Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

FAQs on Coconut Oil and How to Use It

November 3rd, 2009 · 80 Comments · Fat Full Fall

How to use Coconut Oil in cooking, baking, and personal care :: via Kitchen Stewardship

  1. Coconuts aren’t nuts; they’re a fruit.
  2. Coconut milk isn’t milk; it’s juice.
  3. 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!)
  • Fry it! Because coconut oil has a lovely stability on account of its saturated fat, it is considered safe for frying.  You can:
  • Fry french fries or potato chips in a skillet
  • Use it to pop stovetop popcorn – this is the traditional fat movie theaters used to use before the saturated fat nonsense!
  • I’ve even fried up these turkey burgers in unrefined oil and never noticed a coconut flavor!
  • 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!  Sign up for an email subscription or grab my reader feed.

If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.

Kitchen Stewardship is dedicated to balancing God’s gifts of time, health, earth and money.  If you feel called to such a mission, read more at Mission, Method, and Mary and Martha Moments.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday at Cheeseslave and Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family.  Find other fat-featuring recipes at Life as MOM.

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.

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80 Comments so far ↓

  • Barb@My Daily Round

    Thank you for the tips on warming the coconut oil. I was feeling a bit frustrated with its solid state, but now I know what to do. Thanks for sharing the info about the deal you did earlier. I ordered both types of coconut oil and the extra virgin olive oil and have been happy with all of them. I ended up moving my coconut oil into quart jars because of the solidification (word?) of the oil.
    .-= Barb@My Daily Round´s last blog ..Laundry Savings You Might Not Thought Of =-.

  • Jendeis

    Thanks for all these ideas!
    .-= Jendeis´s last blog ..Healthy Fat Giveaway =-.

  • Kristin Evans

    Thanks for all the great info about coconut oil. I’ve tried it before but will get some more since I’ve been looking for a healthy substitute for Crisco or margarine.

  • Alison @ Hospitality Haven

    I love using coconut oil! It adds an extra “zest” to my baking/cooking!

  • Mary

    So…where is the recipe for the best chocolate chip whole wheat cookies?

  • tina

    Great post! I’m new at using unrefined coconut oil and you’ve given some really good tips!

    I have the same question as Mary – where’s the recipe for the chocolate chips cookies!? I looked on your recipe page but couldn’t find them!

    Thanks!

    Katie Reply:

    Tina,
    I haven’t posted it yet! It’s actually just from Gold Medal Flour with a coupon I printed – so random – and I subbed coconut oil (maybe half with butter?) for the “canola oil” in the recipe. I guess I’ll have to post it soon! :) Katie

  • Sheila

    About coconut milk — the white stuff you buy as coconut milk is made from the coconut meat, mixed with water and pressed out. The juice inside the coconut is quite different — it’s clear and watery. Coconut milk contains coconut oil; I don’t think coconut juice does.

    Just a clarification from a coconut lover … :)

    Katie Reply:

    Sheila,
    Thanks for the clarification! I would still classify that as “juice” if you consider juice as the pressed insides of a fruit, though, right? (Can you tell I’m a bit of a science geek?) :) Katie

  • angie

    Thanks for the post it is so timely. I’ve been thinking about trying this oil so I need to go check out the deal you did earlier. I wonder what your results were when you used the oil for eczema? My daughter has very dry hands and I’ve tried every lotion imagineable and it all makes her hands burn. I really enjoy reading your blog. Lots of great info.

    Katie Reply:

    Just so-so for eczema, but I’m terrible at being consistent. It def. doesn’t burn. I think it keeps the eczema on my son from getting bigger, at the very least.
    Katie

    Megan P. Reply:

    I read recently that you’ll get better results when treating eczema if you use extra-virgin (raw) internally vs directly on the skin. Just thought it might help. I haven’t tried it personally because I don’t have eczema but I was doing research for a family member.

  • tina

    I’ll use a regular chocolate chip cookie recipe and use coconut oil and butter instead of veggie oil and see what happens. I use sprouted whole wheat flour. I’m always up for trying to make cookies healthier!

    I forgot to mention in my previous comment how excited I was to see you use coconut oil for sunscreen. I’m definitely going to do this with my young boys. I despise using chemical sunblock on them!

