So many of our best memories center around food, friends, and family. Try experimenting with alternatives if you’d like to cook and bake your traditional meals while cutting down on unhealthy fats like vegetable oil. These seven ingredients make great swaps for vegetable oil in almost any recipe, and many add a depth of flavor that will enhance your meal.
Coconut oil has made headlines recently for its versatility—skincare, nutrition, home improvement, you name it. Made by pressing the flesh of fresh coconuts, this oil reduces inflammation and can prevent heart disease and high blood pressure. The fats in coconut oil are simpler for our bodies to process than vegetable oil, thus providing a more efficient energy burn. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so make sure to heat it to a liquid before cooking or baking with it. The naturally sweet and nutty flavor complements desserts and baked goods well, like in this recipe for vegan and gluten-free chocolate cupcakes.
Olive oil is a staple in many kitchens, so it easy to use it as a substitute for vegetable oil. Because olive oil retains many of its nutrients (like antioxidants) during processing, it passes those along to your food; in contrast, vegetable oil has almost no nutrients. With its intense flavor that’s sometimes peppery, grassy, or a bit acidic, make sure that you’re using it in recipes where the flavor isn’t overpowering. For a flavorful entrée option, try this delicious crispy-skinned fish recipe. The richness of the olive oil complements the fish without overpowering it, and you can use the extra drizzles on your plate for dipping bread! And if you’re feeling adventurous, olive oil cake is a one-of-a-kind dessert that is impressive enough for any occasion. Try this citrus version for a flavor profile that’s light yet decadent.
Like coconut and olive oils, avocado oil is high in heart-healthy fats that can reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. In addition, avocado oil has lutein, a nutrient essential for eye health that comes only from food (our body doesn’t naturally produce it). With these great health benefits, it’s a bonus that avocado oil also has a high smoke temperature (so you can fry with it), creamy texture (so it’s good for baking), and mild flavor (great with a range of ingredients). Use it in air fryer recipes like these delicious brussels sprouts or heartier dishes like a quinoa and black bean salad.
Ghee is a clarified butter used in many traditional dishes worldwide, including in Ayurvedic preparations. Because of its extremely high smoking point, the molecules in ghee stay intact for all of your frying and high-heat applications. This means you retain the nutrients and don’t get any potentially dangerous cell-damaging free radicals (unstable elements). With heart-healthy fats and antioxidants, ghee is a great substitute for vegetable oil. Try using ghee to drizzle over your popcorn next time!
A less common alternative, flaxseed oil has many health benefits that vegetable oil does not—it can reduce cholesterol and may help lower the risk of heart disease, among others. Because flaxseed oil is not heat-stable, it’s not a good option for baking or frying. However, flaxseed oil makes a great addition to salad dressings and other low-temperature foods and adds a nutty flavor. Try this delicious take on a Waldorf salad that highlights the flaxseed flavor.
An alternative to vegetable oil that’s not an oil itself, yogurt is one of the best swaps for baked goods. The natural fats will make your creations extra moist. Even though the consistencies are different, you can substitute yogurt in a 1:1 ratio when recipes call for vegetable oil. To get the optimal health benefits from this switch, opt for plain Greek yogurt that’s high in protein. This Greek yogurt coffee cake is an excellent way to take advantage of this delicious ingredient swap.
If you’re looking for another alternative to vegetable oil in baked goods, try applesauce (or any mashed or pureed fruit or vegetable). If you mash the fruit with the skin on, you’ll be including a good serving of fiber in your recipe along with the other nutrients from the fruit (vitamins A, C, and antioxidants are typical). Using fruit will also cut down on fats, and you can use them to replace some of the sugar in the recipe, too! Because mashed fruits can have a strong flavor, choose your swap wisely, and use about half the amount of oil called for. You can make these banana muffins and swap the oil for applesauce, use whole wheat flour, and reduce the sugar—a healthy breakfast or snack!
Whether you’re sautéing, frying, baking, or blending, these vegetable oil alternatives are healthier options for your whole family.