Today, we’re going to talk about a very popular question, is vegetable oil vegan?
While most vegetable oils are in fact vegan some are still avoided because of ethical reasons.
Palm oil and soybean oil can cause severe enviromental damage and later in this article I will explain why.
Let’s take a look at the most common vegetable oils.
Is Olive Oil Vegan?
Olive oil is one of the most popular oils in existence and is one which is renowned for its numerous health benefits.
Olive oil is one of the oldest culinary ingredients in existence and is synonymous with Mediterranean cuisine.
Made by taking ripe olive and literally pressing them to extract the oils, olive oil is one of the healthiest fats in existence and has been found to provide numerous cardiovascular benefits, as well as numerous cognitive health benefits.
Extra virgin olive oil, which is considered the Rolls Royce of the olive oil world is made from the very first pressing of the olives, so literally, the olives are harvested and pressed and the oil extracted is then bottled.
Regular olive oil is often pressed again, and sometimes again once more, or it could be a refined blend of pomace oil along with virgin olive oil.
The fats found in olive oil are monounsaturated fats which have been found to significantly reduce LDL cholesterol which could block the arteries and lead to heart attacks, strokes, heart disease, hypertension, and a whole lot more besides.
Olive oil is best for sauteing as it has a low smoking point and so cannot handle high heats.
Extra virgin olive oil has an even lower smoking point and is therefore unsuitable for cooking and is best for being used in dressings for salads and vegetables.
With regard to whether or not olive oil is vegan, the answer is yes, olive oil is completely vegan.
Is Sunflower Oil Vegan?
Sunflower oil is another very popular oil used in the culinary world.
Sunflower oil is made from sunflower seeds, whereby the seeds are pressed to extract the natural oils from them.
Sunflower oil is hugely popular in the culinary world because it is colourless and flavourless, so it can be used to cook a variety of different dishes without altering the taste of them at all.
Furthermore, sunflower oil also has a high smoking point and can withstand higher temperatures making it ideal for shallow frying and deep frying.
Sunflower oil is also a great source of vitamin E and as it is plant-based, it too is vegan.
Is Palm Oil Vegan?
Now, here’s where things get very tricky.
Palm oil is, without question, the most controversial oil in the vegan community, and rightfully so.
Palm oil is a plant-based vegetable oil which comes from the ripe fruit of oil palm trees. When harvested, two different types of oil can be extracted.
The first is crude palm oil, which is made by pressing the fleshy fruit and the second is palm kernel oil made by taking palm kernels and pressing them.
So, as palm oil is plant-based, surely it’s vegan friendly, right? Well, no, not exactly. You see, the vast majority of vegans, and a lot of non-vegans as well for that matter, morally object to how palm oil is harvested and produced.
Palm oil is one the major causes of deforestation in the world and its production is resulting in the destruction of some of the most biodiverse natural habitats on the planet.
Not only is the deforestation resulting in countless animals losing their homes, but the production and harvesting of palm oil is also resulting in an increase in greenhouse gases and emissions.
Just to make matters worse, the production of palm oil also often results in the exploitation of workers, and child labourers. Basically, the entire palm oil production sector needs a complete overhaul.
The promising news is that palm oil can be sustainable from a vegan and environmentally friendly standpoint, if it is RSPO certified.
RSPO stands for Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil and is a non-for-profit organization which developed a number of social and environmental criteria in which companies must legally comply with so that they can produce RSPO, or Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.
These criteria have been put in place to minimize the negative impacts that palm oil production has on the environment and on communities located in palm oil producing locations.
Basically, RSPO certified palm oil is palm oil which has been deemed environmentally friendly.
Palm oil on paper is vegan friendly, but as we’ve just looked at, vegans nearly always stay well clear because of how it is produced.
RSPO however, is produced in a manner far less damaging to the environment which is why some vegans will consume products containing it.
Products containing sustainable palm oil must be labelled as such.
Is Canola Oil Vegan?
In the US especially, canola oil is very popular and is only consumed in the form of an oil.
