What is rapeseed oil?

If you want a light alternative to other cooking oils, rapeseed is a great choice and has experienced a surge in popularity since around 2008. It's produced from the bright yellow rape plant that grows freely in the UK in large fields. Best cold-pressed, the oil can then be used in salad dressings, or heated to fry or bake.

It's low in saturated fat, so has been hailed for its health benefits and also has other nutritional bonuses – it contains omegas 3, 6 and 9, which reduce cholesterol and help to maintain healthy joint, brain and heart functions. As it is high in mono-unsaturated fats, it is one of the only unblended oils that can be heated to a high frying temperature and not spoil its antioxidants, character, colour or flavour. Homegrown rapeseed oil has been heralded the 'British olive oil' but its flavour is more earthy and nutty than fruity.

How to cook with rapeseed oil

The delicate but pleasant taste of rapeseed oil means it can be consumed in its cold, natural form served as a dressing or dip. However, it can also be heated and used in shallow and deep frying, baking and roasting. Its delicate flavour does not bleed out during the cooking process, so it is a good, neutral fat. If a recipe doesn't call for rapeseed in particular, it can be used in place of other oils, in particular olive oil.

How to store rapeseed oil

Rapeseed oil can be stored like any other oil for many months, as long as it's in a sealed container and stored at room temperature in an area shielded from sunlight.

Availability of rapeseed oil

The summer is peak time for crops of rapeseed, but once pressed the oil has a very long shelf-life and can be bought in supermarkets all year round. Rapeseed oil from local producers around the UK can be located online and may be of interest to those who like to know their food's provenance.

Choose the best rapeseed oil

Rapeseed oil should have a glowing yellow hue, but brightness is not an indication of quality. Look for local producers as they're more likely to produce in small batches.

Alternatives to rapeseed oil

Try olive oil, avocado oil or pumpkin seed oil.