Red palm oil

Ever since red palm oil made it’s way onto the Dr. Oz show, dietitians have been fielding questions about it ever since. It’s still a fairly new product so you may not have seen it around that much but it could become as popular as coconut oil.

Red palm oil is different from palm oil (the highly saturated kind) in that it’s taken from the fruit of the palm plant and not the kernel. It’s a combination of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids (like coconut oil) but has the added benefit of carotenoids which gives it a bright orange colour.

Commonly used in African and South Asian cuisines, red palm oil is semi-solid at room temperature and contains vitamin E and carotenoids. It was on the Dr. Oz show claiming to prevent and help manage conditions such as Alzeimer’s, heart disease and belly fat.

The debate about what type of fat is “healthiest” is nothing new. However, healthy fat biases aside, what is like to use red palm oil? What does it taste like? What is it like to cook with?

Red palm oil is considerably more expensive when compared to other fats and oils ($10-$15 for a 475 mL jar) but it’s heat stable, claims to be ‘better’ on the lipid profile compared to other types of saturated fat and has the ‘added benefit’ of containing carotenoids.

The folks at Nutiva provided me with samples of their organic red palm oil to distribute to my network. You can find more information about Nutiva organic red palm oil on their website as well as the nutrition facts table.

Still want more information about red palm oil? Go to:

Interested in reading Dr. Oz’s take on red palm oil? Go to:

If you are interested in reading a science-based response from other medically trained colleagues (who are not Dr. Oz), check out:

What do you think about red palm oil? Do you think it’s a healthy option for people?

16 thoughts on “Red palm oil

  1. I used the red palm oil three different ways. First, I spread it on a piece of bread (like I would with butter – I put it in the fridge first so it would solidify) and noticed that it had some grassy flavour notes to it (similar to olive oil). I also used it to caramelize onions and brown beef when I made a beef stew which worked out well and I also fried an egg with it (it turned my egg quite yellow).

    I found it to be quite versatile from a cooking standpoint. I provides the flavour notes of olive oil (when dipping bread), the heat stability of a vegetable oil and can also be used as a solid fat. However, it’s bright orange so it might not lend itself well to the appearance of the dish depending on what you’re making.

    From a nutrition standpoint it is more saturated than vegetable oil so I can’t recommend it to people who are watching their cholesterol levels. I’m also not a fan of the packaging as the lid on the jar didn’t seem to form a tight seal and I tended to get oil on my fingers whenever I opened and closed it.

    I probably wouldn’t use it again as I tend to either use either butter (for flavour) or vegetable oil (for high heat). Although red palm oil has some good things going for it, I can’t get over the fact that it leaves my food looking bright yellow.

  2. I only used the palm oil one way, and that was as a sort of marinade for a chicken breast and stir fried veggies. I immediately noticed the colour that my checked turned – boy is that orange!

    I found the taste to be alright. Frankly, I didn’t really notice a different taste. I mean, I could definitely tell there was something different about my chicken which can be good as the palm oil didn’t disguise the flavour of my dish.

    I probably would not recommend this product to people, however, because of the high saturated fat content. As I was making the chicken, my mom came up from behind and grabbed the bottle and almost dropped it in horror. Despite the nutritive claims that Nutiva makes about the high beta carotene and vitamin E, I cannot get over the saturated fat content.

    Even though I enjoyed the product, based purely on the nutrition content I would probably not use this product again.

  3. I usually cook with butter, and occasionally with olive oil. I’m not really worried about the nutritional profile of my oils because I don’t drink them by the glass and I don’t chase fads, which have a way of turning out to be bad ideas. I was a little iffy about this oil at first because it’s supposed to have no particular flavour, but I found that when I fried onions and vegetables in it they really did turn out quite nice, and the recipe as a whole turned out well. It’s good to have something that isn’t going to burn on me in a hurry and also isn’t bitter. Yes, it does turn everything red; that needs to be taken into consideration. Flavour balance is more important than colour balance for me, however. The thing I like least is that it is a semi-solid, not quite thin enough to pour but not at all thick enough to slice or properly scoop. This product is in a mason-type jar and I have to spoon it out, and that doesn’t really make life all that easy. Perhaps a bottle with an opening about as wide as a wine bottle would do better – of course it would be necessary to shake it, but it is now too.

