A Guide to Nut and Seed Oils

a variety of nut and seed cooking oils

A Guide to Nut and Seed Oils

For the cook, nut and seed oils are a necessary ingredient. Oils add fat for browning and for consistency, and many nut and seed oils add flavor. Oils derived from nuts are healthy. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats, while palm and coconut oils have the highest levels of saturated fats. Although there are general-purpose oils these can generally be divided into cooking oils-those that are fairly neutral in flavor and withstand heat welland seasoning oils, which are best used to flavor uncooked dishes such as salads. Cooking oils include soy and corn oils; walnut and hazelnut oils can be heated, but are most successful as seasoning oils.

Almond Oil

A pale oil made from sweet almonds, this nut oil is used for baking and confectionery. Use to coat cake pans or cookie sheets when preparing delicate baked goods, or heat gently with slivered almonds and serve with fish or cooked green vegetables.

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is from the avocado pits, and sometimes from blemished fruit, this oil is colorless with a faint aniseed flavor. It is used mainly in North America. More on avocado oil.

Canola Oil

Also known as rapeseed oil, this neutral-flavored oil is suitable for frying, cooking, or baking. It has a high smoke point and is low in saturated fats.

Coconut Oil

Extracted from the dried kernel of the coconut, this is often used in commercial food preparations and in certain Indian dishes. It is high in saturated fats.

Corn Oil

One of the most economical and widely used all-purpose oils, this is deep yellow in color and heavy in texture. Corn oil is high in polyunsaturated fats and has a high smoke point, so it is both healthy and ideal for most culinary preparations.

Cottonseed Oil

Derived from the cotton plant, this is used in the production of margarine and blended cooking oils. It is also used in Egyptian cuisine, where it lends a distinctive flavor.

Grapeseed Oil

A pale, delicate oil extracted from grape seeds, this can withstand a wide range of temperatures. When refrigerated, it will not cloud, making it ideal for mayonnaise, and it has a very high smoke point so it is excellent for frying and general cooking. It is high in polyunsaturated fats.

Hazelnut Oil

This is a delicious, richly flavored oil that is extracted from the nut. Produced mainly in France, it is expensive and should be used with the finest vinegars for salad dressings, or as a marinade for fish or poultry. Its delicate flavor is lost when heated, but it can be whisked into a sauce at the last minute or used for baked goods in combination with hazelnuts.

Palm Oil

Also known as palm nut oil or dende oil, this is extracted from the pulp of the fruit of oil palms. Orange-gold in color, it has a pleasant nutty flavor. Although it is a general-purpose oil, being light in color and taste and good for frying and making salad dressings, it does, however, turn rancid very rapidly.

Peanut Oil

This is a very fine, almost tasteless oil for general use in salads, cooking, and frying. The cold-pressed variety has a mild peanut flavor that is good with fruit-flavored vinegars for salad dressings. Peanut oil is moderately high in monounsaturates and low in saturates.

Pine Seed Oil

With a distinctive pine seed flavor, this oil is produced on a small scale primarily in France. It is quite costly but the flavor will never disappoint. Use it for salads; it is especially delicious when added to a dipping sauce for artichokes.

Pumpkin Seed Oil

his is a dark brown oil with a pleasant flavor of toasted pumpkin seeds. It is popular in Austria, where most of it is produced. Use as a last-minute seasoning for steamed vegetables or fish.

Safflower Oil

With a bright yellow color, this oil is ideal for all culinary use, although the flavor is rather strong. Of all the cooking oils, this is one of the highest in polyunsaturated fats, lowest in saturated fats, and a good source of vitamin E.

Sesame Oil

There are many types of this oil. European, or cold-pressed sesame oil, is light in color and nutty in flavor with a high smoke point, making it a good cooking oil. Asian sesame oil is made from toasted sesame seeds, giving it a darker color and more pronounced taste. Middle Eastern sesame oils are lighter in flavor than Asian ones, with a deep golden color. All are aromatic and capable of being heated to a high temperature.

Soy Oil

A major component of blended oils, this is a high-quality, neutral-flavored oil that is low in saturated fats.

Sunflower Oil

This is one of the best all-purpose oils. It is high in polyunsaturates, tasteless, pale, light in texture, and inexpensive. It can be used for frying, cooking and salad dressings.

Vegetable Oil

This is an oil obtained from blending a number of oils in various proportions, and types and quantities are not necessarily given on the label. It may contain coconut or palm oils, which are high in saturated fats. Vegetable oil has little aroma or flavor, making it popular as a allpurpose culinary oil.

Walnut Oil

A delicious topaz-colored oil, with a rich, nutty flavor. Walnuts from the Perigord and Dordogne in France are said to produce the best oil. In these regions, walnuts are strictly graded for quality; it is even possible for one tree to have two separate grades of walnut. Production is small, therefore this oil is expensive. Walnut oil does not keep long, either opened or unopened, so keep in a cool place, but not in the refrigerator. It makes a delicious salad dressing, and in baking it adds flavor to cakes, especially those that contain walnuts. It is also good with fish, poultry, and vegetables, or use wherever a walnut taste will marry well with the ingredients. More on walnut oil.

Using nut and seed oils to add flavour

Nut and seed oils are generally used as a flavouring for cold food, or added to hot dishes at the last minute. Pumpkin seed, walnut and hazelnut oils, Asian sesame oil, cold-pressed peanut and pine seed oils all make superb salad dressings, vegetable seasonings, and marinades. Because they are quite flavourful – often to the point of being overpowering-they should always be used sparingly and in combination with a neutral oil, such as sun-flower. They can also be used much the same as a pat of butter, to flavour cooked foods; toss steamed or boiled green beans with walnut oil just before serving.

Flavouring oils

Oils with a distinct taste should be chosen in order to enhance particular dishes; they are too overpowering to be used simply for general-purpose cooking. Such oils, particularly if they are not blended, tend also to be expensive so are best used where only a small amount is needed.

Burning Point

If an oil is heated for too long to too high a temperature it may catch fire. Never use water to extinguish burning oil; instead, smother it with a lid, a flameproof fire blanket, or a sheet of aluminum foil.