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:

Snezhinka's picture

Heavily processed polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as corn, canola, etc. is terrible stuff. They have too much omega 6, and go rancid very easily, especially at high temperatures used in bread baking. These are the oils that cause inflammation and heart disease, not whole fats such as coconut oil, butter and other animal fats. Heart disease was at its lowest when people mainly ate saturated fats and before this whole 'low fat' nonsense came about. Traditional societies everywhere, where people have perfect health, and not a single decayed tooth (despite having no toothpaste or dentists) eat mainly saturated fats. Most of the 'science' backing up villification of saturated fat is based on a study by Ancel Keyes, which is a great example of inaccurate research (correlation doesn't = causation).


Olive oil is indeed healthful too, but not everyone can stomach it - I personally find the smell disgusting. If I want an unsaturated oil, I go with avocado oil in dark bottles.

whoops's picture

As an off shoot to this- using animal fats might only be beneficial if you ensure the animal was feed properly- meaning, what it is supopsed to eat, if it were not in the wild.I am speaking mostly of beef here, thous I have heard limited things abotu pork that has been pasture raised, and have eaten some of said pork that was to die for(ok, so the pig DID die for it, but you get my point) not sure abotu teh fat part though, as I do not usually use pork fat. Studies show that grain fed beef have different proportions of the good and bad fats, and that grass fed beef can actually help lower cholesterol and have other health benefits.  I just know if you splurge and pay the extra for butter made from milk from grass fed cows- you can almost smell the country and grass and it has a lovely color and flovor- much nicer than the regular kind. Not to mention- grass does not give cows the tummy upset that causes gas and the use of antacids that grain feeding does, so , better for the environment (if you go for that sort of thing) due to less "green house gas" from cow- well, gas. :)


Snezhinka's picture

Absolutely, I'm sorry I completely forgot to mention that!

Fats from miserable, factory-raised animals in filthy conditions and fed grain and soy and all sorts of junk will have skewed fatty acid ratios and is indeed rather unhealthy. Animal fats from animals reared naturally (i.e. grass in summer/spring, hay & homemade silage in winter), allowed to roam freely and in the sun are very nourishing; in fact, lard from outdoor pigs is very high in vitamin D; lard from pigs kept in cages in some stuffy barn won't have that benefit - and will also be inferior in flavour.

Same really goes for dairy - Pasteurised, homogenised dairy is indeed very allergenic and harmful. Raw, unhomogenized dairy (incl. butter) from grass-fed happy cows from small-scale farms has nourished many a healthy, robust people. I'd recommend looking into Weston A. Price's research, particularly on the people of the Loetschal valley in Switzerland.



G-man's picture

I'm not demonizing fat here. I love the stuff and use all kinds of fat all the time. I have two jars of bacon fat in my fridge, one of duck fat, several pounds of butter in fridge and freezer (there was a sale!), I don't buy low- or non-fat anything except milk...and that only because I grew up drinking it, so I prefer the flavor to the thicker, creamier stuff. I will buy the fatty stuff in a heartbeat if I'm cooking with it, because it's better to cook with.

I never once said anything about going "low fat" because that's absolute garbage science.

Your dislike of olive oil is even less scientifically prudent than mistaking correlation with causation.

And yes, I will absolutely stand by my assertion that unsaturated fats are generally more healthful than saturated fats. I'm not saying avoid one or the other because It Are Bad For You! an all that dogmatic drivel. I'm saying our bodies physically need less saturated fat than unsaturated fat. We process it differently because its chemical composition is different. Our bodies make different use of the compounds. On a molecular level we make immediate use of a higher percentage of unsaturated fat, while saturated fats tend to go right into our own personal stores.

The reason this happens is because we, as animals, produce our own saturated fats from other energy sources we encounter. Saturated fats don't contain many compounds that we can't manufacture ourselves. There are a few notable exceptions that are incredibly healthy for us. Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in animal fats and we need those to live. These things also come from nuts and other non-animal sources. The problem lies in the word "exception" here...those compounds ARE exceptions, and for the most part saturated fats are just more of what our bodies make anyway whenever we have excess energy.

