No offense to olive oil, canola oil, or butter, but the Thrive Market test kitchen is crazy for coconut oil. It’s so versatile that we keep a jar within arms reach for everything from sautéing to frying (not to mention all of the ways to use coconut oil around the house). Here’s everything you need to know about cooking with this everyday staple.
What Is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is a fatty oil that comes from coconuts, and the two most popular options are refined and unrefined.
- Refined: Refined coconut oil is made by extracting the dried kernels from mature coconuts, a process known as “dry milling.” The first step is baking the coconuts until they’re dried, which helps pull oil from the meat. Then the oil is filtered (using natural bleaching clay) to kill off any microbes.
- Unrefined: Unrefined coconut oil is also known as “virgin coconut oil” or “pure coconut oil.” It’s made using a process called “wet milling” in which the oil is extracted from fresh coconuts, creating an emulsion of water and oil. The oil is then removed with a centrifuge—a machine that separates fluids. Of the two choices, unrefined is the purest option.
Coconut Oil Q&A
If you’ve gone down the rabbit hole of coconut oil research, you’ve probably asked yourself one or two of these questions.
Does coconut oil go bad?
Yes, but the shelf life is so long you’ll likely use your entire container before needing to worry about rancid coconut oil. Refined coconut oil can last up to 18 months and unrefined coconut oil can stay fresh for several years. (Keep it in a cool, dark place for maximum longevity.) If you’re unsure whether that jar is still good, and toss it if there are any signs of mold around the lid, strange odors, or a sour taste.
Can you substitute coconut oil for butter?
Coconut oil can be swapped in for butter in most baking recipes using a 1:1 substitution ratio. This is a great option to quickly make a recipe vegan, too.
How do you use coconut oil in cooking?
A high smoke point means coconut oil can take the heat. Add a knob to the pan before you sauté greens, fajita veggies, seafood, or stir fry. For roasting, coat potatoes, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, or other vegetables before letting the oven caramelize them. You can even use coconut oil for frying. Refined oil has a more neutral taste than unrefined, so keep that in mind depending on what you’re cooking.
Is coconut oil good for dogs?
Coconut oil may be beneficial for dogs, helping improve their coats and reduce allergies—you can add it straight to their food. Of course, always talk with your vet before deciding on a dosage to try.
What’s the difference between coconut oil and MCT oil?
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides, the saturated fatty acid that’s extracted from coconut oil. MCT oil is flavorless, odorless, and clear, so it won’t disrupt the flavor of any recipes or drinks you add it to. Coconut oil contains MCTs, but because it’s made straight from coconut meat, it can have a slightly tropical flavor.
Coconut Oil Nutrition
Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs. This type of fat is rapidly metabolized in the liver, which means your body can use it as an immediate energy source. MCTs are also easier to burn off and harder to store as fat.
Benefits of Cooking With Coconut Oil
Here are some of the many reasons to give cooking with coconut oil a try.
- Bring on the heat: A smoke point between 300°F and 400°F makes coconut oil a great option for all kinds of recipes. It can stand up to a hot pan without scorching your ingredients.
- Get a flavor boost: The mild tropical flavor in some coconut oils is reasons enough to use it, especially in recipes like pancakes (fry them up with coconut oil instead of butter), curries, and stir-fries.
- Make baking vegan-friendly: Swapping out butter for coconut oil can easily make a recipe vegan.
Best Coconut Oil Brands
We’ve got you covered with these top coconut oil brands, which offer everything from unrefined to liquid coconut oil.
Sourced from local farmers in Sri Lanka’s Coconut Triangle, Dr. Bronner’s extracts its coconut oil from fresh, expertly dried kernels. It’s organic and fair trade certified, too.
Grab this kitchen multitasker that’s ethically sourced from small farms in the Philippines. Organic, cold-pressed, and never refined, our coconut oil is as fresh as it gets.
Most coconut oils firm up in cool temps, but not this one! Each bottle is filled with pure virgin coconut oil, sans fillers.
We’ve combined the best of both worlds! Two ancient superfoods give you the high heat powers of coconut oil with the distinctive flavor of clarified butter.
Prefer a spray oil? Meet a zero-calorie option that helps keep food from sticking to dishes, pans, and trays.
12 Coconut Oil Recipes
Put your jar of coconut oil to good use with these delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Healthy Coconut Oil Breakfast Recipes
These four recipes will fuel your morning with a dose of coconut oil.
Grab your butter knives! This gluten-free shortstack is ready for winter. You’ll love the gingerbread flavors like clove, nutmeg, and ginger, which put a seasonal spin on a morning classic.
Cozy up to the flavors of carrot cake for breakfast with this sweet take on oatmeal made with gluten-free rolled oats, coconut oil, maple syrup, grated carrots, and plenty of warm spices.
Hey, Sunday brunch. These hearty pancakes are made with coconut flour, raw honey, and coconut oil for a batter every primal eater will love.
Boost your breakfast with our gorgeously green blend of pineapple, banana, kale, coconut water, and coconut oil.
Easy Coconut Oil Dinner Recipes
Chop to it! Keep your coconut oil jar on the counter to whip up these delicious dinners.
The base of this soup starts with coconut oil and shallots, then layers in gorgeous beets, garlic powder, ginger, and creamy coconut milk. Camu powder makes every bowl a superfood all-star.
This veggie-forward taco filling gets next-level status thanks to spicy taco sauce made with kicked-up ketchup, coconut oil, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder.
This is definitely not your grandmother’s potato salad. In our zesty upgrade, we pair sweet potatoes with a creamy citrus dressing made with coconut milk, lime, and coconut oil mayo.
Need a party-friendly app? Bake up kale chips with spicy sriracha, coconut aminos, coconut oil, and shredded coconut. On second thought, double the batch for company—they’ll go quick!
Desserts With Coconut Oil
There’s plenty of room for coconut oil in the desserts department, and these recipes prove it.
Calling all chocoholics! We’re raising the bar with this energizing and raw snack to help you refuel with nourishing ingredients like cacao powder, almond butter, probiotic powder, and coconut oil. Plus, it only takes 5 minutes to make! (You’ll just have to be patient while it freezes.)
Here’s a decadent yet Paleo-friendly treat made with tahini butter, coconut oil, cacao, and honey. Every bite is caveman-approved!
Enjoy a coffee break on the go with morsels filled with an unexpected treat—coffee jam! The magical chocolate coating stays naturally firm thanks to a unique blend of melted coconut oil and ghee.
Perfect with a cup of tea, these sweet cookies are infused with dried lavender, raw honey, coconut oil, and vanilla. Pinkies up!