Olive Oil vs. Canola Oil: Cooking Oil Choices Made Easy

The big question I always face when trying to decide which cooking oil to buy is “How does it taste?” I don’t know about you, but I hesitate to experiment with something that can be pretty pricey per ounce (especially if I end up not liking it and then am stuck with a bottle of unused cooking oil for years).

At the grocery store I will stare at dozens of cooking oils with fancy labels from a multitude of international countries (Italy, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Spain), or from some domestic sources (California, Oregon, Texas, Arizona).  They all look good, but weeding them out is sometimes too challenging.  Which one to dip bread ¦ which one to use for salad dressing ¦ which one to smear on my cast iron skillet?

Oh, I know EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil as abbreviated by the Food Network’s Rachel Ray) is a good bet and on the healthier side, but sometimes I just want my choice to be simple so I can stock my shelves with the right cooking oils and not have to think about them.

Recently, while browsing through Family Circle magazine, I came upon a wonderful cooking oil comparison chart under the heading “Time for an Oil Change?” This handy guide for your use is reprinted here with permission:


Oil Type


Use It For

Extra Virgin

Olive Oil

Produced from the first pressing of olives that have been picked the same day, it has a strong olive flavor and a peppery finish.

Salad dressings or as a condiment. The oil’s low smoke point means it can give food an unpleasant flavor if cooked on high heat.

Pure (regular)
Olive Oil

Made during subsequent olive pressings, with some filtering and refining. Mild olive flavor.

Low- to medium-heat cooking and sautéing (since it has a higher smoke point), and in dressings.

Canola Oil

Pressed from canola seeds, this mild-flavored, omega-3-rich oil has the least amount of saturated fat of all oils.

Cooking, frying, and baking; its high smoke point makes it a good all-purpose oil.

Corn Oil

Made from the germ of corn kernels, this vegetable oil is almost tasteless.

Frying Рcorn oil has a high smoke point and adds no flavor. Can also be used for saut̩ing.

Flaxseed Oil

With the highest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids of any nonfish food, this oil has a nutty flavor.

Salad dressings and for topping vegetables, since heating destroys its omega-3s.

Walnut Oil

Contains omega-3s and vitamin E. Has a distinct walnut flavor, so use only a small amount.

Salad dressings and to drizzle on vegetables. More expensive so refrigerate to extend shelf life.

Source: Family Circle Magazine, Sept.08, Page 169
Nutrition Notes
Copyright © 2008, Meredith Corporation

Based on this chart, it makes sense that some cooking oils are better used for certain cooking tasks than others. I will stick to my 2 regular choices (EVOO and Canola oil), but I’m thinking about adding Walnut oil to my shelf, too.

For more information about various cooking oils, check out these other great websites:

Olive Oil Speculation – Everything you need to know to choose the healthiest, tastiest oil

Cooking Oils Guide from eatingwell.com

Happy cooking oil shopping and cookbook making!


About Erin Miller

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Posted in Odds and Ends.


  1. Frying with canola oil releases more toxic fumes into the air than frying with olive oil, according to a new study conducted at the University of Dayton Research Institute. And frying at temperatures higher than 350 F, a common practice in American kitchens, releases higher levels of toxins –significantly higher levels from canola oil –than frying at the recommended 350 degrees.

    As a result, researchers are recommending frying with olive oil whenever possible and adhering to the 350-degree frying temperature recommended by the International Olive Oil Council.

  2. Just looked up olive vs canola oil and was surprised at the health implications. Suggest you take a look at the articles.

  3. When cooking with oil or using a recipe, one needs to be aware of nutrition, diet and calorie counting implications of each food choice one makes. Information with free calorie counting charts, Comparisons of nutrition, diet and exercise programs with links is offered by http://www.CookingFreeDownload.com.

  4. Sorry there is no such thing as “canola seeds”.
    Canola is a made up name. It is the oil of the rape plant, which is a plant in the mustard family. In Europe it is called Rape Seed Oil and with a little research of the rape seed you’ll find it is not very good for you.

  5. …or its environmental impact either Rob! It’s wide growth in Europe (subsidies to farmers again!) is ruining ecosystems and its pollen being blamed on the rise in childhood asthma.
    Normally I don’t like telling people what they should or should not buy but please think twice before purchasing canola oil.
    This is a personal comment and does not represent Matilda’s Cookbook – Love Matilda
    (actually you should think twice before you buy any food stuff – much better to know where your food comes from and what effect it has on the environment).

  6. @ Rob N. Arizona

    Actually, there is such a plant named Canola. It is a cross breed derived from the Rapeseed plant, its name is derived from Canada and Oil. With a little bit of research you’ll find the erucic acid in this crossbreed are lowered significantly causing no real problems for humans.

  7. Be that as it may, does anyone else thing that these oils (canola or pure rapeseed) smell just a little of Diesel?
    I just don’t like putting anything that I don’t like the smell of on my salad.
    (I’m told that I have a strong sense of smell)

  8. Fantastic info and will never use Canola Oil now what about spreads ? no info on Extra Virgin Olive Oil Spread?

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