Common Chinese Food Cooking Oils


For stir-frying, authentic Chinese recipes specify peanut oil, with corn oil or vegetable oil recommended as a substitute. Peanut oil has dominated Chinese home cooking since the 16th century introduction of the groundnut to the mainland, where it replaced rapeseed as an oil source. Restaurants may use instead a blended vegetable oil that comes in 20-liter jerrycans. By contrast, olive oil doesn’t see use in the Chinese kitchen.


  • Sesame oil serves as a marinade, rather than a stir-fry oil, typically mixed with chopsticks along with a small amount of cornstarch to coat meats cut for stir-frying 30 minutes ahead of cooking time. Look for toasted sesame oil rather than cold-pressed for the desired flavor for Chinese food. You may also add tiny amounts to completed dishes.

Flavored Oils

  • You can purchase ready-made chili oil or make flavored oils yourself with pepper flakes and chili. Professional kitchens flavor cooking oil with bits of ginger, garlic and scallion in advance, which you can emulate by cooking your flavorings and straining the resulting golden oil.

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