Camellia oil is also called tea seed or teaseed oil, and is popular in some Asian dishes. Unlike olive, sesame and peanut oils, camellia oil is known for not altering the flavors of the other ingredients you cook with, making it a good option for dishes when you really want another flavor to shine through.
All oils are 100 percent fat, so use them sparingly when cooking. However, a tablespoon of corn, peanut or olive oil is heavier than the same amount of camellia oil, so you get only 13.6 g of fat per tablespoon of camellia oil as opposed to 14.2 for olive, corn or peanut oil, according to the USDA's National Nutrient Database. This makes it a good option for oil-heavy recipes, or simply reducing your fat intake slightly. However, unlike those other oils, camellia oil contains no vitamin E or K, which are important for your family's health, so you will need to get these from other sources.
You can substitute camellia oil for any other cooking oil in the exact amount. If you are substituting camellia oil for butter, however, you'll need to cut back the amount by about one fifth. Substituting oil for butter or other solid fats can also alter a recipe's texture, so you may need to experiment a bit with cutting back on other liquids if using camellia oil in breads, cakes or cookies. They'll still taste just as good, but you may hear a few complaints from the kids if their favorite snacks don't look or feel the same as they used to.
Camellia oil lets the flavors of your other ingredients shine through in stir-fries, and its lightness means that other fried items can maintain their own flavors or let your seasonings become bolder. Drizzle or brush it on meats to keep moisture in for baking, or spread a light coating on your pans for its nonstick properties without adding unwanted flavors. It works particularly well for cooking fresh vegetables to let the full flavor come through without an oily taste, which might even make your pickiest eaters happy.
There are plenty of oils to choose from, each with different properties, and the selection can be confusing. If you want the lightness and mildness of camellia oil but can't find it in stores, grape seed oil has similar properties. If you're looking for an oil to serve a family with allergies to peanuts or soybeans but prefer the stronger flavors of those oils, try sesame oil or add a little extra seasoning to your camellia oil, such as lemon juice, vanilla or garlic, to make up for the milder flavor.
- WSU Clark Extension: Garden Mastery Tips, Camellias
- "The Joy of Cooking"; I. Rombauer and M. Rombauer Becker; 1992
- Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images