Canola Oil Vs Olive Oil: Differences, Similarities, and How to Substitute


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If you are hunkering down in your kitchen right now and wondering how on earth you will complete your recipe without the canola oil that it calls for, then you might be wondering if there are any possible substitutions (like olive oil) that you may have on hand.

Canola oil, compared to olive oil, has a much less noticeable flavor and aroma, though both are used to cook and prepare beautiful meals. Extra virgin olive oil is known to be healthier as it has fewer polyunsaturated fats that are in canola oil. You can substitute olive oil for canola oil as the two are similar enough in their nutritional profile.

These two oils, derived from very different plants, have many differences that make them unique, yet they share enough similarities that olive oil can be used as a healthier option to replace canola oil. Each brings its own flavor and history, so it is important to know what you are cooking with before presenting your dish to any loved ones or guests.

Can You Substitute Olive Oil for Canola Oil?

Whether you are backing your favorite pastry or are simply looking for a healthier alternative to your go-to oil, you might be wondering if you can use olive oil in place of canola oil. After all, they are different oils from different plants, so it is natural that they will taste and appear different. But, is this different enough to be noticed by you or your family when you serve the meal you have prepared?

Fortunately, you can substitute olive oil for canola oil in most scenarios. Olive oil is known to be much healthier since it does not have as high of a concentration of polyunsaturated fats. However, keep in mind that the flavor profile of your dishes may change when using olive oil as it is far more potent of an oil and can greatly alter (and enhance) the dishes that it is used in.

Additionally, you will want to take a look at what you are choosing to substitute the oils for considering the smoke point of the two oils varies greatly (but more on that later). While you can generally assume that it is ok to substitute olive oil for canola oil, just be sure to check the smoke point before you do.

If you are planning to deep fry something, then you will want to choose canola oil or another oil that has a high smoke point so that the oil does not break down before your food is cooked. It is probably wise to just accept that something deep fried in oil will not have many health benefits, anyways, even if you were going to use olive oil in replacement.

How Much Olive Oil is Needed When Substituting for Canola Oil?

Substituting olive oil for canola oil is going to be one of the easiest oil substitutions in the game. Truly, this is a 1:1 ratio meaning that you will simply replace the exact amount of canola oil that is called for with the tastier olive oil of your choice.

When you choose to replace canola oil with olive oil, you will be cutting down the cholesterol and unhealthy fats that otherwise would have been used in your dish. So, naturally, the dish will become a bit healthier. This is one of the primary reasons that many people are beginning to substitute olive oil for canola oil in the first place.

Why Should You Substitute Olive Oil for Canola Oil?

As mentioned, there are many reasons that you might find yourself substituting olive oil for canola oil. Though both can be used for cooking a wide array of foods, there are several benefits that you will find in olive oil that are simply not present in canola oil.

You should substitute olive oil for canola oil if you are looking for a healthier option, needing a 1:1 ratio equivalent for easy canola oil substitution, wanting a richer flavor, or rushing to find an alternative while you cook. Of course, there are plenty of other reasons that you might consider the substitution, but these cover most of the common ones.

If you are looking for a healthier option to canola oil, then substituting for olive oil can be a great option. As stated previously, olive oil has much fewer “unhealthy” fats and a greater amount of “healthy” fats. Additionally, as you use the healthier option that is pressed from olives rather than from a genetically engineered variation of rapeseed, you will enhance the vitamins and minerals found in your dish, too.

Most cooks have both of these types of oil on hand, so the substitution should not be too difficult. But, to add to the ease of substituting olive oil for canola oil, you will not have to do any complicated measurements in your head (or with pen and paper) to get your ratios right. Instead, you will find that you can substitute on a 1:1 ratio for easy conversion.

As an added benefit for substituting olive oil for canola oil, you might find that the stronger flavor of olive oil truly enhances the dish that you are cooking. As it is more potent in flavor, it will add something that you did not even know was missing without it. Think about it- you would never dip a piece of bread into canola oil and enjoy it, but doing so with olive oil is much more common. This has way more to do with the flavor than the health benefits of olive oil.

Finally, as both are commonly used when cooking a variety of dishes, this should be a pretty simple substitute. If you are rushing around your kitchen and are in search of an oil that can be substituted for canola oil, then you can rest easy knowing that your standard olive oil can act as a substitute. While you are welcome to use luxury olive oil, this is not necessary to have the same effect that canola oil would have when baking or cooking the dish of your dreams.

Canola Oil vs. Olive Oil Taste

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between canola oil and olive oil is the taste that each offers separately and when incorporated into a well-prepared meal. Although you can substitute olive oil for canola oil in most situations, doing the opposite might not create the flavor that you were hoping for.

