olive oil for Indian cooking
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Heart problem, high blood pressure, diabetes, and weight loss – if you have any of these, someone must have advised you to switch to olive oil. Is cooking in olive oil the solution to every lifestyle disorder?  Being an Indian is it good to use olive oil for Indian cooking?

To answer this let’s understand the following points –

  • Why olive oil is important?
  • What are the differences between extra virgin, virgin, pomace, pure, and refined olive oil?
  • How Indian cooking is different?
  • Why smoking points and oil processing technique is important for your health?
  • Is it good to use extra virgin or virgin olive oil for Indian cooking?
  • How safe is pomace olive oil for Indian cooking?
  • How good is pure olive oil for Indian cooking?
  • Is it safe to use refined olive oil for Indian cooking?
  • Which oil is best for Indian cooking?

How safe is olive oil for Indian cooking?

Olive oil has many health benefits
Extra virgin olive oil has multiple health benefits

Why olive oil is important?

The fatty acid profile of olive oil and natural active ingredients make it special. Research suggests that a good quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has many health benefits.

  • It is rich in oleic acid – a mono-unsaturated fatty acid (MUFA), which has multiple health benefits. (4)(5)(8)
  • Olive oil is loaded with antioxidants. (9) (10) (11)
  • It has anti-inflammatory properties.(7)
  • Olive oil has anti-cancer properties.(6)(22)
  • It reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.(20)(21)
  • It protects your heart health. (14) (15) (16)
  • Olive oil may help to reduce the risk of stroke. (12)(13)
  • Consuming olive oil on regular basis does not promote weight gain or obesity. (17) (18)
  • It may help to treat rheumatoid arthritis.(23) (24)
  • It may fight against Alzheimer’s. (19)

However, getting authentic, good-quality extra virgin olive oil is not easy. It is high in demand but its yield is low, thus very expensive. The price for authentic EVOO may start from 1100/- per liter and can go up to beyond few thousand based on its quality.

The report suggests more than 80% of the product available in the market in the name of extra virgin olive oil is fake. (25) (27)

What are the differences between extra virgin, virgin, pomace, pure, and refined olive oil?

Olive oil for Indian cooking -  can you make pakora with olive oil?
Can you make pakora with olive oil?

Do you think all olive oil is the same and has the same health benefits? No, there are five types of olive oil available in the market. Therefore read the label carefully. Follow table 1 to see the differences.

Table 1: Differences between extra virgin, virgin, pomace, pure, and refined olive oil

 Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)  Virgin olive oil (VOOPomace olive oilPure olive oilRefined olive oil
QualityPure & Best  Pure & Second best  Poor –   It’s a mixture of low-quality olive oil and a small percentage of VOO Average to Poor   It’s a mixture of refined olive oil with a small percentage of EVOO/VOO  Average to Poor
Colour/ flavourPresentLight compared to EVOO  Very lightVery lightNil
Degree of processingMinimum –  Oil extracted in room temperature  Minimum – Oil extracted in room temperature  Maximum – Oil extracted using high temp, high pressure, and chemical solventMaximum – Oil extracted using high temp, high pressure, and chemical solventMaximum – Oil extracted using high temp, high pressure, and chemical solvent  
Smoking point163 – 190 oC210 oC230 -240 oC199- 243 oC199- 243 oC
Health benefitsPresentPresentDoubtful (29)DoubtfulDoubtful
Best use forSeasoning, salad dressingSeasoning, salad dressing, light cookingFurniture polish, high temp cookingMassage oil, high temp cooking  high temp cooking
YieldLow  LowHighHighHigh
Starting Price (INR/ Liter)1100/ –900/ –300/ –500/ –400/ –

What is the specialty of Indian cooking techniques?

olive oil for indian cooking -  is it safe?
Is olive oil safe for Indian cooking?

Indian cooking style is different from the west. When people from the west enjoy more raw food and half-done (half-cooked) meal, we Indians love eating foods that are fully cooked.

We cook everything. Cooking for a long time, and cooking at a very high temperature is very common in Indian cuisine. Steaming, roasting, sautéing, frying, boiling, tampering, etc are common cooking methods that we apply on daily basis.

Indian-style hot cooked food helps to destroy all possible microorganisms at high temperatures. However, we are also sometimes guilty of overcooking food.

Table 2 shows the common Indian cooking techniques and their approximate required temperature.

