Like salt, oil is one of the foundational ingredients in cooking and is used to start off pretty much every recipe. Read on for a full list of cooking oils that are commonly used in Indian kitchens for everyday cooking.
Cooking oil is one of the most important culinary resources to have in your kitchen. Typically, a well-equipped kitchen has an average of three different cooking oils; this is because although oil is a multi-purpose ingredient, not every oil is ideal to use for all kinds of recipes. Having an idea about what kind of oil to use is as important as knowing how to cook a dish because oils not only bring flavour but also enhance the flavours of other ingredients present in a recipe. Here is a list of some of the widely-used varieties of oils in Indian cuisines, across the country.
One of the most common varieties of oil, vegetable oil is a multi-purpose oil with a high smoking point that can be used for everyday cooking, deep-frying as well as tempering ingredients. It is a flavourless oil with a light-yellow tinge to it and can be used for a wide variety of sweet and savoury dishes. Typically, vegetable oil is used across cuisines and isn’t exclusive to a particular culture.
Slowly rising in popularity as a great non-dairy substitute for cooking, coconut oil is used mainly to cook South Indian dishes. It is thinner in viscosity and has a nutty flavour, similar to coconut milk or coconut cream. This colourless oil, apart from being used for cooking, is also a good alternative to use in baking as well as other purposes like moisturising skin or massaging on one’s head.
Made by cold-pressing raw or toasted sesame seeds, this dark brown coloured oil has a rich, full-bodied nutty flavour that is distinctive in taste. Usually used in its raw form in dressings or to mix with other dry ingredients in sweets or podis, sesame oil tastes best when used in uncooked applications. Due to its strong scent and flavour, it is best to use sparingly.
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With a distinctive pungent smell and taste, mustard oil is used liberally across Bengali and North Indian cooking. It’s spicy warmth is also ideal to use, once heated, in preserving pickles as well as use in its raw form to drizzle over dishes like chokha, etc. Mustard oil is known to be volatile and hence, must be handled with caution and allowed to smoke well before anything is cooked in it, to let the flavours bloom fully.
Widely used across cooking along the ghats and Western coastline, peanut oil is mostly flavourless, save for a mellow peanut aroma. Used in similar fashion as vegetable oil, peanut oil is known to be more nutritious than the former. Best used for deep-frying food, peanut oil varies in flavour profile depending on whether it has been refined or not; where unrefined peanut oil tends to have a stronger flavour.
Derived from the second extraction by heat pressing olives a second time around, after extracting extra virgin olive oil, olive oil has a mellow olive flavour and known to be a healthier alternative to using refined oils. Ideal to use for sautéing ingredients, mostly for savoury purposes, olive oil is also a great medium to use for Continental food as well as dishes that require the usage of a negligent amount of oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
This peppery-flavoured oil variety has a strong aroma of olives and is best utilised in an uncooked capacity – salad dressings, vinaigrettes, finishing drizzles – you name it. The only oil derived by cold-pressing olives, extra virgin olive oil is a healthier and flavoursome option when compared to olive oil, to suit the robustness of Indian palettes.