Oils can include liquids or solids, from corn GMO laden oils to healthy coconut or olive oils.  From lard to butter, they all have similar affects on bread - to soften the loaf and add longer lasting moisture.




Oils - Bread Science

Which oil to use generally comes down to how healthy you want your bread to be.  And of course, different oils affect bread in different ways.  In most cases, oil is an optional ingredient in bread, regardless of the type of bread you are baking,  Most artisan breads will not contain oils of any kind. Sandwich or loaf-pan breads usually contain oils to help make the loaf more tender and soft.


Most oils can be substituded in equal amounts in bread recipes.  Choose the oil you want to use and use it according to the amounts spelcified in the recipe.


Solid Oils

  • Coconut Oil - Keeps as a solid state until around 76 degrees Farenhiet.  Coconut oil adds a rich taste and soft texture to bread recipes - and it is high on the healthy side.  1 TBS per medium loaf, or 2 TBS for each larger loaf  is enough to give the bread the soft, moist texture needed for a great sandwich bread.  Coconut oil just needs to be on the softer side, or melted (not hot) when added to the dough.

  • Butter - Everyone's favorite flavor in cooked foods.  Butter is a bit like salt - Everything is better with butter and in most cases, that's true.  Butter is also dairy based, so be aware in case dairy is an issue with those you bake for.  As with Coconut oil, 1 - 2 TBS per loaf is enough, though I like to use 2 TBS when I bake bread.  Butter adds the rich flavor we all love.

  • Palm Oil - Similar to Coconut oil, in that it is a saturated fat (solid at room temerature), palm oil can be used the same way in the same quantities.  Health-wise, palm oil has less saturated fats as compared to coconut oil or animal fats like butter, so may help reduce blood cholesterol. Environmentally, palm oil is a fairly controversial product, in that many feel that palm oil plantations are taking the place of natural forests in many areas where the oil is produced and misplacing or removing local animals and habitat.  If you're a fan of Orangutan's, palm oil won't be your first choice.

  • Shortening - Margarine without the dye.  One source claims that shortening was first meant to be a raw material for soap.  However, because it looked like lard, it was then sold as as a vegetable fat [Wikipedia].  It's amazing how some of our food products get on the market....  Shortening actually works well for short breads, crusts (pie, tarts, etc) and similar baked goods, but for yeast breads?  Um, no.

  • Margarine - Simply a processed food product. Many wouldn't even consider margarine food.  Below is an exerpt from Wikipedia describing how margarine is manufactured.  If this doesn't concern you, good luck.  From Wikipedia: "Commonly, the natural oils are hydrogenated by passing hydrogen through the oil in the presence of a nickelcatalyst, under controlled conditions.[22] The addition of hydrogen to the unsaturated bonds (alkenic double C=C bonds) results in saturated C-C bonds, effectively increasing the melting point of the oil and thus "hardening" it. This is due to the increase in van der Waals' forces between the saturated molecules compared with the unsaturated molecules. However, as there are possible health benefits in limiting the amount of saturated fats in the human diet, the process is controlled so that only enough of the bonds are hydrogenated to give the required texture. Margarines made in this way are said to contain hydrogenated fat."

  • Lard - Pig by-product, best used for crusts (pie, tarts, etc), but in recent years, has made a remakable come-back in the food industry.  Lard is actually lower in saturated fats than butter and some cooks swear by it's good qualities.  When it comes to yeast breads however, it's best to stay with higher quality oils.


​Liquid Oils

  • Olive Oil - The world loves olive oil.  Olive oil is healthy, tastes wonderful, is used by good cooks the world over - and is heart-healthy.  When used in breads, olive oil can have a strong taste depending the grade you use.  Savory breads and recipes that include herbs would benefit from using olive oil.  However,  sweet breads and whole wheat recipes wouldn't team up well with this type of oil. 

  • Vegetable Oil -  Corn, soybean, canola (rapeseed), safflower and many others make up this large list of oils.  Most vegetable oils are a mix of one or more canola, soybean and corn oils.  Some have nuetral tastes while others have stronger, metalic tastes.  All vegetable oils help create a softer, moister bread.  Do some research and decide which oils you feel comfortable using health-wise.  Vegetable oils work particularly well when making bread such as soft, fluffy rolls

  • Seed Oils - Flax seed, sunflower seed, sesame seed, grape seed and many others make up this list of oils.  Depending on the seed, these oils can be highly nutritious, such as flax seed oil, which is high in Omega-3 fatty acids.  Generally more expensive, these oils wouldn't usually be used to bake bread, but certainly have their place in other recipes.  The seed itself, however, usually works great in bread.  Bread recieps that contain ground or whole flax seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds and such all help to add flavor and texture to a great loaf of bread.