From Walnut to Avocado, Here Are 6 Specialty Oils to Add to Your Pantry

Plus, everything you need to know about cooking (and baking!) with them.

September  1, 2020
Photo by Mark Weinberg

We've teamed up with La Tourangelle—makers of artisan oils, salad dressings, and cooking sprays—to show you all the wonderful ways you can use their specialty oils (think: roasted walnut oil, avocado oil, toasted sesame oil, and more) at home.

Take a look inside your pantry. What do you see? Olive oil, certainly. Vegetable oil? Check. Always stocked in the most basic of cupboards, these two kitchen workhorses will help you make just about any dish.

The right extra-virgin olive oil can make a salad sing, and vegetable oil (my high-heat cooking hero) is just what you need to achieve the perfect sear. You could stop there, but why would you? There’s so much more deliciousness to be had.

By bringing specialty oils—like roasted nut oils, avocado oil, and toasted sesame oil—into the mix, you can add bright new flavors to anything you make, whether you’re whipping up a quick vinaigrette or making a batch of fudgy brownies. Here’s a back-pocket guide to cooking, baking, drizzling, and more with all sorts of specialty oils.

What exactly are specialty oils?

Generally speaking, cooking oils are made by extracting the oil from fruits and seeds. To make certain nut oils, for example, the nuts are first dried in the sun, then they get shelled, roasted, and expeller-pressed (which applies high pressure in a single step to squeeze out the oils). The resulting oils are then passed through cotton filters to catch any tiny bits that might have been missed. What’s left is a delicately flavored specialty oil that adds tasty fat to food.

Roasted Nut Oils

Roasted walnut, peanut, and hazelnut oils all have a distinct toasted quality to them because, well, they get roasted before hitting the expeller press. Personally, they remind me of munching on warm nuts out of a paper bag while strolling down the streets of a snow-covered New York City.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Try my recipe for white pepper and walnut oil ice cream ?”

While any of these oils would be divine for roasting vegetables, sautéing hearty greens, or dressing a chewy grain salad, I like to bake with them the most. Since many roasted nut oils have a medium-to-high smoke point—except for roasted pistachio oil, at just 250°F—they’re perfect for all kinds of cooked dishes (peanut oil is especially favored for frying).

Photo by Mark Weinberg

A few tasty ideas for using them: try roasted walnut oil in these pear and ginger walnut muffins; swap in roasted peanut oil for canola in this banana walnut bread; or add a drizzle of roasted hazelnut oil to this roasted butternut squash.

Pistachio, which is technically a seed but culinarily considered a nut, is a notoriously challenging flavor to capture in baked goods. But roasted pistachio oil (my three-year-old thinks it smells like flowers) helps make it easier, yummier, and more fragrant to do. I use it to bring out the flavor in my pistachio madeleines and simple nutty shortbread. Since it has a lower smoke point, it would also be terrific whizzed up in a pesto or used to garnish roasted carrots or pasta.

Toasted Sesame Oil

Toasted sesame oil, made from sesame seeds, of course, is a little more assertive when it comes to flavor. Thanks to its medium-high smoke point (410°F), it lends itself very well to both dipping sauces and stir-fries. I also love it baked into savory granola, whisked into salad dressings, and drizzled over the big dollop of sour cream I load onto sautéed radishes or roasted Japanese sweet potatoes.

Avocado Oil

Processed with equipment similar to the kind used to make extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil has a beautiful bright green color and the highest smoke point of this bunch (520°F). Besides stirring it into herby rice or quinoa (you can also use it for frying!), I love to marinate feta cheese in it.

Making the marinated feta is simple: Just gently heat up about a cup of avocado oil with some fresh rosemary and orange zest, pour it into a jar, let it cool slightly, and then add the cheese. The mixture lives happily in my fridge for a week or so, and I smear it on everything from my morning toast to my evening date. (I mean the dried fruit, not the man.)

How to Substitute Specialty Oils in Recipes

Using specialty oils in cooking opens up a world of possibilities and endless flavor combinations, partly because they can easily be swapped in for other oils or butter in recipes. When cooking savory dishes, you can sub in one of these oils in a 1:1 ratio.

When using oil instead of butter in baked goods, just be sure to reduce the overall amount by about 25 percent. For example, if a baking recipe calls for 8 tablespoons of butter, try 6 tablespoons of your favorite specialty oil.

How to Store Your Specialty Oils

As with all oils, it’s best to store specialty oils in a cool, dark place, where they’ll last (opened) for about six months; unopened, they’ll be good for up to two years. Heat, light, and oxygen can cause oxidation, which will eventually cause your lovely oil to go rancid. If you have the space, you can store your oils in the fridge to extend their shelf life. They’ll get a little thicker in there, but will thin out as soon as they warm up to room temperature.

I’ll never advise you to throw away that olive oil—it has an important place in the pantry and my heart. But I hope you’ll consider giving it a break sometimes to get into something new and definitely delicious.

What specialty oils have you tried cooking with? Tell us in the comments below!

In partnership with La Tourangelle, we're sharing everything you need to know about using specialty oils—from delicate roasted pistachio oil to aromatic roasted hazelnut oil—at home. Head to the La Tourangelle site to stock up your own kitchen with their specialty oils, and don't forget to check out their lineup of organic salad dressings and premium artisan spray oils while you're at it.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • PRST
  • Greenstuff
  • hardlikearmour
  • Oni Luvmesumu Pahaham
    Oni Luvmesumu Pahaham
Writer. Baker. Sticky bun maker.


PRST March 8, 2016
Try my recipe for white pepper and walnut oil ice cream ?
Oni L. October 8, 2020
What’s the recipe?
Greenstuff January 26, 2016
While I've had walnut oil in my refrigerator door for a long, long time, I first splurged on pistachio oil so that I could make a recipe from Salad as a Meal by Patricia Wells, Zucchini Carpaccio with Avocado and Pistachios. Food52 agrees with me--that recipe is Genius.
hardlikearmour January 26, 2016
Creamy ricotta topped with Renee Erickson's sautéed dates and a drizzle of toasted walnut oil -- YUM!