Ah, the aroma and mouthfeel of olive oil. To you, there’s quite nothing like it, but what do you do if you run out of olive oil in the middle of cooking dinner? Can you rely on a substitute oil? What other kinds of oil could you use instead?
Any of the following oils make a suitable substitute for olive oil:
- Walnut oil
- Avocado oil
- Vegetable oil
- Canola oil
- Sunflower oil
- Coconut oil
- Peanut oil
- Safflower oil
- Wheat germ oil
- Soybean oil
- Argan oil
- Marula oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Corn oil
- Almond oil
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through each of the above 16 olive oil substitutes. You’ll learn what they are, where they come from, what they taste like, and which dishes to cook with them.
16 Olive Oil Substitutes to Use When Cooking
The first substitute you can try for olive oil is walnut oil. As the name tells you, this is sourced from the humble walnut or Juglans regia. Its composition is nine percent saturated fat, 13 percent oleic acid, 85 percent linoleic acid, 14 percent alpha-linoleic acid, and 72 percent total fats, including polyunsaturated fat.
Here’s a fun fact about walnut oil: many of those Renaissance paintings you admire today used walnut oil. It didn’t take long to dry, so it was ideal for cleaning paintbrushes and to thin the paint base.
If you consume walnut oil, you’ll quite appreciate the nutty aroma and flavor, which is imparted even in liquid form. Avoid using walnut oil if you need to cook at high temperatures though. The oil can become somewhat bitter in flavor then, and the nuttiness is lessened as well.
Compared to the average bottle of olive oil, you’ll spend more on walnut oil. The cold-pressed stuff is among the costliest. Most walnut oil comes from California, more than 99 percent of it in the United States.
You’ll reach for walnut oil most when garnishing salads, pasta, steak, or fish. Some people even enjoy a dash of the stuff in desserts!
If you’re as gaga about avocados as most people are, try the fruit in a different form, such as oil! Avocado oil involves harvesting and pressing avocados to procure their juices. The pit is never used for avocado oil manufacturing.
The smoke point of avocado oil is pretty generous, so feel free to heat it up. If you have a bottle of refined avocado oil, you can warm it to 520 degrees Fahrenheit before it begins smoking. Unrefined avocado oil has a slightly lower smoke point of 482 degrees.
The vitamin E and monounsaturated fat content of avocado oil, both of which are quite high, makes this a healthy oil to use for lunches and dinners. When combined with other ingredients, you can absorb nutrients and carotenoids easier thanks to the inclusion of the avocado oil.
Avocado oil doesn’t have the strongest flavor on its own; it’s actually quite adept at carrying other tastes. That mild flavor makes it useful for all sorts of dishes, such as in cold soup, hummus, roasted vegetables, homemade mayonnaise, grilled meat, and salad. You could even add a dollop in a healthy smoothie.
Like walnut oil, all of avocado oil’s uses aren’t exclusively edible. It’s a great moisturizer and may even regenerate the skin, so it appears in a lot of cosmetics as a lubricant. If you incorporate avocado oil into your skincare routine, you might be quite happy with the results.
If you don’t have olive oil in your pantry, then surely there’s at least vegetable oil. Despite the name, this comes from fruit parts, such as seeds. Ideal for use when baking and cooking, vegetable oil is like avocado oil in that it can transfer flavors. It’s also great for making pastries, as it gives shortening the crumbliness it needs in most pastry recipes.
The smoke point of vegetable oil is 450 degrees, so you can do some pretty heavy-duty cooking with this oil. Vegetable oils also contain more polyunsaturated fats than saturated fats, aka the fats that are good for heart health. It’s even believed that you may be able to ward off heart disease in part by choosing vegetable oil over other oils that are heavier in saturated fats.
Another olive oil alternative to try is canola oil. This is technically a vegetable oil that comes from rapeseed, a type of flower with a distinct yellow hue.
Compared to colza oil, which is produced from the same flower, canola oil has less erucic acid. This acid appears in many wallflower seeds and could cause myocardial lipidosis, a heart condition, if consumed in large enough quantities. The Canola Council of Canada states that canola oil has under two percent erucic acid.
To produce canola oil, the rapeseed flower gets heated up and then crushed. Hexane solvent allows for extraction of the canola oil, especially for commercial applications. Next, water precipitation refines the canola oil, then an organic acid takes out any free fatty acids. Finally, the oil gets deodorized.
