The 6 Best Oils for Doughnuts| Advice From a 50-Year Cook

Whether it is spelled donut or doughnut, the name conjures up fond memories of beignets from Cafe’ Du Monde in New Orleans and fresh, hot doughnuts from a bakery back home when I was a kid that made the absolute best doughnuts I have ever had. It is hard to describe the smell of those doughnuts that met customers as they walked through the door. Have you ever wondered what oil is used to make delicious store-bought or cafe donuts?

The 6 best oils for frying donuts are Canola Oil, Peanut Oil, Pure Vegetable Oil, Safflower Oil, Sunflower Oil, and Crisco Shortening.

Homemade-donuts-or-doughnuts-frying-in-oil

What Makes A Good Oil For Frying Doughnuts?

There are several factors that should be considered when deciding which oil to use for frying doughnuts. Those factors include the following:

  • Neutral Flavor: The oil should have a neutral flavor so that the taste of the doughnuts is not overpowered by the flavor of the oil in which they are being fried. 
  • High Smoke Point: The smoke point, or the point at which oil will burn, should be high enough so that the doughnuts can be cooked quickly. When frying doughnuts, if they are fried in an oil with a low smoke point, such as olive oil, they must be fried at a lower heat which will allow the doughnuts to absorb more of the oil, making the doughnuts greasy to the taste and to the touch.
  • Affordable: The oil for frying doughnuts should be an affordable oil so that you don’t have to break the bank just to have the oil you need to fry a batch of doughnuts.
  • Available: The oil that you use for frying doughnuts should be readily available in your local grocery store or supermarket so that you do not have to search all over town for the right oil.
  • Low In Saturated Fats: Let’s face it, doughnuts are probably not the healthiest thing in the world to eat, but if we are having them anyway, let’s fry them in an oil that is healthier.

The Best Oils For Frying Doughnuts

1. Canola Oil

Canola oil, made from crushed canola seeds, is hard to beat for baking, frying, sauteing, and even for seasoning your cast iron cookware. Canola is one of the more popular types of cooking oil and many families keep it on hand at all times. Here is a list of reasons for its popularity and why it is one of the best options for frying doughnuts:

  • It has a neutral flavor that will not overpower the taste of the food that you are preparing.
  • It has a smoke point of 450℉, which is considered to be a high smoke point for high-heat frying.
  • It is one of the more affordable cooking oils on the market.
  • It is readily available in most local grocery stores and supermarkets and can even be found in many neighborhood dollar stores.
  • Canola oil is low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fats, and is a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to be more heart-healthy.

According to WebMD, canola oil is the healthiest of the vegetable oils, but even the healthiest oils should be used in moderation.

2. Peanut Oil

Peanut oil, made from the seeds of the peanut plant, has for many years been my go-to oil for frying fish, even though canola is the oil I use for everything else. Many restaurants use peanut oil because of its excellent performance for deep frying. Here are the reasons for its success:

  • Peanut oil has a neutral flavor that will not affect the flavor of the food that you are cooking or frying.
  • Peanut oil has a smoke point of 450℉, making it perfect for high-heat frying.
  • Peanut oil is more expensive than canola and pure vegetable oil, but not excessively so.
  • Peanut oil is usually found in most grocery stores and supermarkets.
  • While peanut oil is higher in saturated fat (20%) than canola oil, which has 7% saturated fat, that percentage is still relatively low, and peanut oil does contain high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids and is a good source of vitamin E, both of which provide health benefits like protecting the body from heart disease.

3. Pure Vegetable Oil

Pure vegetable oil, made from a variety of fruits, seeds, grains, and nuts, is one of the better oils for frying doughnuts. In fact, it can be used almost interchangeably with canola oil for baking, frying, sauteing, and seasoning cast iron cookware. Here is a list of the reasons it can be used in all these ways:

  • It has a neutral flavor that will not overpower the taste of the food you are cooking.
  • It has a high smoke point of 400℉, making it a good option for any kind of baking or frying.
  • It is very affordable and comparable in price to canola oil.
  • It is available in most stores, whether it is your local grocery stores, supermarkets, or dollar stores.
  • It makes a good substitute for canola oil in baking. 
  • Pure vegetable oil is low in saturated fat, although higher than canola oil.

4. Safflower Oil

Safflower oil, made from the seeds of the safflower plant, is good for frying doughnuts and compares favorably with doughnuts fried with canola oil. It is another oil that can be used interchangeably with canola oil for baking, frying, sauteing, and seasoning cast iron cookware. Here is a list of the attributes of safflower oil for frying:

  • It compares favorably with canola oil primarily because of its very light and mild flavor that will not alter or mask the flavor of the food that it is being used to prepare.
  • It has a very high smoke point of 475℉ to 500℉, making it excellent for frying foods like doughnuts and fish that require high-heat cooking.
  • It is more expensive than canola and pure vegetable oil because of the different processes used to produce the oils. 
  • Safflower oil is not as widely available as canola and pure vegetable oil, but it is almost always available at supermarkets and Wal-Mart supercenters.
  • Canola oil is lower in saturated fat than safflower oil, but, according to WebMD, even though safflower oil is more expensive than canola oil, it may be healthier because it it high in linoleic acid “which may help to lower blood cholesterol levels and improve heart and circulatory conditions.” 

