The Best Oils For Baking – The Ultimate Guide

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As you may already know, baking is an incredibly technical science. Changing or substituting a single ingredient can have detrimental effects on the final taste and texture of the item.

When it comes to the oil you use for different baked goods, it isn’t as straightforward as choosing whichever is available first.

Oil performs a very specific function, so there are a ton of factors to consider when choosing the best option for baking.

So, what are the best types of oil to use for your baked goods? We always recommend using a neutrally flavored oil like canola, sunflower, vegetable, and refined coconut oil. These won’t change the color or flavor. But, once you start playing around with flavor pairings, you can use some flavored oils like almond, pecan, macadamia, coconut, and extra virgin olive oil.

Today, we have a packed article for you to discuss in depth the best options of flavored and unflavored oils for baking. We will not only look at their characteristics but why they work and how best to use them. 

Why Is Oil Used In Baking?

Oil is an incredibly handy ingredient that has very unique functions in baking. While other ingredients like sugar, for example, have many substitutes or alternatives to use, oil is pretty much irreplaceable!

Oil also has a surprising amount of different functions in baked goods.

And, what makes it even more unique is that all of these functions are performed simultaneously in every item! So, let’s have a look at exactly what oil does and why it is so important.

Improves Texture

So, we are covering a little bit of baking science today, but it is important to understand how oil works.

Oil is a fat. Fats react with gluten (a protein found in flour) in baked goods. This reaction causes the gluten strands to shorten.

This is important because baked items such as cakes, cookies, muffins, and pancakes, require a tight crumb and denser texture.

When gluten strands are worked, they become elastic and create a more bread-like texture (not what you want at all).

This shortening also creates a more tender texture in your baked items. So, when the bread is chewy and tough, the cake has a melt-in-your-mouth feeling to it.

Improves Flavor

Do you know why comfort food and fast food are so frustratingly good? It’s because they contain a ton of fat! Fat not only helps carry other flavors (especially sweet and salty ones) but it also helps enhance them!

This is why it is also important to use high-quality oils for your baked items. Their taste will be a lot better as compared to heavily refined options.

Extends Shelf Life

As you may know, oil is a preserving agent often used in pickled and canned goods. However, it also performs the same function for your baked items. 

This is what makes oil a more useful fat as compared to butter or shortening. Those ingredients are highly perishable and don’t preserve the overall quality of your baked item. Oil, on the other hand, will help extend it.

Which Oils Are The Best For Baking?

Now, when it comes to baked goods, you usually want a semi-sweet or very sweet flavor profile. Or at least, nothing savory should dominate your pallet.

In most recipes, you have neutrally-flavored (or flavorless) ingredients (which mainly act as functioning ingredients) and flavoring ingredients.

Some examples of common neutrally-flavored ingredients are flour, leavening agents, and oil.

Obvious examples of flavoring ingredients include sugar, butter, salt, flavor extracts or essences, and milk or cream. Acidic ingredients (like lemon juice, vinegar, sour cream, or buttermilk) also act as flavoring ingredients.

Now, oil often falls between these categories. While it should generally be neutrally flavored, sometimes it does still tend to add flavor.

Oils can add wonderful flavors and create amazing textures, but when choosing the wrong type, can completely disturb the flavor profile.

In general, neutrally flavored oils are the best and safest options to use. They will only perform the functions that oils do for baked goods. They will not add any flavor that doesn’t pair well with those of the other ingredients.

Furthermore, these neutral oils also often have a very light golden or yellow color. This helps give the product a darker crispier appearance once it has been baked.

Exceptions To This Rule

As you may have realized, we are constantly using words like “usually” and “safest”. This is because while neutrally flavored oil is by far the best option, it is still not the only option.

If you choose a flavored oil well, you could create an incredibly tasty baked item whose flavors are well-balanced and blends seamlessly

For example, if you are making almond cookies, you could use almond flour to help enhance the flavor profile. However, you could also use virgin olive oil to give it a deep color and rich flavor.

To learn which flavored oils will work for specific baked goods, you will have to experiment.

There isn’t a right or wrong when it comes to pairing flavors together. The best you can do is try, make notes, and make adjustments in the future!

Choosing The Best Oils For Baking

Naturally, there are a ton of different options you can choose when it comes to oils, and that’s just with the neutrally-tasting ones!

Thus, choosing the best option can be quite difficult. So, we have assembled a guide that will help you narrow down the best choice for your specific item.

Flavored Vs Neutrally Flavored

First things first, and by far the most important decision to make, is are you choosing a flavored oil or neutrally flavored option? This will help narrow down your options considerably!

Now, as we have already mentioned, you can use flavored oils to help enhance a specific characteristic or flavor profile of your baked item. However, neutrally flavored options are always the best.

