Indian cooking basically uses oil from the beginning of the process, typically starting with sautéing ginger and garlic, then adding shallots, chillies and onions. So the oil is on the fire for quite some time.

I would like to know whether any type of olive oil will be suitable for this type of cooking. Extra virgin olive oil seems to be out of the question from what I have read.

  • 3
    It's not really the extended time on the fire which is the issue, but rather the high temperature reached.
    – nico
    Commented Apr 15, 2012 at 15:15
  • @nico What you have stated is actually a common misconception: The amount of time actually matters just as much as the temperature. More information is available in this question: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/17605/…
    – ESultanik
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 19:53
  • @ESultanik: I do not have access to the book linked in the question. Could you please cite a few examples of temperature/time equivalence (considering that Indian cooking generally needs high temperatures)?
    – nico
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 21:20
  • @nico Unfortunately I no longer have a copy of that book (I borrowed it from a library). I just added a link to Wolke's article which does contain some good information, however, neither that article nor, IIRC, the book contains definitive temperature/time equivalence examples.
    – ESultanik
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 14:39

10 Answers 10


With Olive oils, the more refined they are, the higher their burning point. So you are correct, an Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil would be a terrible choice for Indian cooking (would cause effect on taste, smell, and nutrition) which has prolonged periods of sauteing on high heat.

Lower quality olive oils, or a light olive oil, interestingly, would be a better choice. They are much more refined like vegetable oils, so have a higher burning point. But at that point, you'd consider why are you using Olive oil?

Consider using refined butter (ghee) or coconut oil for Indian cooking. Ghee and Coconut oil will rarely smoke or burn and can stand high heat pretty well. I believe traditional Indian cooking uses ghee.

  • 5
    Actually, Virgin Olive Oil is fine for high-temperature frying as long as it is completely filtered, which most of the oil sold in regular food stores is. Since only virgin olive oil is ever sold unfiltered (and unrefined), this causes common confusion about smoke points and frying temperatures vs. Pure olive oil, which is always filtered and refined.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Apr 15, 2012 at 6:18

Indian food is commonly cooked with ghee (clarified butter), for both religious and flavor reasons. Where ghee is not used, coconut or refined palm oil are common.

I can also tell you from experience that Indian food can be made with unflavored vegetable oils (canola, sunflower or soy), without a deleterious effect on flavor or texture.


Mustard seed oil is also used traditionally for Indian food.

  • Yeah, good point. I'd forgotten about mustard oil. Mind you, it's is pretty hard to get outside Asia.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 3:17
  • Mustard oil is easy to get in my area, but there are a lot of Indian specialty grocery stores here.
    – NadjaCS
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 23:09
  • Be careful with mustard oil. I bought a bottle and used it for a dish before discovering it had something like "not for consumption" or "only for external use" written on it. I bought it in an Indian food store. I threw it in the bin.
    – Lord Null
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 10:17

Indian cooking is mainly dependent on coconut oil or sunflower oil. Coconut oil is widely used in coastal parts of southern India. Olive oil might not give the same taste as you get in coconut oil. There are some dishes that could only be prepared using coconut oil.

  • Coconut oil is generally only used in the south of India and is very rare in the north, but it is true that many South Indian cooks will only use coconut oil for certain dishes.
    – NadjaCS
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 23:10

Different types of oils are used for different recipes or cooking styles that vary across India. Some of them use mustard oil (Bengal and Bihar) while south indians prefer coconut oil. On the other hand, western states in India use groundnut, sunflower oil for the daily cooking needs. Olive oil is rarely used for authentic indian recipes.

Also, while some of the recipes let you pick ghee or oil, they are used for different recipes and can't always replace each other.

AFAIK, the cold pressed groundnut oil / coconut oil / sesame oil / mustard oil are healthy. Mustard oil has a strong smell and it doesn't always go well with all the recipes (it's typically used in the marination process for tandoori chicken and it's one of the ingredients that give it a red color).


It depend which region the Indian dish you are cooking is from. Kashmiris use mustard oil quite a bit which requires 'cracking' before using by boiling at high heat. I use mostly sunflower seed oil in my restaurant in Delhi, I may add in some ghee, coconut oil, or mustard oil depending on which region of India the dish you are cooking is from.


Most south Indian dishes contains groundnut, coconut,butter,ghee and gingelly or sesame oil. Which adds more taste to your food.


Its really good experience to cook and eat food cooked with sunflower oil but olive oil is also a good choice to cook. Don't use olive oil for frying, it can be used for shallow fry and to make curry where you don't needed to cook at high temperature.

  • Hi, and welcome to our site! We only discuss cooking here, not health/nutrition, so I had to remove that. The shopping suggestions were also superfluous. I left in the info which actually answers the question, just changed the sentence structure a bit to make it easier to read.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 17:45

sunflower oil is the best for indian cooking.


indian food tastes best in peanut oil.

  • 2
    Can you elaborate why peanut oil is best? Otherwise this is just an opinion and not really an objective answer.
    – Jay
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 1:33

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