Keto is a low-carb, high-fat diet, but sometimes the “high-fat” portion can be a challenge—especially if you’re new to keto and aren’t used to eating a lot of fat. To ensure you get enough of this macronutrient, you can be more generous with cooking oil on your food.
However, it can be difficult to know which cooking oils are best suited for a keto diet. All oils are pure fats and do not contain any carbohydrates, but from a health point of view, some are better than others (
Here are 6 of the best keto-friendly cooking oils and fats, plus 5 to avoid, as well as some helpful tips on shopping for cooking oil.
1. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is a unique vegetable oil made from the pulp of the coconut. It is solid at room temperature due to its high content of saturated fat, which is usually only seen in animal fats (
This oil has a relatively low smoke point, which is the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke, which is 350°F (177°C). As such, it may be more suitable for baking and cooking over low heat rather than high heat cooking such as stir-frying or stir-frying (3).
However, one of the drawbacks of coconut oil is that it imparts a coconut taste to foods cooked with it.
Additionally, a recent review found that coconut oil consumption led to a significantly higher LDL cholesterol, compared to consumption of non-tropical vegetable oils (
If you want unflavored coconut oil, look for oil labeled “refined.” Refined coconut oil also has a higher smoke point of 450°F (232°C). However, this product is more processed than unrefined coconut oil (4).
2. Olive oil
Olive oil is made from the oil pressed from olives, which is naturally high in fat. It is widely considered one of the healthiest oils available and perhaps one of the healthiest foods overall.
Look for extra virgin olive oil, which is the oil that is extracted from olives in the first pressing. It is generally the least processed and the highest quality.
3. Avocado oil
Avocado oil, made from pressed avocados, is another excellent oil choice.
It has a rich, nutty flavor that complements fried and fried foods, and its high smoke point of around 500°F (260°C) allows it to create crunchy fried foods without burning them (4).
One of the disadvantages of avocado oil is that it is more expensive than olive and coconut oil.
Butter is a solid fat made from dairy cream. Although it is not technically an oil, it is used in cooking in the same way as many oils.
Butter adds a rich flavor to dishes, but it also turns brown very quickly – and therefore can burn quickly. It is not suitable for high temperature cooking, especially if the food will be cooked for a long time.
Ghee is made by heating the butter and removing the milk proteins that build up during the heating process. The result is delicious clarified butter that freezes at room temperature. Ghee is often used in Indian cooking (
Because milk proteins are removed, some people who are sensitive to dairy products have reported that they can eat ghee without problems. However, if you are allergic to dairy products, you should still avoid ghee in case it contains traces of dairy proteins that cause your allergy.
Ghee does not burn as easily as butter, so it is more suitable for cooking at a high temperature.
6. Animal fats
Animal fats are not technically oils but are solid fats at room temperature. However, it is suitable for keto cooking.
They can impart a unique and meaty flavor to dishes, and are fairly stable when heated, making them great for high-heat cooking, roasting, and frying (
Some examples of animal fats include:
- Bacon grease
- lard (pork fat)
- tallow (cow fat)
- duck fat
Note that these options are high in saturated fat. As such, it may be best to moderate your intake.
The following oils are considered synthetic seed oils and are not generally recommended on a keto diet:
- Vegetable oil
- Soy oil
- safflower oil
- canola oil
- corn oil
They are made from seeds that are not naturally high in fat, so they must undergo an industrial refining process to extract the fat (
These oils are highly processed, unlike oils that are easier to extract from fatty foods like coconut, avocado, and olives.
Unfortunately, foods that undergo further processing may be more harmful to your health, promoting weight gain and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even some types of cancer (
They are high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, which may cause inflammation if not balanced with enough omega-3 fats from foods like salmon and flaxseeds. Notably, the modern Western diet is very low in omega-3 and very high in omega-6 (
In addition, these oils are unstable and degrade quickly when heated to release harmful compounds that may cause cancer such as acrylamide (
For these reasons, synthetic seed oils should be restricted not only to the keto diet, but no matter what eating pattern you adhere to.
It’s best to weigh your choices based on your health goals and medical and family history. It may be a good idea to talk with your doctor or registered dietitian about the appropriateness of following the keto diet before starting it.
Here are some guidelines to help you choose cooking oil.
Look for oils made from naturally fatty foods
The more naturally fat a food is, the less processing is required to extract the oil from it.
That’s why you should prefer oils made from foods that are naturally rich in fats such as avocado, olive, and coconut.
On the other hand, vegetable oils made from foods that are not naturally high in fat – such as corn and soybeans – require extensive industrial processing to be produced.
Check the label to make sure it’s not an oil blend
Avocado or olive oil products that are less expensive than similar products may be blends – which means they are made with less expensive oil (usually one of the synthetic seed oils listed above).
Check the ingredients list to make sure the cooking oil you choose doesn’t contain any low-quality oils.
Avoid margarine, spreads of vegetable origin, and margarine
While they are widely used, most margarines, margarines, and spreads are highly processed and made from industrial seed oils.
Butter and coconut oil are great alternatives to baking and other cooking methods where you want solid fats at room temperature.
The best cooking oils for the keto diet are olive, avocado, and coconut oils. Additionally, animal fats such as butter, ghee, lard, and tallow are great options.
While all cooking oils are free of carbohydrates, synthetic seed oils such as soybean and corn oils are highly processed and inflammatory, and may release harmful chemicals into the air and food when heated.
Regardless of your diet, you should choose cooking oils that require the least amount of processing.