Gluten Free Cooking Basics: Oils

oil_vinegar-lose-weightUPDATED 5/16/14

I realized when I began typing the information I compiled on GF cooking/baking, that some of this information is information intensive and wouldn’t do well on a blog. I believe blogs should be short and to-the-point — even the informational ones. So, I’m going to have to break up the information into several parts.

Get ready, this information is way more than you ever expected to know 🙂

Gluten Free Baking Substitutes

 Really like information from and

Cooking Oils


•     Margarine: 1 for 1, the BEST for flavor is Earth Balance and it has no trans fats.
It IS processed though, like all margarine.

•     Ghee: Simple to make, this is butter with all the milk solids (and therefore the casein) removed. It tolerates high heats too since there is no milk solids to burn!

•     Coconut Oil: 1 for 1 lends a great texture and a slight coconut flavor which can be delicious in baked goods. The REFINED version has less of the coconut flavor. This oil is loaded with heart-healthy fats.

•     Shortening: Several trans fats free versions out there. Try Spectrum Palm Shortening. Substitute 1 for 1.

•     Vegetable Oils (canola, safflower, grapeseed): These are lightly flavored fats perfect for baking. Most are highly refined and canola has a high risk of GMO content. Liquids would need to be reduced to compensate for the oil’s liquid state.

Grapeseed Oil

is the ideal replacement for butter in baked goods, making it optimal for those on a dairy-free diet. It is also low in cholesterol, and has a neutral flavor. Buy in glass containers, because plastic contains endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are exacerbated when they come into contact with oil.

Coconut Oil

I use coconut oil to lend a tropical flavor to certain baked goods. When heated, it can scorch very easily, so be sure to heat it at a very low temp.

Purchase only food-grade coconut oil in glass jars, and make sure it is unrefined and not hydrogenated. High-quality coconut oil will have a slightly sweet smell, coconut flavor and no aftertaste.

 Following Info from


Types of oils

Natural fats contain varying ratios of three types of fats: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and very stable. They resist oxidation, so they often can tolerate higher temperatures.

Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and generally the least stable for cooking. They oxidize easily and are found in safflower and sunflower oils, if not labeled for high heat or “high oleic.”

Monounsaturated fats also are liquid at room temperature and generally are more stable than polyunsaturates. They’re found in canola, nuts and olives.


Pressed vs. chemically extracted

Seek out culinary oils that are mechanically pressed from the seed without using chemical solvents.
These also are referred to as “expeller pressed.”

Olive, avocado and walnut oils, for example, are from soft fruit or nuts that need only expeller pressing and centrifuging. They may be labeled “cold-pressed.”

Hard oilseeds, such as soy or canola, usually require some pre-treatment such as steam before pressing.

In contrast, mass-market oils generally are extracted with toxic solvents such as hexane. These oils then undergo harsh treatment to remove the solvent. More chemicals, very high heat, and straining are used to deodorize and bleach the oils — rendering them inferior in taste, fragrance, appearance and especially nutritional quality.

Unrefined oils (Olive Oil, Sesame)

Unrefined oils are filtered only lightly to remove large particles. Some, such as sesame or olive oil, may appear cloudy or have visible sediment after sitting. This does not compromise quality.

Unrefined oils have more pronounced flavors, colors and fragrances than refined oils. Like unrefined whole grain flours, unrefined oils are more nutritious and have a shorter storage life than refined.

Unrefined oils are best used unheated in dressings or with low heat sautéing or baking. Their natural resins and other beneficial particles burn easily and develop unpleasant flavors and unhealthful properties if overheated. If you choose to bake with unrefined oils, expect the flavor to be more pronounced.

Refined oils (high oleic Safflower, Sunflower & Peanut)

Naturally refined oils are more thoroughly filtered and strained than unrefined, usually with some additional heat but without harsh or damaging chemicals. Refining reduces the nutrient level and flavor. It also removes particles and resins and makes naturally refined oils more stable for longer storage, more resistant to smoking, and a good choice for high-heat cooking and frying.

Refined oils recommended for high-heat cooking and deep-frying are “high oleic” safflower, sunflower, and peanut oil. These oils are from varieties high in monounsaturated fats, which are well-suited for high heat.


Buttery spread & Organic shortening (margarine)

There is quite a controversy about the health benefits or risks of using margarine. Two good products:
Earth Balance Natural Shortening – great for cookies, cakes and muffins. It is non-GMO, trans-fat free, dairy free, and gluten free.
Spectrum Naturals Organic Shortening – it, too, is dairy free and gluten free. It has no cholesterol and works wonderfully for pie crusts, cookies, cakes, etc.