  4. I used the red palm oil melted and drizzled on popcorn. The colour was fun but there wasn’t much flavour. I also used it in a tofu and veg stir-fry. With the stir-fry I learned that a little goes a looonnnnggg way! Also, although the info says that it works on medium heat, for my stove I had to use low heat because it was already smoking at medium heat. Again, the colour was nice but there wasn’t any flavour added. I wouldn’t recommend this oil. If someone wanted to try and oil “du jour” I would say go for coconut oil instead – at least that adds flavour, stands up to heat and can be used on skin and hair as well. Also, the palm oil never seemed to really close properly and was a bit messy.

  5. I tried the red palm oil three ways: on it’s own, in a pasta dish to sauté vegetables, and in a salad dressing for kale. I found that it does have flavour, kind of fruity or grassy. I don’t mind the flavour, but don’t love it. I found it worked well for cooking the vegetable and stood up to heat quite well. It also worked really well in the salad dressing. I keep my place quite warm, so it is liquid at my room temperature.
    The only downsides to this oil is the packaging-mine was leaking as soon as I took on the plastic around the lid.
    Coconut oil is higher in saturated fats, but I prefer the flavour and the versatility to use on hair and skin.
    I might buy red palm oil, but not in this packaging.

  6. I used the red palm oil in caramelizing onions, cooking rice and cooked a tomato sauce with it. It was liquid at room temperature, maybe because my place was kind of warm. I found that the oil held high temperature, so i would fry with it. I also found that it does not have a strong flavour and didn’t add a new taste to the food. However, the oil added an orange/yellow colour to the food i cooked with it. Depending on what you are cooking you may not like how the oil leaves an orange/yellow colour to the food. I didnt mind the colour when i cooked the tomato sauce, because anyways the tomatoes were taking over the colour.

    I would use it again, but i would be selective in what I would use it with, maybe in spaghetti or any other red orange recipe.

  7. Thanks for the opportunity to review this product! Because it’s a relatively new food item (at least in this part of the world), I may have been apprehensive about making the purchase, great chance to test it out!

    I used the red palm oil to caramelize onions, make a bolognese sauce, and also used it to grease a pan while baking apple crisp. The onions did turn a bit orange but beyond that, it was a delight to use!

    The advantage over coconut oil is that the flavour isn’t as pronounced so it’s more versatile in that you can use it in savoury dishes without risk of a strong coconut flavour.

    I look forward to using it to cook meats in the future, perhaps experiment with african and south asian cuisines since that’s where it’s used most commonly, and am curious to use it in baking as well. Who knows, maybe it would suit a red velvet cake well because of the colour! I’m not sure I’d make a complete switch from the current olive oil, butter and coconut oil that I currently use when I cook and bake though.

  8. I spotted this product on the shelf in the natural foods section of my local supermarket a few months ago and was intrigued by the vibrant orange hue. My first reaction after seeing the product’s name “Red Palm Oil” immediately made me think of “hydrogenated palm kernel oil” an ingredient found vastly in processed packaged food. It wasn’t until I researched further that I came to realize that the two oils (red palm oil vs. palm kernel oil) are distinctly different. Red Palm Oil originating from the fruit of the palm tree, is a good source of monounsaturated fats and also very high in saturated fat. However most of the saturated fat is in the form of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which get metabolized immediately by the body and emerging research is showing that MCTs may actually have a role in the prevention of atherosclerosis due to its anti-coagulation effects.

    Furthermore, Red palm oil is touted for its high vitamin and antioxidant content namely vitamins A and E.
    However, I’m not convinced that one should purchase red palm oil as a means to obtain their daily dose of vitamins A & E, which can be easily consumed from a healthy balanced diet.

    Nutrition aside, I was very excited to put this product to the test in terms of smell, taste and culinary versatility. When I first opened up the jar and got a swift of the oil’s aroma, it reminded me of the smell of freshly cut winter squash (ie. butternut/pumpkin/acorn). Then came the “naked” taste test, which in my opinion wasn’t horrible. The oil melted nicely in my mouth and had an earthy flavour. I then proceeded to use this oil in 4 different applications. The first one being an easy-over egg, which turned out beautifully crispy on one side and had a crimson tint on the flip side. Next, I cranked up the heat to high, and using my wok made a delicious stir-fry, turning my sweet onions to slightly orange in colour :p but no taste deviations.

