Ever wonder why certain dishes taste better at your favorite restaurants? One of the differences is in the way they prepare the ingredients beforehand. Secret recipes? Not at all. Sometimes it’s just a matter of adding an unexpected new flavor with the kind of oil they use. Vegetable oil always does the trick for basic dishes such as stir-fries, of course, but if you want to add a bit of piquancy, nuttiness, or depth to a recipe, switch it up with a different kind of frying medium. Here are several vegetable oil alternatives for stir-fry and sautéing.
This is a great replacement in so many respects. Coconut oil has plenty of range; it’s useful for stir-frying as well as baking, roasting, and more. It does have a lot of saturated fat if that’s an issue for you, but it also brings a lovely taste to so many dishes. This is excellent for stir-frying. Use refined coconut oil in smaller quantities, and watch the burners, keeping the heat at around medium temperatures.
Ghee is essentially a clarified butter made in India, and it brings a rich and nutty taste to anything you cook in or with it. Ghee is dairy-based, but vegetable oil alternatives are available, and because much of the milk in it is strained out, it keeps longer in your kitchen cabinets than regular butter. One of ghee’s biggest benefits is its high smoke point, which can keep food from losing its flavor or becoming acrid and unpleasant tasting if burned. Many chefs recommend frying with ghee because it leaves food crispier and feeling less greasy on the tongue as well. Ghee also has a memorable nuttiness that can give a merely okay stir fry a bigger boost of flavor.
Avocado oil has the highest smoke point of any oil, letting your ingredients retain their natural flavor while preventing burning. The refining process ensures avocado oil’s higher smoke point, so you can use it for rapid, high-temperature frying. Something also worth mentioning is because of the refining process, avocado oil’s flavor is remarkably light. That may sound bad if you’re looking for avocado flavoring in your cooking, but that’s a good thing because that means it’s not interfering with the other flavors and seasonings in a meal.
When considering oil alternatives for stir-fry and sautéing, don’t pass up grapeseed oil. Another oil with a high smoke point, grapeseed oil can handle high temps without allowing foods to be scorched or burned. If you’re watching your fat intake, grapeseed oil has minimal saturated fats and more polyunsaturated fats, helping to reduce your bad cholesterol. It also has its fair share of vitamin E, providing antioxidants to fight free radicals. And, like avocado oil, a lack of intrusive flavor on its own part ensures the grapeseed oil doesn’t overwhelm the taste of your other ingredients. For added safety, buy it in its organic form since the processes to create non-organic grapeseed oil can be hazardous.