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Cooking Oil vs. Vegetable Oil: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 20, 2024
Cooking oil is a general term for any oil used in cooking, while vegetable oil is specifically derived from plant sources like soybeans, corn, or sunflowers.

Key Differences

Cooking oil encompasses a wide range of oils used in cooking, including vegetable, animal, and synthetic oils. Vegetable oil, on the other hand, is specifically extracted from seeds or parts of plants.
Cooking oil can include varieties like olive, canola, coconut, and animal fats like lard. Vegetable oil typically refers to a blend of different plant-based oils, often soybean, corn, or sunflower oil.
Cooking oil is chosen based on factors like flavor, smoking point, and health benefits. Vegetable oil is often used for its neutral flavor and high smoke point, making it suitable for frying.
Some cooking oils, like olive or coconut oil, are chosen for their health benefits. Vegetable oils, while versatile, can vary in healthfulness depending on the type and processing method.
Certain cooking oils are preferred for specific cuisines or dishes. Vegetable oil, due to its neutral taste, is often used in recipes where the flavor of the oil should not dominate.

Comparison Chart


Derived from various sources (plants, animals, synthetic)
Specifically from plant seeds or parts


Includes olive, canola, coconut, lard, etc.
Often a blend of soybean, corn, sunflower oils

Usage in Cooking

Selected based on flavor, smoking point
Preferred for its neutral flavor, high smoke point

Health Aspects

Varied; some like olive oil are healthier
Healthfulness varies; processing is a factor

Culinary Preference

Often chosen for specific flavors or health benefits
Used when a neutral oil is desired in cooking

Cooking Oil and Vegetable Oil Definitions

Cooking Oil

Any oil used in food preparation.
I used cooking oil to fry the chicken.

Vegetable Oil

Commonly used in frying and baking.
For frying, vegetable oil is my go-to choice.

Cooking Oil

Includes both refined and unrefined types.
For dressings, I use an unrefined cooking oil.

Vegetable Oil

Preferred for its neutral flavor.
Vegetable oil is ideal for baking due to its mild taste.

Cooking Oil

Selected based on smoking point and flavor.
I chose a high-smoking point cooking oil for deep-frying.

Vegetable Oil

Often a blend of different plant-based oils.
This vegetable oil is a mix of soybean and sunflower oils.

Cooking Oil

Used in a wide range of culinary applications.
Cooking oil is essential for sautéing vegetables.

Vegetable Oil

Contains mostly unsaturated fats.
Vegetable oil is a healthier option due to its fat content.

Cooking Oil

Can be derived from various sources.
I prefer coconut-based cooking oil for its flavor.

Vegetable Oil

An oil extracted from plant seeds or parts.
I use vegetable oil for my daily cooking needs.


Is vegetable oil good for high-heat cooking?

Yes, most vegetable oils have a high smoke point suitable for high-heat cooking.

Does cooking oil have a shelf life?

Yes, cooking oils can go rancid and should be stored properly and used within their shelf life.

Is vegetable oil healthier than animal fats?

Generally, vegetable oils are considered healthier due to their unsaturated fat content.

What is cooking oil?

Cooking oil is any type of oil used in the preparation of food.

Are there different types of cooking oil?

Yes, cooking oil can include olive, canola, avocado, coconut, and animal fats.

What dishes are best with vegetable oil?

Vegetable oil is versatile and can be used in frying, baking, and sautéing.

Can cooking oil be made from animals?

Yes, some cooking oils like lard are animal-based.

What is vegetable oil?

Vegetable oil is an oil derived from the seeds or parts of plants.

Can I use vegetable oil for salad dressings?

It's possible, but oils with more flavor, like olive oil, are often preferred for dressings.

How do I choose the best cooking oil for frying?

Look for oils with a high smoke point, like peanut or canola oil.

What is the healthiest cooking oil?

Oils like olive and avocado oil are often considered healthier options.

Do cooking oils contain vitamins?

Some cooking oils, like olive oil, are rich in vitamins like Vitamin E.

How does the smoking point affect cooking oil choice?

Oils with higher smoking points are better for high-temperature cooking.

Can I reuse cooking oil?

Yes, but it's best to filter and check for any off smells or flavors before reuse.

Can I use vegetable oil in a marinade?

Yes, it's commonly used in marinades due to its mild flavor.

Can I substitute vegetable oil for another cooking oil?

Yes, but consider the flavor and smoke point of the oil you're substituting.

Is vegetable oil suitable for baking?

Yes, its neutral flavor makes it a good choice for baking.

Can vegetable oil go bad?

Yes, it can become rancid over time, especially if not stored properly.

Is vegetable oil vegan?

Yes, as it is derived from plants, it is suitable for a vegan diet.

Are there flavored cooking oils?

Yes, there are infused cooking oils with flavors like garlic, herbs, or chili.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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