  • chanelle

    Hi! Back on the coconut oil giveaway page, I can’t seem to leave a comment. So I’ll tell you here that I did number 1 and 2 for 2 entries. Thanks!

  • Cara @ Health Home and Happiness

    Love the overview! I’m going to try it in cookies next, I haven’t tried that before.
    .-= Cara @ Health Home and Happiness´s last blog ..Thursday Inspirations: Real Food Links =-.

  • Lisa

    Regarding coconut oil as sunscreen…do you put it all over your body or just your face? How often do you reapply? I’m also interested in “healthy” sunscreens for me and my family-I would love to know more about how you have used it for this purpose.
    Thanks! :-)

    Katie Reply:

    Lisa,
    I’m not very scientific – I just slather it on, whole body esp. for the kids. I use it just like I would normal sunscreen – but! – I wasn’t brave enough to trust it for big time sunny experiences like the beach or midday pool time, so I didn’t really ever have to reapply. We’ll see what this summer brings… :) Katie

  • Heidi Sink

    we like to use coconut oil for popcorn! Yumm!

  • Dem

    I have tried coconut oil in a few recipes, but it seems very greasy when I sub it at a 1 to 1 ratio. Does that happen to you?

    Katie Reply:

    Dem,
    What kind of recipes? Because of the low melt point, coconut oil acts a bit differently (not so good in frosting, for example), but generally in baked goods I’ve been really happy with the results. :) Katie

    Dem Reply:

    Cookies was where I really noticed it. Peanut Butter cookies. I prefer to use butter for my wheat bread. I think it just tastes better. I do like the taste of coconut oil in quickbreads and muffins.

  • Olivia

    This is great! I would say, though, not to use coconut oil for diaper rash if you’re cloth diapering. Most oils rub off on the diapers, making them water repellent and therefore ineffective in absorption.

    Jenny Reply:

    Coconut oil absorbs into the skin readily. A little goes a long way. If you are creating water repellent diapers, you are using too much. ;)

  • Melissa

    I have enjoyed reading your blog. My daughter was recently diagnosed with soy, egg and dairy allergies. I’ve been having a hard time finding a butter alternative (dairy free, soy free…and hydrogenated oil free). And I finally found it! Thank you.

    Katie Reply:

    Yikes, Melissa, that’s a LOT to avoid! I really honor the commitment you have to make to help your daughter stay healthy. I hope you can find lots of good resources to make your cooking and baking easier! :) Katie

  • Laura

    I wouldn’t use coconut oil–or any oil–as sunscreen… This site says that oils strengthen the effect of the sun on skin (for their Monoi Tiare with sunscreen).

    Anecdotally, coconut oil has been used as a tanning oil, which is the opposite of what you’re going for with a sunscreen. It might help you to tan rather than burn, if that’s all you’re looking for, but that won’t protect you against melanoma.

    I also found this:
    http://www.virgincoconutoil.co.uk/

    “COCONUT OIL AND SUN TANNING
    Pure virgin coconut oil is the best product available for use as a tanning oil. Coconut oil actually increases the speed of the tanning process and produces a deep, lasting tan. Please note however that you are putting a food grade product on your skin and it has NO SUNSCREEN OR CHEMICAL ADDITIVES. Apply frequently and avoid excessive exposure at all times not just at peak sun hours. We recommend no more than 20 to 30 minutes depending on skin type in direct sunlight at any time of the day. Once a basic tan is developed, virgin coconut oil will slowly but surely produce incredible tanning results. If used as an after sun moisturiser be sure to use sparingly so it is completely absorbed into the skin. Remove excess before dressing.”

    Katie Reply:

    Laura,
    Huh. Seems like I can find conflicting advice wherever I look. :( You wouldn’t believe the number of people who use coconut oil exclusively (via the comments on my sunscreen series this summer), but it absolutely sounds familiar that it is a “tanning oil”. Thanks for sharing the links to information! :) Katie

  • Laura

    Missing link in 1st paragraph: “this site”=http://www.monoi.com/oil.html

  • Laura

    Seems like I can find conflicting advice wherever I look.