The result is an oil with a very pale yellow hue and a slightly nutty, floral flavor that many describe as fresh. You can even shop expeller-pressed and cold-pressed canola oils, although maybe not on the average grocery store shelf.
Canola oil goes with a variety of dishes, such as salad dressing, popcorn, homemade mayonnaise, and meats, especially for searing.
From one flower-based oil to another, next, we’ve got sunflower oil. The Helianthus annuus or sunflower is the main source of this oil, specifically the flower’s seeds. Sunflower oil includes oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat, as well as the polyunsaturated fat known as linoleic acid.
Manufacturers are sometimes picky about the amount of fatty acids that go into the final product, but most sunflower oils tend to have a pale amber hue. The oil, which boasts a lot of vitamin E, also has a flavor that many describe as mild and somewhat nutty. You can heat sunflower oil safely to 450 degrees, which is pretty standard among olive oil substitutes.
The production process entails using an expeller press to squeeze the sunflower seeds until their oil can be extracted. Other manufacturers will rely on hexane chemical solvents to separate the oil from the seeds. Some sunflower oil is cold-pressed, and you can also buy refined sunflower oil.
The refined variety has a higher smoke point, but it’s at the expense of color, taste, and nutrients.
If you’re making your own fries or potato chips, sunflower oil can coat these so they get nice and crispy in the oven. It’s also suitable for vegetable stir-frying, making Yorkshire puddings, and many other recipes that call for butter.
Interestingly, if you combine sunflower oil with diesel, the oil can act as a source of fuel for diesel engine vehicles. Who knew?
Coconut oil starts as a solid but can be melted into a liquid state. This oil, which comes from the tropical fruit the coconut, is known for its lengthy shelf life. This is due to the saturated fat within, which is enough that oxidation occurs at a slower rate, making coconut oil slower to turn rancid. Your coconut oil will last on average six months if kept at around 75 degrees.
Manufacturers rely on two methods for producing coconut oil, the wet or dry process. The wet process begins with coconut milk instead of the whole coconut itself. The milk’s proteins allow emulsification to occur. This can sometimes make it hard to recapture the oil, with boiling once preferred. These days, manufacturers will use pre-treatments and centrifuges, as they’re safer.
Dry coconut oil processing entails removing the coconut meat from the fruit’s shell. Then, that meat gets dried out into copra, the specific name for dried coconut kernels, or the coconut palm’s fruit.
The copra, now mixed with solvents, gets dissolved or pressed into a mashed substance that’s high in fiber and protein. You don’t eat the mash, but rather, the oils get extracted from it.
Coconut oil has a lot of saturated fat, especially compared to other types of oil. You should consume it as seldom as you can per recommendations from the Dietitians of Canada, the British Nutrition Foundation, the British National Health Service, the American Dietetic Association, the American Heart Association, the United States Food and Drug Administration, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and the World Health Organization.
If you must use coconut oil, it’s great for greasing up a baking pan and substituting vegetable oil or butter when baking and cooking.
Another common oil type, peanut oil goes by such names as arachis or groundnut oil. Favored around the world, especially in Southeast Asia, China, and the US, peanut oil has a distinct orangey hue and a smell and flavor that’s richly nutty.
Much like sunflower oil, peanut oil was once used as a fuel source. It too could power vehicles with a diesel engine. If you don’t want to eat it, peanut oil also makes a handy ingredient for producing soap or as a makeshift massage oil.
Getting back to the edibility of peanut oil, its smoke point when unrefined is 320 degrees, so it’s fairly lower than some other olive oil substitutes we’ve covered. By purchasing refined peanut oil, you get a higher smoke point of 450 degrees.
Per 100 grams of peanut oil, you’re ingesting 100 grams of fat, 15.7 grams of vitamin E, 17 grams of saturated fat, 46 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 32 grams of polyunsaturated fat. Olive oil has more fats except for polyunsaturated fats.
When you’re sautéing and frying your favorite foods, reach for the peanut oil. Roasting a dish with a dollop of peanut oil brings out the nutty aroma and taste that much more. It’s also great for livening up mild dishes that need a kick of flavor.
The safflower or Carthamus tinctorius is the plant in which safflower oil is sourced from. This herbaceous annual is almost like a thistle. Like many other flowers used to produce oil, the safflower is distinctly yellow. Of course, oil manufacturers aren’t interested in the pretty petals, but rather, the seeds themselves.
