The Latest on Making Flavoured Oils

Few foods can boast having the intensity of taste found in a flavoured oil. Just a few drops of a specialty oil can complement a wide variety of foods and enhance their nutritional value by replacing such traditional, highly-saturated toppings as butter, cheese or other rich sauces.

By combining the light texture and bland taste of canola oil with a potpourri of ingredients, it is easy to brighten up a vinaigrette . . . to intensify the flavour of grilled vegetables or meats . . . or to grace the nutritional value of steamed vegetables.

Flavoured oils are made by steeping foods such as herbs, chile peppers, citrus rind or even nuts in canola oil. The safest and easiest way to transfer the flavour from such foods is to heat the canola oil with the flavouring ingredients, at a low oven temperature, for a specified time. This allows the water in the food to evaporate, and the flavour of the food to be infused with the oil.

Be wary of instructions for making flavoured oils which suggest using fresh produce, and where the oil is not heated. If the water is not driven out of the flavouring food, there is a risk of a botulism toxin developing in the oil. This toxin, produced by a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum, is able to grow in oil when a fresh food is present to provide moisture. Heating the oil and its flavouring foods, removes this moisture, and the opportunity for the toxin to grow. The best container to use in making flavoured oils, is a 2 cup (500 mL) glass measuring cup. The handle is convenient to removing the cup from the oven, and the spout allows for easy pouring.

Should you not have a 2 cup (500 mL) measure, use an empty 28 oz (796 mL) tin can – the size commonly used for canned tomatoes. Wash and dry the can, removing the label and the lid. Use the clean tin to hold the canola oil and the flavouring foods.

If you use any other containers than the two specified, the heating time may vary, and it will be necessary to measure the temperature of the oil to determine when it has reached the required temperature. Use a candy thermometer and heat the oil in a 300°F (150°C) oven until the temperature of the oil reaches 250°F (120°C).

It is possible to make two or more different flavoured oils at the same time, using a container for each flavour combination. Two containers can be heated at the same time in the oven, but it is important not to use more than 1 cup (250 mL) of oil per container nor to use a different container from that called for in the method. Once heated to the correct temperature, the oil should be cooled, then refrigerated at all times and used within one month.

After heating, the finished oil should be clear and the vegetables well browned. A cloudy appearance after the oil is strained, or a separate layer at the bottom of the bottle indicates that moisture is still present in the oil. If this should occur, the oil should be heated until it becomes clear, or refrigerated and used within one week.

Making a Flavoured Oil is as easy as 1,2,3:

  1. Choose one or a combination of several ingredients. Measure the amount carefully as indicated for 1 unit or multiples of 1 unit. A maximum of 6 units may be used of the same or different foods. If desired, you may add one or two of the “extra ingredients” without increasing the time for processing the oil.
  2. Pour 1 cup (250 mL) canola oil into a 2 cup (500 mL) glass measuring cup and add the flavouring ingredients as determined. Set the container on a pie plate in the centre of the oven. Heat at 300°F (150°C) for the time indicated in the chart for the number of units you are using. If possible use, a candy or digital thermometer to ensure the oil has reached the required temperature of 250°F (120 °C). Remove to a rack to cool for 30 minutes.
  3. Line a small strainer with a coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth. Strain oil into a clean glass jar, cover and store in the refrigerator at all times. Use oil within a month.

Amount of Ingredients Needed to Make Up 1 Unit

Ingredient 1 Unit – 1/2 oz (15 g)
Garlic cloves 5
Basil leaves 15 leaves
Sweet pepper – seeded and cut in 1/2 in (1 cm) pieces 2 tbsps (25 mL)
Chile peppers (jalapeño, finger hot, habañero, etc.) – seeded and cut in 1/2 in (1 cm) pieces 2 tbsps (25 mL)
Orange or lemon peel – remove thin outer rind with a sharp knife and cut in 1/2 in (1 cm) pieces 2 tbsps (25 mL)
Herbs – thyme, dill, savory, marjoram, rosemary, sage 1/2 pkg (1 oz/28 g) or about 10 springs (2 in/5 cm long)
Shallots – cut in 1/2 in (1 cm) pieces 2 tbsps (25 mL)
Gingerroot – peeled and cut in 1/2 in (1 cm) pieces 2 tbsps (25 mL)
Nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds) – coarsely chopped 1/4 cup (50 mL)
Extra Ingredients – choose up to 2 if desired Amount
Black peppercorns 10 peppercorns
Bay leaves 5 leaves
Dried porcini mushrooms – cut in 1/2 inch (1 cm) pieces 1/4 cup (50 mL)
Fennel seeds 10 seeds

Chart for Determining Heating Time

 Added Vegetables

1 unit

 2 units

3 units

4 units

5 units

Heating Time

 1 hour
20 minutes

1 hour
40 minutes 

 2 hours

2 hours
20 minutes 

 2 hours
40 minutes

3 hours 

Suggested Recipes using 2 units of ingredients:


Lemon Basil Oil

Serve in a small bowl with a sprinkling of chopped fresh basil and small pieces of crusty French bread for dipping.

2 tbsps lemon zest, cut in 1/2 in (1 cm) pieces 25 mL
15 fresh basil leaves 15
1 cup canola oil 250 mL

Follow procedure for making flavoured oils and heat oil as directed above for 1 hour 40 minutes.

Herbed Garlic Pepper Oil

A great oil to brush on pizza shells before adding the toppings.

5 sprigs fresh rosemary, 2 in (5 cm) in length 5
2 tbsps hot chile pepper, cut in 1/2 in (1 cm) pieces 25 mL
2 large cloves garlic, halved 2
1 cup canola oil 250 mL

Follow procedure for making flavoured oils and heat oil as directed above for 1 hour 40 minutes.