Animal fats are wonderful, amazing, tasty, and should be used when appropriate. They are most certainly not as healthy as unsaturated fats when it comes to the daily needs of a person leading a sedentary, well-fed life. I don't drink the kool-aid, thanks.

Snezhinka's picture

G-man - It seems, from your response, that my comment came accross as polemic or aggressive - I'm sorrythat is so - I didn't mean it to be offensive in any way.

There indeed isn't anything scientific about my dislike of olive oil. There cannot be anything scientific about a dislike, in fact. Nevertheless, I do use olive oil since its flavour in combination with others does appeal to me (e.g. focaccia).And I do acknowledge that it is very healthy - monounsaturated fats are very beneficial and necessary.

We indeed do not need to eat saturated fats by the spoonful (even though there is plenty of evidence of peoples, such as the Inuit, eating very high levels of saturated fat and remaining healthy; in fact, an explorer called Vilhjalmur Stefansson spent some time with the Inuit, eating their native diet, of mainly fish, meat and fat, and remained very healthy, not succumbing even to scurvy - though I acknowledge that this is a different context and we cannot and shouldnt try to emulate it out of that context). 


But saturated fat is not the culprit of heart disease. Whole, natural animal fat from naturally-reared animals (not factory farms) is a lot more healthy than canola, corn and other seed oils, which are rancid, highly processed and contain a way too high amount of omega 6 (of which people have an excess, leading to inflammation and hence heart disease). How can something that requires a huge industrial processing plant to produce be more healthful than what has nourished people for generations? Heart disease skyrocketed when people began eating mass-produced processed seed oils instead of animal fats.

Yes, you dont need 100 % saturated fat - but the thing is, that animal fats (especially those from naturally-reared animals) have perfect proportions of fatty acids within them:


e.g. duck fat is 33% sat., 50% monounsaturated, 13% polyunsaturated

Lard is 39% sat, 45 mono, 11 poly

Butter is 50% sat, 30% mono 4% poly


This is the ideal ratio - as opposed to what people get nowadays, eating processed vegetable oils, and have a lot more polyunsaturates & omega 6 than they need. Perhaps it would be healthful if you stamped on some sunflower seeds and used the oil straight up, but even cold-extracted seed oils go rancid very quickly (the seed itself contains antioxidants that protect the fat from rancidity - once it is free of the seed, it is highly unstable) and rancid fat causes inflammation, and hence heart disease and other systemic problems.

Monounsaturated oils of oily fruit are a little more stable - olive, avocado. Macadamia oil is also quite stable, though probably owing to its higher saturated fat content. They are certainly healthy - only if you buy the real stuff (the amount of fraud going on with olive oil is undescribable), in dark bottles, and store it properly - preferably in a cool cellar or refrigerator. But this is expensive, and hard to find. Good animal fats are cheaper, and still more versatile and stable in cooking.

I'm afraid I will have to contradict you on the idea that saturated fats are converted to body fat. It is easy to fall into the trap of oversimlification and say that the body directly separates saturates and unsaturates, sending the lformer to your hips. Its a lot more complicated than that. In fact, saturated fats are less likely to be stored:

Butter, for instance, is probably the highest in saturates of all the animal fats; however, it contains mainly short and medium-chain fatty acids, which are processed by the liver, meaning they are converted to energy very quickly; the body prefers to use MCFAs, not store them.Coconut oil is especially rich in MCFAs and is even sold as a weight loss supplement!


Not to mention that animal fats offer a plethora of other beneficial substances - lauric and butyric acids, the former contained in especially high amounts in coconut oil, boost the immune system (they are found also in breast milk, and act as a booster to the infant's immune system - nature's vaccination); stearic and palmitic acids (found especially in butter and duck fat) lower LDL cholesterol.


