It’s no secret that techniques like sauteing and frying are a chef’s best friend. Almost anything tastes better once it’s covered in oil and caramelized—kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, you name it.
But is it possible that frying could be good for you, too? A recent study published in Food Chemistry revealed that frying veggies in extra virgin olive oil can actually be healthier than eating them steamed or blanched. During the cooking process, the oil transfers phenols—antioxidants that help prevent chronic degenerative diseases like cancer or diabetes—that aren’t naturally occurring in even the most nutrient-dense veggies. Pretty cool, right?
While not all oils have the same phenol-power as extra virgin olive oil, each has its own list of bragging rights—even those that aren’t suitable for frying. Whether it’s because of their health benefits or distinctive flavors, there are tons of oils that deserve a permanent spot in your pantry.
Here are five that are currently heating up the Thrive Market kitchen.
Note: With any cooking oil, it’s helpful to know its smoke point, aka the temperature at which it stops simmering and starts to burn and taste gross. Higher smoke points can handle deep-frying, while lower ones are better suited for sauteing.
Why We Love It: A staple of the healthy Mediterranean Diet, EVOO boasts a delicious, medium-bodied flavor that complements everything from garlic mashed potatoes to cauliflower braised in tomato sauce.
Taste: Slightly fruity and peppery
Smoke point: Low (around 320 degrees)
Great for: Sauteing, searing, broiling, baking (as well as these six unexpected beauty uses!)
Health benefits: Packed with phenols and high in monounsaturated fats that help lower total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Why We Love It: Organic, cold-pressed, and unrefined, Thrive Market’s coconut oil is just the way nature intended it to be: pure and nutritious. Try this chicken and kale stir-fry or carrot cake baked oatmeal to taste it for yourself!
Taste: Mild, slightly sweet
Smoke point: Medium (around 350 degrees)
Great for: Baking, frying, sauteing (along with tons of other uses outside of the kitchen)
Health benefits: High in lauric acid, the medium-chain fatty acid that raises HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Why We Love It: Handcrafted from premium avocados, this emerald green oil works great for sweet and savory recipes alike.
Taste: Soft and nutty with a hint of avocado
Smoke point: Medium-high (around 375 degrees)
Great for: Deep-frying, stir-frying, sauteing, and works well in salad dressings or drizzled over fruit and veggies
Health benefits: Contains oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat which may lower the risk of certain cancers, prevent flare-ups of certain autoimmune diseases, and reduce inflammation. Also rich in vitamin E, which defends against oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.
Why We Love It: Made from whole, roasted sesame seeds, this lightly filtered, unrefined oil emits that irresistible nutty-sweet aroma characteristic of Asian cuisines (as in this chicken, cashew, and lime stir-fry!)
Taste: Toasty, slightly nutty, very pungent
Smoke point: High (around 410 degrees)
Great for: Stir-frying, seasoning veggies
Health benefits: Contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids that improve blood cholesterol levels and lower risk for heart disease. Also has sesamol, a powerful antioxidant.
Why We Love It: Golden-hued sunflower oil has both a high smoke point and a neutral flavor, making it a pantry hero for high-heat searing, sauteing, and browning.
Taste: Nearly flavorless
Smoke point: Very high (around 450 degrees)
Great for: High-heat baking, sauteing, frying
Health benefits: A good source of vitamin E. However, sunflower oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids (which have been linked to inflammation), making it a no-no for Paleo eaters. If you use a lot of sunflower oil in your cooking, be sure to balance it out by incorporating more omega-3s into your diet
Photo credit: Alicia Cho