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What kind of cooking oil do Koreans use?

olive oil

(Extra virgin olive oil, a picture from weekly chosun)

A couple of readers asked me why do Koreans use so much olive oil in cooking. If you go through a couple of my recipes, you will soon notice that too.

Well, to be honest, I have no idea what kind of cooking oil other Koreans use for their cooking. However, I do know that I prefer using Extra virgin olive oil (I now use rice bran oil) for my cooking, because we believe that it is healthier than other kinds of oil. Though, since it is relatively expensive, I use vegetable oil for deep frying.

Before olive oil became very popular in Korea (around 2004-5), most Koreans used vegetable oil (including bean oil), but now since there are more varieties of oil available such as olive oil, grape seed oil, canola oil etc, I assume people choose by their preference, budget allowance, and how health conscious they are.

What kind of cooking oil do you use?


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Written by: Sue

Last Updated: May 13, 2019

Hi, I'm Sue and I am the creator of My Korean Kitchen. Thank you for joining me in this delicious culinary journey!

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31 thoughts on “What kind of cooking oil do Koreans use?”

  1. Hello from Italy,
    really EVOO is the best & Healthy Oil for Dressing- Fry-Made delicious food.
    Of course the best to use should be the 100%Italian Origin ……. ;O)

    Btw you may be interest that also Grape Seed Oil got very good features for fry and cooking with a “Smoking Point” at 180 ° C almost like EVOO .

    Regards from Italy.
    Giacomo

  2. very interested comments, but when we compare oils for cooking, we must remeber that, Extra Virgin Olive Oil is one of the few oils that are extracted 100% with mechanical means, meaning that keeps all nutritius elements ans heathy attributes in a very high level, if it treated properly.

  3. Yeah, as many have said… high smoke point is best. If you really like a specific low smoke point oil, like Coconut, you may be able to get away with mixing it in with one with a higher heat tolerance.

  4. In fact, Canola Oil is the best oil for high temperature frying. Compared with Olive Oil, Canola oil has a much higher smoke point at 232C versus only 166C with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Canola Oil has no flavour and therefore it does not change the flavour of the foods you are cooking! On top of this Canola Oil has the least amount of Saturated fat compared with all other major vegetable oils and that is why it is known as the healthiest oil!

  5. I use extra virgin avocado oil all the time now. It has the highest smoke point of all extra virgin plant oils – 255°C!!! It enhances the flavour of food instead of overpowering it like good olive oil does. It is used in the same way you would use other oils and it’s fantastic in salad dressings too. I also use it in mashed potato instead of butter. Something else I’ve discovered lately, it has more than 4 times more lutein than olive oil. Lutein helps protect the eyes from macular degeneration and blindness. It is high in monosaturated fat (the good stuff), low in saturated fat, cholesterol free and studies have shown that avocado oil increases nutrient absorption from salads by 40%. The best value avocado oil I’ve found is made by Olivado. Check their website http://www.olivado.com

  6. I used palm oil all my life. That’s the most common thing around here. It’s just recently that I know Olive oil is for cooking. I used to think that it’s for salad dressing only.

  7. I use rice bran oil for most everything. I find it works well. Sometimes I use sesame oil for asian flavoring and avacado oil for salads.

  8. For me, rice bran oil is great as a workhorse in the kitchen-high smoke point and healthy as well. I like grapeseed, olive and avacado oils for salads. I like seasame oil for adding after cooking for that particular flavor.

  9. I didn’t find any palm oil yet but I did find some rice bran oil at the local supermarket. I have been using it for a couple of days now, so far it seems to be working great. 🙂

  10. I’m with ellen – olive oil has gained popularity recently, but it is not good for Korean cooking because it burns at a low temp, which is actually bad for health! Also, it is quite heavy and can mask other flavours. Mediterranean cooking employs a lot of simmering and sauteing, so olive oil works well there. I like to use vegetable oils for Korean foods, which are usually cooked at a high temperature. Traditional ingredients are usually the most healthy, surprisingly!

  11. Hey everyone-try rice bran oil for high heat sauteing. It works the best because of the high smoke point-490-plus it has more antioxidants and vitamin E than olive or canola oil. Save the good olive oil for drizzling over food when you want that olive oil flavor-but don’t crank up the heat on olive oil because you will wreck it.

