Canola oil, olive oil, vegetable oil, coconut oil. There are so many different choices for oils now that it is confusing to find the best one if a baking recipe does not specify, especially so in gluten-free and vegan baking.
Bon Appetit’s article discusses the importance of smoking point, storage options, and flavor in choosing your oil. Ones like extra virgin olive oil and seed oils are not good for cooking because their low smoking points means they will burn (and could be toxic) at low temperatures. Most of the other oils that were listed such as avocado, sunflower, vegetable, light/pure/regular olive oil, and canola have smoking points above 400 degrees–which means they are safe to experiment with. For the most part, it is safe to store oil in a cool, dark place. Peanut oil and sunflower seed oil are notorious for going bad quickly.
But…these explanations don’t exactly help if we want to find the best oils for gluten-free and vegan baking. I feel that it is really difficult to become skilled in specialized baking without getting an overview of the fundamentals first! After I studied that article, I came across one made by the founder of Veganbaking.net. Here are the best oils according to him:
1. Canola oil
+ has a “healthy fat profile” and high smoke point
– could be a genetically modified ingredient/GMO
2. Light Olive Oil (aka pure/regular olive oil not extra-virgin)
+ contains a lot of “good” fats
– some methods of refining the oil so it has a higher smoke point could leave behind chemical residue
3. Coconut Oil
+ good flavor addition to many recipes
o potentially healthy saturated fat that is plant based opposed to animal based
– turns solid slightly above room temperature
– contains few healthy fatty acids
I chose not to include rice bran oil from the above from Veganbaking.net as I have not worked with it before. Ultimately, this is a short introduction to the vastly complicated world of oils. I hope you find this helpful in expanding your knowledge for experiments in your baking!