Canola and vegetable oil have a lot in common—you might even confuse them from time to time if the bottles are side-by-side in your kitchen pantry. Both of these workhouse oils are pale yellow in color, neutral in flavor, inexpensive, and have high smoke points, which makes them good for high heat cooking like frying.
But can canola and vegetable oil be used interchangeably in recipes? Yes!
Whether you are frying chicken or peanuts, baking a Hummingbird Cake, making a tasty stir-fry, or whisking up a simple vinaigrette, canola oil can be used in place of vegetable oil, or vice versa. While you might notice a slight difference in flavor if you did a taste test of both oils on their own, you shouldn’t notice a difference in the flavor or texture of the final dish.
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So what’s the difference between these two oils, and why would you choose one over the other in the grocery store?
It all comes down to nutrition. Although canola oil and vegetable oil are both plant-based oils—canola oil comes from the rapeseed plant and vegetable oil is typically soybean-based or made from a blend of vegetable oils—they differ in their fat composition.
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While plant-based fats are considered more heart healthy than animal fats, canola oil is generally believed to be a healthier option because it is lower in saturated fat than vegetable oil. According to Cooking Light, “canola, like walnut oil, is one of the few oils that's rich in omega-3 fat ALA—and research shows it may help lower total and "bad" LDL cholesterol.”
If saturated fat is a concern, reach for the canola oil. Otherwise, you can cook with either oil with great results.