5. Sunflower Oil

Sunflower oil, extracted from the seeds of the sunflower plant, is another good substitute for canola oil for use in baking, frying, sauteing, stir-frying, and for seasoning cast iron cookware. 

  • Like canola and the other oils mentioned here, sunflower oil has a mild odor and flavor and will not change or alter in any way the taste of the food that is being cooked or fried. 
  • Sunflower oil, like canola, has a smoke point of 450℉, which allows it to be used in high-heat cooking and frying, which is needed for frying doughnuts.
  • Sunflower oil, like safflower, is more expensive than canola and pure vegetable oil. There has also been a recent increase in the price of sunflower oil, which was already quite high, due to supply shortages caused by recent world events.
  • Sunflower oil, though not as readily available as canola and pure vegetable oil, can usually be found at larger supermarkets.
  • Sunflower oil is considered one of the healthier oils for cooking because it is low in saturated fat while high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which makes it one of the more heart-healthy options for frying.

6. Crisco Shortening

Although not an oil like the other options listed here for frying doughnuts, Crisco shortening is in solid form, which becomes liquid as it is heated. Crisco shortening is one of the better options for frying doughnuts for the following reasons:

  • Crisco shortening is like the other four options listed here for frying doughnuts because of its neutral odor and flavor. For this reason, the taste of anything fried in Crisco shortening will not be affected or in any way altered by Crisco.
  • The smoke point of Crisco shortening is 490℉, which is even higher than the smoke points of canola, pure vegetable, and sunflower oils, making it ideal for frying doughnuts or any other foods which require frying at high temperatures.
  • Crisco shortening has always been one of the more cost-effective options for frying, but there have been recent price increases that now puts the price of Crisco in the same price range as Safflower oil.
  • Crisco has traditionally been readily available at all grocery stores and supermarkets.
  • Originally Crisco shortening was made with a type of trans fat that can lead to serious health issues. However, the Food and Drug Administration in January of 2020 banned the use of trans fats in the United States, so there are now no trans fats present in shortenings.

The term “shortening” is used to describe the Crisco product and any type of fat that is solid at room temperature. In addition to Crisco shortening, butter, margarine, and lard fall into that category.

Cool Fact: While butter and lard are naturally solid at room temperature, Crisco shortening and margarine are made from oils that become solid at room temperature through a process known as hydrogenation.

Frying-homemade-donuts-or-pastries-in-oil-on-the-stove

Oils That Should Be Avoided For Frying Doughnuts

Since the best oils for frying doughnuts include those that have a neutral or mild taste, have a high smoke point, are not expensive, are readily available, and are healthier for you, the oils that should be avoided fall into the following categories:

  • Have a strong odor and flavor, which would transfer to the doughnuts and other foods that are being cooked or fried.
  • Have a low smoke point and require low-heat cooking.
  • Are overly expensive.
  • Are not easy to find.
  • Are high in saturated fats and are more likely to cause health problems.

Here is a list of the more commonly known oils that should not be used for frying doughnuts:

Do not use butter

Butter would not be good for frying doughnuts because it has a strong flavor, a low smoke point, and is expensive. Although it is perfect for baking, it is not good for frying.

Do not use coconut oil

Coconut oil would not be good for frying doughnuts because it has a strong flavor and is high in saturated fat and calories.

Do not use olive oil

Olive Oil is not good for frying doughnuts because it has a strong odor and flavor, a low smoke point, and is expensive. However, olive oil is one of the healthier oils and has many uses such as stir-frying and for salad dressings.

Do not use lard

Lard is not good for frying doughnuts because it has a strong flavor and is high in saturated fats.

Do not use sesame oil

Sesame oil has a strong odor and flavor, although it does have a high smoke point and is loaded with antioxidants and polyunsaturated fats.

Tips For Frying The Perfect Doughnut

Here are a few tips to ensure that your doughnuts turn out perfectly and are not the least bit greasy.

  1. Use a skillet or pan that is large enough to allow for deep frying, or at least 4 inches of oil in the bottom of the pan so that the doughnuts float in the oil.
  2. Fry the doughnuts in oil that is hot enough so that they fry quickly and do not absorb the oil.
  3. Fry the doughnuts a few at a time so that they are not crowded in the pan.
  4. Cook the doughnuts for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, turning only once.
  5. Remove the doughnuts from the skillet with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to drain. This way, your doughnuts will not be greasy.
  6. Cool slightly before icing.

Enjoy the still-warm doughnuts!

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss The Best Oil for Frying Fish | Advice From a 50-Year Cook.

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page.

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