Avocado Oil: Specialty Option or Kitchen Workhorse?
Posted by , MS, RD, LD, FADA

Avocado is having a moment. Restaurants charge $12+ for avocado toast. Paleo loyalists crack an egg into an avocado half and bake it for breakfast. Avocados are now used as the base for everything from gelato to salad dressing to hummus. They’re being mashed and used in place of mayo in chicken and tuna salad.

Yes, avocado is definitely having a moment.

Along with the whole fruit, avocado oil has arrived in the oil aisle of the local grocer. To extract oil from avocados, the fruit is first dried to remove the high percentage of water. The oil is then extracted. The flesh of the avocado is about 65 percent water and 30 percent oil. The oil is high in monounsaturated fats (71 percent), similarly to canola and olive oils. Avocado oil also has a high smoke point, meaning it can be used in sautéing and other high heat applications. Culinary experts recommend it’s use as a drizzle on salads, sandwiches, or pizzas, when grilling vegetables, with stir-frying, or even in baking.

Avocados, of course, have a distinct color and flavor which is transferred to the oil; these attributes may impact application in cooking. The color has varying shades of green depending on the level of refinement, and the flavor has been described as buttery and nutty. In baking, these attributes may not be desired, and a more neutral flavored oil, such as canola, may be preferred. This is also true for recipes that include ingredients with a subtle flavor, where a heavy-flavored oil may overpower other ingredients.

While the nutrition profile of avocado oil aligns with the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to use sources of mono- and polyunsaturated fats in place of saturated fat, questions are being raised about the sustainability of the oil. Avocado trees require a significant amount of water, with estimates indicating that in California more than 74 gallons of irrigated water are needed per kilogram of fruit grown.1 Based on rough calculations, this means nearly 200 gallons of water are needed to produce a 17-ounce bottle of avocado oil. In comparison, most canola is produced on dry land, meaning that the crop is not irrigated and simply relies on water provided by Mother Nature.

Another consideration is pricing. Avocado surpasses even extra virgin olive oil in cost. An online retailer showed a 17 oz. bottle of avocado oil at $13.09, while olive oil ranged from $4.99-$11.89 and canola oil $3.99-$5.69 for the same-sized bottle.2

When making product purchases, today’s consumer factors in various attributes including nutrition, sustainability and price. Based on these considerations, consumers may be more likely to treat avocado oil as a specialty oil choice, leaving options like canola oil as the daily workhorses in the kitchen.

 

References:

  1. It Takes How Much Water to Grow an Avocado, Tom Philpott, Mother Jones, Oct. 1, 2014.
  2. Data retrieved from CobornsDelivers.com on 5/2/2018.