Coconut Oil

Ah, coconut oil.

Have you jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon yet? It’s a trendy topic these days.

Today, I want to talk about how I use coconut oil in cooking and baking. I am not here to tell you whether or not coconut oil is healthy or whether it will cure your gout or whether or not it will help us all lose 33 1/2 pounds or whether or not you should swish it between your teeth and rub it on your feet. You can decide for yourself whether or not you feel coconut oil is the new superfood or a miracle oil. And heaven knows there are about a million and one articles online that will convince you in any direction. The basis for its popularity, I’ve learned while reading up on it over the last year or so, has to do with the presence of lauric acid and the fact that it is made up of medium-chain fatty acids which are smaller fat molecules. It’s a popular oil for vegan cooking (which I don’t do a lot of, let’s be serious) because it isn’t animal-based and if you follow a paleo diet, I’m pretty sure it’s widely used for that lifestyle, too.

So why do I use coconut oil? To be honest, I tried it out initially because of all the buzz. And I loved it. It is solid at room temperature and doesn’t need to be refrigerated which I like. It also melts at a low temperature (around 70 degrees or so) – I found that out after my house was a sweltering 82 degrees this summer and I glanced in my pantry and saw my jar of coconut oil was completely liquid. Hot! I love the flavor of extra-virgin coconut oil (I’ll talk about the two types in a second) and the fact that refined coconut oil has a neutral taste. Also, it has a high smoke point which means it’s good for frying or other recipes where you need really hot oil.

Before I get to how I actually use it and for what recipes, for those that may be new to coconut oil, here’s a super-duper brief overview.

There are two main types of coconut oil. Refined/expeller-pressed and unrefined/extra-virgin (or virgin).

Coconut Oil

Refined or expeller-pressed coconut oil is refined from dried coconut and doesn’t taste or smell like coconut. Because it is processed, it does require chemicals and isn’t considered as pure or life-changing as the extra-virgin oil. UPDATE: Thanks to those of you who corrected me – some brands do NOT use solvents for refined coconut oil including the one from Tropical Traditions which I use so check the brand you buy to be sure.

Coconut Oil

This is the oil great for deep-frying because it can handle higher cooking temperatures. It is usually a bit cheaper than unrefined coconut oil but check sources/products closely because quality can differ significantly among brands (I’ll give some sources at the end).

Unrefined or extra-virgin (or virgin) coconut oil is pressed from raw, fresh coconut and doesn’t require the use of any additional chemicals (like the refined coconut oil does).

Coconut Oil

This type of coconut oil has a coconut flavor and smell; pretty mild in my opinion but does great things to enhance the coconut flavor in baked goods.

Ok, so how do I use this stuff?

I keep a jar of the refined coconut oil next to my stove. I use it most times I’m adding a bit of oil to a skillet or pan (say, for scrambling eggs, sauteing vegetables, starting out a recipe that calls for softening onion and garlic, frying up things like these quinoa patties, sweet and sour chicken, etc.). Refined coconut oil is a pretty one-dimensional oil, in my opinion, but great for the simple purposes of sauteing and stir-frying.

The unrefined, extra-virgin coconut oil is more fun (no offense, refined coconut oil). And I don’t want to embarrass my husband, but I’ve found Brian on at least two occasions smelling the open tub of coconut oil with great contentment as he’s putting it away. He says it reminds him of a tropical vacation. Not that we’ve ever gone on one of those but whatever.

Here are a few recipes I’ve used unrefined coconut oil in – it gives an extra boost of coconut flavor, so keep that in mind, but we have loved the result:
The Best Cornbread in the World (melted it and used it in place of the oil)
White Texas Sheet Cake
Coconut and Cashew Granola
My Favorite Cookie (used it soft, like butter, not melted)
No-bake Healthy Granola Bites
Chewy Granola Bars
Pie crusts (can’t wait to share the step-by-step with you; I use it in place of the shortening for my recipe that calls for half shortening, half butter)

I know there are a few more recipes I’ve used it in but since I’m drawing a blank, I’ll add them in the comments if I think of them.

Coconut Oil

I’m still a bit of a newbie to the coconut oil world (about a year, I’d say). I’m not using coconut oil exclusively, either. Sometimes I just really need butter. I love butter (no haters, please). And I like to think of myself as a lover of all oils (except shortening, I don’t like it much). But coconut oil is definitely moving it’s way up in what I grab when I need something to cook or bake with.

