You’ve done your grocery shopping, gathered your ingredients and just as you’re ready to cook or bake something delicious, you realize you’re out of vegetable oil. Don’t worry — there’s no need to ditch the recipe or make a panic trip to the store. Chances are you have a suitable substitute for vegetable oil in your pantry already. Bonus: it just might enhance your dish.
Depending on what you’re cooking, some oil substitutes are better than others. Take deep-frying for instance: It’s important to consider an oil’s smoke point, which is the temperature the oil can reach before it begins to smoke and degrade. The more an oil breaks down, the closer it gets to its flash point, which could ignite and start a kitchen fire. So, the higher the smoke point, the safer you are to fry with it.
In other cases, taste might play a factor. Some recipes may call for a neutral oil while others could benefit from a flavorful one. And when it comes to baking, there are some surprising swaps that still produce moist and tender results. Here’s our all-encompassing guide to cooking and baking with vegetable oil alternatives.
Vegetable oil substitutes for cooking
Canola, corn, grapeseed, safflower and sunflower oils
Chances are you have at least one of these in your pantry. All of these oils are considered “neutral,” meaning they don’t have a distinct flavor. They’re the most seamless substitutes for vegetable oil, which is also considered to be a neutral oil. Subbing any of these plant-based oils with vegetable oil is the closest you’ll get to the original ask. You can easily make a 1:1 swap for vegetable oil using any of these varieties.
If frying is your end game, peanut oil is the gold standard when it comes to smoke point, as the temperature can reach as high as 450 F. The other neutral oils previously listed are great for frying, too, but have a lower smoke point (in the 400 to 450 F range). When frying, it’s important to choose a refined oil as opposed to an unrefined one. A refined oil has been processed to remove particles, resulting in a neutral flavor and higher smoke point. Unrefined oils are not to be confused with unfiltered oils, which we’ll get to later. It is not mandatory to label oils as refined, but you’ll typically know when it isn’t, as it’ll read “unrefined,” “pure” or “raw.”
Light Olive Oil
Speaking of refined oils, this one fits the bill. Light olive oil is the result of processing virgin olive oil, which lightens its hue from green to yellow. Refinement also removes a number of the health properties for which extra-virgin and virgin olive oil is known. Sometimes light olive oil is mixed with other plant-based oils before bottling. This one isn't the best for frying due to its high smoke point, but it is delicious in its raw state.
A staple of Indian cooking, ghee is essentially clarified butter, which means that the milk solids have been removed. Doing so makes this animal-based fat a great substitute for sautéing and stir-frying, as it’s less likely to burn when using high heat. Bonus: If you’re looking to inject a little flavor in your dish, this is the way to do it.
Other animal fats
Lard, duck fat, schmaltz (chicken fat) and tallow (beef fat) are all animal-based fats that can be used in place of vegetable oil, depending on the application. Each one will add its own flavor, so you wouldn’t treat it a neutral oil, but could use it where those flavors might enhance a dish. Many of these fats are associated with recipes that have specific cultural roots — for example, lard is often found in recipes from the American South, from biscuits to fried chicken, and schmaltz is commonly used in Jewish cooking (hello matzo ball soup!) — but they obviously transcend these origins.
Vegetable oil substitutes for baking
This is an obvious swap for baked goods. However, you might need to do a little work to determine the best method for incorporating it. Most of the time, using a 1:1 swap of melted butter in place of vegetable oil works just fine, but sometimes creaming a softened stick with sugar enhances the results of the baked good (as in a fluffier cake or an airier cookie). Don’t forget to choose unsalted butter to control the saltiness of your recipe.
There are two types of coconut oil: refined and unrefined. Like other refined oils such as light olive oil, the processing creates a more neutral flavor, so it’s best to go this route if you don’t want to taste coconut in your food. However, if coconut could be a complementary flavor, choose unrefined. Besides flavor and smoke point, the other big difference is that refined oils are stripped of a lot of the nutrients of the oil in its raw state. Coconut oil solidifies at room temperature, so you might need to melt it on the stovetop or in the microwave before mixing into a batter.
Applesauce and mashed bananas
Both of these fruits can be used as a partial substitute for vegetable oil in baked goods. We don’t recommend a full swap — try half fruit and half oil or butter — for the best results. (Fat is still needed to create moistness.) Some recipes intentionally call for mashed fruit to make them more heart-healthy, but this swap works even when you’re out of oil.
Greek yogurt, sour cream and buttermilk
Using some full-fat dairy products in place of vegetable oil works great in baked goods. Vegetable oil can be replaced with a 1:1 swap of Greek yogurt or sour cream — just keep in mind that the tartness of these products might alter the flavor profile of the baked goods. If you want to try buttermilk, use ¾ cup buttermilk with ¼ cup of oil or melted butter to equal one cup of oil.
Yup, you read that correctly! Mayonnaise contains a magical list of ingredients, including eggs, oil and vinegar, all of which lend themselves to delivering moist and super-tender baked goods. Generally, a 1:1 swap of mayo for oil will work everytime.
Vegetable oil substitutes for salad dressing
If you’re looking to substitute vegetable oil with another neutral oil, using refined avocado oil is a great choice for salad dressings because of its flavor. (Bonus: it also has a high smoke point, so you can also use it for high heat cooking.) However, if you’re looking to maximize health benefits and don’t mind a slightly nutty flavor, opt for unrefined avocado oil — from a flavor perspective, it’s not as seamless of a match for vegetable oil, but it’s definitely a tastier one.
Extra-virgin olive oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is the poster child of healthy cooking oils and is no stranger to even the most green cooks. It’s unrefined and the highest quality olive oil, bottled just after the first press. Extra-virgin olive oil is a great substitute for vegetable oil in dressings and other recipes that don’t require a neutral oil — its peppery-ness perks up everything it touches. Some brands sell unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil, a cloudy oil that some people claim has a better flavor than filtered. (Most of the olive oil that’s available has been filtered to remove sediment.) Filtering is different from refinement, and both filtered and unfiltered extra-virgin olive oils are equally beneficial for your health.
Roasted nut and seed oil
A huge array of roasted nut oils — including walnut, sesame, almond, pecan, pistachio and pumpkin seed — are widely available and are another great sub when neutral vegetable oil isn’t a necessity. These highly flavorful oils can boost the flavor of an otherwise basic salad dressing. In general, all oils should be stored in a cool, dark place, but it’s particularly important for these oils, as they’re more likely to go rancid faster.
This oil has a very low smoke point (225 degrees) but boasts high health benefits. Because of this, you should refrain from heating flaxseed oil and instead use it in its raw state, such as blending it into salad dressings. Flaxseed oil — also labeled as linseed oil — has a very mild nutty flavor, so it can easily be paired with other oils, such as extra-virgin olive oil and roasted nut oils.