A neutrally flavored oil is one that has little to no flavor. This includes options like a vegetable oil blend, a seed oil (canola oil or sunflower oil), extra virgin olive oil, or some nut oils like peanut oil.

These will not drastically change the color of your baked item and it will barely change its’ flavor. It is the perfect category of oils that will simply perform the functions it needs to.

Smoking And Flashing Point

This is another very important factor to consider. Many people often look over it and have devastating consequences.

The smoking point of an oil is the temperature at which it starts to smoke. The flashing point is the temperature at which an oil will ignite and catch alight.

Now, different oils have different smoking points. Usually, the neutrally flavored ones or processed (refined) oils have a much higher smoking point than flavored and unrefined (or organic) oils.

This essentially means that they can be used at higher temperatures.

If you use an oil with a low smoke point, it will start smoking within the item and drastically change the flavor, and not in a good kind of smoky way!

Think About Flavor

As we have mentioned, you have to choose whether or not you want a flavored or unflavored oil. However, even still you need to further narrow down your choices.

Neutrally flavored oils will still sometimes have a little bit of flavor. For example, grape seed and peanut oil, however light, still have a flavor to them.

So, you need to look at whether you want those in your item and if other ingredients can cover it up if you don’t.

Furthermore, when you choose a flavored oil, you carefully have to try and match and balance the flavors.

Sesame oil will not pair well with vanilla wafer cookies. But, it might create a unique pairing with some chocolate or sesame seed cookies and muffins.

Health Benefits

We will not go into too many specifics on the different health benefits of different oils. However, we will discuss the differences in nutrients between refined and unrefined oils.

Essentially, unrefined oils will be rich in nutrients because the oil hasn’t been processed.

Naturally, this means that you will ingest more of the benefits the oil may provide. Keep in mind though that unrefined oils (unprocessed oils) will have a prominent flavor that may affect that of your item.

Refined oils, also known as processed oils, contain little to no nutritional benefits. They have been processed in such a way that their color lightens and their flavor dilutes. So, these are usually your more neutrally flavored oil.

The bottom line is, that if you want to get the health benefits a specific oil has, you have to choose an unrefined option. Then you can adjust the flavors later.

Quality Vs. Price

Oils can be expensive, but they don’t have to be. Especially considering the best types of oils for baking are refined seed and vegetable oils, which are the most affordable of them all.

Oils start getting expensive when they are organic, adhere to specific dietary needs and restrictions, and when they are unprocessed

Now, we would also like to point out that just because an oil is cheap or processed, doesn’t mean that it is a bad quality option. You simply won’t get any health benefits from it.

The Best Neutral Oils For Baking

Once you have narrowed down your category of oils, you can get into specific types that will work.

Below we have listed some of our go-to neutrally flavored oils that work the best for baking. They will perform their functions without altering the color or flavor of your baked item.

Vegetable Oil Blend

Vegetable oil is a type of refined oil that is made with a blend of different oils. It can also often contain some types of seed oils.

This is a very cheap option to use, but arguably the best one to use for baking and one that is easy to find across the globe.

It has virtually no flavor to it and is extremely light in color. Although it has a slightly golden hue, it will not affect the color of your baked item.

Refined vegetable oil blends have a smoking point of roughly 428ºF, making them perfect for any baked item. Trust us, you will barely even roast at that temperature, let alone bake at it.

Sunflower Seed Oil

Sunflower oil is an oil that has been extracted from the seeds of a sunflower. It is also one of your best options for baking considering it is virtually flavorless and also has a light (even opaque) color.

But, here is where it gets tricky. There are many different types of sunflower oil, all of which have different smoking points. That’s really the only thing to think about when choosing a type of sunflower oil.

For example, unrefined raw sunflower oil (which is very difficult to find) has a smoking point of only 225ºF. This means that you definitely cannot use it for baking (or any type of cooking really).

Then, you get semi-refined sunflower oil, which has a smoking point of 450ºF. And finally, a fully refined, neutralized, dewaxed, bleached, and deodorized form, which has a smoking point of 489ºF.

Peanut Oil (Refined)

We love a good peanut oil. While it has hints of peanut in it, the refined option is still relatively neutral in flavor.

This oil will work great with different kinds of muffins and cookies. While it will go good with some types of cakes, it tends to have a very heavy flavor that doesn’t match the delicacy cakes give off.

When using the refined peanut oil, your will be able to safely use it in temperatures up to 450ºF.

Coconut Oil (Refined)

Only the refined coconut oil will work as a flavorless option. This oil has been processed to such an extent that it barely has any coconut flavors or aromas. This makes it a fantastic option for virtually any baked item.