It’s believed that of all the old crops on our planet, safflower may have one of the longest histories. The ancient Egyptians would use it to dye textiles, and by the time the Spanish colonies were established, saffron was consumed.
Safflower oil may contain more polyunsaturated fatty acids or monounsaturated acids depending on the production methods used. Most commercial safflower oil products are higher in oleic acid or monounsaturated fat. Another perk is that safflower oil contains less saturated fat compared to olive oil.
When using safflower oil, you’ll notice it has no distinctive color, nor does it possess much of a flavor. It’s still great for sautéing, stir-frying, and cooking dishes like eggs. You can also cook with it at quite a high temperature, as its smoke point is 510 degrees.
Wheat Germ Oil
You may not be as familiar with wheat germ oil, but it’s another suitable olive oil substitute. It comes from the wheat kernel, specifically its germ. No, this doesn’t mean germs as in illness-causing bacteria, but rather, the seed’s embryo. The germ allows wheat to grow.
Producing wheat germ oil isn’t the simplest thing, as the germ comprises only a small portion of the wheat kernel’s overall weight, 2.5 percent. Per 100 grams of the oil, it also contains seven grams of omega-3 linolenic acid, 14 grams of oleic acid, 16 grams of palmitic acid, and 55 grams of omega-5 linoleic acid.
Wheat germ oil also has octacosanol, a type of saturated primary alcohol with a carbon chain that’s 28 parts long. It may be able to assist in athletic performance, but more research is needed to prove that.
You should not cook or fry foods using wheat germ oil, as doing so removes most of its nutrients. Instead, use it on pastas, vegetables, and salads, pouring it on cold.
The Glycine max or soybean is the basis for soybean oil, a type of vegetable oil. No other cooking oils are as popular as this one, as its use is quite widespread. You may even have some soybean oil in your kitchen pantry right now.
When entering manufacturing, the soybeans get cracked open and then warmed up to temperatures between 140 and 190 degrees. After their heat treatment, what remains of the beans become flakes through rolling. Hexanes and other solvents extract the oil from the flakes. From there, the soybeans go through a refiner, blender, and maybe a hydrogenator.
Soybean oil contains 10 percent palmitic acid, four percent stearic acid, 23 percent monounsaturated oleic acid, and 51 percent linoleic acid. Its smoke point is 453 degrees, making soybean oil good for sautéing, roasting, baking, frying, and cooking.
If you’re still digging around for olive oil substitutes, you can always give argan oil a try. This comes from the Argania spinosa L. or the argan tree that grows in Morocco. That country has long since used argan oil, garnishing their pasta, couscous, and even some breakfasts with it.
The US started adding argan oil to cosmetics back in 2003, and the trend has caught on ever since. Some of the hair products you have in your bathroom right now might list argan oil as an ingredient.
When manufacturing argan oil for consumption, the tree’s nuts are harvested. These contain argan kernels, at least three per nut. The nuts entrap most of the oil, 30 to 50 percent each. When opening the argan fruit, they must be allowed to dry outside. Then, their pulp gets removed to free the kernels. Next, the kernels move to a roaster. Once they cool, they’re broken down to release the oil.
Argan oil has a nutty flavor, unless you toast it, and then it’s somewhat creamy. You might use it when baking brownies, roasting vegetables, making dried fruit, toasting cheese, grilling fish, prepping spicy sauces, or garnishing salad dressings.
Another type of oil you might try in lieu of olive oil is marula. This comes from the marula tree or Sclerocarya birrea. Depending on how marula oil is manufactured, it’s sourced from other the shell or the seeds themselves.
Outside of its use as an edible oil, marula oil is sometimes favored as a leather treatment as well as in cosmetics. It’s mostly comprised of monounsaturated fatty acids for better stability.
Marula oil has saturated fats such as arachidonic acid at 0.3 to 0.7 percent, stearic acid at five to eight percent, and palmitic acid at nine to 12 percent. Its polyunsaturated fats are alpha-linolenic acid at 0.1 to 0.7 percent and linoleic acid at four to seven percent. The oleic acid, or its monosaturated fat, makes up 70 to 78 percent of marula oil overall. The other ingredients include catechins, gallotannin, procyanidin, flavonoids, sterols, and tocopherols.
Nuttiness and fruitness blend to form the basis of marula oil’s flavor and aroma. It’s also pale yellow in color.
