Cottonseed Oil

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

cottonseed oil a product of the cotton plant, which is not normally thought of as a source of food. Up to 1880 the seeds were usually discarded after the surrounding fibres, for which the plant was grown, had been removed. Then it was discovered that an edible oil could be pressed from the seeds, and cottonseed oil became an important by-product of the large cotton industry. The chief producers include the USA, India, Sudan, Egypt, and also Brazil.

The oil emerges from the mill in a dark and impure state, and must be thoroughly refined before it is fit for use. The refined product is light, flavourless when fresh, and high in polyunsaturates. It goes rancid quickly on exposure to air. For this reason it is mostly used in the manufacture of vegetable margarine and cooking fats; but it can also be bought as a salad or cooking oil and, if used promptly, is suitable for these purposes. It was the preferred medium for frying fish and chips in large parts of Lancashire in the early 20th century.