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Sunflower Oil vs Safflower Oil: What’s The Difference?

Maria Foster
Last Updated on
by Maria Foster

Do you consider yourself a kitchen expert? Can you tell the difference between sunflower oil and safflower oil?

Safflower oil and sunflower oil are quite similar, but understanding the distinctions that make them unique will help you make better food.

Below, you’ll learn all about the nature of these cooking oils. We explain their production process, the range of options you have available, their traits, and their nutrient content.

When it’s all said and done, you’ll be able to decide which is best for you. Let’s begin!

Difference Between Sunflower Oil and Safflower Oil

The main difference between sunflower oil and safflower oil is that they are produced from different plants. Sunflower oil (Helianthus annuus) is the offspring of the sunflower plant’s seed, whilst safflower oil (Carthamus tinctorius) is made from the seeds of the vivacious orange safflower plant.

Sunflower Oil
Sunflower Oil

Before we dive deep into the many distinctions that stem from the fact they’re extracted from different plants, we would like to touch upon their similarities. These two are similar in more ways than you can imagine — that’s why they are so frequently confused with one another!

Safflower Oil
Safflower Oil

Sunflower oil and safflower oil are similar in the following ways:

  • Both are members of the Asteraceae family of plants
  • Both are vegetable oils made from the flower’s seeds using steam extraction
  • Both of the oils are yellow and have no flavor
  • They both include polyunsaturated fatty acids, a kind of fat maintaining liquid form at cold and room temperature
  • Both species of plant have straight stalks, green leaves, and petals that vary from golden yellow to orange

Now let’s contrast safflower and sunflower oil! The differences between the oils are more important since they will help you make a better choice while cooking.

Flower: Safflower blossoms have a round shape and are much smaller, which is quite different from the disc appearance of sunflower blooms.

Seeds: Safflower seeds are white, while sunflower seeds are black.

Smoke point: The temperature at which an oil stops shimmering and starts to smoke is called the “smoke point.” Sunflower oil has a high smoke point of 450°F (232°C), but safflower oil has a greater smoke point of roughly 510°F (265°C).

Varieties: Sunflower oil comes in three different types: linoleic, high-oleic, and mid-oleic oil. The three types differ not in flavor or appearance but rather in the ratio of linoleic and oleic acid they contain – as the names suggest. The linoleic type is deemed the least healthy, whereas the high oleic type is typically considered the healthiest.

Safflower oil, on the other hand, only comes in two kinds. One kind is the polyunsaturated fatty acid-rich linoleic variant. The other is a monounsaturated fatty acid-rich oleic variant. The number of saturated fats is quite minimal in both kinds.

Cooking usage: Sunflower oil can be used as a salad dressing, as a butter replacement in baked goods, for making mayonnaise and margarine, pan frying, and roasting anything from veggies to meat.

The high smoke point of safflower oil makes it ideal for stir-frying as well as deep-frying and searing. You may also make butter or mayonnaise with safflower oil. This oil is great as a salad dressing and in baking recipes.

Sunflower Oil vs Safflower Oil Comparison Table

CategorySunflower OilSafflower Oil
Type of plantSunflowerSafflower
Scientific nameHelianthus annuusCarthamus tinctorius
Family of plantsAsteraceaeAsteraceae
ProductionSteam extraction from the flower’s seedSteam extraction from the flower’s seed
Plantstraight stalks, green leavesstraight stalks, green leaves
FlowerBigger, shaped like a discSmaller, round shape
PetalsGolden yellow to orangeGolden yellow to orange
Smoke point450°F (232°C)510°F (265°C)
Oil colorYellowYellow
FlavorNo flavorNo flavor
Oil varietiesLinoleic, high oleic, and mid oleicLinoleic and oleic
Cooking usagePan-frying and roasting, salad dressing, butter replacement in baked goods, making mayonnaise and margarineDeep frying, stir-frying, and searing, salad dressing, butter replacement in baked goods, making mayonnaise and butter

Nutritional Content Breakdown: Which One Is Healthier?

Looking at the nutritional table below, we can see just how much healthier safflower oil is compared to sunflower oil.

For starters, safflower oil has fewer calories and fats. It’s also rich in protein, whereas sunflower oil has zero protein.

The same goes for minerals; safflower oil is rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, and copper, whereas sunflower oil lacks all of them.

On top, safflower oil is rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B5, and folate, but unfortunately, sunflower oil has zero amounts of these.

Lastly, safflower oil contains all essential amino acids — tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, valine, and histidine — while sunflower oil doesn’t contain any of them.

Health-wise, sunflower oil has one significant drawback. When warmed to high temperatures continuously, sunflower oil can produce chemicals called aldehydes that might be hazardous to our health.

Aldehydes are dangerous chemicals that may damage DNA and cells, contributing to illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and heart disease.

If sunflower oil is heated for a longer period of time, more aldehydes are released into the air. So using sunflower oil for delicate, low-heat cooking techniques like stir-frying could be safer.

Sunflower Oil vs Safflower Oil: Nutritional Profile

Category (100g)Sunflower OilSafflower Oil
Saturated fat13g3.6g
Monounsaturated fat46.2g4.8g
Polyunsaturated fat36.4g28.2g
Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamin A0IU50IU
Vitamin B10mg1.163mg
Vitamin B20mg0.415mg
Vitamin B30mg2.284mg
Vitamin B50mg4.03mg
Vitamin B60mg1.17mg

Can I Substitute Sunflower Oil for Safflower Oil and Vice Versa?

Sunflower seed oil is your best option if you’re looking for a substitute that is almost equivalent to safflower oil. This goes both ways!

Sunflower oil and safflower oil are extracted from different plants — sunflower and safflower — but both belong to the same family.

The two oils are difficult to distinguish from one another. They are bright yellow, and when added to dishes, they have neither flavor nor color! They are, therefore, great substitutes for each other

At 450°F (232°C), sunflower seed oil has a somewhat lower smoke point than safflower oil. Bear in mind that at high temperatures, sunflower oil has the propensity to generate aldehydes.

As a result, using moderate, low-heat cooking techniques, such as stir-frying, may be a safer option when using sunflower oil in place of safflower oil.

Best case scenario: use alternative oils that can withstand high heat, such as sesame or canola oil for deep-frying, and replace safflower oil with sunflower oil for raw foods like in salads, where it won’t be subjected to heat at all.


Safflower oil and sunflower oil are the foundation of many beloved recipes, like homemade sunflower mayonnaise or vegan safflower butter!

Other recipes, however, don’t mention which oil to use. And, contrary to popular belief, experimenting with sunflower and safflower oil can sometimes result in a heavenly good dish!

However, even slight experimentation requires a basic understanding of these oils! And thankfully, your knowledge has advanced from a basic grasp to an expert level.

If you are wondering which type of oil to use for deep frying french fries or fish sticks, look no further than safflower oil. Not only does it have a higher smoking point than sunflower, but it’s also way healthier to consume! As for sunflower oil, reserve this for frying rice, baking pretzels, or making a vinaigrette for a salad!

About Maria Foster
Maria Foster
Maria Foster is a mother of 3 and she and her husband of 23 years share their home with 2 faithful dogs. Besides being CEO of the household and active in her community, Maria is the lead contributor to Food Champs and loves to try new food ideas and kitchen accessories to make easier and more delicious meals.
Maria Foster
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