Best Oil for Tempura

When making tempura, you want to be sure that you’re always using the best ingredients, including quality shrimp. However, one ingredient of tempura that is sadly overlooked is the oil that is used to fry it up in the first place.

So what’s the best oil for tempura? The best oil for Tempura is canola oil. Canola oil is usually the best choice because it features a neutral flavor that won’t overpower your batter and the base ingredient of your tempura. Canola oil is also lighter and clearer than other oils, and it features a relatively high smoke point.

Of course, there’s a lot more to choosing the right oil for tempura than I can sum up in a single paragraph so bear with me as I examine the differences between these oil types momentarily.

What’s the Best Oil for Tempura?

Since tempura is essentially a deep frying method, you can use the same kind of oil you’d use to make french fries or other deep fried foods. The truth is that many vegetable oils have similar frying properties, giving you a wide range of options to choose from when frying up your tempura.

Any vegetable oil that you’d use for deep frying would be suitable for preparing tempura. Some of the most popular options include corn oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and especially sesame oil. Avoid using low smoke point oils like olive oil to prepare your tempura and you shouldn’t have any trouble.

You’ll typically want to use refined oils for your tempura because they feature a higher smoke point than unrefined oils like olive oil. Here’s a list of some of the most popular refined oils that chefs use for their homemade tempura:

  • Canola oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Corn oil
  • Avocado oil

Whether you’re frying shrimp or if you’re trying to make a nice accompaniment for your sushi, quality tempura can be made with canola oil, corn oil, or sunflower oil. Avocado oil is also a great choice, but it tends to be more expensive than the above options and it doesn’t have many benefits over them.

Out of the above options, canola oil is usually the best choice because it features a neutral flavor that won’t overpower your batter and the base ingredient of your tempura. The oil is also lighter and clearer than other oils, and it features a relatively high smoke point (though not as high as avocado oil).

If you’re going to use canola oil as your main oil for frying tempura, be sure to not to reuse it like you would other oils. Due to canola oil’s chemical structure, exposing it to heat for prolonged periods of time can easily render the oil itself less stable.

However, if you’re trying to make the most authentic tempura possible, then it’s a good idea to stick with traditional Japanese ingredients like sesame oil. Some people don’t like using sesame oil for their tempura because of its strong flavor, but this is one of the building blocks of a more traditional tempura.

Why Should You Avoid Low Smoke Point Oils When Frying Tempura?

When frying up some shrimp tempura, you’ll want to make sure that the oil is hot enough to fry it quickly and effectively, otherwise your tempura might end up getting soggy. However, the higher the temperature of the oil gets, the more that it starts to break down chemically.

As oil starts to break down, it will begin to burn and smoke, and this is known as the oil’s smoke point. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and this burnt and smoky flavor starts getting imparted to the food that’s being cooked in the oil, which is your tempura in this case.

This is why you should avoid oils like olive oil, which are unrefined and feature a lower smoke point than options like canola or avocado oil. If you’re looking for the most common oil with the highest smoke point, you’ll want to use avocado oil since it only begins to smoke at 520 degrees F.

Can You Mix Oils When Making Tempura?

Mixing oils when you fry tempura may seem like it can cause issues, but as long as you pick two oils that have relatively similar smoke points, you shouldn’t have any trouble. However, why would you want to mix oils together to fry your tempura in the first place?

Most people mix in a little bit of sesame oil with whichever vegetable oil they choose to fry their tempura in so that they can add some of its flavor to the recipe. Since some chefs find the taste of pure sesame oil a little overpowering, this allows them to maintain some of the tempura’s spirit without overdoing the sesame flavor.