- Coconuts aren’t nuts; they’re a fruit.
- Coconut milk isn’t milk; it’s juice.
- Coconut oil doesn’t act at all the way any self-respecting “oil” should; it doesn’t pour (at least in my state much of the year!) but is solid at room temperature.
Can you say, “contradiction in terms?”
I’ve never encountered a food more odd than coconut oil. It took me forever (it felt like) to figure out what the stuff even WAS as I was reading about in text form. How should I use coconut oil in the kitchen? Could I use it as a solid fat (shortening) substitute? Could I use it as a liquid oil (canola) substitute? Let me clear up the “what the heck IS coconut oil?” questions for you.
Be sure to read a bit about why coconut oil is a good choice: Health Benefits of Coconut Oil.
For more on how to cook traditional foods and use traditional fats, see GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals.
Coconut Oil FAQs
- Coconut oil has a melt point of 76 degrees(so unique!). So the answers go like this:
- Is coconut oil a solid fat? Yes. (I’d describe it as harder than Crisco but softer than cold butter.)
- Is coconut oil a liquid oil? Yes. (Looks and pours like vegetable oil, maybe less yellow.)
- Does coconut oil taste like coconuts? That depends.
- Virgin or unrefined coconut oil both smells and tastes like coconuts, albeit mildly. I have found that even this form of coconut oil rarely imparts the flavor of coconuts when used in bread products, baked oatmeal, pancakes, etc. As long as the oil isn’t a major component of the recipe, the flavor seems to disappear.
- Refined coconut oil (or probably any oil that doesn’t specifically splash the words “virgin” or “unrefined” on itself!) has no smell or flavor of coconuts. It is a less healthy version because it has been refined, bleached and deodorized, which sounds gross, but that’s the norm for all the oils you buy in the store for cooking, anyway. It’s also considerably less expensive.
How to Use Coconut Oil
- Eat it! I use unrefined coconut oil “raw” in my smoothies and oatmeal. (Tip for smoothies: it must be liquid, poured in quickly and blended in immediately and thoroughly, or it will solidify again because of your other cold ingredients. Little balls of coconut oil in the smoothie is pretty gross!) It makes the oatmeal sweet enough that I almost don’t need any other sweetener.
- Sub it! You can use coconut oil as a substitute in many/most recipes that call for butter, margarine or shortening, and also (melted) in any recipe that calls for “oil”, at least all those that I’ve encountered thus far. This is a straight substitution, 1 cup for 1 cup, etc.
- Cut it! Coconut oil works in grain products where you have to “cut in” the fat with a pastry blender, like biscuits, pie crusts, and tortillas.
- Bake it! It made the BEST healthy chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made, even 100% whole wheat (and this is saying something, because I’ve had the worst luck with chocolate chip cookies. They have been either burned on the bottom or spread out like a floppy Frisbee since we moved into this house. I thought I was cursed until this recipe!)
- Whole Grain Cornbread
- Homemade Granola (for the oil)
- Our favorite pancakes
- Sourdough crackers and Wheat Thin Style Crackers
- Homemade Frosting
- Kelly’s Baked Oatmeal
- Seriously, I use it in just about anything that calls for butter if I don’t have butter available or soft enough. Breads, quick breads, cookies, pancakes, you name it.
- Fry it! Because coconut oil has a lovely stability on account of its saturated fat, it is considered safe for frying. You can:
- Melt it! Coconut oil is relatively easy to melt, compared to butter. If you store it in a glass jar, you can set it at the back of your stovetop while your oven is on, and it will be liquid in no time. I’ll do this when I know I’m baking later in the day and need “oil”, because it does take a while for it to solidify again. You can also set it in warm water, even *old* dishwater after doing dishes (just make sure the lid of your container is on tightly!). If you’re in a rush, you can melt it on the stovetop in a pan, or even in the dish you’re going to bake in inside the oven as it preheats. It melts faster than butter.
- Use it! Here are some other ways I use coconut oil (the unrefined version) in my green and crunchy home:
- on baby’s bottom instead of diaper creme
- for cradle cap
- face and hand lotion
- on eczema spots
- as sunscreen
- in homemade deodorant
- as eye makeup remover (amazing!)
- for oil pulling
- Buy it! Tropical Traditions coconut oil HERE; always watch for free shipping or BOGO deals.
- How Kimi does it
- How Kelly does it
- Also see the Tropical Traditions post: What are the differences between your oils? for more on why certain processing methods receive different names and prices.
More on coconut oil this week, plus how to make ghee!
Photo source: MeetaK
I am a guest lecturer and partner with GNOWFGLINS eCourses, so I will earn commission from any sales made starting here. Of course, the courses are also an awesome way to learn to cook real food, so I’d gab about them anyway.