MCT Oil vs. Coconut Oil

September 4, 2018
by Jillian Gordon for Thrive Market
MCT Oil vs. Coconut Oil

Lauded as a healthy, plant-based fat that also doubles as a beauty and wellness essential, coconut oil has earned its rightful place as a pantry staple. But many are turning to its highly-concentrated cousin, MCT oil, for a dose of healthy fats and nutrients. So which coconut-based superfood is best? Here’s a closer look at these trending oils.

What Is Coconut Oil?

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil can be broken into three categories:

  • Refined: Refined coconut oil is extracted from the dried kernels of mature coconuts (also known as copra). This process is known as “dry milling.”
  • Unrefined: With unrefined or virgin coconut oil, the extraction process rarely uses heat. Instead, oil is extracted from the milk of fresh coconuts. This is known as “wet milling.”
  • Raw: As the name implies, raw coconut oil is never exposed to heat during extraction and little processing is used.

History of Coconut Oil

Documented in Sanskrit, there’s evidence of the use of coconut oil in Ayurvedic medicine around 1500 BC. First used in tropical regions, including South and Central America, Asia, Polynesia, Africa, and India, coconut oil was soon discovered by early European explorers and later sold as “margarine” in England and “coconut butter” in the United States after World War II.

Benefits of Coconut Oil

Not only has coconut oil been linked to increasing “good” cholesterol levels*, but its powers go beyond the kitchen as a DIY beauty and wellness treatment when it comes to skincare, hair care, and even dental care. It’s even beloved by pet owners as an oral and topical treatment for both dogs and cats. But like anything, everything in moderation, and pick the right option for best results. According to Dr. Tom Brenna, a professor of human nutrition at Cornell University, if you’re going to use coconut oil, make sure you get virgin oil,” which he recommends because harsh processing has the potential to destroy some of the antioxidants and essential fatty acids that make coconut oil so appealing.

The Best Coconut Oil for Cooking

With a higher smoke point (about 350-400°F) and saturated fat content than most oils, coconut oil can act as a flavor booster or blend seamlessly into a dish. It’s also the only plant-based, vegan oil that can be incorporated as a liquid or solid (or spray), making it a great sub for butter in most cooking and baking recipes. If you’re hoping to bolster flavor, opt for the virgin or unrefined variety, which will impart a mild coconut taste. If you want the oil without the flavor, pick refined coconut oil.

Coconut oil

How can I cook with coconut oil?

It’s tough to go wrong with this high-temp tolerant oil. Here are few of our favorite coconut oil cooking methods.

  • Sautéing: Coconut oil pairs well with garlic, onion, and ginger, making it a great swap for EVOO or vegetable oil when whipping up stir-fries, cooking seafood, or sautéing greens.
  • Roasting: Since coconut can be liquid or solid (like butter), it can be swapped into most baking and roasting recipes, requiring a simple 1:1 swap.
  • Frying: Since it can withstand high levels of heat before breaking down, coconut is a great, plant-based frying oil.

Does coconut oil go bad?

While coconut oil doesn’t require refrigeration due to its solid molecular structure, refined coconut oil will begin to spoil after about 18 months. High-quality unrefined oil, on the other hand, lasts for two to three years.

Thrive Market Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Organic, fair trade, and non-GMO, our coconut oil is made from sustainably harvested coconuts from the Philippines.

Now Foods Liquid Coconut Oil

This lightweight, cosmetic oil is easily absorbed into skin and hair for softer texture and deep hydration without a greasy residue.

Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

This pure, cold-pressed oil comes from Southeast Asia and is never deodorized, bleached, or refined.

10 Recipes With Coconut Oil

You’ll soon be nuts for coconut oil with these must-try recipes.

Grilled Fruit and Seafood Kebabs

Reinvent this grilling favorite by alternating tuna and shrimp, marinated in garlic-infused coconut oil, and juicy peach slices. Drizzle with a mayo sriracha sauce.

Rhubarb Bars

This gluten-free sweet treat combines a simple crust of brown rice flour, maple syrup, and coconut oil with a sweet filling of rhubarb, coconut palm sugar, and almond slivers.

Iced Matcha Latte

There’s a latte to love about this creamy iced tea sipper, made with matcha powder, coconut oil, raw honey, and coconut milk.

Coconut Creamed Spinach

Who says you need dairy for creamed spinach? This dairy-free version calls for coconut milk, dijon mustard, coconut oil, and nutritional yeast.

