Peanut oil is made from the seeds of a peanut plant. Most peanut oil is refined, neutral in flavor, and great for high-heat cooking, especially stir-frying and deep-frying, because it doesn’t absorb the flavor of other foods, and also because it has a high smoke point of 450 degrees.
Smoke point: Refined peanut oil has a high smoke point of 450°F
Best use: High-heat cooking, especially for stir-frying and deep-frying
Substitutes: Safflower, soybean, or grapeseed oil, which also have high smoke points and a neutral flavor
Peanut Oil Smoke Point
A smoke point is the temperature at which an oil starts to smoke, which means it will quickly turn bitter and could burn your food. Vegetable oils like peanut oil, safflower oil, soybean oil and grapeseed oil have the highest smoke points.
Extra virgin olive oil, on the other hand, has a lower smoke point of 410°F, which is why it’s better for salad dressings, finishing touches, or low-heat cooking.
Why Cook with Peanut Oil
Peanut oil is the cooking oil of choice for many fast food restaurants and Asian cuisines that call for a lot of frying or high-heat cooking. The high smoke point, neutral flavor, and resistance to picking up other flavors makes it a no-brainer.
For those concerned about peanut allergies, however, the safest choice is opting for vegetable oil. Though studies have shown that refined peanut oil is safe for most people with a peanut allergy, a 1997 study concluded that up to 10 percent of people with peanut allergies could be affected by the refined stuff.
As for unrefined peanut oil, the dangerous proteins are almost definitely still there, so anyone with an allergy should also seek alternatives. Many fast food restaurants have stopped using peanut oil or peanut products, but some still use peanut oil for frying.
Peanut Oil Varieties
Refined Peanut Oil: Most peanut oil you’ll find in grocery stores is refined. That’s the kind that’s neutral in flavor and good for frying. However, there are other peanut oil varieties.
Virgin or Cold-Pressed Peanut Oil: This is the kind that hasn’t been refined, so it retains its mellow, nutty flavor and should be used in low or no-heat cooking, not for frying.
Roasted Peanut Oil: As its name suggests, this is oil that comes from expressing oil from roasted peanuts. Because of its stronger flavor, it’s best used as a finishing touch as opposed to for cooking.
Where to Buy Peanut Oil
You can buy the specialty peanut oils—the cold-pressed, roasted, or virgin—at specialty grocery stores or online. Refined peanut oil will be more readily available at larger grocery stores and should also be available at Chinese grocery stores.
Make Your Own Peanut Oil!
Andrea Nguyen, who says peanut oil is one of her top three oils for cooking, says she learned a trick from Cookbook author Pat Tanumihardja’s mother for making your own peanut oil. She would fry peanuts in canola oil or refined peanut oil, and use that leftover, seasoned oil for flavoring other dishes. Waste not, want not.
Peanut Oil Substitutes
The best substitute for peanut oil depends on what you’re looking for:
High-heat cooking: Choose safflower oil, soybean, or grapeseed oil if you’re looking for another oil that has a high smoke point and neutral flavor.
Nutty flavor: Choose almond oil or walnut oil if you’re looking for a nutty substitute for virgin, cold-pressed, or roasted peanut oils, which have not been refined, retaining their nutty flavor and best for drizzling or adding flavor at the end of cooking.
A little something something: If it’s not quite a nutty flavor you’re after, but something with a little flare, consider sesame oil or avocado oil in place of unrefined peanut oil.
How to Store Peanut Oil
Like all oils, peanut oil should be stored in a cool, dark place. Unopened, it can last up to two years, but once it’s opened, it should be used within six months. You can also cool and save peanut oil that has been used for frying by covering it and refrigerating it.
How to Cook with Peanut Oil
Deep-fry: Fry, baby, fry! Especially if you’re deep-frying.
Oven-fry: Trying to cut down on fried foods? A sneaky way to get that deep-fried flavor without using so much oil (and without making such a mess!) is the oven fry, where you use about 1/4 cup of oil with your vegetable of choice and crisp it in a hot oven instead of frying in batches in your Dutch oven. You’re not baking or roasting. You’re still frying, so you’ll still get that fried flavor. But you’re using a lot less oil and keeping splatter to a minimum. Peanut oil is a great option here.
Stir-fry: So peanut oil is good for frying, no matter what kind of frying you’re doing! Use it as the base oil in your wok or skillet with veggies or protein next time you whip up a weeknight stir-fry.
Drizzle: If you’re looking for peanut flavor, grab the unrefined peanut oil and drizzle it on top of noodles, chicken, or rice.
Peanut oil would be a great oil to use in any of these recipes:
- Spicy Fried Chicken
- Sichuan-Style Stir-Fried Chinese Long Beans
- Homemade Tortilla Chips
- Pork Stir-Fry with Green Onions
- Onion Rings
- Easy Cashew Chicken
- Singapore Noodles with Shrimp
- Fried Green Tomatoes