Animal fats are rich in fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as containing inc, copper. chromium, selenium, iodine, and lecithin (in the case of butter); pork fat from pasture-raised pigs is especially high in vitamin D; bone marrow fat is very high in phosphorous, vit. A, iron, as well as some niacin and thiamin. People nowadays eat a very low percentage of fat-soluble vitamins compared to traditional peoples and to people a century or so ago, resulting in weak bones, weak teeth, and weak health - bone malformation so widespread in children it is considered normal (narrow faces, pinched nostrils, crowded teeth) are a direct result of parents eating a diet where newfanged industrial foods, such as refined grains, sugars, and industrial seed oils have replaced whole foods, including whole animal fats.


I'd recommend looking into the work of Weston A. Price, on an aside.


And please don't accuse me of dishing out kool-aid.

G-man's picture

Going to move on. There's some misunderstanding here.

My current views on food are something like this:

Our modern food system serves some people just fine. It serves others very poorly indeed, which is part of why the number of people who are unhealthy because of food is growing. 

We need to take a step back and look at what people were eating before this turn for the worse. This doesn't mean anything like what people were eating 10k years ago, it means what people were eating before our food chain became industrialized. I don't even mean cutting out all industrialized foods, I just mean eating what you'd eat for the season when you can.

Macronutrients are all necessary and any diet that says otherwise is not only a fad, it's also dangerous. I feel as strongly against the anti-fat crowd as I do those who worship Atkins and the anti-protein folks. It's visibly unhealthy to maintain these diets long-term.

I personally feel as though sterilization has little to no room in food. I ferment my food when I can, it's my preferred method of food storage. Since I've started I've lost weight and felt healthier. While that's about as unscientific as it gets, it works for me. And sterilization does not mean sanitation. Cleanliness is good, scorched earth is bad.

And I apologize, I wasn't accusing you of handing out kool-aid. The sentence structure of my post left a lot to be desired. I was stating that I don't drink the kool-aid poured by those touting special diets. The only weight loss plan that ever worked for me (and it works quite well) is to eat when I'm hungry, not eat too much of any one thing, not drink calories (well, ok, beer), and exercise.

Snezhinka's picture

That's alright, don't apologize, I understand what you meant now. :-)

Fermentation is the best way of food preservation, and supplies plentiful probiotics. I agree about the obsession with sterilisation - probably the reason people get sick so often in the first place.  I recently cancelled my membership of a local gym because they cancelled all the boxing classes, saying that it is unhygienic for people to share boxing gloves.



Perhaps we all need to walk around in biohazard suits.It's horrifying that absolutely anything nowadays is pasteurised. Even honey (yes, honey, the stuff they found buried in a pyramid with some Egyptian mummy, that was still very edible. Forget use-by dates.)

I personally grew up drinking raw milk and still do so, and I ferment all my preserves too - my gran makes to die for  lacto-fermented pickles !


I agree with you about balance; in fact, in one of my favourite cook/nutrition books, Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon points out the danger of singling out macronutrients as dangerous and skewing the whole thing. High-protein can be as damaging as low-fat. In fact, the Inuit themselves testify to the fact that low-carb, for instance, is not ideal - in order to support thyroid function (for which carbohydrate levels are important), they harvested the thyroid glands of the moose when they became enlarged in the moose-mating season.

Anyway, I'll stop before I bore the pants off everyone, or get banned for irrelevant musing.

...Beer should definitely be an exception - as should anything bread-related (e.g. kvass - which is also fermented) this is a bread website, isn't it.

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:

Snezhinka's picture

My grandmother always used, and uses, so called 'baked butter' - we call it 'toplionoye maslo' in Russia. It is a type of clarified butter I suppose, but one that is left with the browned milk solids to infuse for a while - it is very heat-stable, intensely aromatic and exceptionally healthful - many traditional peoples use this 'butter oil' as medicine. So, most often, I use it.

I also like to use good lard from free-range pigs - it doesn't impart any kind of flavour to the bread, is exceptionally heat-stable and gives great results especially in white breads; not to mention it is a lot more nutritious than rancid, processed vegetable oils such as corn or canola. Do some research on how they process those oils; you won't touch them with a ten-foot pole.



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 :)

kbar's picture

I usually use 2 TBS of melted butter and 2 TBS of light olive oil. I also use freshly ground flax and chia seeds as part of my flour mixture.

Light olive oil has a very mild smell and flavor.

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.