Keto is a low carb, high fat diet, but sometimes the “high fat” part can be a challenge — especially if you’re new to eating keto and unused to eating so much 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 keto. All oils are pure fat and don’t contain any carbs, but from a health perspective, some are better than others (
Here are 6 of the best keto-friendly oils and cooking fats, along with 5 to avoid, as well as some helpful instructions regarding shopping for cooking oil.
1. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is a unique plant-based oil made from coconut flesh. It’s solid at room temperature because of its high saturated fat content, which is typically only seen in animal fats (
This oil has a relatively low smoke point, which is the temperature at which an oil begins to smoke, of 350°F (177°C). As such, it may be more suitable for baking and low heat cooking rather than high heat cooking like frying or stir-frying (3).
However, one drawback of coconut oil is that it imparts a coconut taste to foods that are cooked with it.
Additionally, one recent review found that coconut oil consumption resulted in significantly higher LDL (bad) cholesterol, compared with consuming nontropical vegetable oils (3).
If you want a flavorless coconut oil, look for one that’s labeled “refined.” Refined coconut oil also has a higher smoke point of 450°F (232°C). Yet, this product is more processed than unrefined coconut oil (4).
2. Olive oil
Olive oil is made from the oil pressed from olives, which are naturally high in fat. It’s widely considered one of the healthiest oils available and possibly even one of the healthiest foods overall (
Look for extra virgin olive oil, which is the oil that’s extracted from the olives on the first press. It’s generally the least processed and the highest in quality.
3. Avocado oil
Avocado oil, which is made from pressed avocados, is another excellent oil choice.
It has a rich, nutty flavor that complements sautéed and pan-fried foods, and its high smoke point of approximately 500°F (260°C) lets it create extra-crispy fried foods without burning them (4).
One drawback of avocado oil is that it’s more expensive than both olive and coconut oils.
Butter is a solid fat made from dairy cream. While it’s not technically an oil, it’s used in cooking the same way that many oils are.
Butter adds a rich flavor to dishes, but it also browns very quickly — and therefore can burn rapidly. It’s not suitable for high heat cooking, especially if the food will be cooked for a long time.
Ghee is made by heating butter and removing the milk proteins that accumulate during the heating process. The result is a flavorful clarified butter that solidifies at room temperature. Ghee is often used in Indian cooking (
Because the milk proteins are removed, some people who are sensitive to dairy report that they can eat ghee with no issues. However, if you have a dairy allergy you should still avoid ghee in case it contains traces of the dairy proteins that trigger your allergy.
Ghee doesn’t burn as easily as butter, so it’s more suitable for high heat cooking.
6. Animal fats
Animal fats aren’t technically oils but rather solid fats at room temperature. Still, they’re suitable for keto cooking.
They can impart a unique, meaty flavor to dishes, and they’re fairly stable when heated, making them great for high heat cooking, roasting, and frying (
Some examples of animal fats include:
- bacon grease
- lard (pig fat)
- tallow (beef fat)
- duck fat
Note that these choices are high in saturated fat. As such, it may be best to moderate your intake.
The following oils are considered industrial seed oils and generally discouraged on the keto diet:
- vegetable oil
- soybean oil
- safflower oil
- canola oil
- corn oil
They’re made from seeds that aren’t naturally high in fat, so they must undergo an industrial refining process to have their fat extracted (
These oils are highly processed, unlike the more easily extracted oils from fatty foods like coconuts, avocado, and olives.
Unfortunately, foods that go through more processing may be more harmful to your health, promoting weight gain and chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers (
They’re high in polyunsaturated omega-6 fats, which may cause inflammation if they’re not balanced with enough omega-3 fats from foods like salmon and flaxseeds. Notably, the modern Western diet is too low in omega-3s and too high in omega-6s (
For these reasons, industrial seed oils should be limited not only on the keto diet, but no matter which eating pattern you adhere to.
It’s best to balance your choices based on your health goals and medical and family history. It may be a good approach to speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian about the appropriateness of following the keto diet before starting it.
Here are a few guidelines to help you choose a cooking oil.
Look for oils made from naturally fatty foods
The more fatty a food naturally is, the less processing that’s required to extract oil from it.
That’s why you should favor oils made from naturally high fat foods like avocados, olives, and coconuts.
On the other hand, vegetable oils made from foods that aren’t naturally high in fat — like corn and soybeans — require extensive industrial processing to be produced.
Check the label to ensure it’s not an oil blend
Avocado or olive oil products that are significantly less expensive than similar products may be blends — meaning that they’re cut with a less expensive oil (usually one of the industrial seed oils listed above).
Check the ingredient list to be sure your cooking oil of choice doesn’t contain any low quality types of oil.
Avoid margarines, plant-based spreads, and vegetable shortenings
While they’re widely used, most margarine, vegetable shortening, and vegan spreads are highly processed and made from industrial seed oils.
Butter and coconut oil are great alternatives for baking and other cooking methods in which you want a fat that’s solid at room temperature.
The best cooking oils for the keto diet are olive, avocado, and coconut oil. Additionally, animal fats like butter, ghee, lard, and tallow are great choices.
While all cooking oils are free of carbs, industrial seed oils like soybean and corn oils are highly processed and inflammatory, and they may release harmful chemicals into the air and food when its heated.
Regardless of your diet, you should opt for cooking oils that require the least amount of processing.