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Peanut Oil: Is It Good for Cooking?

Warning: This oil comes with potentially damaging side effects due to either the ingredient it's made from or the manufacturing process used to extract it. Because these negative effects overshadow the potential benefits, I do not recommend this oil for therapeutic use. Always be aware of the potential side effects of any herbal oil before using.

Many people have been awakened to the hidden health dangers lurking in vegetable oils like canola, soy and corn, and have now switched to healthful alternative oils like olive, avocado and coconut. Nut oils are also becoming popular, as are grapeseed, sesame and peanut oil — with peanut oil being a favorite when it comes to cooking. But is peanut oil ideal for your cooking needs? Keep reading and find out. 

What is peanut oil?

Of the many kinds of oils1 peanut is a mildly sweet edible oil. Also called groundnut or arachis oil,2 it's made from Arachis hypogea, a low-growing, annual plant that is a member of the Fabaceae (Leguminosae) family. Despite the word "nut" in its name, peanut is actually a legume and grows underground,3 as opposed to other nuts like walnuts and pecans, which grow on trees (hence are called tree nuts).

Peanuts originated in South America,4 and they have a long place in history. According to the National Peanut Board, peanuts were used as sacrificial offerings by the Incans of Peru, who placed them alongside their mummies to help them cross over into the next life.

Ancient tribes in Central Brazil made a beverage from ground peanuts and maize. This is also where Europeans first came across this plant, and then brought it back to Spain. From there, the humble peanut spread to Asia and Africa, and then eventually to North America.5 As of 2018 the top four producers of peanuts worldwide are China, India, Nigeria and the United States.6

Types of peanut oil

Peanut kernels are eaten boiled or roasted, or crushed or chopped for use in cooking and confectionery. They also can be transformed into other products like peanut butter, peanut flour and peanut oil. According to The Peanut Institute, there are several types of peanut oil sold today:7

• Refined peanut oil — This is a processed product that's largely used in the fast food industry. The refining procedure includes bleaching and deodorizing. Since the process also removes the peanut proteins, this oil is nonallergenic and safe for people with peanut allergies.

According to The Peanut Institute, the refining process also produces an oil that prevents it from absorbing the flavors of the foods cooked in it, making it a favorite for restaurants that need to cook multiple items in the same batch of oil without the foods picking up each other's flavors.

• Gourmet roasted peanut oil — This oil is not refined and is valued because it retains many of the peanut's nutrients such as pytoesterols and vitamin E. Because it maintains its aromatic flavor, The Spruce Eats8 mentions that this type of peanut oil is often used for flavoring, rather than cooking, sometimes added into dressings, sauces and marinades or drizzled over a salad.

The Spruce Eats also mentions two other peanut oil products that some chefs might choose for certain recipes:

  • Virgin or cold-pressed peanut oil — Since it's not refined, most of its natural flavors and aromas are still present. It has a light flavor that will not overpower the flavors of other ingredients.
  • Peanut oil blends — These are varieties that have been blended with cheaper oils like soybean oil. As a result, you can buy them at a lower price. The oil it's blended with usually has a high smoking point as well.

 

For the best nutrients and unadulterated product, always look for packaging that says "100% peanut oil" on it. That way you don't have to worry about whether you're getting soybeans in your oil, which may be tainted with pesticide or herbicide residues.

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