What’s the Difference Between Canola and Rapeseed Oil?

updated Sep 12, 2022
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(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

You’ve probably heard that canola oil is great for high-heat cooking. Unless it’s cold-pressed, canola oil tastes very neutral and has a light texture, which makes it ideal for things like stir-frying, baking, and deep-frying.

People often get confused about the difference between canola oil and rapeseed oil, though. These two plant-based cooking oils, however, are different. Canola is genetically modified version of the rapeseed plant. Here’s the scoop on both.

Why They Get Mixed-Up: The Origin of Canola

Both canola and rapeseed belong to the cabbage or mustard family. The plants’ flowers both have that characteristic bright yellow color, and you get oil from both of the seeds by crushing the plants.

That said, they have a couple key genetic differences. Canola was created through plant-breeding in order to get rid of two undesirable components of rapeseed. Rapeseed oil and canola oil also get mixed up because they can be labeled incorrectly outside of Canada and the United States.

(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

What’s the Difference Between Canola and Rapeseed Oils?

In the 1970s canola was created through traditional plant cross-breeding by removing two things found in the rapeseed plant: glucosinolates and erucic acid. Erucic acid was removed because it was believed to be inedible or toxic in high doses. The newly developed plant was renamed “canola,” a combination of “Canadian” and “oil” (or ola) to make this difference apparent.

By definition, if a seed is labeled “canola” it has to have less than 30 micromoles of glucosinolates and less than 2% of erucic acid.