  12. For stir-frying at high heat GRAPE SEED OIL works wonders.
    To create the perfect tempura RICE BRAN OIL.
    OLIVE OIL I use in Mediterranean recipes and cuisines that incorporate those unique flavors. As for their use in Korean food, I seldom use OLIVE OIL here, since the types sold are highly refined thus the health benefits are limited. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL used for dressings are not refined and full of great health benefits.

  13. I wish I could cook everything in sesame oil. If I could add sesame oil to everything, I would. I am a sesame oil fanatic. How can you choose a full flavor sesame oil…is it in the color? or is there a brand that you recommend?

  14. I use extra virgin oil if I’m doing light frying. But if I’m making a stir fry I like to use canola oil or soybean oil, as it has a higher burning temp. vs olive oil, plus it doesn’t affect the flavor as much.

  15. I use extra virgin olive oil for light frying. Vegetable oil for baking recipes. A blended sesame/soy bean oil (available at COSTCO in the states) for any Korean cooking and deep frying.

  16. It is interesting to see what kind of oil other people use. I might look for palm oil next time I go shopping.
    About the sesame oil, once I open the lid first after purchasing it, I keep it in the fridge. I tend to do so for other condiments as well, like soy sauce, soybean paste, gochujang etc. The reason is it seems safer to use like that without spoiling, though it might be a psychological thing (Actually I just checked on the labels of most of the condiments I have and they all say to keep in the fridge after opening.)

  17. I use any kinds of oil which are on sale! But they have to be cholesterol free. I recently bought a bottle of extra virgin oil for health purposes…haven’t used it and an not sure how it affects the taste of my cooking…but we shall see.

  18. I use organic extra virgin olive oil for cooking and vegetable oil for deep frying (I don’t deep-fry often, but using palm oil sounds good – thanks for the tip). I also use organic virgin coconut oil for baking. And sesame oil just to add flavor to different Asian dishes.

  19. That is interesting about olive oil becoming popular somewhere around 2004/2005 in Korea. I was wondering about that because when I lived there (’96-’02), it was pretty hard to find but the Koreans I’ve met here in the U.S. are big on olive oil. I figured it must have caught on there sometime after I left. I use olive oil for frying (not deep frying–I rarely do any of that) and also for baking but I buy a version that is supposedly lighter and the bottle says, “for baking and sauteing”.

  20. Palm Oil! I find olive oil a bit overpowering in taste and smell for chinese cooking. Furthermore, olive oil does not withstand higher temperature of cooking as required in many chinese stir fries compared to palm oil.

    The olive oil at home is reserved for Italian / Western cuisine 🙂

  21. My family is the same way. We use EVOO for everything except for deep frying.

    We buy a big jug at Costco for about 17 bucks I think.

  22. Olive oil for most cooking and am looking into rice oil for frying. I leave my sesame oil in the area where I leave my olive oil (in a drawer) and it is just fine, I think if you live in a really hot area then you may want to refrigerate your oils–but it will harden and need to be “defrosted” before using.

  23. I agree that olive oil is the most healthful oil to cook with (i.e. an oil actually GOOD for you!). However, olive oil isn’t the best to fry with (lower smoking temp and starts to smell funny if heated at a high heat). I use vegetable oil or canola for frying and sometimes bacon fat for Italian/French stews (bacon fried rice is absolutely the best tasting fried rice ever). Sesame oil only as a boutique oil (i.e. for flavoring). There was a chef that said sesame oil should always be kept in the fridge otherwise it will go rancid. Can anyone confirm this?

  24. Wow…I always use canola oil when I cook but I did hear that Olive Oil was a lot healthier. I hardly ever use Olive Oil although I’ve heard people say that it brings out the flavor in a lot of food, I’m still not sure. I also use sesame oil but that’s only if I want to add some more flavor to my dishes. Hrm…who would’ve thought that oil could be so important. haha…now that I think about it…oil is almost (hint: almost) a necessity. ^^

  25. I use olive oil for most of my general cooking, canola oil when I need to use a whole lot of oil or cook at higher temperatures, and sesame oil to add a bit of flavor to some dishes.

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