Salad oil is any lightly flavored vegetable oil that is added to salads to improve the taste, texture, and nutritional qualities of the dish.
Here’s what salad oil is used for: adding to salads, making salad dressings, frying salad ingredients, and roasting vegetables.
Types of Salad Oil
The main requirement for a salad oil is the lightness of texture and flavor, so that it doesn’t overpower the delicate salad ingredients. The most common type of salad oil is extra virgin olive oil because of its neutral taste, versatility, and many health benefits.
Other common types of salad oil include walnut oil, corn oil, and flaxseed oil. These oils can be used in salads on their own or added to enhance the taste of homemade salad dressings.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is extracted from olives without the use of chemicals and is the highest-quality olive oil available on the market. It has many health benefits, including the anti-inflammatory effect from the high levels of phenolic compounds and vitamin E, which improves hair and skin health.
Extra virgin olive oil has a recognizable dark green color and adds a bitter and peppery herbal taste to salad but remains neutral when added to food. Some of the most common uses of extra virgin olive oil are in Mediterranean salads, like the Italian caprese salad with tomato and mozzarella.
Walnut oil is an unrefined, light-gold oil extracted from whole walnuts that is light gold in color and has a strong nutty, wooden aroma.
Walnut oil has a low burning point, which is why it is commonly used in salads without cooking.
Mix 4 tablespoons of walnut oil with 1 tablespoon each of balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard to make a delicious, omega-3-rich vinaigrette for a fresh vegetable salad.
Corn oil is a lightly textured oil extracted from corn that has a light yellow color, and smells and tastes more neutral than most salad oils. Its sweet flavor and smell are reminiscent of baked corn.
Corn oil works especially well in salads that contain corn, and its slightly sweet, fresh flavors are highlighted when paired with cold pasta and fresh vegetables and herbs.
Flaxseed oil, or flax oil, is a colorless oil extracted from the dried seeds of the flax plant.
This oil is a natural source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which can reduce cholesterol.
Good-quality flaxseed oil has an earthy or nutty flavor, which makes it excellent drizzled over green salads or fresh vegetables, added to homemade salad dressing, or used as a marinade.
Sunflower oil is a lightly colored oil extracted from sunflower seeds that serves as a great salad oil because of its neutral taste, and is popular because it is rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E, and high in unsaturated fats.
Sunflower oil has a nutty flavor and works well in salad dressings and vinaigrettes. Mix sunflower oil with apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and dijon mustard to make a simple dressing for a variety of salads.
Salad Oil Substitutes, Alternatives, and Replacements
There are many different ingredients with a similar texture that you can use instead of salad oil. Plant-based foods, like avocado, tahini, hummus, and nut butter can replace salad oil and add more interesting tastes to a regular salad.
A ripe avocado is an excellent salad oil substitute, especially in vegetable salads. Avocado is a healthy salad addition because it is high in monounsaturated fats and potassium, which are great in preventing heart disease.
To make an avocado dressing, take half of an avocado, a splash of water, lemon juice, and any herbs you enjoy and blend everything in a blender to a smooth sauce-like texture. Use the same amount of avocado dressing as salad oil (1:1 ratio)-2 to 3 tablespoons per serving.
Tahini is a Middle Eastern butter made from ground, toasted sesame seeds, and has a light color and delicious nutty flavor. It can be used as a salad oil substitute in many salads, including those with fresh or roasted vegetables.
Use the same amount of tahini as salad oil in a salad (1:1 ratio), or a similar ratio of creamy salad dressing made by mixing 4 tablespoons of tahini, 4 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons each of maple syrup and dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.
Hummus is a thick Middle Eastern spread, dip, or salad oil substitute made with cooked chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, and oil.
Hummus has a nutty and salty flavor and is much thicker than salad oil. Use about 1 tablespoon of hummus to substitute 2 tablespoons of oil in a fresh or roasted vegetable salad (2:1 ratio). Make sure to mix well until the thick paste is thoroughly combined with juices from the vegetables.
Different types of nut butter can also be used to replace salad oil, whether used plain or as a salad dressing ingredient.
To make a salad dressing with nut butter instead of salad oil, mix 1 tablespoon of preferred nut butter with 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 2 teaspoons of dijon mustard, and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the same amount of dressing to the salad as you would salad oil (1:1 ratio).
Tips for Using Salad Oil
The following tips for using salad oil are sure to enhance any salad. They’re a great guide in using the right amount of oil, and in using the right oils for your specific dish.
Salad Dressing Bottle
A salad dressing bottle will help to make sure there is a correct amount of oil added to the salad. To control the amount of oil added to a salad, pour the oil into a multi-use oil dispenser, and keep it handy on your kitchen counter or table.
Look for a salad dressing pourer that has measurement marks on the side of the bottle, and/or a spout stem that regulates for a small stream or drips.
Making a Dressing With Salad Oil
A perfect salad dressing should contain all basic tastes – salty, sweet, bitter, and sour. When making a salad dressing using salad oil, use one part vinegar to three parts oil.
Add salt or soy sauce for salty flavor, sugar or any sugar syrup for sweet, dijon mustard for bitter taste, and lemon juice or vinegar for sour.
Taste the dressing when assembling to keep all tastes balanced.
Pairing Oil With Ingredients
A good way to pair oil and salad ingredients is to match one salad ingredient with its oil version. For example, use avocado oil in salads with avocado, olive oil in Mediterranean vegetable salads with olives, and walnut oil in salads containing nuts.
Storing Salad Oil
Salad oils have a shorter shelf life compared to other oils, and can go bad quicker when exposed to heat and light. It’s best to store salad oils in a cool, dark spot like the kitchen cupboard.
Salad Oil FAQs
The following answers solve some of the most common questions about how to use salad oil, the health benefits of salad oil, and the key differences between salad and cooking oil.
What Is the Healthiest Salad Oil?
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest salad oils available. Extra virgin olive oil is unrefined, compared to most salad oils, which makes it rich in nutrients and antioxidants.
Other healthy choices for salad oil include sunflower oil, which is extremely rich in vitamin E, and unrefined walnut oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
What’s the Difference Between Salad Oil and Cooking Oil?
Cooking oil and salad oil are similar oils that generally differ in the way they are processed.
Frying oil is usually made with canola or soybean oils and has an anti-foaming agent which is necessary to prevent the spatting of frying foods.
Is Salad Oil Good for Frying?
Salad oil is not good for frying because it has a higher sensitivity to heat, and lighter texture compared to cooking oils.
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