If you still need some suggestions on what to replace olive oil with, grapeseed oil is a pretty good pick. As you might have been able to guess by the name, grapeseed oil comes from grapes. Their seeds are mashed until you get a liquid that has a pale-yellow hue.
Grapeseed oil doesn’t taste like wine, even though it’s considered a wine byproduct. Instead, it has a light flavor that’s sometimes described as clean. With its smoke point of 421 degrees, you can feel free to cook all sorts of dishes with grapeseed oil, including baked goods. Try this oil with waffles and pancakes especially.
Other uses of grapeseed oil include an infusion base for spices and herbs like rosemary and garlic, as an ingredient in homemade mayo, and in a tasty salad dressing.
The composition of grapeseed oil is mostly polyunsaturated fat, with 69.6 percent of that linolenic acid, 15.8 percent oleic acid, seven percent palmitic acid, four percent stearic acid, 0.1 percent alpha-linolenic acid, and very small quantities of palmitoleic acid.
In an average serving of grapeseed oil, you may ingest unsaponifiables that contain steroids such as stigmasterol, beta-sitosterol, and campesterol as well as phenols like tocopherols. The quantity of these is 0.8 percent to 1.5 percent. You even find some vitamin E in grapeseed oil.
Maize oil or corn oil is another option to consider. This amber-hued oil is taken from the corn’s germ, much like wheat germ oil. It’s one of the top oil picks for frying because corn oil’s smoke point is as high as 450 degrees. That gives you great cooking and baking freedom when you’re working with corn oil in the kitchen.
Besides its high smoke point, another benefit of corn oil is its cost. Compared to its other vegetable oil brethren, corn oil tends to cost less. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly vegetable oil then, you may have found it.
Outside of its edible uses, corn oil is used to make insecticides, nitroglycerin, textiles, inks, erasers, paint, salve, soap, and biodiesel. The oil may be able to treat metal surfaces so they’re less likely to rust. Corn oil has also been known to appear in the world of pharmaceuticals, typically as a carrier for some drug molecules.
Almonds are a great snack to reach for if you want satiety, but you don’t necessarily have to consume your almonds whole. You can also stock your pantry shelves with almond oil, which has a pale color not unlike grapeseed oil.
When taking the dry mass as fat of the almond kernel, as much as half can be made into an oil. As an oil, almond oil contains saturated fatty acids such as palmitic acid at a rate of 10 percent, linolenic acid at a rate of 13 percent, and monounsaturated oleic acid at a rate of 32 percent. You can also ingest plenty of vitamin E through some of this oil, as almond oil may contain as much as 261 percent of the vitamin in a 100-millimeter quantity.
If you’re ever out of corn oil and you don’t have any olive oil at home either, almond oil can act as a suitable substitute for both. Almond oil also has a smoke point of 450 degrees, so use it when you would corn oil.
The last olive oil replacement we want to discuss isn’t even an oil at all. It’s ghee, a type of clarified butter that hails from ancient India. Common to that region’s cuisine, ghee has also expanded to appear in foods native to Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern cultures.
To make your own ghee, you want to hand-churn butter, preferably from a type of cream known as dahi, an Indian fermented milk product. As you churn the cream, focus on the outermost layer of the dahi especially. Make sure you remove impurities as they rise to the surface.
After churning, you can pour the butter mixture into another container. There, its clear liquid fat will remain, but you don’t want to keep any solid residue at the bottom of the container. You can then eat the ghee as is or combine it with spices. Ghee can look different color-wise and texturally based on which source of milk you use and how you prepare it. The taste is also affected. You have one of the highest smoke points when cooking with ghee, 482 hot degrees.
Can You Substitute Olive Oil For Vegetable Oil?
Let’s say you have the opposite issue than the one we’ve described in this whole article. You have plenty of olive oil but no vegetable oil. Is olive oil a suitable substitute for vegetable oil?
Not only is it suitable, but we’d say it’s preferable. The taste and quality of olive oil, especially virgin and extra virgin, far exceeds vegetable oil. Make sure that when you swap out vegetable oil, you add in the same amount of olive oil to your recipes.
Can Substitute Olive Oil For Butter?
Oh no! You’re out of butter. You could have sworn you bought some at the grocery store, yet when you scour your fridge, you can’t find any. Does this mean you have to cancel that big dinner or the nice dessert you wanted to make?
Not at all! Use a 3:4 ratio to exchange olive oil for butter. That means that 225 grams or one cup of butter can be replaced with 180 millilitres or ¾ cups of olive oil.