Newbie in the kitchen? Read on and get some tips on oil use and substitution so you’ ll know what to do when a recipe calls for vegetable oil but you only have the olive variant in your pantry.
Know Your Cooking Oil
There are several oil varieties that you can use for cooking. While it’s easier to follow just what the recipe asks for, sometimes that isn’t just possible. If you don’t have the required oil in your pantry, you can consider some alternatives. To find out which you can substitute for what, make sure you equip yourself with the knowledge or at least the flavor and the smoking point of the different kinds of oils.
The light, golden-colored canola oil has monounsaturated fat. This type of oil is used in cooking and in salads. It is high in omega-3 fatty acids.
The colorless yet heavy coconut oil is ideal as shortening, for coatings and confectionary. Corn oil, on the other hand, has polyunsaturated fat and is typically used in frying and in salad dressings.
Grapeseed oil is an excellent cooking oil for frying and sautéing.
The yellow-orange fatty palm oil is made from the crushed nuts of African palm. This oil has saturated fat and is commonly used in cooking and flavoring. It has a mild savory flavor and is high in beta-carotene.
The mildly-flavored peanut oil has a pale yellow color with a really subtle scent. It may be used for frying and salad dressings.
Sesame oil is an aromatic oil made from toasted sesame seeds. They’re used primarily in salad dressings.
Olive oil vary in weight and color. This has monosaturated fat and is commonly used in salad dressings, grilling, broiling, frying and searing.
Vegetable oil has polyunsaturated fat and is made by blending a variety of refined oils from fruits, nuts or seeds. It is crafted to have a mild to neutral flavor and a high smoke point. Technically, canola, soybean, corn, and sunflower oils are vegetable oils. But the vegetable oil we’re referring to is the one in a bottle labeled “vegetable oil.” This is almost always made from soybeans. The vegetable oil-labeled oil you see at the grocery has soybean as its main ingredient with a few other seed or plant-based oils blended in it.
Why Use Olive Oil
Olive oil is the oil derived from the fruit of olive trees. After picking and washing olives, they are crushed to make a paste that releases oil droplets. This is the maceration process which will be followed by pulling out the oil and water by spinning the olive paste into a centrifuge.
The “Olive oil” and “Pure Olive Oil” labels you see at olive oil bottles in the supermarket contain refined olive oils. Refining entails the use of solvents and high heat to neutralize the flavor. This process enables manufacturers to use olives that are not in the best condition and combine these with olives from other countries. The “Extra Virgin” and “Virgin” olive oils are the unrefined ones. The extra virgin variant, in particular, may be called the perfect olive oil because its taste and chemical composition has no defects.
Olive oil, whether light, virgin or extra virgin, is the popular choice among health enthusiasts because of its proven benefits to human health. This fruity-bitter oil lowers your risk of having diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Some studies even claim that olive oil might help in preventing strokes and fighting osteoporosis.
This kind of oil is a staple in traditional southern and central Italy cuisine. It is a cherished ingredient among cooks from all over the world.
Why Use Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oil is considered as an all-purpose oil. It is extracted from plants and is composed of triglycerides. This type of oil has been used since the ancient times; and not just only for cooking or preparing food but also as an ingredient in many consumer products like soap, candles, and perfumes.
This type of oil has virtually no taste so if you’d like a cleaner flavor, just use vegetable oil. Its high smoke point makes it ideal for stir fries and pan-searing.
Take a look at the ingredient label in your vegetable oil bottle and you may notice that soybean oil is its primary ingredient. Vegetable oil is basically almost always soybean oil. The former is used as the product name and not the latter because soybean oil used to contain polyunsaturated fatty acids that bring off-flavors because of the oxidative degradation of its unstable fatty acids. But as oil manufacturing advances, this process has been corrected. The labeling did not change, however, and the “vegetable oil” labeling preference continues up to this day.
Vegetable oil is by far the primary oil choice in the food industry due to its versatility. It’s also relatively cheaper and easier to find than other oils.
Olive Oil – Vegetable Oil Substitution Guideline
Depending on what you’re cooking, you can substitute certain oils with a different oil type. Neutral-tasting vegetable oils may be substituted with subtle extra-virgin olive oils. However, know that the cost of the latter is far from the price of vegetable oil so apart from flavor and the dire need, you may also want to give consideration to the cost.
If you wish to use olive oil in baking, say brownies for example, the texture will be the same like when you use vegetable oil but you may notice the difference in flavor. The olive oil might give your brownies a slightly bitter yet fruity taste. Even if you choose a milder flavor, the olive oil taste will still be present but this unexpected flavor may actually complement chocolate. In essence, you can substitute olive oil for vegetable when baking only if you’ll be fine with the slight to moderate change in flavor. Note that canola and vegetable oils are preferred in baking primarily because of their neutral flavor. However, some baked goods like olive bread, biscotti and Mediterranean-style fruit cakes are traditionally made using olive oil. Many chefs and foodies say that olive oil works best with baked goods with nutty, fruity or savory flavor like pumpkin bread and some muffins and loaves.
For salad dressings, marinades and sauces, you can definitely substitute olive oil for vegetable oil. The former may even be preferable because of the richer aroma.
When frying and sautéing, you may want to consider the smoke point of the oil first. High quality extra virgin olive oil has a very high smoke point. By high quality, we mean the real high quality EVOO with low acidity. Lesser quality versions usually have a smoke point in the 104˚C range and that would be too low for frying.
If you’re choosing to substitute olive oil for vegetable oil for health reasons, get the extra virgin variant. Light olive oils still has the calories like other oils but extra virgin oil is processed without heat or solvent so the nutrients stay intact.
So to clearly answer the question if you can substitute olive oil for vegetable oil, the answer would be:
Substitute – on certain conditions
One, whether the vegetable oil requirement refers to the generic term vegetable oil (which includes sunflower, canola and other edible plant-based oils) or the “vegetable oil” labeled bottles in groceries, consider the flavor required in the recipe before substituting olive oil. Expect that the food you prepared will have that Mediterranean flair if you use extra virgin olive oil. Choose the less expensive olive oils for a more neutral flavor. But of course, you just cannot simply substitute olive oil for sesame oil which is a vegetable oil as they differ greatly in flavor.
Two, consider the method of preparation required in the recipe as olive oil’s smoking point may not be suitable for the cooking method required in your recipe. Only virgin oils have high smoke point. The chemically refined olive oils’ low smoke point isn’t ideal for frying food. Note, however, that the high heat will destroy the delicate fruity goodness of your expensive EVOO so you just might want to reserve your precious EVOO bottle for pasta dishes, vinaigrettes, and for drizzling on grilled steaks and vegetables.
Three, choose the right type of olive oil to substitute to the vegetable oil requirement. Contrary to what most people know, virgin olive oil actually stands up well to high frying temperatures when heated. This means that you need to get the high quality, well-filtered extra virgin olive oil to get the high smoke point necessary for frying. Note that such high quality extra virgin olive oil may also come with a high price.
Fourth, take into account the price difference. If you’re also willing to pay more for the polyphenols or the protective antioxidants, the distinct flavor and the aroma, then by all means go with olive oil
Should you decide it’s safe to make the switch, simply substitute olive oil for vegetable oil in equal measures. Happy cooking!