What Makes Sunflower And Safflower Oils So Much Alike

There's an almost endless array of options in the grocery store's oil section, so you're not alone if your head is swimming trying to keep track of all the different options and uses for each. Two oils you've undoubtedly seen — and perhaps wondered about the benefits and uses of — are safflower and sunflower oil. These are less common than the standard olive or canola oils many reach for, but they overlap in many ways.

As the name makes clear, both oils are derived from the seeds of flowers during a process of pressing and extracting. Both are also close cousins in terms of look and taste, with a pale yellow hue and mild, neutral taste, ideal for those situations where you don't want the flavor overpowering your recipe (think, the total opposite from the fruity flavor and dark color of olive oil.) They're also nutritionally similar — both safflower and sunflower oils are high in polyunsaturated fats and low in saturated fats, so, says WebMD, they are good choices for those concerned about cholesterol and heart health. 

Best uses for each

While in terms of taste, the two oils are very similar — both share a pleasantly mild flavor, sometimes described as nutty — there are some differences that might mean it's worth keeping a bottle of each in your pantry for different uses. Both oils have a high smoke point, which makes them both well-suited to high-heat cooking — think grilling meat or tofu, sauteing veggies, or perfectly crisping up potatoes

However, one slight difference is in terms of their use for deep frying specifically, which is where you might want to choose safflower over sunflower. One study from the Journal of Hazardous Materials showed sunflower oil emits high levels of a potentially disease-causing compound called aldehydes when repeatedly heated. While sunflower is best reserved for low-heat uses, safflower oil is touted as an ideal choice for any high-heat cooking, so WebMD says it is safe for use when deep-frying.