DIY Vegetable Oils or Substitutes

I have been thinking on this for quite some time. If you can no longer get the cooking oils that you are used to using, what would you use? I bet most of us can't grow olive trees, and I don't know if pressing oil seeds to make oil is actually practical, even if you can grow them.

I think I would try my best to use animal fats. This works well for herbal salves and soaps, but would take some work figuring out how to use in certain recipes. Some recipes, I may need to do without (like mayo) because I can't see that working with animal fats.

What would you do? Have you run across any DIY oil tutorials that you can share?



  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin

    I've been thinking on this one for awhile, too, @LaurieLovesLearning.

    Lard and other animals fats will work for some things. I have made some lovely salves in the past using lard. But that doesn't work for the cold infusing process for delicate flowers like arnica.

    I have seen some references to using ghee to make mayo but I've never tried it.

    Oil presses are pretty pricey but not quite as high as I thought. But there is the difficulty of getting seeds or nuts to press. We have hazelnuts growing wild here, however, there is a race with the squirrels to get them (and we never win), so not sure that I would ever get enough to press. The only other nut that will grow here is walnut but it is very variable in production (no nuts many years). So it would have to be seeds. I would think that sunflower would be easiest.

    I was concerned about shelling sunflower seeds before pressing but I just watched a youtube video on the process and you don't have to shell them first. You get quite a bit of shell fibre that would be great for brown matter for the compost.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,215 admin

    @torey Flax also readily grows here.

    Sunflowers would only work with short season varieties. Black sunflower seeds would be better than confectionary, for sure. Right now, we have a supply of those left over from scratch feed, and they are easy enough to screen.

    I'll have to make sure that I watch your found video.

    I may also have to go looking for a good and affordable press.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin

    I hadn't thought about flax. Grows well here, too.

    If I were further south in wine country, grapeseed might be an option. But not sure about the process with that. There are a few wineries that have started to produce oil as a side product.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Flax and sunflower would be my choice for my area. And I grow both.

    Great question and I will do some research to see what else can be used.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,215 admin

    While I was looking for an oil press (Piteba comes out as a popular choice and can be bought from Lehman's), I found an article that directed me here:

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin

    I have marshmallow but can't imagine gathering enough seeds to make any amount of oil.

    I have a feeling that our two wild cherry species would have a high cyanide content.

    We have 2 Cornus species here in my area and another on the south coast. The seeds of C. stolonifera are a fair size so that would be an option for me. How exciting to have a local, wild option! Its making the idea of an oil press move to the top of the "possibly" wish list. I have two wish lists; a probably one and a possibly one. :)

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 1,938 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is a great thread. Will have to check out the details tonight when I have more time. Lard is easy for me as we raise pigs every couple of years. But an oil that would stay liquid... will need some research.

    Thanks for bringing this up. Had not thought about that yet.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,827 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I think sunflower definitely has potential, but you would need a lot of land. You aren't going to be able to grow enough sunflowers to produce a homestead's annual oil needs on a small plot. You will need acreage.

    On the other hand, the seeds are cheap and readily purchased, you could save seeds after the first crop, and some varieties will happily grow along the Canadian border. I've grown a few in Vermont, but not in quantity.

    The problem with any source of oil is that you need a lot of crop to make a little bit of oil.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin

    So I've done some calculations. A US gallon of sunflower oil weighs just over 7 1/2 pounds. Depending on seed variety, climate, water, etc., the yield of sunflower seed oil in pounds per acre = 500 to 2400 pounds per acre. So if you take the lower amount of 500 lbs of oil to the acre, at 7.5 lbs per gallon, you get just 66 2/3 US gallons of sunflower oil. That is a good amount of oil.

    Sunflowers grow to zone 4, so depending on where you are, I think they become a possibility. A lot of people grow sunflowers in my area with pretty good success, although I don't think any are doing it for oil production.

    I may have a word with one of the local market gardens about it and see if they would be interested in growing some for oil production.

    I have become less concerned about what I can personally grow and produce for myself and more interested in the products already available in my area and what else could be produced here. We need to have some sort of community networking if we are to survive.

  • SuperC
    SuperC Posts: 900 ✭✭✭✭

    Lard. Coconut oil.

    Truly, I haven’t thought about this before. The flax oil may be good.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,215 admin

    @torey We have sunflowers growing here, zone 3b.

    Wild foraging if possible or as an alternative makes the most sense. There is no guarantee what farmers will be able to grow in the next few years. If the money or seed supply for them isn't there...or fuel is to high, etc., etc., relying on them could get iffy.

    @SuperC Coconut oil would certainly be missed here if it was no longer available.

    There are so many things I'd like to get. The list is getting kind of expensive as it expands. 😮 It is certainly a pick & choose your priorities type of thing.

    My husband said that you pick practical items. Ones that will be useful if things get really, really bad, but a good investment if things suddenly change for the better. My problem is that the majority of things on my list fit both.

    I don't oil press would save money after it pays itself off (always important) and in a bad situation, could still ensure certain medicinal could still be prepared.