Rosemary Orange Oil

Use in a vinaigrette or brush on chicken as it grills.

3 tbsps orange zest, cut in 1/2 in (1 cm) pieces 45 mL
7 sprigs rosemary, 2 in (5 cm) long 7
1 cup canola oil 250 mL

Follow procedure for making flavoured oils and heat oil as directed above for 1 hour 40 minutes.

Hazelnut Oil

Use this nut-flavoured oil in a simple vinaigrette and sprinkle the nuts over the salad.

1/2 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts 125 mL
1/2 small clove garlic 1/2
1 cup canola oil 250 mL

Follow procedure for making flavoured oils and heat oil as directed above for 1 hour 40 minutes. Nuts may be left in the oil to use in garnishing a salad.

Suggested Recipes using 3 units of ingredients:

Hot Pepper Oil

A great oil to add heat to pizza or Italian flatbread appetizers.

1 small hot red chile pepper, seeded and halved 1
1 habañero chile pepper, seeded and halved 1
8 whole black peppercorns 8
1 cup canola oil 250 mL

Remove stems from peppers, cut in half and remove seeds. Follow procedure for making flavoured oils and heat oil as directed above for 2 hours.

Oil de Provence

Team this oil with a mild vinegar such as rice or white wine to let the flavours shine through.

2 tbsps orange zest, cut in 1/2 in (1 cm) pieces 25 mL
2 tbsps coarsely chopped shallots 25 mL
10 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 in (5 cm) long 10
1 bay leaf 1
10 fennel seeds 10
1 cup canola oil 250 mL

Follow procedure for making flavoured oils and heat oil as directed above for 2 hours.

Pasta Primavera

1 lb angel hair or spaghetti pasta 500 g
2 cups cut up fresh vegetables such as carrot and red pepper strips, asparagus pieces, snow peas, broccoli flowerets 500 mL
1-2 tbsps sundried tomato flavoured canola oil 15-25 mL
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese 125 mL
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tbsp/15 mL) dried basil 50 mL
1/2 tsp ground black pepper 1 mL

In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta until tender but firm, 3 to 4 minutes. Microwave vegetables until tender crisp or add vegetables to the pasta during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain pasta and vegetables and return to cooking pot.

Toss with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Per 1 serving: CALORIES 304.2; FAT 11.5g (S: 3.0g, M: 5.2g,P: 2.5g); CHOLESTEROL 9.8mg; PROTEIN 12.0g; CARBOHYDRATE 38.3g; FIBER 3.5g; IRON 2.4mg; SODIUM 246.8mg; CALCIUM 202.5mg

Rosemary Garlic Marinade

1/2 cup garlic flavoured canola oil 125 ml
1 tbsp lemon juice 15 mL
3 tbsps rosemary 45 mL
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns 5 mL

In a bowl or plastic bag, combine flavoured canola oil, lemon juice, rosemary and cracked black pepper. Add light flavoured fish, poultry or pork, tossing to coat. Marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight covered or sealed in the refrigerator. Drain marinade and discard. Grill fish, poultry or pork on oiled grill set over medium barbecue coals or on mid-shelf of a conventional oven set on broil.

Makes 3/4 cup (175 mL).

Per 1 Tablespoon (15mL) serving: CALORIES 83.8; FAT 9.2g (S: 0.6g, M: 5.4g,P: 2.7g); CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; PROTEIN 0.1g; CARBOHYDRATE 0.8g; FIBER 0.0g; IRON 0.3mg; SODIUM 0.5mg; CALCIUM 11.4mg

Tips for Using Flavoured Oils

  • Substitute a flavoured canola oil for regular canola oil when making baking powder biscuits.
  • Drizzle flavoured canola oil over cooked vegetables.
  • Sauté onions or mushrooms in flavoured canola oil.
  • Mix leftover green beans with flavoured canola oil, refrigerate and serve as a side dish salad.
  • Sprinkle flavoured canola oil over poached or steamed chicken or fish.
  • Splash cooked pasta with flavoured canola oil and serve as a side-dish with meat, fish or poultry.
  • Coat cooked rice with flavoured canola oil and mix with cooked vegetables – a pilaf with zing!
  • Toss popcorn with flavoured canola oil.
  • Roll potato wedges with flavoured canola oil before oven roasting or cooking in a foil packet on the barbecue.
  • Glaze vegetables with flavoured canola oil before roasting or grilling.
  • Paint pizza dough or soft tortilla shells with flavoured canola oil before adding topping or filling.
  • Brush 1 inch (2.5 cm) French or rye bread slices with garlic flavoured canola oil and toast to golden brown.

Give a Gift of Flavoured Oil

Give a flavoured oil kit. Put the ingredients, fancy bottle and recipe in a basket. Add some pasta and a recipe, which incorporates the pasta and flavoured oil.

Give a gift of flavoured oil. Make a flavoured oil just before giving it and pour it into an attractive bottle. Attach a recipe, which uses the flavoured oil along with directions for keeping it refrigerated and using within one month.

Give a decorative bottle of oil for display in the kitchen. Infuse the oil with fresh herbs and place in a distinctive bottle. Be sure to attach a card saying the bottled oil is only for display.

Sourcing Fresh Herbs in Rural Areas

For those who grow a herb garden during the summer, finding fresh herbs is easy. In the middle of winter, talk to your grocery store produce manager. He should be able to special order herbs year around.

Tip: Oil is not a preservative. If making flavoured oils without heating treat the finished product as a fresh product. Use within 1 or 2 days and keep refrigerated.

Tip: If you are using one of the new digital thermometers, remember it can not be left in the oven.


By Dorothy Long, Home Economist