A Breakdown of Cooking Oils and a Roasted Summer Veggie Shepherds Pie with Corn, Tomato, Onions and Quinoa 1

Cooking oil confused? You’ve come to the right place! In this post I’ll give a breakdown of cooking oils – which ones are best to use for what.

You’ll be tempted, but resist the urge to add any oil or butter with this recipe if you use all fresh ingredients. Just try it and see what happens.  Let your seasonal veggies shine through and enjoy the real flavors that each adds.  Every layer is perfectly delicious in itself – roasted tomatoes become sweet and tangy, potatoes become buttery, onions caramelize and corn turns even sweeter with roasting.

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

This is an easy recipe but since there are a fair amount of steps I chronicled it in photos.

Tomatoes and Onions - Ready for Roasting

Tomatoes and Onions – Ready for Roasting

Potatoes and onions - just in the oven

Potatoes and onions – just in the oven

...and corn lined up for roasting.

…and corn lined up for roasting

...and corn lined up for roasting.

Roasted tomato and potato trays

Roasted tomato and potato trays

Ready to top with mashed potatoes.

Ready to top with mashed potatoes

Complete dish before going into the oven for final baking.

Complete dish before going into the oven for final baking

**Stop here if you are making ahead! Cool, refrigerate, and bake the next day.

I’m not an oil free vegan, but I do see the benefits of cutting back on refined oils because in the process of refining most oils, many of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals are stripped away when it is heated- similarly to how white flour and sugar is refined. 

It’s important to incorporate fats into your diet for cognitive function and digestive health etc. – but leaning towards healthy, unprocessed and plant based fats, such as avocados, seeds and nuts is the best way to go.

The next best thing to plant based fats is organic, cold pressed oils. These are are non-genetically modified and have gone through a very minimal heating process. Some examples are cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil and avocado oil.

Many times reason for refining oils is to increase the smoke point.  This is the point in heating when the oil turns to vapor and the begins to decompose, lose even more nutrients, acquire free radicals and may even gain some cancer causing compounds. It is best to not heat oils above smoke point.

So what oils are best to cook with?  

High smoke point oils that are best for deep frying, broiling, searing, high-heat grilling etc.

Refined olive oil
Palm oil (I don’t recommend this due to unsustainable farming practices and it’s high in saturated fat.)

Medium-high smoke point oils are best for baking, stir frying, oven cooking etc. 

Canola (make sure you get an organic version because it’s typically genetically modified)
Macadamia nut
Peanut oil 
Coconut oil

Medium smoke point – great for light sauteing, sauces and low-heat baking

Corn oil

No-heat oils for dressings, dips or marinades

Extra virgin olive oil
Wheat germ
Toasted sesame
Walnut oil
Now that your head is spinning with all the information about oils – deciding to forgo fats in a meal or two every now and then is perfectly fine – simply grab a handful of almonds as a snack earlier or, if you like, add some nuts or seeds into the dish!

Tip: Using an oil mister is going to prevent your foods from sticking and at the same time using a fraction of a teaspoon.

Shepherd's Pie


Roasted Summer Veggie Shepherd’s Pie with Corn, Tomato, Onions and Quinoa

Serves 8
Printable Recipe


3 ½ pounds mixed potatoes
2 sweet onions, divided
2 pints cherry tomatoes
4 fresh ears corn
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp gluten free flour (or any flour)
2 cups vegetable broth, divided
2 Tbsp fresh thyme & chives (or any herbs you like)
1 cup dry quinoa


1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Chop potatoes and one onion.  Lay out four baking sheets, spray with organic olive oil cooking spray (or your Misto). Top two sheets with potatoes and chopped onion. Quarter and slice second onion.  Place on third tray with tomatoes.  Cut off silk on top of corn only and place on 4th.  Sprinkle salt on tomatoes, onions and potatoes.  Place all trays in oven, bake 45 minutes, remove corn from oven and toss the remaining three trays. Place all but corn back in oven for additional 10 minutes.

2. Rinse quinoa and add to small pot with 1 ½ cups veggie broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover.  Simmer 15 minutes; remove from heat and let sit an additional 5 minutes

3. Place cooked potatoes and onions from first two trays in a food processor and pulse until it becomes the texture of a rustic mashed potato.  Taste and re-season.

4. Mix the 2 tbsp flour and ½ cup veggie broth in a medium bowl; stir in tomatoes, onions, thyme/chives and cooked quinoa.  Shuck corn and cut kernels off cob; add to bowl and mix all well.  Taste and re-season if necessary.

5. Spray a 2 Qt baking dish with cooking spray.  Spoon tomato mixture into baking dish and top with potato mixture.  Press potatoes evenly.  (**You can cool and refrigerate for one day at this point.  Simply bring back to room temp and cook as directed.)

6. Place baking dish in preheated 400F oven for 20 minutes or until heated well throughout. Turn broiler to high and brown top, about 3 minutes.

Nutrition Facts
8 Servings
Amount Per Serving

Calories 235.8
Total Fat 2.1 g
Saturated Fat 0.1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.2 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 17.8 mg
Potassium 761.6 mg
Total Carbohydrate 49.2 g
Dietary Fiber 6.2 g
Sugars 3.7 g
Protein 7.4 g

Vitamin A 6.2 %
Vitamin B-12 0.0 %
Vitamin B-6 23.0 %
Vitamin C 55.1 %
Vitamin D 0.0 %
Vitamin E 1.2 %
Calcium 2.3 %
Copper 10.1 %
Folate 12.0 %
Iron 18.1 %
Magnesium 12.5 %
Manganese 16.8 %
Niacin 11.3 %
Pantothenic Acid 7.8 %
Phosphorus 31.9 %
Riboflavin 47.6 %
Selenium 1.4 %
Thiamin 13.9 %
Zinc 4.2 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

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About DHCooks

Dawn Hutchins is a health & wellness entrepreneur that specializes in plant-based living education and coaching. She's a published author, wife, and mother of one sweet little girl. When she's not crusading for the advancement of plant-based nutrition, she's camping, stretching in yoga and paddleboarding on her SUP.

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