Refined coconut oil has a smoking point of roughly 400ºF.

Canola Oil (Refined)

Canola oil is a type of vegetable oil extracted from the rapeseed plant. It is also sometimes labeled as rapeseed oil.

This oil is very similar to sunflower oil or vegetable oil in that it is flavorless and has a very light color. This oil is also one of the most common options you can find and at a very affordable price.

Its smoking point is around 450ºF, making it one of the best oils for almost any type of high heat cooking or baking.

Safflower Oil (Refined)

This is not an extremely well-known oil, but it is becoming more readily available on the market. This oil was originally cultivated to be used as part of a vegetable oil blend. But, today, it is being sold as-is.

Safflower oil is also relatively flavorless and is a type of seed oil. It can also be found in refined and unrefined forms. Always used refined safflower oil, which has a smoking point of 510ºF.

What you may find with this oil is that it is often difficult to find and can be more expensive as compared to other seed or vegetable oils. However, it still makes a great option.

Best Flavored Oils For Baking

Now, some flavored oils will work great in baked goods. However, as we keep emphasizing, you will have to appropriately and carefully match the flavor of this oil with the flavors of the rest of the ingredients in your recipe.

Also, keep in mind that flavored oils have a lower smoking point, have a bit of color, and are more expensive and sometimes harder to find. But, they also contain a lot of nutrients that you could benefit from.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is another refined oil, but one that is of extremely high quality! EVOO is made from cold-pressed olives. Regular olive oil is made often using a blend of cold-pressed and processed oils.

This oil has a very dark color, which can affect the color of your product. So, it is best used in darker items like chocolate cake, chocolate cookies, black forest cakes, and muffins. 

The flavor of this oil is also relatively prominent and will only pair well with specific baked items.

Olive oil will work great with chocolate items, berry items, carrot items, and lemon. And, you even make an olive cake which is made with this special oil.

Refined EVOO has a high smoking point of 405ºF, so will be safe to use in almost all baked items.

Coconut Oil (Unrefined)

We have already mentioned refined coconut oil as a great option for baked goods. But unrefined coconut oil will work equally well too!

And, what makes it even better than other flavored options, is that coconut is extremely easy to pair. This option will go with all baked items, but it will also add its own flavor. 

Its biggest downside is that it has a low smoking point of 350ºF. so, it should only be used for items that bake at lower temperatures. Luckily, there are still loads of options!

Nut Oils

Nut oils are all great options if you can pair them well. We would mainly recommend pairing them with similar products. For example, pair a macadamia nut oil with macadamia cookies.

Just research before attempting to use a specific flavor combination, or make peace with the fact that your pairing might not come out as great as you had hoped.

But, that’s how you learn about new flavor pairings, what works and what doesn’t.

Almond oil has a smoking point of 430ºF while pecan oil has a smoke point of 470ºF.

Best Oils for Specific Baked Goods

Now that we have discussed all the potential options, let’s have a look at the best general options you can use for specific baked goods and categories. 

But again, always try and experiment with new flavors to find exciting pairings. You might just come across something amazing!


Cakes have a very delicate texture and flavor. By this we don’t mean that it is flavorless, but just that it doesn’t do well with strong heavy flavors.

For example, sesame oil, almond oil, or extra virgin olive oil may be too rich for most cake flavors.

The best options for cakes (and options that won’t affect the color of the sponge) include sunflower oil, canola oil, vegetable oil blends, and refined coconut oil.

All of these are either very easy to pair or won’t have any effect on the flavor of the baked item.

This counts for most types of cakes and cupcakes. It even applies to pancakes or crepes.


Muffins can handle a bit more savory flavors and have “rougher” characteristics. While they are still predominantly sweet, some flavors lean more towards vegetables and seeds.

This opens up the door a lot to what you can use. Any neutrally flavored oil will work for muffins. But, you can also play around with a ton of flavored oils. Just pair them well.

Carrot muffins or banana muffins will work well with EVOO, coconut oil, or pecan oil. Chocolate chip muffins will also pair well with coconut oil. And bran muffins can balance out almond oil nicely.


Cookies will undoubtedly give your the most freedom in choosing oils. Because there are so many different kinds of cookie textures and flavors, you will be able to pair any oil with some type of cookie.

Again, first look at flavor combinations that usually work well together. For coconut cookies, use coconut oil. For macadamia nut cookies, use the macadamia nut oil. These are all safe, almost guaranteed great pairing options to try.

Then, once you feel like you have mastered that, you can move on to matching different flavors. Almond oil and vanilla bean cookies will work well.

Dark chocolate and extra virgin olive oil will also be good together. And finally, some coconut oil with a caramel biscuit.

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