Culinary Arts

What Is Safflower Oil? Culinary Uses and Benefits of Safflower Oil, Plus Quick Safflower Oil Salad Dressing Recipe

Written by MasterClass

May 16, 2019 • 2 min read

Affordable and almost flavorless, safflower oil is a useful neutral oil to have on hand.


What Is Safflower Oil?

Safflower seed oil comes from a thistle-like plant related to the sunflower. Its bright orange flowers have been used for thousands of years as a dye and as a saffron substitute, and safflower kernels can be pressed into an oil with the highest concentration of polyunsaturated fats (75 to 82 percent) among all cooking oils. Safflower oil’s high concentration of polyunsaturated fats made it extremely popular in the 1970s, when nutritionists touted the importance of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Nowadays the science is mixed, with some claiming that polyunsaturated fats’ tendency to oxidize (break down) at high temperatures makes them unhealthy.

What Are the Culinary Uses of Safflower Oil?

Its high polyunsaturated fat content means that safflower oil remains a liquid even when refrigerated, making the virtually flavorless vegetable oil a good option for salad dressings and other cold preparations. High-oleic versions of safflower oil, which have more monounsaturated fats and a higher smoke point, are considered better for high-heat applications such as deep frying.

What Is the Smoke Point of Safflower Oil?

High-oleic safflower oil, made from varieties of safflower bred to contain more monounsaturated fats, has a high smoke point of about 440 to 520°F and is suitable for high-heat cooking applications. Regular refined safflower oil has a smoke point of 320°F and can be used in medium-heat applications. Unrefined safflower oil is best used in low-heat applications of less than 225°F.

Is Safflower Oil a Healthy Oil for Cooking?

The American Heart Association recommends cooking with oil that’s low in saturated fats, such as safflower oil and olive oil, to prevent heart disease and manage cholesterol levels. Since polyunsaturated fats turn to oxidize (break down) during cooking, high-oleic, refined safflower oil is a better choice for high-heat cooking like stir-frys.

Safflower Oil Nutritional Information

Safflower oil has a high linoleic acid content (about 75 percent), which is an omega-6 essential fatty acid, and contains 9 percent saturated fat and 12 percent monounsaturated fatty acids. High-oleic safflower acid, made from a special breed of safflower, roughly flips the proportion of polyunsaturated to monounsaturated fats. Both types of safflower oil are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which can cause side effects like inflammation if not balanced with enough omega-3 fatty acids.

Other Health Benefits of Safflower Oil

Unrefined safflower oil is high in the antioxidant vitamin E, which is removed when refined. It’s possible that refined safflower oil can lower blood sugar when replacing saturated fats or carbohydrates.

3 Tips for Cooking With Safflower Oil

  1. Use refined safflower oil when you want a neutral flavor, such as in baked goods.
  2. Use high-oleic safflower oil for frying and other high-heat applications.
  3. Since safflower oil remains liquid at colder temperatures, you can store it in the refrigerator or use it to make refrigerated salad dressings.

5 Safflower Oil Recipe Ideas

Use safflower oil in recipes where you'd normally use extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil, since its mild flavor and cooking utility make it a good all-purpose neutral oil.

Safflower Oil Salad Dressing Recipe

Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
  • ½ cup safflower oil
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Use in an Asian salad recipe and garnish with sesame seeds.