It can be easy to get canola oil and vegetable oil mixed up. Both are extremely common pale yellow, neutrally flavored, inexpensive oils with high smoke points making them great for high-heat cooking or frying. But these two vegan-friendly options are just as great for baking and sautéing. So, what’s the difference between them, and can they be used interchangeably?
The short answer: Canola oil is actually a type of vegetable oil, so yes! You can use canola or vegetable oil when a recipe calls for either.
What’s the difference between vegetable and canola oil?
Canola oil is a specific type of vegetable oil. It is always derived from the rapeseed plant, a bright yellow plant resembling the mustard seed. The seeds go through an extremely lengthy process before their oils can be extracted.
Vegetable oil is a catch-all oil, which — fun fact — does not actually include any oils from vegetables. Vegetable oil is made from any number of plant oils like safflowers, peanuts, or corn (technically a fruit). But more often than not, it’s composed mainly of soybean oil or a blend of soybean and other oils.
When to use each oil
Both oils can be used interchangeably, but they do there are some areas where one might be preferred. Canola oil has the most neutral flavor, so it’s great for baking items like pancakes or muffins. Its high smoke point also makes it a great choice from grilling, sautéing or stir-frying.
Vegetable oil is a great choice for deep frying and salad dressings, but the differences in flavor are so slight, the choice is really more about your preference — or what you already have in your pantry.
which one is healthier
Both oils bring about 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon (with no fiber, sugar, protein, or sodium in either), but saturated fat is where they differ. Canola oil (1 gram per tbsp) is lower in saturated fat than vegetable oil (11 grams per tbsp). In high doses, saturated fat has been associated with cardiovascular disease, according to the British Journal of Medicine. Canola oil also contains more healthy Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids than vegetable oil.
If saturated fat is your main concern, go for the canola oil. If not, either will give you great results. But as with anything, even with healthy fats, be careful not to overdo it.
Also see: How to perfectly grill kabobs.