Broccolini Salad

Tangy and satisfying, this update on a classic brings together tender broccolini sauteed in coconut oil and tossed with cherry tomatoes and a dijon vinaigrette.

Thai Red Curry Salmon Bowl

This fiery salmon curry is low on carbs but big on flavor thanks to coconut oil, red curry paste, fish sauce, coconut milk, and blend of warming spices served over kelp noodles.

Coconut Oil-Roasted Turkey

What’s the secret to a tender, juicy bird? A basting of coconut oil, salt and pepper, and fresh herbs.

Chicken and Kale Stir-Fry

Add sriracha, coconut aminos, and coconut flakes to chicken and kale stir-fry for a sizzling dish with a spicy kick.

Blueberry Pie Baked With Coconut Oil

This recipe is easy as pie with a simple crust that swaps in coconut oil for butter and a filling of juicy sweet blueberries, lemon juice, sugar, and organic corn starch.

Supercharged Green Smoothie

Go lean, mean, and green with this killer blend of kale, coconut water, pineapple, banana, and coconut oil.

Unexpected Ways to Use Coconut Oil

How do we love coconut? Let us count the ways! Here are some of our favorite unexpected uses for this pantry staple.

  • Sip it in hot tea to ease a sore throat*
  • Blend it into skin to soothe a diaper rash*
  • Apply it as a makeup remover
  • Mix it into homemade candles
  • Use it to silence squeaky hinges
  • Unstick a stuck zipper
  • Rub it over boots as a polish

Coconut Oil Products for Hair

Did you know coconut oil can keep bad hair days at bay and deliver lust-worthy locks? Manage manes with these coveted hair care favorites.

Alaffia Cleansing Coconut Shampoo

Not only does this shampoo smell amazing, but its coconut oil-based formula will leave your hair silky-smooth.

Desert Essence Coconut Oil Conditioner

Give parched strands a moisture surge thanks to this hydrating blend of organic shea butter, sunflower oil, and coconut oil.

Coconut Oil for Skin

Great for replenishing dry skin and imparting free radical-fighting antioxidants, coconut oil is quickly moving beyond the kitchen and becoming a skincare essential. It’s also naturally antimicrobial, enabling it to be both cleansing and moisturizing to the skin and friendly to most skin types.

Coconut Oil for Sunburns

Load up the beach bag! Rich in MCTs, vitamin E, and fatty lauric acid, coconut oil works to help soothe irritation caused by sunburns*

Skincare Products With Coconut Oil

Skin will drink up these coconut oil-powered hydrators.

Spectrum Essentials Organic Unrefined Coconut Oil

A body moisturizer, lip hydrator, or deep conditioner for hair, this multi-tasking must-have is made from 100% unrefined coconut oil.

Andalou Naturals Coconut Milk Firming Serum

Join the firm with this concentrated hydrating, deeply nourishing serum of coconut milk, coconut oil, and fruit stem cells.

Acure Seriously Soothing Coconut Argan Oil

Ideal for normal to sensitive skin, this skin superfood combines rich, cold-pressed argan oil with quenching coconut oil.

EO Lavender Coconut Hand Soap

Treat hands to a touch of luxury with this soothing hand wash of lavender oil extract, coconut oil extract, and aloe.

Thrive Market Coconut Lip Balm

Soothe dry lips and impart sun protection with this nourishing blend of zinc oxide, beeswax, coconut oil, and cocoa butter.

Simply Fair Bliss Coconut Oil Body Butter

Drench bodies in this rich, hydrating combo of fair trade coconut oil and shea butter for allover softness.

Coconut Oil Pulling

Passed down from our ancestors, oil pulling originated in India as a means of oral cleansing. While it may be nothing more than swishing oil in your mouth for several minutes, studies show the method is more effective at reducing plaque than leading conventional mouth rinses!*

Desert Essence Coconut Oil Toothpaste

This genius, double-duty paste pairs baking soda and tea tree oil with coconut oil for a complete teeth and gum clean.

Desert Essence Coconut Oil Dual Pulling Rinse

Freshen up with this impurity-targeting rinse, which includes organic coconut oil, sesame oil, and sunflower oil to brighten your smile.

