Avocado, the fruit of the Persea Americana tree, is a year-round crop that prefers a warmer climate. For the many avocado lovers, even the ones who don’t live near avocado plants, it is a food item used to spice up boring dishes, balance out nutrients, and a good source of fat for the vegetarians and vegans out there. Avocado in itself can be used in a vast variety of ways, the most famous being making a dip or spread (guacamole).
There is another ingredient that can be derived from avocados (more precisely, the avocado pulp), and that is avocado oil, which, with the rise of more awareness regarding nutrition and nutritional value in food, is increasingly becoming more and more popular amongst chefs, but also in regular household cooking, too. But, what makes it stand out so much?
A craze in avocado oil started with the Paleo diet, which is eating on a food plan that mirrors prehistoric human diets (specifically, as the name suggests, from the Paleolithic era, dating approximately from 2.5 million to 10.000 years ago). The Paleo diet includes vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish, seeds and nuts – foods obtainable by hunting and gathering, drastically limiting the diet from many modern-day food items. Avocado oil was (and is) part of the Paleo diet, but people who don’t follow this lifestyle like to reach for more affordable options in the store.
With all the different, and definitely less expansive, plant-based oil options out there, such as palm oil, sunflower oil or olive oil (you can check out our post avocado oil vs olive oil here), most people (at least those who didn’t look into the differences in cooking oils too much) wouldn’t even consider putting avocado oil on their list of necessary groceries. However, there are significant differences in using avocado oil vs. using any other oil when it comes to cooking, ones that might make you reconsider if purchasing avocado oil is worth it:
Avocado oil contains an average caloric amount of circa 900kcal per 100 grams. It contains both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. For the cardiovascular system (aka, the heart) – unsaturated fats are generally considered to be better than saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are liquid when at room temperature, but may solidify when exposed to the cold.
There are many oils high in monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, peanut oil, and canola oil. However, avocado peaks highest with about 70% of its content being monounsaturated fats. Additionally, a beaming 67% of these monounsaturated fats are oleic acid – a type of fatty acid that recent studies show is beneficial in protection against insulin resistance and helps decrease inflammation.
Avocado oil also contains about 20% of polyunsaturated fats, with only 10% falling into the category of saturated fats – one of the lowest percentages amongst existing oils. The US government guidelines suggest that no more than 10% of your daily calories should come from saturated fats, which is exactly why avocado oil would be a better choice in comparison to tropical oils, such as, in example, coconut oil – which consists 92% of saturated fats, especially if you have heart issues but enjoy cooking with oils. This percentage is also significantly lower than the percentage of saturated fats in lard or butter.
The health benefits of using unsaturated fats are also raising the number of the HDL, or “good” cholesterol, which will, in turn, lower the risk factor for atherosclerosis.
Choosing unsaturated fats over saturated fats may be especially important to people who follow a keto diet and have a higher fat intake even aside from their choice in cooking oils. Avocados, in general, are very Keto-friendly as they contain only nine grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams of product – just like chicken breast filets, in comparison.
Both avocado and oil derived from avocado are also a rich source of vitamins E, A, B1, and B2 – all of which are excellent for skin and hair nourishing, but it is also a rich source of Lutein – a powerful antioxidant. This is exactly the reason as to why avocado oil is found in many skincare products, especially DIY remedies for dry skin, as the texture of the oil due to its contents allows the oil to sink into a tissue rather than just glide on top – as many oils do. This is, subsequently, another reason why cooking with this oil proves to be very convenient…
Examining all the health-related benefits of choosing avocado oil over other plant-based oils, it is inevitable to consider using it in your every-day cooking routine, however, there is another reason as to why people tend to choose avocado oil aside from other oils, and that is the avocado oil smoke point.
The avocado oil smoke point is 520°F (271°C) for refined avocado oil, and 480°F (249°C) for unrefined avocado oil, which is the highest smoke point of any oil, making it perfect for grilling without worrying about toxicity from the oil breaking down. For those who like sautéing and stir-frying, avocado might be the solution they were looking for. Another thing that makes it very versatile in general is the taste, or rather – lack of taste.
Refined avocado oil doesn’t have much taste at all, and its neutral properties make it a great option for when you do not want to change the flavor of your dish. Unrefined avocado oil, on the other hand, may have a slightly earthy taste, or a small tinge of avocado, which also perfectly blends into every dish unless you particularly dislike even the smallest hint of avocado in your food.
However, if you are one of the aforementioned avocado lovers – then this would be a perfect future salad dressing for you or even base of any marinade. The texture is somewhat creamier than in other oils – which comes as no surprise, as avocado as fruit is quite the epitome of creamy, as well. Not only is it creamy, but because of the unsaturated fat percentage, it doesn’t leave a greasy residue as other oils do, and it’s more gentle on the digestive tract, too.
With all things mentioned, avocado oil can still be used just like any other oil – whilst baking, stovetop cooking, roasting and anywhere else where you need a tinge of fat or oil, as it can be used in both low and high-temperature cooking due to the high avocado oil smoke point, but, on the other hand, it’s also edible raw, making it favorable for vinaigrettes.
Ideas for using avocado oil smartly
Use avocado oil instead of palm oil or sunflower oil when making popcorn. Popcorn in itself is a good choice, light snack, and it is the easiest one to grab when arranging a movie night, or simply needing something to keep your hands busy. The oil is usually the thing that makes popcorn heavy and unhealthy, so swapping it with unsaturated oil means you can keep your snacking habit without worrying about your health.
Instead of making butter toast in the morning, a healthy and energizing alternative is spreading and seasoning avocado oil on your toast. You can sprinkle some cinnamon if you are craving a sweet alternative.
Another alternative is making avocado toast and season it with aditional avocado oil, which might sound too extra but it gives an extra boost of flavor (check out recipes here).
This is also a popular favorite for those who follow the Paleo diet, as it is made from mustard, water, eggs and avocado oil, blended and seasoned together. Seasoning this further and adding garlic will make for perfect Avocado aioli.
For making creamy soups even more creamy and buttery, including avocado oil to the soups, or simply drizzling a tiny bit once the soup is done may add to the richness and keep you from adding additional ingredients for making the soup thicker.
Grilling and baking meat and vegetables
Since we have already mentioned that the texture of avocado oil makes it prone to sinking into tissue rather than gliding on top of it, so using it as the marinade for your dishes may be the perfect way to go – since the meat and vegetables will retain most of their moisture and the avocado oil won’t drip out as much, you don’t have to worry about serving your food flaming hot fearing that it will otherwise become dry and greasy.
Pizza is another food that is great when baked with avocado oil – smear it on top of the pizza with all of its toppings, the avocado oil will melt with the cheese, but also into the pastry, so the cheese won’t simply just glide off, but rather give the impression of a crisp, put-together, yet still very chewy and juicy pizza.