22 Types of Cooking Oils and Fats

Cooking oils and fats are a diverse bunch. They tend to come in and out of fashion based on various health trends. Then, there are the classics. Here’s a guide to the many types available.

Cooking Oils and Fats

With so many options, how do you choose the best cooking oil for a dish? Two words: Smoke point. While flavor plays a role, knowing the smoke point is essential for determining whether a cooking oil can handle the heat your dish requires.

Some oils hold up in high heat for extended cooking periods while others can only handle high heat for shorter cooking times. Others can’t handle high heat at all, and cooking with an oil that has a low smoke point could quickly ruin the flavors in your dish.

Here’s a quick guide to different cooking oils, their aromas, flavors, and smoke points, as well as health factors, types of cuisine they may pair with, and safe cooking methods.

Flaxseed oil

Flaxseed oil

Like hemp seed oil, it tastes nutty and bitter. The flavor is dense, so a little goes a long way. It has an even lower smoke point than hemp seed oil, which makes it most ideal in dressings and dips and such. Avoid heating it with one exception — legend has it that it’s the best oil for seasoning cast iron. There are flaxseed health benefits for consuming the oil as a supplement because it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Fat breakdown: It has about a gram of saturated fat, 2.5 grams monounsaturated fat, and about 9 grams of polyunsaturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 225°F (107ºC)
  • How to cook with it: Use in sparingly in salad dressings and dips that would benefit from a nutty flavor.

Hemp seed oil

Hemp seed oil

Hemp seed oil is dark green and has an intense grassy and nutty flavor. It pairs well with savory flavors more than it does sweet ones. While it’s a good source of essential fatty acids, it’s best not to heat hemp seed oil. Reserve it for dips and dressings instead.

  • Fat breakdown: It has a gram of saturated fat, 1.9 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 11 grams of polyunsaturated fat per tablespoon (based on this product).
  • Smoke point: 330°F (166ºC)
  • How to cook with it: It makes a delicious finishing oil, and works well vinaigrettes or other types of dressing.

Butter

Butter

Ah, butter. Sometimes too good to resist, it’s not the healthiest cooking fat. But it sure imparts a lot of flavor and texture to sauces, baked goods, and just about anything it can get its fats on. It has a sweet cream taste.

  • Fat breakdown: It contains 7 grams of saturated fat, about 3 grams of monounsaturated fat, and less than half a gram of polyunsaturated fat per tablespoon (unsalted).
  • Smoke point: 300-350°F (149-175°C)
  • How to cook with it: Saute, quick pan-fry, baking, roasting.

Extra-virgin olive oil

Extra-virgin olive oil

This is the mecca of olive oils. It has the most flavor, slightly green, fruity, bitter, and the most nutrients. However, it has a relatively low smoke point, so only use with moderate to no heat.

  • Fat breakdown: It has 1.9 grams of saturated fat, 10 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 325-410°F (163-210°C)
  • How to cook with it: Same as regular olive oil. It’s also excellent in dips and marinades.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil

Coconut oil has a low smoke point, so it’s best to reserve it for no, low, or moderate heat only. Because it’s creamy, it’s a good substitute for butter. It’s clear when melted but becomes white and solid at room temperature. It has a slightly sweet, nutty, yet clean taste.

  • Fat breakdown: It has a little more than 11 grams of saturated fat, .2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, and .8 grams of monounsaturated fat per tablespoon. While it’s high in saturated fat, which is generally considered unhealthy, coconut oil has the healthy kind.
  • Smoke point: 350-385°F (175-196°C)
  • How to cook with it: Saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting.

Sesame oil

Sesame oil

This is another favorite in Asian cuisine. While it’s great to use for sauteing, toasted or dark sesame oil has more strong umami and nutty flavor (it’s one of those a-little-goes-a-long-way cooking oils). Regular sesame oil (sometimes called light sesame oil), it has a more mild flavor.

  • Fat breakdown: It has 1.9 grams of saturated fat, 5.3 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 5.6 grams of polyunsaturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 350-410°F (175-210°C)
  • How to cook with it: Use it to saute, or use a small amount for stir-frying. It also pairs well with soy sauce, garlic, and other ingredients when making sauces.

