The Best Types Of Oil To Use For Extra Nutty Flavors

What are the best cooking oils to achieve that extra nutty flavor you love? Not all oils are the same in terms of taste and performance. Your choice of oil is probably a match between a particular recipe and your palate. However, a number of important factors can guide your oil selection to accentuate your menu's flavor profiles. Whether you're just looking to cook, or you want to add a touch of extra nutty intrigue, makes all the difference in your oil options.

Nuts are brimming with fat; growers often extract their oil for culinary purposes. Each oil has a different heat tolerance, called a smoke point. That's the temperature at which oil begins to smoke, which produces foul flavors and smells. You need to be cautious when deep-frying and sautéing because some oils become chemically altered and burn when heated.  

Several oils are a good fit for high-temperature cooking. Avocado oil (made from the pit) has a deep-fry friendliness but more of a buttery rather than nutty flavor. You probably already have familiarity with peanut oil, which has a neutral flavor and high smoke point, so that makes it a good fit for frying chicken, donuts, and potatoes. However, Peanut oil doesn't hold up to the nut flavor test. Sunflower oil is neutral-flavored and does well in the saute pan and as a mayonnaise or vinaigrette.

Your kitchen can become a specialty nut oil paradise

A number of nut and seed oils offer rich, assertive flavors. They're a good match for baking and sauce work but, in most cases, not frying. Here's a primer to help you decide which oils will add a layer of nutty depth and interest to your dishes.

Hazelnut oil can be heated, but you should probably reserve this delicate oil as a marinade or when baking seasonally with hazelnuts. It does offer a rich and complex nutty flavor but is also expensive to produce; that's why it's generally found in specialty shops in small bottles. Macadamia nut oil has a mild nutty flavor and a high smoke point for cooking. Pecan and pistachio oils are a bit exotic, costly, and fragile. And, oh, yeah, they add a lovely nutty finish to dishes, sauces, and confectionery. Pumpkin seed oil has a rich dark color with a taste that's reminiscent of your childhood when you carved a jack-o'-lantern and then roasted the seeds afterward. This is an oil that's best used as a drizzle on steamed or sautéed veggies immediately before serving. Sesame oil has roasted seeds as its base and a nutty, toasty flavor that's a good fit as a finishing touch. Ideal for Asian recipes, sesame oil also has a low smoke point. Walnut oil can be heated but is most successful as a warm and welcoming seasoning flavor. Oils derived from nuts are healthy, too, so have fun!