Avocado oil is a cooking oil made from the flesh of the avocado fruit. It's a flavorful oil that's good for high-heat cooking as well as salad dressings and dips.
- Made by pressing avocado pulp
- Has a smoke point of 480 to 520 F
- Has a rich, mushroomy flavor, especially the virgin varieties
- Good for cooking as well as no-heat applications
What Is Avocado Oil?
Avocado oil is a cooking oil produced by extracting the fat from the pulp of the avocado fruit. This makes it somewhat unique among other plant-based oils, most of which are extracted from the seeds of the plant, not the fruit itself. Avocado oil is considered a vegetable oil, even though it's derived from a fruit, typically the Hass variety, or Persea americana.
There are two main types of avocado oil, so-called virgin, and refined. Virgin avocado oil is the pure oil that's extracted by pressing the flesh of the avocado fruit and then spinning the pulp to separate the oil from the water and fruit solids. It has a rich, nutty, mushroomy flavor, and a bright green color. Like with olive oil, avocado oil made from the first pressing of the avocados is referred to as "extra-virgin."
Refined avocado oil is made by filtering the virgin oil to remove small particles of pulp and other impurities. This process also removes the green color, along with much of the flavor and aroma of the oil. So refined avocado oil has a light yellow color with hints of green.
Since avocado oil is generally made in smaller quantities than other vegetable oils, it tends to be among the most expensive cooking oils. For that reason, despite its usefulness in cooking, many cooks prefer to use it as more as a finishing oil than an actual cooking oil.
Cooking With Avocado Oil
One important factor with any cooking oil is its smoke point, or the temperature at which the oil starts to break down and smoke, imparting a burnt, bitter flavor to your food. Extra-virgin avocado oil has a smoke point of around 480 F, and the smoke point for refined avocado oil can be as high as 520 F. This makes it ideal for high heat cooking applications like sautéing and frying. It would also work well for deep-frying, although the quantities needed would make it a pretty expensive choice.
Also, the flavor compounds in virgin avocado oil are lost when the oil is heated, so many cooks prefer to use the virgin type in no-heat applications like salad dressings and for drizzling over veggies rather than for cooking.
Other uses for avocado oil include as an ingredient for making dips, hummus, mayonnaise or aioli, marinades, and it can also be used also in baking.
What Does It Taste Like?
Extra-virgin avocado oil has a pronounced flavor and aroma of avocados, and its flavor is often described as mushroomy. Its flavor is also described as rich and nutty. Virgin avocado oil is less mushroomy, and refined avocado oil is rather mild and subtle, with very little mushroomy flavor at all.
Avocado Oil Substitute
The best substitute for avocado oil will mostly depend on how you're planning to use the oil. If you're looking for a substitute for refined avocado oil because you're intending to use it as a high-heat cooking oil, then your best substitute would be refined safflower oil, which has a smoke point of over 500 F. But if your recipe calls for extra virgin or virgin avocado oil and you're intending to use it as a finishing oil or for no-heat cooking, like in a salad dressing, then extra virgin olive oil would be a good substitute, as would nut-based oils like walnut oil, almond oil, or pumpkin-seed oil.
Avocado Oil Recipes
In addition to using it in salad dressings, dips and the like, you can try substituting avocado oil in recipes that call for olive oil or other flavorful oils.
Where to Buy Avocado Oil
Avocado oil can be purchased at most grocery stores and specialty food stores. Due to the fact that there are currently no regulations that govern the manufacturing of avocado oil, it's sometimes hard to know just what you're getting, other than having it tested by a lab. Indeed, a 2020 study found that over 80 percent of avocado oil was either stale or had been mixed with other, less expensive oils. In some cases, what was labeled as avocado oil was 100 percent soybean oil. The study found that avocado oils sold by Chosen Foods, Marianne's, and CalPure were both pure and fresh.
Avocado oil is fairly shelf-stable, especially the refined type, so it doesn't need to be refrigerated. Unopened bottles of avocado oil can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 12 months. Once opened, it should be used within 6 months. Refrigerating it can add a month or two to its shelf life. But in general it's best to buy it in smaller quantities that you can use within a few months.