oil.  The study found that even though the oil did contain these properties, their amount in the overall composition was very small. It has high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, making it unsuitable for high-heat cooking. It is better used in baking or as a salad dressing.

How to Substitute Vegetable Oil?

Given that some substitutes can have strong flavors themselves, it is important to choose the right substitutes if you are making more delicate recipes, such as baked goods and sweets.

  • Cake: The consistency of cake is key, so if you are lacking vegetable oil, try using applesauce or Greek yogurt, as they are known to be stabilizing for the mixture and will retain the sweetness you want.
  • Muffins: Maple syrup, honey or molasses can all be effective substitutes for vegetable oil when making muffins, although butter and margarine can also be effective.
  • Brownies: You want to ensure you keep the sweetness intact, so replacing vegetable oil with mashed bananas, butter, margarine or applesauce is recommended for these sweet treats if you don’t have the preferred oil on hand.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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