Looking For Alternatives To Using Cooking Oil? Here's 11 Great Substitutes

·4-min read
Photo credit: Anjelika Gretskaia - Getty Images
Photo credit: Anjelika Gretskaia - Getty Images

If you’ve had problems buying cooking oil, you’re not alone. There’s currently a global shortage of the stuff due to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine – the leading suppliers in sunflower and rapeseed oil.

This has caused supermarkets to limit the amount of cooking oil customers are able to buy, while also increasing the prices of it in the meantime.

So, if you’re stuck without this ingredient, here’s some alternatives:

Butter and margarine

Butter and margarine are glorious for adding flavour, richness and colour to meals so a great swap for oil. But beware of their lower smoking point. These ingredients brown and burn at much lower temperatures than a flavourless oil like vegetable, corn or sunflower.

Ghee

Instead try Ghee, a clarified butter from South Asia. Due to its higher fat content it’s a much better option for frying at high temperatures (it has a greater smoke point). Its nutty, intense flavour is ideal for making earthy curries and stir fries that require fierce heat and full-on flavour.

Vegetable shortening

Vegan margarine or vegetable shortening (think Flora Plant Butter and Trex) are solid options for frying and baking if you’re steering clear of animal products and shortening is a vegetarian-friendly fat that’s perfect for making deep-fried chicken, tender pastry and pan-seared lamb chops.

Bacon grease

Lardons, pancetta and streaky bacon contain natural animal fat that you can substitute for cooking oil. Add to a hot non-stick pan and cook them gently so the fat is rendered out before frying the rest of your ingredients in the bacon grease immediately and continuing on with your recipe.

Alternatively, you can pour it into a jar and refrigerate it once cooled for later use.

Bolognese and casseroles benefit from the savoury-saltiness that bacon fat lends to a slow-cooked dish but it's also great for frying eggs, making griddled paninis and crispy potatoes.

Photo credit: Michae E. Allen/ A Sharp Photo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Michae E. Allen/ A Sharp Photo - Getty Images

Schmaltz

Schmaltz (also known as chicken butter) is rendered chicken fat. A common ingredient in Jewish and Eastern European cooking, its super flavoursome and easy to make.

To make chicken schmaltz, you need to simmer chicken skin with just enough water to cover it until the water evaporates and the fat from the skin is released. Then strain and use the schmaltz for frying anything from veggies and latkes to seasoned chicken thighs and onions. You can even make dumplings and pastry with it in much the same way as you’d use butter. The crunchy, crackly bits strained from the schmaltz (called gribenes) can be salted and eaten as a snack.

Mashed bananas and apple sauce

Apple sauce, mashed bananas, pureed prunes and even mayonnaise can be substituted for oil in baked goods, like cakes and cookies. Canned pumpkin, sour cream and yoghurt work too. The texture of your cake may change with these additions and it may have a shorter shelf life than usual but in most cases the substitution is unnoticeable.

Tahini

If you have no oil for your salad, instead choose dressings with a zingy lemon or cooling yoghurty base. If you’re after a creamy emulsion, try using ground cashews, silken tofu or tahini to replace the oil in your recipe and give you the velvety texture you’re looking for.

Sunday roast fat

When the fat renders out from your Sunday roast add your veggies and potatoes to the same pan to get crunchy roasties without additional oil. Layering streaky bacon over your joint first will also release lots of fat, which you can use to baste your vegetables as they cook. Or go for jacket potatoes (coating them in oil is not a must), steamed vegetables and trimmings made in the air fryer.

Jams and marmalade

If you don’t have oil for your chicken, try grilling or oven bake chicken breasts and fish fillets with a glaze made of jam or marmalade, or even ketchup, spiced honey or maple syrup to layer on the flavour and mimic the caramelised, crispy surface and texture of something that’s been seared. Brines, rubs and marinades can all add flavour too.

Photo credit: Michelle Lee Arnold - Getty Images
Photo credit: Michelle Lee Arnold - Getty Images

Water

Ingredients like sausages and burgers can be cooked in a drizzle of water until they release their own fat in the pan and the flavour of vegetables can be lifted with herbs, spices, soy or even a touch of broth.

Jarred condiments

Many jarred foods like sun-dried tomatoes, tuna, roasted peppers and chilli crisp come in oil, which can be used. This is not cost effective, but search through your jarred condiments at home!

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