We’re all familiar with how butter is a staple in baking goods, for it provides a rich, savory taste to them. However, not all people are well aware of the essential role of oils in baking.
Oils are the source of fat in baked goods. They’re responsible for the tender, moist feel in cakes. Do you know how you enjoy a piece of cake melting in your mouth? That’s because of oil.
A wide variety of oils can be used in baking. We’ll be focusing today on two of the most affordable oils; sunflower oil vs. vegetable oil.
There’s no definite answer to which of these oils is best for baking; each of them has its uses and downsides that I’ll be expanding on below.
Pros Of Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil is one of the healthiest oils you can use for baking. Its high content of unsaturated fats makes it the preferred choice for health-conscious people. On top of that, it has a higher smoke point than most oils (450 F).
The smoke point of an oil is the temperature where the oil becomes unhealthy to consume and releases bad chemicals. So, that means you can use sunflower oil at high temperatures without worrying about affecting its nutritional value.
One more reason to use sunflower oil for baking is its neutral taste. Its aroma and flavor are kind of subtle, which means it won’t affect your baked goods’ taste and smell. Imagine baking with coconut oil, for example. You’ll have everything smelling like it.
Cons Of Sunflower Oil
The thing about sunflower oil is that it’s only healthy if used in small amounts. Also, that’s only if it’s a high oleic variation. On the other hand, high linoleic sunflower oil doesn’t have the same nutritional value, and it releases dangerous compounds at high temperatures.
Some people believe other oils will have a lower risk of causing heart diseases and weight gain, such as avocado oil or olive oil. However, these oils aren’t ideal choices for baking, which drives us to choose vegetable oil as the obvious competitor.
There’s also the fact that high linoleic sunflower oil is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Meanwhile, other oils aren’t, such as canola oil, palm oil, and high oleic sunflower. These oils are typically healthier to use for baking or cooking.
So, without further ado, we can say that high oleic sunflower oil is ideal for baking purposes, and it’s perfectly healthy to use under its smoke point. When it comes to high linoleic oil, though, that’s where we draw the line on using it for baking.
Pros Of Vegetable Oil
It’s a fact that oil is the source of moisture in baked goods, especially cakes. It’s true that butter gives a strong, noticeable flavor to the bakery, but it’s the oil that’s responsible for the tenderness of the end product. Contrary to the popular belief, vegetable oil can produce excellent results when it comes to baking.
Vegetable oil is usually derived from a blend of different plants like canola, soybean, and sesame seeds. It has a relatively high smoke point of 400 to 450 F. Besides baking, it works well for frying and roasting.
The concern that arises here is that you won’t probably know which plants are used to make your vegetable oil. As a result, you don’t know the number of polyunsaturated fats in it.
Cons Of Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oil is usually heavily processed, where it includes a large amount of polyunsaturated fats that lead to weight gain. Besides, it contains ingredients from GMO sources, which is not the best choice when it comes to your health.
Apart from that, the polyunsaturated fats in vegetable oil oxidize under high temperature, where it doesn’t keep its form. This has a negative impact on our health.
Best Vegetable Oil For Baking
We can’t talk about oils in baking without mentioning canola oil. It’s considered to belong to the family of vegetable oils and undoubtedly the best baking oil thanks to its low content of saturated fats and neutral flavor.
This way, it gives you the tender, moist cake that you’re after while not affecting the taste.
When it comes to traditional vegetable oil, it’s known to produce the moistest and most tender bakery. A cake that literally melts in your mouth! It’s also neutral like canola oil, so you won’t have to worry about the oil’s flavor affecting your bakery’s.
As we’ve said before, oil is 100% fat. Thus, it prevents gluten (the protein in flour) from interacting with water so it doesn’t produce a dense cake.
If you’re concerned about the limited uses of sunflower oil in baking, you’d be surprised how multi-purpose it actually is. The high nutritional value isn’t the only pro of this oil. Here are the baking recipes you can use in.
Cookies, brownies, and cake recipes usually call for butter or shortening. However, sunflower oil can serve as an alternative for both. It’ll typically result in a different consistency because it’ll be denser than you’re used to. The solution to that is pretty easy, though. You can add three portions of the oil instead of every four portions of butter or shortening.
That way, the texture won’t be much different from what you’re used to. You can also add more eggs and sugar, and your baked goods will get fluffier, and in turn, more delicious!
Same as cookies and cakes, pie crusts and pastries call for butter or shortening. Sunflower can substitute both, but the crust will be less flaky than you’re used to. The good news, though, is that it’ll be much healthier.
Without the trans fat in the shortening and the saturated fat in the butter, you get a healthy pie, not to mention that it means a lower risk of heart diseases and weight gain.
If you tend to bake bread at home, you can use sunflower for baking it. When making one large loaf or two small ones, you can use one teaspoon of sunflower oil alongside two teaspoons of your solid fat of choice. It’ll be healthier than going all the way with butter.
Is Vegetable Oil Good For Baking?
I remember how stunned I was when I stumbled upon a recipe for carrot cake that uses vegetable oil instead of butter. Later on, I discovered that vegetable oil is capable of doing a lot of stuff when it comes to baking!
Shortening is pretty familiar in baking. It’s a semi-solid fat used in baking to make the flour more crumbly and to limit the formation of gluten, which results in a less sticky dough. Vegetable oil is hydrogenated until it solidifies, and it can be used as shortening in baking cakes.
Vegetable oil is known to be neutral in taste, which is good in baking goods that don’t require external flavor. However, some flavors stick better on oil. Here’s when vegetable oil comes in handy to carry other flavors in pies, pastry, or cake.
Vegetable oil has a high smoking level, especially olive oil. That’s why it’s considered a perfect option for baking cakes if you don’t mind it’s flavor.
Can I Use Sunflower Oil Instead Of Vegetable Oil?
This will depend on whether your baking recipe requires oil that tastes mild. Sunflower oil is a viable option as it complements any recipe, including cakes, brownies, and cookies.
Additionally, it serves as an alternative for safflower oil, corn oil, and rapeseed oil.
Can You Substitute Sunflower Oil For Olive Oil?
Yes, you can use sunflower oil as a 1 for 1 substitute for olive oil. However, the change may change the taste of your baking recipe as olive oil has a stronger and more robust flavor.
Sunflower oil will tend to generate a more mild flavored baking good.
Is Sunflower Oil Vegan?
Yes, sunflower oil is considered a vegan oil.
Vegan oils are derived from oil seeds, nuts, legumes, etc. (not animals): olive oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, grape seed oil, walnut oil, canola oil (rapeseed), coconut oil, pecan oil, mustard seed oil are all vegan oils
Any oil or lard that comes from an animal is not vegan. Some examples are palm oil, tallow, pork lard, whale oil, chicken fat, beeswax, butter, fish oil etc
Is Vegetable Oil The Same As Sunflower Oil?
They are not completely the same due to the way they are being manufactured.
“Vegetable oil” as a term can represent many types of oil in the market.
Most vegetable oils sold are usually a blend of other commodity oil like canola, corn, soybean, safflower, palm, cottonseed etc and guaranteed to be refined processed which lack flavor and nutrients.
Sunflower Oil on the other hand is made by pressing the seeds of the Helianthus annuus plant. It’s often touted as a healthy oil, as it contains unsaturated fats that may benefit heart health.[Source]
There’s no clear answer to which is better; sunflower oil or vegetable oil for baking. It boils down to what type of baked good you’re preparing, how healthy you want to be, and what taste preferences you have.
Personally, I will prefer to use sunflower oil for baking as it is one of the healthiest oils you can use due to its high content of unsaturated fats.