    Ain’t that the truth! :)

  • colleen

    I read on your site somewhere about the site where you purchased EVOO and Coconut oil. It was the company that makes industrial oils???? Can you please provide that address? I would like to order from them

    Katie Reply:

    Colleen,
    Here you go: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2009/08/13/a-good-deal-on-top-fats/ They make oils for soapmakers that are food grade though, not industrial oils. :) Katie

  • sheryl v

    question: I ADORE coconut….straight out of the shell, as a frozen fruit bar, as ice cream, as pie, as curry, as soup…basically if it can have coconut in it, I love it. Does eating coconut give adequate amounts of the oil? Or is it concentrated when you buy it as oil, making it more effective? I ask because, while I love to eat, I HATE to cook and since my kitchen is the size of a postage stamp, the idea of having to cook or mess around with heating and cooling for texture sounds a bit onerous to me. Is simply noshing on coconut enough?

    Laura Reply:

    I think that you’ll get a decent amount of the oil from eating the coconut itself (or coconut milk). Most of the calories in raw coconut come from fat, which means that a large part of the coconut is made up of coconut oil.

    Katie Reply:

    Sheryl,
    I’m not sure about ratios and such, as far as how much coconut oil is in coconuts. However, coconut is such a healthy food that you surely can’t go wrong! You must cook sometimes, though, right? It wouldn’t hurt to have some coconut oil on hand – just use it to saute veggies or grease your pans for whatever, and if you have oatmeal or coffee, toss a spoonful in- you’ll love the slight coconut flavor! ;) Katie

  • sheryl v

    putting it in coffee sounds like a great idea! And i’ve read that people use it in smoothies, which sounds good too. I think i’m going to order some but I have one more question…how long does it keep? The jugs I can order here are 7 lbs of it….will it last if i’m using it in small amounts? And does it need to be refrigerated?

    Jenny Reply:

    Coconut oil does not need refrigeration. It is almost pure saturated fat and is very shelf stable and will not go rancid. Some of my stash is 5+ years old and still tastes as fresh as the day I bought it.

    Katie Reply:

    Sheryl,
    Coconut oil is extremely shelf stable and will keep at room temp for *at least* 2 years. You’ll get through it! ;) Yes, smoothies are great, too, like pina coladas w/bananas and strawberries – just make sure it’s melted before adding, and add while the blender is going. It will solidify pretty quickly in cold stuff if you don’t get it mixed in immediately, and little beads of hard oil are just weird in the smoothie. :) Katie

  • Bev

    Hi. I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks and I’m new to traditional foods. Just a question about taste. I bought my first jar of coconut oil last week from a local food co-op and I used it for the first time this morning to fry up some asparagus, and I found that my hands smelled like the coconuts and the asparagus tasted like coconut. Did I use too much or will that be something I have to get used to? Or is it that some foods with subtle flavors would be better off with a different oil/fat? Thanks for your feedback.

    Jenny Reply:

    Sounds like you bought virgin oil. Good stuff, if you like the taste and smell of coconut. If you don’t, RBD (refined, cold or expeller pressed) oil has been deodorized and will have a neutral flavor. You can always mix half and half with butter for a more familiar flavor. Keep in mind, coconut oil has a lot less moisture than butter, so you would use a little less to get a similar amount of actual fat.

    Katie Reply:

    Bev, I see you got a great answer already, but I’ll just second that – I do tend to use the refined stuff most of the time for cooking on the stovetop, unless I won’t mind a hint of coconut flavor (like in chicken). For asparagus, try bacon fat (from a pastured animal). Oh. Heavens. Amazing. Tallow is another really good one for sauteeing veggies, esp. potatoes. It’s a wide new world of traditional fats, believe me!

    This might be helpful to you: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2009/11/17/a-fat-full-fall-baseline-fats-chart/ :) Katie

  • sheryl v

    Ok, I’m ready. It’s grocery time again. Where you y’all recommend ordering virgin coconut oil? I tried at my local Whole Foods and they didn’t have coconut oil at all! I was amazed.

    Jenny Reply:

    Depending on your location for shipping costs, you might try

    http://www.bulknaturaloils.com
    or
    http://www.mointainroseherbs.com
    or
    http://www.soaperschoice.com
    or
    http://www.camdengrey.com
    or
    get some fromWalmart if you are trying for the first time.

    It was a bad year for the coconut crop this year…expect much higher prices and decreased availability.

