Cooking With Coconut Oil: How, Why & Recipes

Last Update: September 29, 2023

Coconut oil continues to score big points as a multi-tasking must-have. From DIY beauty treatments to a home hack go-to, there’s a long list of impressive uses for everyone’s favorite superfood. But for the purpose of this blog post, we’re going back to where it all began: the kitchen. Before we discovered that coconut oil also doubled as a hair mask or could lubricate a stuck zipper, we turned to it as an oil alternative for EVOO, vegetable oil, or butter when cooking. And you know what? The results were nothing short of delicious. Sure, we may keep a jar in the car or the diaper bag, but cooking with coconut oil is by far our favorite way to enjoy this pantry staple.

What Is Coconut Oil?

Let’s break this down into the three types of coconut oil.

  • 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: In the case of unrefined or virgin coconut oil, heat is rarely used in the extraction process and the oil is obtained from the milk of fresh coconuts. This is known as “wet milling.”
  • Raw: Raw coconut oil is never exposed to heat during extraction and little processing is used.

Benefits of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil

While we’ve touched on some of the health and beauty benefits of coconut oil in past posts, the benefits of cooking with coconut oil shouldn’t be ignored. Not only does cooking oil do well with high temperature techniques (making it ideal for frying and baking) but the plant-based oil can bolster flavor or simply be a neutral participant depending on if you opt for the refined or unrefined variety. Also, coconut oil is the only vegan oil that can be either liquid or solid, making it an excellent plant-based swap for butter and especially versatile in the kitchen.

Cooking With Coconut Oil

With a higher smoke point (about 350-400 degrees) and saturated fat content than most oils, coconut oil stands up to cooking well while imparting rich flavor and texture.

  • Sautéing: Great for stir fry, seafood, and sautéed greens, coconut oil pairs well with garlic, onion, and ginger making it a great swap for EVOO or vegetable oil.
  • Roasting: Since coconut can be liquid or solid (like butter), it works well in most baking and roasting recipes, requiring a simple 1:1 swap if substituting it for other fats.
  • Frying: If you’re looking for a plant-based oil for frying, coconut oil is a great option since it can withstand high levels of heat before breaking down. Unrefined oil will give your dish a nice coconut flavor while refined oil is more neutral in taste.

How to Season a Cast Iron Pan With Coconut Oil

Cast iron

Seasoning” a cast iron pan refers to the process by which the pan is rubbed with oil in order to create a surface for cooking that can be properly maintained despite washing and wiping. With its high smoke point and neutral flavor, refined coconut oil is an excellent choice for pan seasoning. To season, do the following:

  • Wash and dry the pan
  • Preheat the oven to 325°F and place the pan in the oven as it heats for 5 to 10 minutes
  • Remove the pan and rub coconut oil into the surface using a towel or t-shirt
  • Using a clean towel, wipe away all excess oil
  • Place pan upside down for 1 to 2 hours
  • Turn oven off and let pan continue to cool
  • Repeat for 3 to 5 seasoning treatments

Coconut Oil as a Butter Replacement

A favorite amongst many vegans, coconut oil can be used as a butter replacement in most baking and cooking recipes (with a 1:1 substitution ratio). Interestingly, coconut oil is higher in saturated fat than butter with 90 percent versus 64 percent but has zero trans fat while butter has about 0.5g.

Stock Your Pantry With Coconut Oil

Unrefined or refined? Liquid or raw? Pick the best coconut oil for you, plus stock up on these essentials.

Coconut oil

Thrive Market Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

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

Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

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

Spectrum Naturals Unrefined Coconut Oil

Intended for hair and skin, this unrefined, rich oil delivers deep hydration and nourishing omega-3s to parched strands and bodies.

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 Garlic Infused Coconut Oil

Give your dish a little kick with this organic, garlic infusion, which is extracted from solid coconut oil, without additives or fillers, so it remains liquid.

Thrive Market Organic Ghee & Virgin Coconut Oil

What happens when you combine two ancient superfoods? You get a flavorful, buttery blend of clarified butter and coconut oil that’s ideal for oven roasting or skillet cooking.

Thrive Market Coconut Spray Oil

Oh hey, best ever cooking spray. This zero-calorie prep spray keeps your dishes from sticking to pans and trays without adding unnecessary fat.

Thrive Market Coconut Oil Mayonnaise

Our gluten-free, Paleo-friendly mayo will soon become your main squeeze thanks to wholesome ingredients like coconut oil and cage-free eggs.

Coconut Oil Mayonnaise

14 Recipes With Coconut Oil

Want to get cooking with coconut oil? Fire things up with these 14 recipes.

Breakfast Recipes With Coconut Oil

Fuel your day with these superfood-powered meals.

Carrot Cake Oatmeal

Cake for breakfast? You can feel good about diving into this sweet take on oatmeal thanks to gluten-free rolled oats, warming spices, coconut oil, maple syrup, and grated carrots.

Paleo Coconut Flour Pancakes

Looking for a Sunday brunch fix? These cakes stack up nicely—especially when you add coconut flour, raw honey, and coconut oil to the mix.

Supercharged Green Smoothie

Get a metabolism booth with a lean, green blend of kale, coconut water, pineapple, banana, and coconut oil.

Use Coconut Oil for Sides, Snacks, and Dinners

Rich and flavorful, these dishes prove that everything’s better with coconut oil.

Sweet Potato Salad With Coconut-Lime Dressing

Not your ordinary potato salad, this zesty upgrade pairs sweet potatoes with creamy-citrus dressing of lime juice, coconut oil mayo, and coconut milk.

Chicken and Kale Stir Fry

Stir things up by adding sriracha, coconut aminos, and coconut flakes to chicken and kale stir fry for a spicy kick.

Carrot Pancakes With Sorrel Pesto

You’ll flip for these sweet and savory carrot pancakes, especially when topped with sorrel pesto, a rich fried egg, and a sprinkle of Maldon salt.

Sriracha Kale Chips

Baked with spicy sriracha, salty coconut aminos, rich coconut oil, and shredded coconut, this guilt-free snack is full of flavor.

Watercress Grapefruit Salad

Bright, refreshing, and a feast for the eyes, this crisp salad combines watercress leaves and supremed grapefruit segments with fresh herbs, minced ginger, coconut oil, and raw cashews.

Desserts With Coconut Oil

These sweet treats may taste decadent but their wholesome ingredients suggest otherwise.

Paleo Tahini Swirled Brownies

Sesame meets chocolate in this decadent yet Paleo-friendly treat, made with tahini butter, coconut oil, cacao powder, almond flour, and honey.

Coffee Jam Chocolates

Need a coffee break? These chocolate morsels pack a punch with a jam-filled center made from organic roast coffee and raw honey.

Crepe With Berry Compote and Chocolate Sauce

Wrap up dinner with a warm strawberry and blueberry compote folded in a tapioca wrap and smothered in a rich chocolate sauce.

Lavender Honey Tea Cookies

The perfect companion to your cup of tea, these delicately sweet cookies include dried lavender, raw honey, and are drizzled with lemon icing.

Almond Butter Cups

Yes you can have candy on a Paleo diet if it’s made with creamy almond butter, dark chocolate, maple syrup, and a sprinkle of salt.

Vegan Chocolate-Covered Frozen Bananas

Quick, simple, and oh-so-delicious these frozen treats are dunked in coconut oil, cacao powder, and maple syrup and sprinkled with coconut flakes, hemp seeds, or cacao nibs.

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