As an FYI, I have tried using it in pancake and waffle recipes and it’s caused some major stickage to my griddle so I need to figure out how to make it work there. Also, it’s important to note that if you have melted coconut oil to liquid form and add it to other liquids (say, milk or water or whatever for a muffin recipe or something similar) and those liquids are cold, the coconut oil will solidify into small clumps and won’t stay liquid like vegetable oil. It won’t necessarily ruin the recipe, it’s just something to be aware of.

Coconut Oil

Since I can’t find coconut oil where I live (at least not without selling my firstborn child to afford it), I’ve bought it with great success and joy at Tropical Traditions (they often have coupons and deals for a buy one, get one free type thing, or free shipping, etc.). I’ve also had people who love me that live near a Costco pick it up there and I’ve bought it on Amazon, too.

Now it’s your turn!

How do you use coconut oil in cooking and baking? Also, if you don’t mind, please reference any great sources for purchasing it in the comments if you have any others to add.

I’m really curious to know how many of you are using the almighty coconut oil!

115 Responses to Coconut Oil: What Is It {And How I Use It!}

  1. Christine says:

    Greetings from Fort Lauderdale, FL! I started using CO about a year ago. I bought it for it’s health benefits, but at first I had to experiment to find where I could use it without the coconut taste. So, the refined is good for frying eggs, etc. I use it for popcorn, too! The first time I used it to make popcorn and it started popping I thought, “That’s what the movie theaters used to smell like!” I couldn’t wait to dig in.

    I now have both refined and virgin on hand at all times. I also use it for a moisturizer. I have a glass custard cup on the bathroom counter that I add lavender and frankincense essential oils to. I use that after cleansing my face every day. I also use that all over both feet to keep smelly feet at bay! When I am using it for cooking, I just rub any I get on my hands all over my hands and arms.

    I have 4 cats and feed 4 more outside cats and most of them LOVE it! One of my cats cries for it and drools waiting for it! (He is also a butter lover/thief) As most months the CO is liquid here, I give it to them on a teaspoon and they lick it off. I have had no need for de-worming those that eat the CO.
    I do read and watch videos regarding the health benefits and I started an elderly friend on its use every day. I also am trying to find ways to include a sufficient amount for health benefits without having to eat it straight off the spoon. I have trouble with that – not the taste, the idea of eating oil! I know it’s irrational, but I find it hard.

    I added about half a teaspoon of the refined CO to my coffee this morning. It is a part of a Bulletproof Coffee recipe, there are a couple of those recipes. I urge all reading this to learn of the health benefits and uses for CO and USE it! Just Google uses for Coconut Oil, sit down with a drink, relax, and get ready to be wowwed!

    I bought it here first at Whole Foods. A 14 oz jar runs 7.99 for Virgin CO. I use a lot of it, so for body and frying and cooking in general I use the refined from my regular grocery store, Lou-Anna brand. It is very reasonably priced for a 30 oz jar. If your store doesn’t stock it, ask the manager to stock it.

  2. heather says:

    I’m a new user and want to use it for baking cakes = but just do not get the cakes light and moist. So what can I do?

    • Christine says:

      What are you replacing it for?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Heather – it’s really a matter of experimenting. I haven’t tried using coconut oil in cakes. It doesn’t whip up like butter (to create the air that makes cakes light and fluffy) but you might try googling to see if others are using it in cakes and what their experiences are.

    • Norma Curran says:

      I trade straight across for butter & other oils in baking. I have superior results. Is great for rouxs, light spread on toast (fab with cinnamon), popping corn. So far so good ! I have purchased online at Tropical Traditions, and World Cost Plus. Wherever the best bargain is.

  3. omg, thank you so much for posting this! It is going to be so helpful when I get Coconut Oil online! Astonishing!

  4. Dana says:

    I use it to make my taco shells. Just fry up some corn shells in it and it is so stinkin good. Originally I just used it because it finally solved my guilt problem from frying the shells in vegetable oil. Now I use it because it is so yummy!! I do chicken tacos with all of the fixins and use these shells. The coconut flavor adds a little sweet to the taco. It has made my favorite meal even more favorite-y.

  5. Norma Curran says:

    I am loving this oil. It seems to add a little extra to everything I have added it to ! Can I make a roux for homemade mac& cheese with it ?
    I enjoy it as a spread on toast ! ( especially with heavy shake of cinnamon.) It is amazing in all my cakes, etc.

    • Mel says:

      Norma Curran – I am not sure since I haven’t tried it. You could try a google search for Mac and cheese recipes using this oil in the roux. Good luck!

      • Norma Curran says:

        I did use as a roux . Excellent results ! Works great with cakes as well. Complete success in every recipe so far. And it is wonderful to use when sauteing greens .

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