    I'm going to go looking for DIY press plans next.

  • JennyT Upstate South Carolina
    JennyT Upstate South Carolina Posts: 1,273 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is an extremely thought-provoking thread. And one I've not considered either. 🤔

    I will have to do some research on this for me as well.

    Thanks for bringing this up, @LaurieLovesLearning. 😊

  • gardneto76
    gardneto76 Posts: 528 ✭✭✭✭

    I agree this is very thought provoking. I am supposed to be able to grow sunflowers year round here, however I have not done that yet. I also have to compete with the wild bird for the seeds. That being said, it may be my best option for an oil alternative. I looked at an oil press a few years ago, but they were very expensive then. I also looked at how many seeds it would take from some of my plants and decided at the. Time it was just easier to buy the oil. With the way things are going, it is back on my mind again.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,215 admin
    edited March 2022

    This sounds like a popular plan. It also has instructions for a winnowing box.

    My thoughts are that I think you are better off buying an oil press instead of making one.

  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,273 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I've thought about that too. I ordered some extra coconut oil just to have in case.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,827 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @gardneto76 Competition from wild birds is definitely an issue. We feed wild birds over the winter with a bird feeder, and experiment has shown that black oil sunflower seeds are the most popular birdseed.

    The squirrels love them too. They also make good bait in mousetraps. :-(

  • Linda Bittle
    Linda Bittle Posts: 1,470 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Wow. Important question, for sure. I'd have to go with lard and animal fats. My grandma made the best pie crust with lard. It seems like the process of rendering lard would be way easier than making seed oils.

    Here's some info I found, useful or not.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin

    I've done some research. Thanks @LaurieLovesLearning for the suggestion of the Piteba. It looks like an excellent unit. I found a Canadian site with them for $189CA.

    It has now moved from my possibly list to probably. Now I just need to figure out a reasonable seed source. Cornus stolonifera, Red Osier Dogwood, is very common here. It would be easy for me to harvest lots of those.

    @Mary Linda Bittle, West Plains, Missouri We were thinking of oil for those products that can't easily be made with solid fats, like some of the delicate flowers which are better with a cold oil infusion or for salad dressings.

    Solid fats will work for many things. I also use lard in my pastry; just not the same made with anything else. BTW, bear fat makes the best pastry lard ever!

  • Linda Bittle
    Linda Bittle Posts: 1,470 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @torey Having one of those expellers could become a nice little cottage industry for you, too.

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    After all the fiddling around that you would have to do to make it, it would probably be more cost efficient to buy one.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,215 admin

    @torey That's the site that I landed on in the end.

    I currently make my pastries with butter. It is really good. Soon enough, we'll have lard from our pigs.

  • annbeck62
    annbeck62 Posts: 980 ✭✭✭✭

    @torey I like that the press is manual instead of depending on electricity.

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,131 ✭✭✭✭

    Interesting thread. Never really considered it. Sunflower oil makes a lot of sense. I grow sunflowers here, but I haven't used the seeds, just left them for the critters and birds. May have to start collecting and using them for myself.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin

    I have been doing some research for another project on pumpkin seed oil. Don't know why I didn't think of this earlier. We can grow pumpkins here (most years) and if you got a variety grown specifically for the seeds, you would get quite a lot of seed from just a few plants.

    I'm going to do another post just on pumpkin seed oil and its benefits.

  • dipat2005
    dipat2005 Posts: 1,205 ✭✭✭✭

    One thing I have noticed about Coconut Oil when it gets really HOT like it did last year, it melted! It goes back to being solid and doesn't change in color. I would rather buy it now when I can get it for a reasonable price. I hadn't thought of presses or making my own.

  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Posts: 1,026 admin

    Whoa, really?! @torey Is the bear fat you use from bears you (or your family or friends) hunt, or do you have another source for it?

  • MissPatricia
    MissPatricia Posts: 308 ✭✭✭

    I get the fat free when I buy my half pig from a local (1 hour drive each way) farmer, which I then render into lard using my crock pot. Very easy. I use coconut oil, but like olive oil or avocado oil, I have to order it.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin

    @Merin Porter It is a rare treat for us to get bear fat. We don't hunt very often anymore and we don't hunt bear on purpose. It is usually because one has become a nuisance and has to be destroyed. Even then we don't always take the meat. We always check the stomach contents to see what it has been eating. If its a garbage bear, they aren't good to eat. During the salmon run is not a good time, either, as the meat will have an odd red meat/fish taste that isn't pleasant.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin

    I have just placed the order for black sunflower oil seeds. A couple of package and I will share these with neighbours to see how they do in different micro climates in my community.

    This fall, if all goes well and we have a reasonable harvest, I will buy the oil press. I figured there was no point in putting the cart before the horse, so to speak.

    I will keep everyone updated on the growth of the sunflowers and how the harvest goes.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I will definitely use sunflower as I grow a lot of them but I plant to try Tours squash (pumpkin) its supposed to have a high oil seed.

    I do grow some flax and may try a small quantity of that - just because.

    @torey great experiment and I am looking forward to the results