What is Canola Oil?

This popular vegetable oil has a neutral flavor and high smoke point, making it one of the most versatile cooking oils around.

Crisco canola oil

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Take a stroll through the cooking oil section of your grocery store and you’ll be greeted by a dizzying array of choices.

Canola oil, also known as rapeseed oil, is one of the most recognized and easy to find. It’s an all-purpose cooking oil made from the seeds of the rape plant that’s well-suited for baking, sautéing, frying, and deep-frying. The vegetable oil is featured in everything from tender muffins and cakes to crispy onion rings and quick stir-frys.

However, there is a lot of confusion that surrounds this particular cooking oil. Here is everything you need to know.

Canola Oil

Smoke point: 400°F

Best uses: Sautéing, frying, and deep-frying, or as the oil in salad dressings or baked goods

Substitutes: Vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, and sunflower oil

What is Canola Oil?

Canola oil is a vegetable oil made from the seeds of the rapeseed plant, which is a plant that is related to turnips, cabbage, and mustard.

Traditionally, oil made from the rapeseed plant wasn’t fit for human consumption, as it contained high levels of toxic erucic acid. However, the plant was crossbred in Canada in the 1970s to significantly reduce the amount of erucic acid, which led to it becoming one of the most popular vegetable cooking oils on the market.

In Europe, it is known as rapeseed oil, while in North America, it goes by canola oil.

Once it became fit for safe consumption, canola oil gained popularity because of its versatility. The oil has a mild, neutral flavor and high smoke point, so it’s as fit for baking as it is for deep-frying.

Bottle of Crisco canola oil

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Canola Oil vs. Vegetable Oil

Canola oil is a vegetable oil, but vegetable oil is not canola oil. Confused? Here's what that means:

Canola oil is a singular type of vegetable oil, but the bottles of vegetable oil are actually a blend of a variety of different vegetable oils. Since bottles labeled “vegetable oil” are blended to be mild in flavor, with a high smoke point, they can be used interchangeably with canola oil.

Pouring canola oil into a stainless steel skillet

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Canola Oil Smoke Point

Canola oil has a smoke point of 400°F, which means you can bake, sauté, stir-fry, roast, fry, and deep-fry with it without fear of the oil smoking when heated at a high temperature.

Where to Buy

Canola oil is extremely easy to find in just about any grocery store. Look for it among the other cooking oils.

One thing to keep in mind is that the majority of canola oil is genetically modified. If avoiding GMOs is important to use, be sure to look for a Non-GMO Project Verified seal on the bottle’s label. Spectrum is one readily available brand. If possible, buy canola oil in darker, tinted bottles, which limit light exposure and ensure a longer shelf life.

How to Store

Heat, light, and air exposure are the three culprits that cause it to spoil and become rancid. That’s why the best way to store canola oil is in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry. As mentioned, purchasing canola oil in dark bottles also helps divert light exposure. 

How to Cook with Canola Oil

Canola oil is a neutral oil, so it won’t lend flavor to dishes, which is another reason it has many uses in the kitchen. In addition to high-heat cooking, use it in salad dressings, vinaigrettes, and marinades.

Canola Oil Substitutes

Canola oil can be replaced one-to-one with a number of other cooking oils, depending on the use. Vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, and sunflower oil are all good substitutes. Olive oil can also be used in place of canola oil but because its smoke point is lower, it shouldn’t be used for frying or deep-frying.

It can be used interchangeably in baking, too. You could definitely use in in place of olive oil in these mini flourless chocolate cakes!