Canola oil comes from canola plants, which are a form of rapeseed that are loosely related to the brassica family.
Canola oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, making it relatively healthy, especially when it comes to the heart, the joints, and the brain.
Typically, canola oil is used in baking or in light cooking as it has a moderate smoking point, so it’s no good for deep frying.
GMOs are common when growing rapeseed.
As it is plant-based, canola oil is considered vegan but remember to use organic canola oil or look for the label non GMO Project.
Is Corn Oil Vegan?
You can probably guess where corn oil comes from. Yes, you guessed it – corn.
In the US, corn oil is by far the most popular oil in fast food restaurants, especially when it comes to frying French fries.
In fact, market research has found that 70% of restaurants and fast food outlets that serve French fries, use corn oil.
Corn oil isn’t renowned for its health benefits as it is high in saturated fat which, in excessive amounts, can lead to cardiovascular issues.
GMOs are common when growing corn.
Corn oil is indeed vegan but make sure to use organic corn oil or look for the label non GMO project.
Is Soybean Oil Vegan?
Soybean oil is made from soybeans and solely soybeans, making the oil relatively suitable for vegan diets and lifestyles.
We say relatively because there have been some environmental concerns raised with regards to the production of soybean oil.
You see, around 80% of soybean crops are genetically modified so that they can withstand pesticides.
These pesticides are harming the environment and are killing insects, including bees.
As a result of this some vegans object to soybean oil unless it is made solely from organic soybeans which are not genetically modified.
Is Coconut Oil Vegan?
Coconut oil is another oil which has a reputation for being incredibly healthy. Whereas olive oil was once the king of the healthy oils, recently some have dubbed coconut oil the new king of the healthy fats.
Coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides, or MCTs for short. These triglyceride chains are easier for the body to metabolize and breakdown, so the fats are instantly used as energy, rather than being stored as body fat instead.
Coconut oil is actually a solid at room temperature, and a relatively high smoking point, though it is not suitable for deep frying.
It adds a wonderful rich and creamy texture to the dishes it is used in, along with an unmistakable coconut taste and aroma.
Many people use it as a substitute for butter, especially in baking. Made from the flesh of ripe coconuts, coconut oil is entirely plant-based and is sustainable, making it vegan.
Is Avocado Oil Vegan?
Avocados are also known as ‘nature’s butter’ and if you’ve ever tasted a ripe avocado before, you’ll know exactly why that is.
Avocados are rich and creamy fruits that are loaded full of heart healthy poly and monounsaturated fats, along with vitamin E, and minerals such as zinc and potassium.
Avocado oil is made from pressed avocados and has a very smooth and distinctly nutty taste and texture.
As more than 50% of its content is made from monounsaturated fats, it is also one of the healthiest oils you could wish for and is extensively used in vegan cuisine.
The only downside is that avocado oil has a fairly low smoking point, so it won’t withstand high heats so it’s not so great for frying.
For baking and making salad dressings, though, there’s nothing finer.
Is Almond Oil Vegan?
Almond oil is made from pressed almonds and is a very tasty oil packed full of nutrients, including vitamin E.
You see, close to half of an almond’s weight is oil, so by pressing and extracting the oil, we have a delicious nutty oil that can be used for culinary and cosmetic purposes.
Almond oil is great for the skin and is often used as a carrier oil in aromatherapy.
For culinary purposes, almond oil is also a great choice, though it can’t hold up to high temps so it is best when used in dishes requiring lower temps or when baking.
However there are two downsides to almond oil.
First up is the high water usage, to make one almond you need 3.2 gallons of water which is a vast amount.
Secondly is the exploitation of bees. The bees are shipped from all over the country to California to pollinate the almond trees.
California produces 80% of the world’s almonds supply according to The Guardian.
Almond oil can’t be considered vegan.
Is Cottonseed Oil Vegan?
Cottonseed oil is a vegetable oil which is derived from cotton plant seeds. Typically, one full cotton seed will contain around 20%.