If you are using these to replace butter in a recipe, be sure to blend at room temperature with your liquid ingredients, such as fruit sweeteners or agave cactus nectar. If the sweetener and shortening are not at the same temperature, they will not combine well, and they may curdle. These products should be limited to baking.


Storing oils

Air, heat and light cause oils to oxidize and turn rancid. Natural oils should smell and taste fresh and pleasant. Can’t tell? If in doubt, throw it out! Studies indicate that rancid fats may promote cancer and heart disease.

For maintaining quality of flavor and nutrition, it is best to store oils in an airtight glass bottle in a cool, dark place. Plastic contains endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are exacerbated when they come into contact with oil.

For oils that will sit unused for longer than one month, storing in the refrigerator is ideal.


Cooking with oils

Avoid canola – NEVER nonGMO –too processed

Coconut oil is oil of choice

–       use refined- more neutral flavor

–       can be very light in some instances.

If need a heavier oil—add a T or two of olive oil to help with the moisture level.

Organic Palm Shortening (Spectrum)

Use instead of traditional shortenings


Cooking with oils

Oil No heat Low heat Med. heat Med. high heat High heat Characteristics and uses
Almond, refined X X X X X Clean, neutral flavor and a high-heat wonder.
Avocado, refined and unrefined X X X X X Neutral flavor, lovely texture for dressings. Wonderful for searing meat, whipped potatoes and stir-fries.
Butter X X X Flavor varies depending on origins. Best blended with other oils for a higher smoke point to prevent burning.
Canola, refined X X X X X Neutral flavor, good all-purpose oil.
Canola, unrefined X X Mild flavor, vibrant orange color.
Canola-olive oil blend X X X X X Convenient for cooks who like olive oil but want higher heat tolerance.
Coconut (virgin/extra virgin), unrefined X X * Flavors range from neutral to mild. Good in soups, stews, curries and baked goods. High heat resistant.
Ghee (clarified butter) X X X X Clarifying butter removes moisture and particles to give higher heat tolerance. Often used in Indian cooking.
Grapeseed, refined X X X X X Clean, neutral taste. Great for sauteing
Macadamia nut, unrefined X X Nutty, buttery flavor.
Olive (extra virgin) unrefined X X * Wide range of flavors, depending on origin. Ideal for cold dishes, salads, pesto and dipping bread.
Peanut, refined X X * * A classic for tempura, fish, stir-fries and Asian dishes. Potential allergen. Heat tolerance can vary greatly.
Safflower, refined X X X X X Mild flavor, good all-purpose oil.
Sesame, refined X X X X X Adds light flavor to seared meats, stir-fries.
Sesame (including toasted), unrefined X X Highly aromatic, nutty, best in dressings and sauces.
Sunflower (high oleic), refined X X X X X Neutral, all-purpose oil, good source of vitamin E.
Sunflower, unrefined X X X X X Rich flavor, best in cold dishes, good source of vitamin E.
Vegetable shortening (palm fruit), refined X X X Flavorless, good for vegan baked goods. Not hydrogenated (no trans fat).
Walnut, refined X X X X Adds a hint of walnut flavor to salads, marinades and sautés. Potential allergen.
* Heat tolerance of these oils can vary more than others, so check labels for manufacturer recommendations. If oil or fat smokes in the pan, the temperature is too high for that oil. It’s safest to discard it, clean the pan and start over at a lower temperature. This may conflict with sources that advise to heat the oil to the smoke point. The point at which oil smokes signals that the oil has been damaged and potentially cancer-causing properties have formed.

Sunflower and safflower are neutral in flavor, while peanut and sesame will impart some flavor, which could enhance or detract from the dish, depending on what we’re cooking.

Trudy Bialic, Sound Consumer editor, says she personally likes to use refined almond oil, or one of the avocado oils for when she needs a high heat oil. Unlike the modern hard-seed oils (safflower, sunflower, canola), avocado oil at least does not require heat to be extracted.

Didn’t expect choosing an oil to use was so difficult, did you? 🙂

UPDATE/NOTE/WARNING:  5 Ways Vegetable Oils are as bad for you as gluten :). good news though. At the end of the article, there is a link for downloading which oils are okay and a lot more 🙂


NEXT: eggs & egg substitutes

3 Comments (+add yours?)

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