Table 2: Indian Cooking technique and the required temperature

Cooking TechniqueTemperature (in oF)Temperature (in oC)  
Slow cooking/ Dum170 -280 oF77 -138 oC
Steaming/ Boiling212 oF100 oC
Smoking225 – 250 oF107 -121 oC
Baking300 – 570 oF150 – 300 oC
Roasting300 oF150 oC
Sauteing320 oF160 oC
Grilling300 –  400 oF148 – 204 oC
Shallow frying375 oF190 oC
Deep frying350 – 400 oF177 – 205 oC

Why smoking point of cooking oil and its degree of processing is important for your health?

Since Indian cooking demands a high temperature- up to 200 oC, it is important to choose regular cooking oil which can withstand the high heat and remain unchanged.

A smoking point is also referred to as a burning point. It is the temperature at which cooking oil starts producing smoke and begins to break down and produce toxic substances & free radicals. Needless to say that using oil beyond its smoking point on regular basis can be extremely harmful to health. (3)

Therefore you must pick an oil that has a high smoking point to withstand the high heat during cooking. But it is not all. Since we are concerned about our health, we also need to pay attention to the processing technique of the cooking oil.

Less refined oil is better for the health. Refining of oil improves its shelf life and increases the smoking point but also destroys its natural active compound and nutrients. High-temperature oil processing with chemical solvent often alters the nature of the oil. Thus one must avoid using refined oil for regular cooking. (28)

Is it good to use extra virgin or virgin olive oil for Indian cooking?

extra virgin olive oil is best for salad dressing
Extra virgin olive oil is best for use in salad dressing

Extra virgin olive oil or virgin olive oil is the best quality olive oil. Superior quality olive is selected and cold-pressed to extract the oil. All the health benefits that you have heard of olive oil are actually from extra virgin olive oil.

However, the unrefined, best-in-quality extra virgin olive oil has a low smoking point of 160-190 oC which is not sufficient for the Indian style of cooking. Cooking methods like grilling, baking, frying, tampering, etc require higher temperatures for proper cooking.

Therefore if you are planning to use extra virgin olive oil for making sabzi, dal, and frying puri, drop the idea now. This is not going to give you many health benefits. Rather a high temperature will break the olive oil and will form toxic substances. Needless to say that regular consumption of such oil may develop health risks. (26)

It is best to use extra virgin olive oil for salad dressing or seasoning of food. You may use virgin olive oil for light cooking like the quick tossing of food etc.

How safe is olive pomace oil for Indian cooking?

pomace olive oil - is it good for cooking?
Ingredient list of Olive pomace oil

Best quality olive fruits are used to prepare authentic extra virgin olive oil or virgin olive oil. After extracting the oil these fruits are not thrown. They are further taken for the remaining oil extraction.

High temperature, high pressure, and chemical solvent are used to extract the remaining oil. This oil is called refined pomace oil.  Since it is low-quality oil with no health benefits, a small percentage of virgin olive oil is added to it and finally called Olive pomace oil.

Olive pomace oil is a cheap quality olive oil, which is best for furniture polishing. The oil has a high smoking point (230 -240 oC) which is safe for high-temperature cooking like frying, baking, etc.

However, do not buy olive pomace oil with any health expectations. The health benefits of olive oil come from only extra virgin olive oil.

How good is pure olive oil for Indian cooking?

how much pure is pure olive oil?
Ingredient list of Pure olive oil

There is no purity in pure olive oil. 85% of refined olive oil is mixed with 15% of extra virgin olive oil to produce pure olive oil. It is best suitable for body massage. Since the smoking point of pure olive oil is quite high, you may use this oil for frying and tampering. Just like olive pomace oil, don’t expect any olive oil special health benefits from using pure olive oil.

Remember the oil has 85% of refined olive oil which is highly processed. Therefore, regular consumption may invite potential health risks.

Is it safe to use refined olive oil for Indian cooking?

No matter what is the oil source, refined oil is always highly processed.

Generally medium to low-quality fruit is taken to produce refined olive oil. Then the fruits are passed through in high temperature, high pressure, and chemical solvent treatment. This ultra-processing method finally produces colorless, odorless, white refined olive oil.

