What is healthiest oil to fry in?

When it comes to choosing the healthiest oil for frying, there are a few key factors to consider: smoke point, fatty acid composition, processing method, and antioxidants. The oil with the best balance of these characteristics is generally considered the healthiest option for high-heat cooking like frying.

What is Smoke Point?

The smoke point refers to the temperature at which an oil begins to burn and smoke. For deep frying, you want to use an oil with a high smoke point, generally 400°F or higher. If you heat oil past its smoke point, it will release free radicals and carcinogenic compounds, making it unhealthy. Oils with high smoke points include:

  • Avocado oil (refined): 520°F
  • Refined peanut oil: 450°F
  • Rice bran oil: 490°F
  • Refined canola oil: 400°F
  • Refined safflower oil: 450°F

Fatty Acid Composition

The fatty acid profile of an oil significantly impacts its health effects. Saturated and trans fats tend to be less healthy, while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats provide benefits:

  • Saturated fats: Coconut, palm, butter. May raise LDL (bad) cholesterol.
  • Trans fats: Partially hydrogenated oils. Increase heart disease risk.
  • Monounsaturated fats: Olive, canola, peanut. Reduce LDL and increase HDL (good) cholesterol.
  • Polyunsaturated fats: Soybean, corn, sunflower. Provide omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

For frying, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthiest. Good choices are olive, peanut, canola, avocado, sunflower, safflower, soybean, and corn oils. Coconut oil is 92% saturated fat so it’s best for occasional use.

Processing Method

The way an oil is processed and refined also impacts its health qualities. Unrefined or virgin oils retain more nutrients but have lower smoke points. Highly refined oils can withstand cooking heat better but lose some nutritional value.

Some examples of oils based on processing method:

Oil Processing
Extra virgin olive oil Unrefined
Virgin avocado oil Unrefined
Refined avocado oil Refined
Cold-pressed canola oil Unrefined
Refined peanut oil Refined

For high-heat frying, refined oils are best. But you can also use good quality unrefined oils like peanut or avocado oil since their smoke points are still adequate for frying. Mixing a small amount of virgin oil into refined oil provides some nutritious benefits.


Antioxidants help prevent oxidation, a chemical process that causes oils to spoil and form harmful free radicals and inflammation in the body. Oils rich in vitamin E and polyphenols have natural antioxidant abilities.

Some oils with beneficial antioxidants include:

  • Olive oil: Contains antioxidant polyphenols.
  • Peanut oil: Good source of vitamin E.
  • Rice bran oil: Contains antioxidant gamma-oryzanol.
  • Canola oil: Contains fat-soluble vitamin E.

Heating oils leads to a loss of antioxidants over time. But oils with more antioxidants to start with will retain more nutritional value even after heating. This makes them healthier choices for frying.

Most Healthy Oils for Frying

Based on high smoke points, stable fatty acid composition, processing method, and antioxidant content, some of the healthiest oils for deep frying are:

  • Refined avocado oil: With its very high smoke point and monounsaturated fats, refined avocado oil tops the list for deep frying. It has a mild flavor that works well for frying.
  • Refined peanut oil: Peanut oil has a high smoke point and resists oxidation. Its monounsaturated fat content also makes it heart healthy.
  • Refined canola oil: Canola provides omega-3 fats and vitamin E. Refining gives it the 400°F+ smoke point needed for deep frying.
  • Rice bran oil: This oil has a very high smoke point and neutral taste. It also contains vitamin E and other antioxidants.
  • Refined safflower oil: The refinement process gives this delicate oil a 450°F smoke point. Its high content of omega-6 fats adds polyunsaturated content.

Oils to Avoid for Frying

On the flip side, some oils are unhealthy choices for deep frying due to low smoke points and poor stability under heating conditions. Oils you should avoid for frying include:

  • Flaxseed oil: This oil contains heart-healthy omega-3 fats. However, it should never be used for cooking since its low smoke point of 225°F means it oxidizes quickly with heat.
  • Unrefined extra virgin olive oil: The unrefined version has a low smoke point around 325-375°F. This makes it unsuitable for frying. Use refined olive oil instead.
  • Walnut oil: Also high in beneficial omega-3s, walnut oil can’t withstand cooking temperatures. It has a low smoke point of 320°F.
  • Partially hydrogenated oil: These trans fats are extremely unhealthy and should be avoided completely, whether it’s for frying or any other purpose.
  • Palm oil: With a high percentage of saturated fat, palm oil is unhealthy for frying or common use.

Tips for Healthy Frying

Aside from oil choice, there are some other tips to keep in mind for healthy frying:

  • Use oils only once – Don’t reuse them as they oxidize with each use.
  • Filter oils after each use to remove food particles.
  • Fry at proper temperatures – usually 350-375°F.
  • Avoid overheating oil – this causes it to break down.
  • Store oil in a cool, dark place like the pantry.
  • Rotate both the foods you fry as well as the oils used.
  • Keep consumption of fried foods occasional – bake or grill instead when possible.

Healthier Frying Oils

Oil Smoke Point Fatty Acid Profile Key Benefits
Refined avocado oil 520°F Monounsaturated fats Very high smoke point, stable under heat
Refined peanut oil 450°F Monounsaturated fats High smoke point, resists oxidation
Rice bran oil 490°F Monounsaturated, polyunsaturated mix High smoke point, vitamin E & antioxidants
Refined safflower oil 450°F Polyunsaturated fats High heat tolerance

Oils to Avoid for Frying

Oil Smoke Point Key Reason to Avoid
Flaxseed oil 225°F Very low smoke point
Unrefined olive oil 325-375°F Too low smoke point when unrefined
Walnut oil 320°F Can’t withstand high heat
Partially hydrogenated oils 400-450°F Contains unhealthy trans fats


When it comes to selecting the healthiest oil for deep frying, the oils with the best balance of smoke point, fatty acid profile, processing method, and antioxidant content come out on top. Based on these criteria, your best bets are refined avocado, peanut, canola, rice bran, and safflower oils. Avoid oils that are unsuitable for cooking due to low smoke points or poor stability under heat, like flaxseed or walnut oils. With the right techniques and oil choice, deep frying can be an occasional part of a healthy diet when vegetables, lean proteins, or other whole foods are used.

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