Vegetable Shortening

Vegetable Shortening

Most often the neutral-flavored, solid white-colored shortening is used for baked goods and frostings. Shortening has a higher melting point compared to butter, resulting in cookies with less spread and frosting that stay pipeable. It’s made from a mixture of vegetable oils that have been fully hydrogenated to make them solid at room temperature. It can also be used for sauteing foods, but not my first choice.

  • Fat breakdown: It has 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 2.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 6 grams of polyunsaturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 360°F (180°C)
  • How to cook with it: Use it for cookies, pies, biscuits, frostings, makes tortillas flexible or sauteeing.

Lard (Pork Fat)

Lard (Pork Fat)

Lard is more old school and arguably less healthy than butter, but it can work wonders to create a flaky pie crust. However, it doesn’t bring much to the table in the flavor department, it has a very strong astringent and barnyard taste.

  • Fat breakdown: It contains about 5 grams of saturated fat, 5 grams of monounsaturated fat, and a little more than a gram of polyunsaturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 370°F (188°C)
  • How to cook with it: Saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting, deep-frying.

Duck Fat

What doesn’t love to indulge in some duck fat fries or confit? The luxurious fat can be used for sauteing, stir-frying, roasting chicken or potatoes, making some popcorn, an exquisite gravy, or savory pie dough. Make sure to use sparingly as it is high in cholesterol.

  • Fat breakdown: It has around 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 14 grams of total fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 375°F (190°C)
  • How to cook with it: Sauteeing, stir-frying, roasting, pan-frying, deep-frying when combined with other oils, gravies, and pie dough.

Grapeseed oil

Grapeseed oil

Grapeseed oil has become a popular replacement to extra virgin olive oil; it’s a little more affordable and still offers comparable health benefits. However, it has a higher smoke point that makes it more diverse than olive oil. It has a slight green tint and neutral flavor.

  • Fat breakdown: It has about a gram of saturated fat, 2 grams unsaturated fat, and 9 grams polyunsaturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 390-420°F (195°C)
  • How to cook with it: Saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting. You can use it in dressings, too.

Canola oil

Canola oil

Since canola oil is often used in vegetable oil, you might find some similarities in flavor (though both are relatively neutral and flavorless). It comes from the rapeseed plant.

  • Fat breakdown: It has almost 9 grams of monounsaturated fat, 4 grams of polyunsaturated fat, and 1 gram of saturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 400-450°F (204-230°C)
  • How to cook with it: Like vegetable oil, it’s multiuse. Use it to sear, saute, pan-fry, stir-fry, bake, roast, grill, and deep-fry.

Vegetable oil

Vegetable oil

Not just derived one type of plant, vegetable oil is usually a mixture of various refined oils, such as soybean, corn, or canola oil. It has a neutral flavor.

  • Fat breakdown: It depends on the blend, which you can find on the label.
  • Smoke point: 400-450°F (204-230°C)
  • How to cook with it: Searing, saute, pan-fry, stir-fry, baking, roasting, grilling, deep-frying

Margarine

Margarine is a non-dairy spreadable replacement for butter, popular for slathering on toast and bread. It can also be used for sauteing, roasting, or baking. It is typically made from partially or fully hydrogenated vegetable oil, so it may contain trans fats. Margarine must contain at least 80% fat and any less than it is labeled as a spread.

  • Fat breakdown: Varies by brand. May contain 3 grams of monounsaturated fat, 3 grams of polyunsaturated fat, and 5 gram of saturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 410-430°F (210-221°C)
  • How to cook with it: Baking, sauteing, pan-frying, stir-frying, roasting.

Corn oil

Corn oil

With light color, high smoke point, and mildly sweet flavor, many people use corn oil when pan-frying and baking (it adds a creaminess to baked goods). One of the biggest pros of corn oil? It’s affordable. The downside is that it’s high in omega-6s, which can contribute to inflammation.

  • Fat breakdown: It has 8 grams monounsaturated fat, 5 grams polyunsaturated fat, and about a gram of saturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 410-450°F (210-230°C)
  • How to cook with it: Searing, saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting, grilling, deep-frying.

Light olive oil

Light olive oil

This is “regular” olive oil that’s more processed and refined. It’s lighter in color and flavor, but the calories are the same as regular olive oil (a common misconception). It merely has a less intense flavor. What it lacks in flavor, it makes up for in a higher smoke point.

  • Fat breakdown: It has almost 2 grams of both saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat with 10 grams monounsaturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 425-465°F (218-241°C)
  • How to cook with it: You can use for sauteing, pan-frying, grilling, baking, and roasting. It’s best for recipes where you don’t want an intense olive flavor — why it’s often used in baking.