    Since the oil clearly imparts an orange colour to foods, I decided to use that to my advantage. I’m a huge fan of cooking and baking with red split lentils, but I really dislike that after heat is applied, the orange lentils turn to an unappetizing dull yellow colour. Therefore, I decided to cook my lentil crepes and lentil ginger soup using the red palm oil, hoping to have the final product reminiscent of the red split lentil’s original orange colour! I must say, the red palm oil is definitely a keeper for these 2 recipes!

    Bottom-line: In my opinion, red palm oil can be a good addition to your repertoire of culinary oils, but I would definitely make sure you store it in a cool area, so it remains solid at room temperature. This prevents the oil from spilling all over your jar! When deciding on when to use this oil, I would choose it for high-heat cooking methods such as stir-frying and for dishes where you would like to enhance/extenuate the colour of the end product. For example, red palm oil would be fantastic in red curries, paella (ie. saffron colour), biryani (ie. tumeric colour – double whammy!), and dishes using red split lentils. Lastly, I am looking forward to try making my savoury sundried tomato and herb scones using red palm oil (in it’s solid state) in place of butter! I often use coconut oil in my sweet scones and they turn out amazingly flaky just as it would if I used butter.

  9. I used red palm oil to cook fish (tuna and tilapia) and a thai curry dish. Loved the product. I was afraid that the taste would be too strong but it turned out to be very subtle. The oil did give a reddish colour to the food, but that bother me. However, I would consider that before cooking anything where colour and appearance is important.

    From a nutritional stand point, because of its high content of saturated fat, I would be careful to whom I would recommend it. I worked in Burkina Faso, Africa, a few years ago and we would encourage people to use it because of its high level of carotenoids — vitamin A deficiency is an issue in that country — and because it was a local product, thus encouraging local food production and consumption.

    I would definitely use the product again — in moderation, of course — and would love to try it in an African dish like the ones I tried in Burkina Faso.

  10. I was really excited to try this product. When I opening the jar, the product was unlike any other oil/fat that I have ever seen. An orangey red colour. Very thick and oily. I found the texture very unappealing. I cook and bake a lot and didn’t know where to start with this product. I had just made some fresh multigrain bread and decided to spread some on it. I really didn’t like the texture and found that the fat didn’t have a nice taste. I then decided to fry some garlic and mushrooms in it. I plopped a big slimy puddle of fat into my sauté pan. I probably used more than I should have for the amount of mushrooms that I was using. Definitely more than if I was drizzling liquid oil into the pan. The garlic immediately turned orange and then the mushrooms soaked up the oil/colour immediately. My conclusion right away was that I would only use this product in a dish that has a red/orange ingredient like turmeric or tomatoes. Or else, the colour would take over the whole dish!!!

    I typically fry with organic non-GMO canola oil or extra virgin olive oil. I feel comfortable using these oils because of the monounsaturated fat profile. I will use extra virgin oil occasionally for baking, but not frying. Since the red palm oil is mostly made up of saturates, has a strong colour, is slimy in texture and is flavourless, I don’t see any advantage in using it! I will continue to eat +++ fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds to get my Vitamin E and antioxidants!!!

    Thanks for letting me try it!!!!

  11. Having seen the segment on Dr. Oz about the health benefits of Red Palm Oil, I was curious but cautious in actually using it. I hit the net to read exactly how this red oil could work into a health conscious diet. I have found very little conclusive federally accepted data the supports the health benefit claim. The healthful fats I use in my recipe development generally but not wholly exclusive include: canola oil, organic extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, sometimes coconut oil, and sesame and nut oils for drizzling and in baking products.

    To test this product, I took a tiny amount on a tasting spoon to get a feel for the taste. To me, it resembled a less funky ghee (Indian shelf stable clarified butter). The red palm oil did not really have any major taste to worry about or to love. I decided to give the product the benefit of the doubt and try it melted in the microwave over organic popcorn. To kick up the flavour, I sprinkled a generous dose of premium nutritional yeast. To my surprise, the colour was not significantly apparent. The taste was neutral. It helped the premium nutritional yeast adhere to the popcorn. The popcorn was delicious with a wonderful cheesy flavour. Not sure this affect would not be achieved using a small pad of melted butter or any of the oils listed above for that matter.