The smoking point of refined olive oil is very high and suitable for the Indian high-temperature cooking style. However extreme processing makes this oil not a great choice for regular consumption. The beneficial property of olive oil gets denatured during refined oil extraction techniques. Thus the oil is not a good choice for regular intake.

Which oil is best for Indian cooking?

olive oil for indian cooking - can you fry puri with olive oil?
Olive oil may not be a wise choice to cook food in high temperature

The best cooking oil for Indian cooking should have a higher smoking point and be less processed. If you look at table 3 smoking point and degree of refining is always inversely proportional. That means more smoking point means more refined oil and unrefined oil has typically low smoking points.

To balance this, investing money in good-quality cooking oil is always a smart choice. It is better to pick the cooking oil as per your region and local availability. Kachi Ghani mustard oil, cold-pressed coconut/ groundnut/sesame oil, and ghee as a regular Indian cooking medium is the best choice.

If you want to make it more budget-friendly then semi-refined oil like filtered groundnut oil or sesame oil is a good choice compared to refined oil. Semi-refined oil also has a high smoking point compared to its unrefined version.

However, any source of refined oil is definitely not a wise pick considering the possible health risks.

You can keep a bottle of good quality extra virgin olive oil for use as salad dressing and seasoning.

Table 3: Degree of processing, smoking point, and price of available cooking oil in India

Cooking oilDegree of processingSmoking point  (in oF)Smoking point (in oC)  Average Price in INR per liter
Extra virgin Olive oilLow325 -375 oF163 – 190 oC1100/-
Virgin Olive oilLow410 oF210 oC700/-
Extra virgin or unrefined coconut oilLow350 oF177 oC650 – 800/-
Kachi Ghani Mustard oilLow480 oF250 oC180 – 300/-
Cold-pressed sesame oilLow350 oF177 oC300 – 600/-
Cold-pressed groundnut oilLow320 oF160 oC300 – 600/-
Cold-pressed sunflower oilLow320 oF160 oC300 – 600/-
Cold-pressed safflower oilLow225 oF107 oC380 – 600/-
     
Filtered sesame oilMedium450 oF232 oC180 – 300/-
Filtered groundnut oilMedium445 oF229 oC180 – 300/-
ButterMedium302 oF150 oC480 – 550/-
GheeMedium482 oF250 oC500 – 3000/-
     
Refined sunflower oilHigh450 oF232 oC188-200/-
Refined safflower oilHigh510 oF266 oC240 – 280/-
Refined soybean oilHigh453 oF234 oC180 – 200/-
Refined rice bran oilhigh450 oF232 oC160 – 200/-
Refined groundnut oilHigh450 oF232 oC180 – 230/ –
Refined olive oilHigh390 – 470 oF199- 243 oC400 –  1300/-
Pure olive oilHigh (mixed oil)390 – 470 oF199- 243 oC500 -700/-
Pomace olive oilHigh (mixed oil)446 – 464 oF230 -240 oC300 –  450/-

Reference – 1, 2

Planning to buy good quality oil online? Check the link below –

Extra virgin olive oil

Cold-pressed groundnut oil

Cold-pressed sesame oil

Cold-pressed coconut oil

Kachhi ghani mustard oil

A2 ghee

Bottom line

No matter whatever you cook, oil is constant in your diet. Thus choose your cooking oil carefully.

All the health benefits of olive oil come from using extra virgin olive oil on regular basis. Good quality extra virgin olive oil is very hard to get and it is extremely expensive. It is not safe to use extra virgin olive oil for Indian cooking.

Using poor quality, comparatively cheaper version of olive oil like olive pomace oil or pure olive oil, or refined olive oil for high-temperature cooking may not be a great choice for health reasons. 

Pick the local oil – mustard oil/ sesame oil/ groundnut oil/ coconut oil or ghee for cooking. Use it less but invest in a good cold-pressed quality oil. You will be fine.

administrator
Dr. Soma Chakrabarty is based in Hyderabad. She has 15 yrs of working experience in nutrition. She guides people to modify eating behavior and achieve goals for wellness. She believes in a practical diet that helps people to live rather than survive.

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3 Comments

Avarage Rating:
  • 0 / 10
  • Sneha , 1st July 2022 @ 10:48 pm

    Ma’am. What is your take on rice bran oil?

  • Kevin Nyariki , 23rd July 2022 @ 7:54 pm

    Very helpful information a bout our unknown indigenous plants for our health boost good piece of work.

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