What Is Brazilian Dende Oil? (Red Palm Oil Guide)

One of the culinary traditions of Brazil that attracts the most attention of tourists is the use of Dende Oil, especially in the state of Bahia. This region of the country received a great African influence that resulted, among other things, in tasty dishes that carry the famous Dende Oil in the preparation. But what exactly is the Brazilian Dende oil?

The Brazilian Dendê Oil is extracted from the seeds of the Elaeis Guineensis palm and is used for cooking and in the cosmetic industry. Original from Africa, this tree is also known as African Oil Palm or “Dendezeiro” in Brazil. The Dendê Oil is made grinding the fruit seeds and has an orange color.

The Dende Oil is very popular in African and Brazilian cuisines, especially in Bahia, a region of Brazil with a strong African influence. Essential in Afro-Brazilian cuisine, it’s used in famous Brazilian dishes such as Vatapá and Acarajé. There are a lot of doubts about the use of this oil, from uncertain healthy benefits to studies that supposedly demonstrate that oil extraction can have an environmental impact.

Dende Oil: A Super Versatile Product

Known as Brazilian Dende oil, the oil of the Elaeis Guineensis fruits is a type of oil widely used in cooking and also in the cosmetic industry. Originally from Africa, this oil is made grinding the seeds of the fruits of the “Dendezeiro” (Oil Palm / African Oil Palm). In Brazil, this oil is widely used in the typical gastronomy of the state of Bahia, a region of the country that received a strong African influence. Despite being delicious, there is a lot of controversy about the “Dendê Oil”.

Brought by Africans to Brazil, this is an item that is also very common in the cuisine of countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. Its color is reddish, has a sweet taste, intense aroma, and dense consistency. It’s used in the preparation of typical Bahian dishes like Bobó, Moqueca, Acarajé, Vatapá, and Farofa. But can be useful to make other meals, as it goes very well with fish, seafood and beans. It can even be used to sauté a variety of foods and to season cold preparations.

To learn more about traditional Brazilian food, check this amazing article: What is Brazil’s Traditional Food? Top Ten Brazilian Food.

Although its most well-known direct use is in Bahian cuisine, palm oil is a very versatile product and is present in many everyday products without our even knowing it. One of its main uses is in the cosmetic industry, especially in hygiene goods such as soap and toothpaste. In the food industry, it’s widely used as a stabilizer in the production of chocolate and ice cream.

Health Benefits (Or Dangers)

The Dendê oil, in its artisanal form, before passing through industrial processing is known for being rich in beta-carotene and vitamins A and E. But the possible health benefits are controversial, as the process of refining the oil for commercialization can lead to the total loss or reduction of vitamins and nutrients, zeroing the possible benefits. After the refinement, it’s estimated that 50% of the composition of the oil is saturated fat.

Possible health benefits of the use of Dendê oil:

  • Skin and Eye Health;
  • Strengthening of The Immune System;
  • Better Functioning of The Reproductive Organs;
  • Rich in Antioxidants;

But there is another possible problem that can be related to the oil. The presence of palmitic acid, whose consumption increases the risk of cardiovascular problems, increases cholesterol and the formation of clots. As these possible benefits and dangers are still unknown, the ideal recommendation is to keep the maximum consumption to 10ml a day.

How The Dende Oil Is Made

What Is Brazilian Dende Oil?

Palm oil is the result of crushing the seeds of a type of palm tree found mainly in Africa, the oil palm or “Dendezeiro”, here in Brazil. After harvesting the fruits, it’s necessary to cook them using water or steam to separate the pulp from the seed. Then the seeds are pressed and the oil is released. The resulting product is an orange beautiful oil, the same color as the fruit. To be marketed, this oil goes through a refinement process, which aims to improve the organoleptic characteristics of the oil, especially the smell, color, and flavor, in addition to making it more ideal for fries the food.

A Controversial Product

Some studies demonstrate that refined palm oil may contain some carcinogenic and genotoxic compounds known as glycidyl esters, which are produced during the refining process. Furthermore, some researchers affirm that the oil loses its antioxidant properties during this process; however, further studies are needed for this to be proven. But this is not the only controversy about the Dendê.

The production of palm oil can cause damage to the environment due to deforestation, species extinction, excessive use of pesticides, and increased CO2 emissions. It happens because the oil is used in the food industry and in the manufacture of soaps, fabric softeners, and as a fuel in cars that run on diesel. An association called The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was created, which is responsible for making the production of this oil more sustainable.

What Does Dende Oil Taste Like?

The Dende oil is very common in Africa and it’s also super popular in Brazil, especially in the state of Bahia, a region with a large influence from African culture. Although the main use of the oil is in the cosmetic industry as a stabilizer for soaps and hygiene products, the refined Dende oil is excellent for cooking, as is versatile and super tasty.

The Dende Oil taste is slightly sweet with a very strong and peculiar aroma and flavor, in addition to its very reddish color, like the fruits from the Oil Palm Tree. It’s widely used in the Bahian cuisine in Brazil, and the most famous recipe made with Dende Oil are Moqueca, Acarajé, and Vatapá.

Why Is Dende Oil Red?

Dende oil is very important for African culture (since it is extracted from a tree originally from Africa, Elaeis Guineensis, or even African Oil Palm) and is also widely used in Brazil. But a very frequent question about the oil is the reason for the reddish color.

The Dende Oil is red because the fruits from which it is derived are reddish. The oil is extracted by grinding the seeds separated from the pulp of the fruits from the African Palm Oil (Palm Oil or even “Dendezeiro” in Brazil). The red color is one of the main characteristics of Dende Oil.

Is Dende Oil Healthy?

Dende oil is a super tasty and versatile product. But that’s something that many people already know (especially after trying typical delicious dishes of Bahian cuisine in Brazil). But is the Dende oil a healthy option?

As a general rule, refined Dende Oil is not considered healthy. In its natural form, it can be good for health, as it’s rich in vitamins A and E, but the refining process for commercialization causes the loss of these nutrients. Also, about 50% of the refined Dende oil composition is saturated fat.

What Is Dendê Oil Made From?

The Dende oil is an excellent product used for cooking but also in a lot of industries, especially to make cosmetics, hygiene products, and even chocolate and ice cream. But what’s Dendê oil made from?

The Dendê Oil is made from the seeds of the palm oil tree fruits. This palm tree is original from Africa but is common in Brazil where it’s called “Dendezeiro”. The fruits are cooked to separate the pulp from the seeds, which are ground to extract the reddish Dende Oil as the final product.

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