    The fact that this product imparts a red colour is not off putting to me. Being a creator of innovative recipes, this is a fun characteristic for me to explore and enjoy. I tried this product in stir fries. It’s very easy to use. In my opinion, the key to using fats in cooking is all about portion control. A couple of teaspoons to a tablespoon of red palm oil are enough to use in stir frying and curries. Again, I think the red colour is fun and attractive where appropriate.

    The issue on the fence for me is attaining bona fide data, from a credible source(s) that clearly and definitively states, “red palm oil, in these healthy quantities, is a wonderful organic, natural, healthy substitute for fat as part of a healthful daily diet.” I have read studies. I just have not seen anything that supports the use of red palm oil from government agencies, Canadian or American Heart Associations or the like supporting claims. If there are such studies, please let me know where I can read them. If there were such data to support the claims, I would use it and recommend it to my students and clients. Having said that, it’s a conundrum true for coconut oil and the other tropical solid saturated fats. This appears to be an ongoing debate.

    1. I made a quinoa mushroom pilaf, and then brushed some on the rest of my mushrooms and roasted them (a recipe from a paleo website I was perusing). So as with Coconut oil, smoke, smoke, smoke is a problem. it’s a bit better than coconut oil in that respect, but I definitely enjoy the flavour of coconut oil better. There really wasn’t anything magical in the preparation.

      Having said that… I’m looking forward to using it as a moisture dressing for my hair…

      As an aside, farming of red palm oil in SE Asia has put the habitat for orangutans and elephants in danger. Nutiva farms their product from Ecuador, and uses sustainable practices.

  12. Since the comeback of coconut oil as the superfood, I have researched in and now use it as a my go to oil. However, the coconut oil taste is often overpowering. I was excited to try this oil since it is supposed to be tasteless.

    I used it in a couple of dishes. One was frying fish and another was sauteing vegetables. It was tasteless. It did stain the food a bit, but not enough to not make me want to use it. The colour washed off the pan and utensils. I will use up the rest of the oil. Will I buy more? Possibly. I was actually just given a jar of this oil, but from Asia, so I will keep using it.

    I need to go watch those Dr. Oz videos to see what else I can do with it.

    Thanks for letting me try it!

  13. I had read of the review of the red palm oil here, but it was my first time to try it. As soon as I received the product, I tried it as it is a little bit. The taste reminded me of avocados a little bit. The smell was almost none.

    I used it as a part of dressing and in hummus. It doesn’t have strong flavour like coconut oil or olive oil, so it is easier to use in various ways. But, as it says “medium-heat cooking” for cooking suggestion, I just assumed that it will not be good for high-heat cooking like stir fry. So I haven’t used it for stir fry yet. Also, I was a little hesitant to use it because of the colour as we have a little one who likes eating with fingers, which means there is a big possibility of a big mess. But in the end, it was not as bad as I had expected.

    It says it’s high in Vitamin A and E, which is great. But it is not that much appealing to me to get those nutrition from red palm oil because they are not hard to get from all other sorts of daily food. It will be a good addition in nutrition wise, but I would prefer to keep using canola oil, extra virgin olive oil, and some coconut oil as they can be used in various occasions with unique flavour. Especially with the price range of $10 to $15 for that size, I’m okay with what I’m using now.

    I don’t find it that great nor that bad, so I rate 3 stars.

  14. I liked this product a lot. I used it in two ways – for a stir fry and to make over-easy eggs. I usually cook with butter, coconut oil, and olive oil and therefore the saturated fat in the palm oil didn’t scare me.
    The brilliant orange colour of the oil is a bit weird but it’s actually pretty. The oil is quite heavy and it leaked a bit during transit to my house, so the jar was greasy and slippery.
    The taste of the oil is neutral but again the colour is bright and I was afraid that it would stain everything it touched! Luckily it did wash off the utensils I used.
    All in all, I have no reason to dislike this products, it’s another option to cook with.
    The nutrition claims need to be proven a bit better for me to start recommending the oil to clients.

  15. Hi all,

    I tried the product and I wasn’t thrill with the texture, I found it had a sort of grainy texture to it. Perhaps keeping it in the fridge would help with this.

    I did enjoy the taste – it was fresh tasking compared to many oils I use. Using it as a stir fry oil I would consider using it in something like hummus, I think that would add a nice base flavour with out being over powering.

    For the time being though, I don’t think I’d go out of my way to find it.

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