    Katie Reply:

    Jenny,
    Thank you for the sources – bad news about prices, shucks! I am sort of stocked up, but maybe I should grab more before prices go up…

    A correction on one of the links: http://mountainroseherbs.com/

    And I just checked- Soaper’s Choice oils went up about 50c/pound. Bummer.
    Katie

  • Holly

    Great post on coconut oil! I absolutely love coconut oil. I also use it on my lips when they’re really, really chapped, which doesn’t happen often. But when it does, coconut oil is the only thing that will soften them up.

  • Banana Nut Muffins « The Keune Home

    [...] also helps your body fight off certain cancers and other viruses and diseases.  Here are a couple of links if you want to read more about coconut oil and find out where to buy [...]

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  • Lenetta via Facebook

    Just used some in this morning’s banana bread instead of butter!

  • Alicia

    I bought some recently to use in deodorant. I had been using a few different brands of “natural” deodorant. One of them (not sure which) darkened the skin of (one!) underarm, and none of them made me smell any less sweaty. The stuff I made however, works great-no smell, I only have to use a tiny bit, only 4 ingredients. The dark skin peeled a bit but it’s still there, just lighter, don’t know what that is all about.

  • Lauren via Facebook

    So I had my first-ever taste of the extra-virgin organic stuff and it was SUBLIME! My first experience was with the steam-deodorized grossness that literally made me gag. REAL coconut oil smells exactly like shredded coconut and is actually something you’d want to eat.

  • Tiago Pereira

    Hi All, I was looking for an alternative for High Heat cooking oil, I notice that there are a lot of mentions to Coconut Oil (Unrefined) but following wikipedia chart http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_point

    The Coconut Oil smoking point is 350 F, does not seem so high compared to Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

    Can you someone share thought on whatoil to use to cook in high heat ?

    Thanks

    Tiago

    Jenny Reply:

    Never, never, never fry with olive oil …the oil is damaged structurally long before it stats to smoke.

    I use coconut oil exclusively for frying. I have used virgin coconut oil in the past, but now just use refined coconut oil. It’s much less expensive and you lose the “coconut” taste after a few batches anyway. Coconut oil is SO stable, you never have to toss the oil, just filter out any chunks on occasion and reuse until it runs out.

    Katie Reply:

    Tiago,
    Try refined coconut oil; smoke point is higher. But if you really want a good frying oil, tallow can’t be beat! ;) Katie

  • Sharon

    Coconut oil is great on hair as well. Really helps my split ends.

  • Kyla via Facebook

    I just bought my very first container of coconut oil yesterday. I’m looking forward to trying it!

  • Peggy via Facebook

    Love it, used it, bought more!

  • Kelly via Facebook

    Everyday! :)

  • Robin via Facebook

    Love coconut oil! I use it on my skin, and in my kitchen. What an amazing gift from nature!

  • Kate via Facebook

    I am having a special treat: coconut oil based cocoa fondue with bananas. It’s amazingly good.

  • Sharin via Facebook

    Made coconut pancakes today with coconut oil and coconut flour

  • Erin via Facebook

    scrambled my eggs in it this morning!

  • Wendy via Facebook

    Every day in multiple ways!

  • Michelle via Facebook

    in my body AND on my body!!!

  • Aunty via Facebook

    Thanks for telling me about this. I have SO much to learn!!

  • Jill via Facebook

    use it every day – I replace all oils in my baking with it, cook on the stove with it. LOVE IT

  • Nina via Facebook

    Does moisturizing count?

  • Dede via Facebook

    We put coconut oil and pastured butter in our oatmeal every day :) with a dash of cinnamon, a squirt of local honey, and a glass of raw milk. I also just had my pastured eggs scrambled in pastured butter. Yum!

  • via Facebook

    I like to cook my scrambled egg in coconut oil

  • Tonya via Facebook

    Putting avocado in a smoothie adds healthy fat and gives it a velvety texture.

  • Leslie via Facebook

    I put coconut oil in my smoothie.

  • Lesley

    I put it on my kids after bath! Just started using it on their feet- it is an antimicrobial – great for little stinky feet! I have also used it on the ends of my dry, curly hair as a deep conditioner and as a finishing product! I have one jar in my bathroom, and another in my kitchen.

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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