Organic cottonseed oil is a vegetable oil that is derived from the seeds of the cotton plant. It is primarily used in the preparation and cooking of foods. It is widely considered to be the first cooking oil that was mass produced in the U.S. and has been a staple for over a century.
Uses of Cottonseed Oil
The oil is primarily used either as a binding agent or fryer oil. Common items that contain cottonseed oil include:
- Potato chips
- Salad dressing
- French fries
- Snack bars
Cottonseed oil is also used in some cosmetics and personal care products.
Benefits of Cottonseed Oil
The cottonseed oil industry has greatly benefited from the trans fat backlash of the early 2000s. Unprocessed oil, such as the organic variety, does not contain any hydrogenated substances or cholesterol. It is also considered to be high in vitamin E, which can be beneficial to overall immunity and improve the appearance of the skin.
Drawbacks of Cottonseed Oil
It is not a perfect substance, however. The oil can pose a serious risk to people with peanut allergies. Its protein is very similar to that of peanut products; hence it can trigger the same reaction. Also, since cotton is not considered by the USDA to be a "food crop," there are fewer restrictions on what kind of pesticides can be sprayed on it.
Why Organic Oil?
This pesticide issue is what makes organic cottonseed oil so appealing. Eating the oil made from treated plants can be potentially more harmful than eating any other part of it. Fat soluble pesticides can become absorbed in the oil, which in theory could make a person sick. People who are concerned should go organic and also try to purchase virgin oil, which is not refined.
Appearance and Taste
Cottonseed oil is a deep amber yellow in appearance, not too different from corn oil. Its flavor is described as "neutral," meaning it basically takes on the taste of anything someone adds to it. For example, adding pepper to cottonseed oil and pouring it on a salad would taste basically the same as just sprinkling pepper on that salad. However, the oil would add a more pleasing, smooth texture to the salad when serving as a dressing and it would bring out the natural flavor in the vegetables.
This aspect of the oil makes it a favorite for cooking, especially in the Asian kitchen. Since foods need to be stir fried in oil to prevent them from burning, some type of oil is a necessity. However, some oils tend to change the flavor of the food too much, while cottonseed oil does not. And, if the oil is organic, it doesn't add potentially harmful chemicals either, keeping the food fresh and also relatively healthy.
Buying Organic Cottonseed Oil
Cottonseed oil by itself is not very easy to find since most cotton grown in the United States is used for textiles, not for food. The cottonseed oil that is available is usually sold directly to businesses, not to consumers. The best place to try to find organic oil is at a natural foods store or to order from a company that sells it in bulk, such as Bridgewell Food and Agriculture.
People who don't have time to search high and low yet still want the oil's benefits are best to look for commercial products that already contain it, such as organic chips, cookies and salad dressings. Note that these can also contain any number of other organic oils, such as sunflower oil, canola oil or corn oil, so it is best to read the label on the package to be sure the product has cottonseed oil in it.