Which oils are best for Indian cooking

The sambar you find in Tamil Nadu will be different from the one you find in Kerala. 

The avial you get to relish in Palakkad will vary from the ones that a mother in Thiruvananthapuram will make. 

The kanda poha that your Maharashtrian mom makes will not be the same like the one your Maharashtrian neighbour makes. 

This is what makes Indian cooking unique – the recipes and flavours vary not only from state to state, but also from district to district, and even family to family. 

In a culinary scenario that is so vast, how do you choose the best oil to cook Indian food?

The many types of cooking oil in India

Oils have been a part of our lives for so long and in so many ways – yes, their main purpose lies in the kitchen, but what about nourishing your hair or giving your skin that extra moisture during the summer months? From lighting diyas to seasoning cast iron pans, oils find their use in so many ways in our lives. 

For most people, buying oil is more a task – one that you do by looking at either the brand or the price tag. You really don’t go much beyond that, do you?

But were you aware of the fact that even when you are buying a packet/bottle of oil, there are some factors that you need to keep in mind?

Health factors of cooking oils in India

When you are picking an oil for your kitchen, you need to pay attention to 5 main points – these are in addition to the fact that you should consider buying from a reputed or established brand that promises quality. 

  • Unrefined oil – Yup, you want to look for an oil that is not refined! Because when an oil is refined, several nutritional components are being removed. Choosing wood pressed or cold pressed oils would be a better bet, because these oils tend to have a higher nutritional value. 
  • Smoke point – Given the style of most Indian cooking, you will want to look for an oil that can tolerate the heat levels required. We are talking about the smoke point (the safe temperature of the oil). Although, in general cold pressed oils tend to have a lower smoke point, for Indian cooking, a coconut or groundnut oil might be more suitable, because they have a comparatively higher smoke point, as opposed to an olive oil.  
  • Free of additives and preservatives – This is something that stands true for pretty much anything – you want to feed your family food that is free from additives, artificial colours and flavourings and preservatives and that should include oils. Choose an oil that is free from additives and preservatives, as these might have an adverse health effect in the long run. 
  • Balance in fatty acid composition – All oils are made of fatty acids and this is a large group, which includes mono-unsaturated fatty acids, poly-unsaturated fatty acids, triglycerides, trans fats and so on. These are what control the good and bad cholesterol in our body. So, when you choose an oil, make sure you pick something that has a balance in its fatty acid composition. Did you know that studies have shown that 10% of your energy intake should come from saturated fatty acids and only 1% from trans-fatty acids?

Which are the cooking oils in India that you can choose from

If you are looking out for cooking oils in India that will blend in perfectly with your style of cooking, then you need to get at least a basic understanding of what is on offer. Here are the 8 most popular oils that you can find in India:

  • Coconut – Easily one of the most popular choices when it comes to cooking, and a staple in most kitchens in the southern states of India. With a relatively high smoke point, good quality coconut oil will last several months and can be used for everything – from tempering to deep frying. 
  • Groundnut – Also known as peanut oil, this is oil can be found in kitchens of not only India, but also all of south east Asia. This oil is known to have a comparatively high smoke point, nutty flavour profile and is believed to have antioxidant properties too. 
  • Mustard – If you are considering mustard oil for cooking, then you should be aware that this is perhaps one of the most pungent oils in terms of flavour and aroma. Extremely popular in the eastern parts of India, you will see plenty of Bengali, Assamese and Odiya recipes that rely heavily on what is considered one of the healthiest oils. 
  • Sesame – One of the earliest known oils that is extracted from seeds, this oil is extremely popular all over the world, in particular Indian and Asian kitchens. The oil has a nutty flavour and while it might not be best suited for deep frying, it can be consumed raw or as a flavour base for cooking. 
  • Sunflower – This is probably one of the most popular oils in India and is one of the few oils that can keep its nutritional value intact, even when reacting with high heat. Because it doesn’t have a very strong flavour, it can be used for all kinds of cooking. 
  • Rice bran – Yet another mild flavoured oil with a high smoke point, rice bran has fact become popular due to its health benefits too. Whether you are looking for an oil to deep fry with or just cook your day-to-day meals, rice bran will work. 
  • Soyabean – From frying to roasting and even baking, soyabean oil can work in all kinds of cooking; the high smoking point is an added extra and this is probably why it is really popular in Indian kitchens. 

Here are the cold pressed oils that will work for your kitchen:

  • For your tadkas and final flourishes, consider coconut oil, groundnut oil, rice bran oil, soyabean oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, or mustard oil.
  • For pan frying and your regular sabjis and curries, you can use coconut, groundnut, rice bran, soyabean, sunflower, sesame, or mustard oils.
  • If you are deep frying, then sesame, mustard, rice brand, sunflower, or soybean oils would be good choices. 

At Gramiyaa, our cold pressed oils have been created keeping the Indian families in mind – so whether you pour the cold pressed sesame oil into your idli podi or you use our cold pressed mustard oil to fry your hilsa fish, you can be sure of pure flavour and better health! 

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.