The oil itself is used in a variety of goods as it works very well as a natural preservative and so can help to extend the shelf life of a number of different culinary ingredients.
It’s also ideal for baking and works very well as a shortening, particularly in vegan recipes whereby it can replace animal fat such as lard which would ordinarily be combined with flour to produce breadcrumb like textures.
GMOs are common when growing cotton.
Cottonseed oil is vegan but make sure to use organic cottonseed oil or look for the label non GMO project.
Is Peanut Oil Vegan?
No prizes for guessing where peanut oil comes from either.
If you’ve ever purchased a jar of natural organic peanut butter, that is, peanut butter made from 100% organic peanuts, you’ll notice that at the top of the jar will be a layer of oil which has separated from the peanuts.
Peanut oil is a fantastic oil for sauteing and frying as it can withstand higher temps than most other oils.
As it has a high monounsaturated fat content, you’ll also find that the oil itself provides cardiovascular benefits, providing it is consumed in moderation.
As it comes from ground and pressed peanuts, peanut oil is perfectly acceptable on vegan diets.
Is Sesame Oil Vegan?
Sesame oil comes from sesame seeds and has an extremely low smoking point. In fact, because the smoking point is so low, it is not used in cooking at all, but rather, in dressings, or when drizzled over finished dishes.
Widely used in Asian cuisine, sesame oil provides a rich and nutty taste that just cannot be replicated.
Made from raw pressed sesame seeds, sesame oil is vastly underrated in terms of health benefits as it is rich in antioxidants, is packed full of healthy fats, and contains plenty of vitamins and minerals.
It is plant-based and is therefore vegan, so knock yourself out.
Is Safflower Oil Vegan?
Safflower oil is made from safflower seeds and is very similar to sunflower oil.
It too can withstand high temps so it is great for frying and deep frying, and furthermore, it also holds onto more of its health properties as well.
Safflower oil is a great source of fatty acids, it has a neutral taste, it may help to reduce LDL cholesterol, plus it may also provide anti-inflammatory properties as well.
As it is derived from the seeds of safflowers, it is perfectly fine on a vegan diet.
Is Flaxseed Oil Vegan?
Flaxseed oil is made from pressed flax seeds which are hugely popular in the plant-based world, and in the fitness community as well.
Flax seeds are packed full of healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids.
The only real downside is the fact that flaxseed oil should not be used for cooking as it has an extremely low smoking point.
Instead, it can be added to smoothies and shakes, or drizzled over dishes or stirred into them at the end to up the nutritional content.
Flaxseed oil is perfectly acceptable on a vegan diet.
Is Rice Bran Oil Vegan?
Last, but certainly not least, we have rice bran oil.
On the outer later of rice grains, you will find the rice bran and within this bran is the oil used to make rice bran oil.
As a by-product of rice milling, rice bran oil is used in cooking all over the globe.
It is full of healthy nutrients, it is versatile and can be used for cooking, frying, baking, and in dressings, plus it has a high smoke point so it can withstand higher temps.
As it is made from rice, rice bran oil is ideal for vegan cuisine.
Is Vegetable Oil Healthy?
For years and years, the general public was told that all fats were bad for them and were responsible for heart disease, strokes, heart attacks, and many other health issues and ailments in the process.
Whilst it is true that some fats are indeed unhealthy, we’re looking at you ‘Trans Fats’ it has also been found that good fats are deemed essential for optimal health and wellness.
Because of this, we now know that not all fats are bad for us and that some are actually very good for us.
We need fats for our brains to function properly, we need them to produce certain hormones, we need them to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and a whole lot more besides.
So, as you can see, when it comes to vegetable oils and vegan diets, the vast majority of oils out there are plant-based and are therefore perfectly suitable on vegan diets.
Several vegetable oils are made with GMO crops. If you do consume these oils on a vegan diet, be sure to check the labels and make sure the vegetable oil is organic and that the palm oil is RSPO certified.