Sunflower oil

Sunflower oil

Some research suggests that sunflower oil becomes unhealthy when you subject it to heat, and it’s high in omega-6s, which can cause inflammation if you consume too much. However, it’s also high in vitamin E. Despite health concerns, it’s an all-purpose cooking oil — commonly used to fry food — because of its high smoke point. It has a very neutral taste, however, it can go bad faster than other cooking oils, so use it within a year.

  • Fat breakdown: It has 11 grams monounsaturated fat, less than a gram of polyunsaturated fat, and 1 gram of saturated fat per tablespoon. This might vary in different types of sunflower oil.
  • Smoke point: 440°F (230°C)
  • How to cook with it: Searing, saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting, grilling, deep-frying. If you want to stay away from heat, use it in salad dressings to add more vitamin E to your diet.

Peanut oil

Peanut oil

Commonly used in Asian cuisine, peanut oil is derived from the seeds of peanut plants. As long as you don’t have a peanut allergy, it’s one of the more popular frying oils. Not surprisingly, it has a slightly nutty flavor and aroma.

  • Fat breakdown: It has 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 6 grams of monounsaturated fat, and about 5 grams of polyunsaturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 440-450°F (227-230°C)
  • How to cook with it: Searing, saute, pan-fry, stir-fry, baking, roasting, grilling, deep-frying. It’s also a tasty finishing oil; drizzle it over your dish to boost flavor.

Clarified Butter (Ghee)

Clarified Butter (Ghee)

A staple of Indian cuisine clarified butter is traditionally made by slowly simmering butter until the water evaporates and the milk solids gently brown. The clarification process yields a richly flavored butter oil with nutty and toffee flavors. It’s easy to learn how to make ghee and use it for a wide range of cooking techniques like sauteing and roasting due to its high smoke point once the dairy solids are removed.

  • Fat breakdown: It has 9 grams of saturated fat and 15 grams of total fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 450°F (230°C)
  • How to cook with it: Sauteing, stir-frying and roasting foods.

Olive oil

Olive oil

This is what you might call “regular” olive oil, and it’s usually a blend of refined olive oil and extra virgin or virgin olive oil. It’s not quite as high quality as extra virgin olive oil but has more flavor than light olive oil. Smoke point varies depending on the mixture and brand.

  • Fat breakdown: It has 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 10 grams monounsaturated fat, and 1.5 grams polyunsaturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 390-470°F (199-243ºC)
  • How to cook with it: Sauteing and baking (at lower heats) and in dressings and marinades. You can also use it as a finishing oil, drizzling it over the top of dishes for added flavor.

Beef Tallow

This solid cooking fat is rendered from beef or mutton, which is high in triglycerides. It stores well at room temperature for a long period of time, which is why it used to be used a lot in fast food establishments and restaurants. Grass feed versions have become popular to use in Paleo diets. Its high smoke point makes it good for sauteing, roasting, frying and even baking biscuits.

  • Fat breakdown: It has about 7 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram trans fat, and 14 grams total fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 400°F (250°C)
  • How to cook with it: Sauteeing, roasting meats and vegetables, pan-frying, deep-frying, and savory baking.

Palm oil

Palm oil

Palm oil is colorless and flavorless. It’s good for frying but bad for the environment because the high demand is contributing to deforestation. It’s also highly refined. Many people choose to stay away from it for those reasons. It has a high smoke point which is what makes it fry-friendly.

  • Fat breakdown: It has almost 7 grams saturated fat, 5 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 450°F (232ºC)
  • How to cook with it: Frying and stir-frying are the most common uses.

Avocado oil

Avocado oil

If you’re looking for a super high smoke point, avocado oil is the winner. It also has more of a butter-like rich flavor that makes it tasty as a topper (say over some avocado toast?). Its recent popularity stems from its health benefits, including being good for your heart and eyesight.

  • Fat breakdown: It has almost 2 grams of both saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat with nearly 10 grams of monounsaturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Smoke point: 520-570°F (271-299ºC)
  • How to cook with it: Sauteing, stir-frying, pan-frying, baking, roasting, grilling, and dressings.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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3 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Kathy E. says

    Thank you for this incredible, informational post of oils! I’ve learned a lot and will be changing up my routine of using oils!

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