There is some debate over whether or not vegetable oil is vegan. The reason for this is that a lot of vegetable oils are made from genetically modified organisms or GMOs. Some people argue that because GMOs are not natural, then vegetable oil cannot be considered vegan. However, others argue that as long as the oil has been processed in a way that does not involve animal products, then it is still vegan. So, what’s the answer? Is vegetable oil vegan or not?
Is Vegetable Oil Vegan?
Vegetable oil is a vegan product. In the United States, “vegetable oil” typically refers to soybean oil, but it can be derived from any plant-based source. So, whether it’s soybean or olive oil, vegetable oil is always vegan.
Palm oil is an exception to this, but it’s only one type of vegetable oil. And not all vegans restrict its intake. Vegetable oils are defined as fats extracted from seeds, or other parts of fruits. Like animal fats, they contain a mixture of triglycerides.
Most often, when we say “vegetable oil,” we are referring to oils that come from plants and remain liquid at room temperature. Some of the functions of vegetable oils in food include:
- Flavoring—Many oils are bland (e.g. canola oil), but others like olive oil have a lot of flavor.
- Texture—Much like all fats, oils improve mouthfeel by creating a smooth texture and preventing ingredients from sticking together.
- Flavor base—Not only do some oils provide flavor, but they are also known to help distribute the flavors of other ingredients evenly. This is especially true for those ingredients that dissolve easily in fat.
- Shortening—Oils are added to baking recipes to prevent the dough from sticking together, resulting in a crumbly texture.
- Cooking—Many oils (those with a high flash point) are used for cooking foods at very hot temperatures.
Different Vegetable Oils and Their Vegan Status
Is Soybean Oil Vegan?
Yes, soybean oil is vegan makes for a great cooking ingredient due to its lecithin content.Lecithin allows for better stabilization of ingredients and thus, soybean oil is commonly used in many food products.
To create soybean oil, the soybeans are first cracked and heated to between 140 and 190°F. They are then rolled into flakes and chemically extracted and refined. The final product is then packaged and sold as “vegetable oil,” or used as a food additive. In fact, it’s the most commonly marketed/labeled type of vegetable oil.
Is Canola Oil Vegan?
Canola oil is a vegan product. Canola oil comes from the bright-yellow flowering mustard plant family and is harvested for its oil-rich seeds. The plant produces canola oil, making it a vegan product.
Although it’s a common oil, canola oil is now cultivated to contain much less erucic acid—a compound known for being destructive to the cardiac muscle of animals. In the past, it used to hold upwards of 54% erucic acid.
Canola oil that is food-grade now has low erucic acid content and is accepted as safe by the United States FDA. In America, federal regulations guarantee that canola oil contains a weight of 2% or less erucic acid. The EU limit is set to 5%.
One reason this type of oil is great to use because it doesn’t give off any flavors that would alter the taste of your food, like olives or coconut would. Therefore, you’re able to get all the benefits of fat without changing the flavor profile of your dish.
Seaweed is not known to produce any detrimental environmental effects and is, therefore, an ideal vegan-friendly ingredient.
Is Olive Oil Vegan?
Yes, olive oil is vegan. Olive oil comes from pressing whole olives. The process begins with grinding or smashing the olives, at which point the oil is extracted mechanically or chemically. Therefore, it is 100% plant-based.
Is Palm Oil Vegan?
There is no definitive answer to this question. Palm oil is a controversial topic in the vegan community, and there is not much agreement on its use. Eco-vegans and vegans who are primarily concerned with animal welfare have both been vocal about their concerns with palm oil production.
Is Sunflower Oil Vegan?
Sunflower oil is vegan. However, sunflower oil is usually refined after production to remove impurities. During the refining process, sodium hydroxide and citric acid are commonly added to remove impurities like waxes or sediments that may have dropped during the extraction process.
Final Thoughts on Is Vegetable Oil Vegan
Oils are a great ingredient to use in vegan cooking because they allow you to get the health benefits of fat without affecting the taste or texture of your dish—so long as it’s not too strong.
There are many different types of oils, and some may be off-limits due to ethical concerns due to how they’re produced. But for the most part, vegetable oils are vegan-friendly and a great addition to your diet.