The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Oil in Bread. What's is better for you?

Justin.samsown's picture

Oil in Bread. What's is better for you?

Canola, Veg., Soybean oil, Safflower oil, Olive Oil, EVOO


I have been consistently using vegetable oil and canola interchangeably in my recipes.  I’m not sure of the reactions caused when using a saturated fat vs. monounsaturated vs. poly unsaturated fats in my breads. 

Is there any research out there to identify the reactions in bread with the oils that they contain? 




shastaflour's picture


I'll be interested to follow this thread, because I've wondered the same things myself. For quite a while bread was made with olive oil at our house, but I recently bought grapeseed oil on a whim (pretty reasonable at Wal-Mart), and much prefer its flavor. Apparently it's also very healthy: Many folks use coconut oil as well, which tends to be solid at room temperature and also has health benefits.

Canola, soy, safflower and vegetable oil all have questionable elements to them, from my research. Soy is particularly bad for folks who have thyroid difficulties.

But none of this addresses your question about the reactions between the oil and the other ingredients during the breadmaking process. There is an interesting article from Chemistry World that goes into the role of fats and different types just a bit (and a lot of everything else) -- it's toward the end of the article: .  But, I'd still like to know more.

Very interested to hear what others say!


G-man's picture

When it comes to flavor and consistency, you'll do better with lard, butter, shortening, bacon fat, duck fat, and other saturated/animal fats. They'll give you a more tender mouthfeel and, if used properly in high quantities, a much more flaky consistency. Look at puff pastry, croissants, fluffy biscuits, etc.

If you're looking for healthier, you'll want to go with unsaturated plant oils. Olive oil will give you more health benefits than corn or canola oil but has a very distinctive flavor to it that's easy to discern in most foods it goes into. Peanut oil is the one I happen to use the most in my house for nearly every purpose where I'm not looking for the olive oil flavor.

If you want some nice reading, check out this topic on these very forums:

Doc.Dough's picture

I use none, however, from Volume 1, chapter 5 of Baking Technology (American Institute of Baking, 1998):

... most bread bakeries today use only two pounds of soybean oil along with about one half pound of a dough strengtherer and an equal amount of monoglycerides for crumb softening (per 100 lb of flour).

The hard fat is essential for lubricating the gluten structure for a good extensibility of the dough ...

... it is not recommended to use liquid vegetable oil without the addition of some hard fat.

Thus the issue is not the specific type of fat so much as the room temperature properties of the fat.

Colin2's picture

" it is not recommended to use liquid vegetable oil without the addition of some hard fat."

This is fascinating.  I was thinking about making Carol Field's olive oil bread just a few days ago, but didn't because the recipe called for lard.  (I respect lard, but some of my eaters are vegetarian.)  Would I get the texture benefits if I substituted butter for lard in that recipe?  

shastaflour's picture

.. is solid at room temperature. Might that work as a substitution for lard? (I'm going to try it!)


Doc.Dough's picture

Be sure to use it as a solid fat (low dough temperature) and please report back on your results.  It sounds like a great idea (occasionally).

Justin.samsown's picture

Great information to check out.  I hope I see something about the use of soy flour and oils,  something I often bake into my breads.

Justin.samsown's picture
  • In "Whole Grain Breads" Peter Reinhart (p129) claims that "The function of fats and oil is mainly to soften and slow down staling. ... it also may help trap carbon dioxide by strengthening the walls of gas cells in the crumb and thus make a taller, airier loaf."
  • In some breads a neutral tasting fat, like canola oil, is added only for its properties (softening the dough), in other breads specialty oils, like butter, extra virgin olive, pumpkin seed or walnut oil, contribute to the taste much more.
  • using fat or any type of shortening in a wheat bread will soften the crumb. It actually "shortens" the gluten strands and makes it less chewy and softer. That is why it is called shortening.
  • Flavor Bible (pg 236 and 237, little Brown Company 2008) mentions pecan oil, pistacsio oil, porchini oil, and walnut oil as good flavor matches for bread.
  • Great Article!

Im thinking that my use of oils is to protect the shelf life of the bread and influence texture.  Thank You for the comments!  I think I should now render some lard and try that.. though Im weary of what I will find, Ill give it a shot.

pjaj's picture

I use either sunflower or rape seed oil (AKA Canola in the USA) in my everyday bread.

Both are virtually tasteless and rank amongst the good oils.

See for a description and analysis of most common oils.

MangoChutney's picture

I use olive oil in the dough, and coconut oil on the pan.  Oil is supposed to be less good for the gluten than fat, but I don't work it into the dough until the kneading is basically done.  It's there to help make the final bread keep better.  I use coconut oil on the pan because I have two jars of coconut oil that I bought for another purpose and I am not using it for that purpose any more.  It's perfectly good pan grease.

ssorllih's picture

Saturated fat is solid at room temperature. I prefer poultry fat for almost all of my baking including pastries ,biscuits and yeast breads. I prefer bacon fat for muffins. The only vegatable oil in my house is olive oil for some cooking and linseed oil for wood finishing. All of the fats that we use are complex mixtures of many fatty acids and a search of the internet will bring up the details of this. 

ssorllih's picture

 Remember that it is called shortening for good reason. You can't make tender flaky pie crust without fat. What would biscuit be like without fat? Fat in our diet is not so much of a problem as is glutteny.