This is because while canola oil does not have a strong flavor and is relatively unnoticeable in what it adds to the food that it is used to prepare, olive oil has a much stronger presence. Professional and amateur food tasters alike will notice the difference in taste between these two.

When you consider the two oils and how they are used, it will really begin to make sense. For example, although fields of the genetically modified rapeseed variation (that is used to produce canola oil) are beautiful to look at, most people do not travel to these fields in search of a canola oil taste testing opportunity as they would an ancient olive grove. Yet, droves of thousands will travel for a once in a lifetime opportunity to taste and see where and how olive oil is produced.

This is generally because the quality of product that olive oil has become is significantly higher in the food world – mainly because it can add such a rich taste to your foods. Additionally, olive oil can be flavored or infused with different food selections that add even more flair to the product.

When no additional flavor options are added, though, olive oil still has a stronger taste than canola oil- especially if you are talking about extra virgin olive oil. The taste is desirable in many dishes and has more of a grassy undertone to it – adding in a rich, natural flavor to any food that it touches.

On the other hand, canola oil is not something you would really eat flat out as it does not add much flavor to the food that it is in. If you are looking for an olive oil that is more neutral in flavor and can still be substituted for canola oil, then you will want to stick with more refined olive oils. Even these, though, will still add more of a taste to your food than canola oil will.

Canola Oil vs. Olive Oil Smoke Point

When you begin looking for an oil that you can use for high heat cooking, you are going to want to look at its smoke point. The smoke point is, like it sounds, the point at which the oil will begin to smoke and break down- potentially releasing toxins into the food, but definitely releasing a poor odor and flavor.

Because of this, if you plan to use high heat cooking like deep frying a tasty dish, you are going to want to look for an oil with a high smoke point. Otherwise, you will find that the oil begins to smoke (break down) before you are able to cook the food at the temperature you were hoping to achieve.

Canola oil has a much higher smoke point than olive oil. While canola oil reaches its smoke point at 457 degrees Fahrenheit, extra virgin olive oil will reach its smoke point between 375 degrees Fahrenheit (though other olive oils will vary from this and have higher smoke points).

This means that canola oil will likely need to be your oil of choice (between the two) when using for high heat cooking like deep frying. However, olive oil can still be used for moderately high heat cooking such as on a stovetop. And, while highly refined olive oil can exceed the smoke point of canola oil, you would never consider frying something with this type of oil as it can be rather costly and not suited for this purpose.

More often, though, olive oil will be used to top dishes or will be cooked/baked into dishes as opposed to being used to fry or used to cook foods at a high heat. In contrast, you would not use canola oil to top your salads or dip bread into for a refreshing appetizer or light afternoon snack.

How are Canola Oil and Olive Oil Similar?

Though the two oils- canola and olive- have many distinct differences between the two (aroma, flavor, coloration, etc.), they are similar in a few ways. Primarily, canola oil and olive oil (particularly extra virgin olive oil) are both higher in monounsaturated fats which are said to have a variety of health benefits. With that said, canola oil is generally higher in polyunsaturated fats which is one of the reasons that olive oil is known to be healthier.

Still, canola oil and olive oil are similar in that they are oils that are high in monounsaturated fats. A few benefits of consuming oil with monounsaturated fats as opposed to polyunsaturated fats include reduced metabolic syndrome risks, chronic disease protection, and some functions of the arteries.

However, this similarity is not often enough to convince most consumers (and dieticians alike) that canola oil is as healthy as extra virgin olive oil- and for good reason. Extra virgin olive oil has many more health benefits such as antioxidants (particularly present when cold pressed) and vitamins.

Be mindful that the health benefits from extra virgin olive oil and other forms (more refined) olive oils will be very different from one another. The more refining that the oil undergoes, the more it loses its nutritional value and coloration.

Interestingly, the more refined olive oils will be closer in color to canola oil considering the refining process that canola oil undergoes. While typical extra virgin olive oil is dark yellow to greenish in color, canola oil is more of a standard yellow- carried similarly from batch to batch through the refining process. Highly refined olive oil will be closer to the yellow-ish color because of its refining process, too.

Conclusion

In conclusion, canola oil is generally less healthy than olive oil considering its higher proportions of polyunsaturated fats, though both are high in monounsaturated fats. Olive oil can be used as a health substitute for canola oil, but their smoke points differ greatly so be sure to watch the heat. And, if you are looking to add flavor, then extra virgin olive oil is the way to go.

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