Olive oil pouring onto a spoon. Olive oil is a healthy oil for cooking.

The cooking oils section of the grocery store has more and more options—coconut, corn, hemp, olive, walnut, to name a few—and all have roughly 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon. So how do you choose a healthy oil for cooking?

The proportion of the different types of fats that make up these oils—monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated—is what matters, and that can vary dramatically from oil to oil.

Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—which make up the majority of the fats in most nut, seed, and plant oils—have been linked to a lower risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. They’re especially helpful when used in place of unhealthy saturated fats, found in significant amounts in butter and coconut oil.

More on Healthy Eating & Cooking

 But the type of cooking you’re planning is a concern, too. High-heat cooking requires an oil with a high smoke point (the temperature at which the oil begins to burn). And for some dishes you want a neutral or mild flavor, while others call for a specific taste. With these factors in mind, here are five common oils to help you find the best fit.

Avocado Oil

TASTE
Pressed from the flesh instead of the seed, avocado oil has a mild, nutty, and buttery flavor.

BEST USES
This oil has a high smoke point, which makes it a good fit for a variety of cooking methods, such as sautéing and searing, but not for deep frying. If you find that olive oil is too strong a flavor for you, avocado is a good option with similar fat content.

Canola Oil

TASTE
Made from the seed of the canola plant (a variety of rapeseed), it has a neutral flavor, similar to vegetable oil.

BEST USES
Try it in dishes where you want other flavors to stand out, such as in baked goods, or on delicate fresh fish. It’s good for medium- to high-heat cooking. Most canola oil comes from GMO plants; if that’s a concern, choose organic or non-GMO verified oils.

Olive Oil

TASTE
Olive oil can taste of fresh-cut grass, herbs, nuts, butter, or fruit. Some oils have a sharp, peppery bite or slight bitterness. “Extra virgin” bottles have the boldest flavor.

BEST USES
Though pricey, extra virgin is great as a dip or in salad dressing. Drizzle over bean, grain, or pasta dishes. Use virgin, light, and just plain olive oil for sautéing veggies or meat.

Safflower Oil
(high oleic)*

TASTE
Derived from the seeds of the safflower plant, unrefined oils are a dark yellow-orange and have a mild nutty, earthy flavor. Refined oils are typically pale and more neutral in taste.

BEST USES
Its unassuming taste and high smoke point make it perfect for a variety of dishes and cooking, such as for baked goods, curries, and stir-fries, as well as sautéing and deep frying.

Coconut Oil

TASTE
Extracted from the flesh of coconuts, this tropical oil has a mild, sweet coconut flavor.

BEST USES
Refined versions of coconut oil have very high smoke points, so they’re good for frying recipes or in Asian dishes, such as curries. It’s almost all heart-unhealthy saturated fat, though, so it’s best to use this type of oil in moderation.

*Linoleic versions of safflower oil have a different breakdown of fats: monounsaturated (14%), polyunsaturated (75%), and saturated (6%). Note: Percentages do not add up to 100 because we did not include some minor constituents.

Avocado Oil

TASTE
Pressed from the flesh instead of the seed, avocado oil has a mild, nutty, and buttery flavor.

BEST USES
This oil has a high smoke point, which makes it a good fit for a variety of cooking methods, such as sautéing and searing, but not for deep frying. If you find that olive oil is too strong a flavor for you, avocado is a good option with similar fat content.

Canola Oil

TASTE
Made from the seed of the canola plant (a variety of rapeseed), it has a neutral flavor, similar to vegetable oil.

BEST USES
Try it in dishes where you want other flavors to stand out, such as in baked goods, or on delicate fresh fish. It’s good for medium- to high-heat cooking. Most canola oil comes from GMO plants; if that’s a concern, choose organic or non-GMO verified oils.

Olive Oil

TASTE
Olive oil can taste of fresh-cut grass, herbs, nuts, butter, or fruit. Some oils have a sharp, peppery bite or slight bitterness. “Extra virgin” bottles have the boldest flavor.

BEST USES
Though pricey, extra virgin is great as a dip or in salad dressing. Drizzle over bean, grain, or pasta dishes. Use virgin, light, and just plain olive oil for sautéing veggies or meat.

Safflower Oil
(high oleic)*

TASTE
Derived from the seeds of the safflower plant, unrefined oils are a dark yellow-orange and have a mild nutty, earthy flavor. Refined oils are typically pale and more neutral in taste.

BEST USES
Its unassuming taste and high smoke point make it perfect for a variety of dishes and cooking, such as for baked goods, curries, and stir-fries, as well as sautéing and deep frying.

Coconut Oil

TASTE
Extracted from the flesh of coconuts, this tropical oil has a mild, sweet coconut flavor.

BEST USES
Refined versions of coconut oil have very high smoke points, so they’re good for frying recipes or in Asian dishes, such as curries. It’s almost all heart-unhealthy saturated fat, though, so it’s best to use this type of oil in moderation.

*Linoleic versions of safflower oil have a different breakdown of fats: monounsaturated (14%), polyunsaturated (75%), and saturated (6%). Note: Percentages do not add up to 100 because we did not include some minor constituents.

Top-Rated Frying Pans

Consider these recommended models from Consumer Reports' tests to help with breakfast prep.

Top Picks

1

Cooking evenness

2

Cooking evenness
Unlock Cookware Ratings
Become a Member or Sign in