Try making good croissants without butter.

Doc.Dough's picture

Based on some fun reading today, it appears that there was some research done back in the early 20th century using fats at varying temperatures so that a fat that was a solid at low temperature was used at a higher temperature to make the same formulation but as a liquid fat.  The conclusion was that it was the phase of the fat that mattered - if it was solid it made good bread and if it was liquid it did not.

One other interesting result: as fat is added, loaf volume goes down from the no-fat condition, then goes back up, and eventually peaks at some higher value of total fat as a % of flour.  The phenomenology was not understood until they could use an electron microscope to examine what was going on - protein contains the CO2 when there is no fat; as fat is added, it initially interferes with the protein and weakens the cell wall; and at some higher concentration the fat fully integrates with the protein to strengthen the cell wall.

[Reference: Bread Science/Two Blue Books/Edith Buehler; reviewed by Floyd at:]

Aussie Pete's picture
Aussie Pete

Hi there,

I had a very small heart attack about 3 years ago and I avoid any saturated fat for health reasons on the advice of my doctor. It clogs your veins up with cholestrol and leads to all sorts of heart problems if not watched. Coconut oil though it comes from a plant has properties that causes the same problems. Why this is I do not know.

The occassional feed of these products will not cause problems but there are better long term health benefits with the use of olive, sunflower, canola and any other unsaturated oils.

Besides this how can you make a ciabatta without olive oil..........Cheers..........Pete.

ssorllih's picture

From everything I have been able to read Chicken fat in moderate amounts is as good as any of the fats. I use it very cold for pastry shortening with frozen flour. We want the flour to coat the fat particles and not be wet by the fat.  Nancy's Doctor has advised het to limit her intake of fat from all sources to 30 % of her total calories. At 9 calories per gram that is not too difficult to accomplish when you cook all of the food that you eat. On a 1200 calorie per day diet that means 40 grams of fat. Now we make that an average for a week because some foods need a higher fat content to be what they are. Lean pastry is hard and tough. The result is that a piece of pie is all of the fat for that day and quite likely the next. Portion control also helps in this regard because when we know the total fat content in a recipe  then we can make serving sizes conform to our needs and still enjoy the foods we love. generally I avoid the use of beef and lamb fat in any of my cooking, these are known to be higher in saturated fats .

The antidotal reports on olive oil seem to ndicate that it is a neutral at worst and perhap a benefit at best.

Doc.Dough's picture

Just put the oil on the table and not in the dough.

Here is some ciabatta sans oil:

Yerffej's picture

My study of various fats and oils leaves me in agreement with the comments by Snezhinka.


Justin.samsown's picture

This link may contain subject matter that may ruffle feathers and stifle creativity.  I haven't even read all the content.  However, it looks like an interesting read while on the subject of fats in general.  Happy reading and I would love to hear your thoughts.


loydb's picture

I use walnut oil pretty much exclusively.


ssorllih's picture

That is quite costly. I use rendered poultry fat.

loydb's picture

It's not that bad if you buy it in bulk. It tastes great, and I only use maybe 1/3 cup/week.


dabrownman's picture

of grape seed oil.  It costs about the same as EVOO, has the same nutritional effects but has a much, much higher smoking point so is good for sautes and pan frying.  We hardly ever deep fry anything aound here because the girls won't eat it.    I do use 1/3 each of lard (or Bacon fat), butter and shortning in my tortillas and tamale mixes along with defatted home made chicken stock because they don't taste right otherwise   - like croissants without butter.  We use 1/2 each fat (1/2 butter and 1/2 lard - or shortneing or bacon fat) in my short crust pasty too - makes the best pie crust in my book that is boith tender adn flaky.

The harmful effects of animal fats are totally over hyped.  If you use proper portion control, your body naturally makes 20 times more cholestoral every day than you consume. 

baybakin's picture

I keep a few oils around the household, we do a lot of cooking and baking (well, I do the baking to be fair).  like dabrownman, I used to use grapeseed oil for most simmering and pan frying, but have moved recently to peanut oil (a bit less of a refined version, still smells of peanuts, I get it at the asian market) and virgin coconut oil (which I love for stur-fry).  I really like the flavor that these oils add to the meal, as opposed to being neutral like many vegetable/seed based oils.

Baking I stick with the coconut oil, a cold-pressed unfiltered olive oil, and butter (sometimes ghee, which I make myself).

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

essential fatty acids     :)   cold pressed, lovely flavour!  

AnnaInMD's picture

sediment before shaking it up.  The taste in bread is just soooo good :)

Graid's picture

One thing that is certain- DO NOT USE PEANUT/GROUNDNUT OIL. Seeing as when used to fry things, it seems pretty lacking in taste, I thought it would be fine as a subsitute for the olive oil I usually use. Only a tablespoon and a half or so made the entire loaf taste of peanut. Unless you want a peanut loaf, avoid it!

Not tried grapeseed in bread, or walnut, mostly I use olive oil, either extra-virgin or just plain olive oil, depending on what's there. I don't find olive oil really flavours the bread I use, or maybe I'm just used to it.

I would think sunflower oil is also a possibility? My breadmaker manual recommends that, and it is another of the more 'healthy' oils.