Coconut Oil for Pets

Your furry friends can take advantage of the benefits of coconut oil, too! Not only does coconut oil soothe irritated, itchy skin cats or dogs may encounter, but its antimicrobial properties can help prevent the infection of minor cuts, ward off fungal infections, and it can also improve coats. It may also support healthy digestion when taken orally.* (Bonus: It can even help prevent hairballs in cats).


What Is MCT Oil?

Coconut Oil vs. MCT Oil

MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides, aka the saturated fatty acid that is produced by extracting the MCTs found in coconut oil (note: pure MCT oil is produced by combining MCTs found in both coconut and palm oil). Why are medium chains best? The length has to do with carbon molecules. MCTs have about six to eight carbon molecules, which are digested more rapidly and serve as clean fuel for the body and brain. The oil itself is clear, flavorless, and odorless, which makes it ideal for cooking or adding to beverages because it won't disturb the flavor.

What is emulsified MCT oil?

Emulsified MCT oil is water soluble, which means it easily mixes into hot or cold liquids without separating. This version is typically created by blending MCT oil with an emulsifier like gum Arabic, which creates a creamy liquid that’s able to mix with other water-soluble liquids, including hot beverages like coffee or tea.

Common Questions About MCT Oil

A superfood that’s believed to help support a healthy metabolism* is sure to prompt some questions. Here’s what we know about MCT oil.

How much MCT oil should I take?

To avoid digestive discomfort, it’s best to work your way up when taking MCT oil. Start with just a ⅓ to ½ gram serving until you’ve reached a 14g dose of MCTs (that’s about 1 tablespoon of MCT oil and 2 tablespoons of emulsified MCT oil).

Does MCT oil go bad?

Yes. However, MCT oil can last for up to two years if stored properly in an airtight container placed in a dry, cool place. Room temperature is fine.

Can I cook with MCT oil?

Yes. While MCT oil works well when added to beverages (super-charged coffee, anyone?), smoothies, or salad dressings, it can also be used as an oil replacement (or combined with coconut oil) in most baking recipes.

How can I use MCT oil for exercise?

Often incorporated into a ketogenic diet because MCTs easily convert to ketones and may help burn calories,* MCT oil is also linked to supporting healthy exercise performance. For a boost of energy without the crash, take your daily dose of MCT oil before hitting the gym.

Nutrition of MCT Oil

A single serving of MCT oil (1 tablespoon) is about 100 to 130 calories, delivers 13 to 14g of MCTs (including caprylic acid, capric acid, and lauric acid), and is roughly 14g of saturated fat.

Best MCT Oil

Pump up your weekly nutrient intake with these MCT favorites.

Thrive Market MCT Oil

Flavorless and odorless, our 100% pure MCT oil is made from ethically sourced coconuts from Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Nutiva MCT Oil

Organic and free of fillers, this pure powerhouse oil is the perfect addition to your coffee, smoothie, or salad.

Now Foods MCT Oil

This quick-metabolizing MCT is formulated for weight management and healthy body composition.*

Natural Force Emulsified Coconut MCT Oil

Dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan, each tablespoon serving of this emulsified oil provides 7,000mg of full-spectrum MCT’s with 0g of sugar.

Carlson Labs MCT & Omega-3

Get your daily dose of MCT and omega-3s with this convenient softgel supplement.

Nutiva Organic MCT Powder

Enjoy clean fuel with zero net carbs with this powder made from organic MCT and prebiotic acacia fiber.


Recipes With MCT Oil

Infuse your next meal with healthy fatty acids with these MCT-friendly recipes.

Keto Buckeyes With MCT Oil

This creamy, dreamy chocolate and peanut butter dessert is a riff on a classic. Naturally, we put a Thrive Market spin on the recipe by adding energizing MCT oil, and promise the hardest part of this no-bake treat is simply waiting for the ingredients to chill!

Caramel and Macadamia Bliss Balls

Satisfy your sweet tooth while getting an energy boost with these bite-sized morsels of macadamia nuts, shredded coconut, cacao butter, honey, and caramel EMCT oil.

Mocha MCT Oil Latte

Butter-flavored coconut oil combines with MCT for this superfood-loaded latte with a mocha twist.

MCT Oil Coffee Gummies

Perk up your morning with these caffeinated wiggly wonders, made with coffee, grass-fed gelatin, grass-fed butter, MCT, and honey.

Green Smoothie Bowl

Start the day with a nutrient-rich pick-me-up of kale, baby spinach, minced ginger, cucumber, pear, and MCT oil for added omegas.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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