How to cook with coconut oil

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Until we took our “No Refined Oilsmini-pledge last year I had never before purchased or cooked with coconut oil. And, like many others, I was surprised when I first learned that coconut oil is – or should I say “can be” – a solid. I set out to use unrefined coconut oil in baked goods (like muffins, banana bread, pumpkin bread, and waffles) instead of the typical refined oils like canola/vegetable/grapeseed, which are obviously always in liquid form. Coconut oil, on the other hand, can actually change from a liquid to a solid (and then back again without causing any harm) pretty frequently because the melting point is 76 degrees F, which is fairly close to room temperature. And since my husband is a little stingy with the A/C and heat usage in our house, I’ve found that our coconut oil is actually in liquid form in the summer and in solid form in the winter…talk about throwing me for a loop! So I thought it was pretty appropriate to put together this post today on how to work with these changes in consistency.

Coconut oil tips that I’ve collected from various sources…

  • Have all other ingredients at room temperature (like eggs, milk, and flour)  before mixing them together with coconut oil that’s in liquid form
  • In most cases, it is best to melt coconut oil that’s in solid form before measuring and adding it to a recipe…
    • You can melt the oil by scooping some out of the jar and heating it in the microwave or on the stove
    • You can also put the entire jar in the microwave or stick it in a pot of warm water to bring it to liquid form (it’s okay for the oil to go back and forth many times between liquid and solid)
    • If you decide to scoop out the coconut oil before heating it then consider warming up some of the other ingredients (like honey and/or vanilla extract) together with the coconut oil to bring more than just the oil to a warmer temp
    • Quickly whisk in the warm/liquid coconut oil (and other ingredients you may have heated as well) at the end after all the other ingredients have already been mixed together thoroughly
  • Even after heating your coconut oil it can still turn into little solid chunks once it’s mixed with other cold ingredients, so…
    • Consider whipping the batter more thoroughly in a blender to get rid of those oil chunks
    • Make the recipe with the oil chunks in the batter anyway…I’ve done this with waffles and the end product still turned out okay
  • Consider heating and mixing all ingredients together in a double boiler on the stove…it doesn’t take much to get above 76 degrees
  • Some people actually prefer to use coconut oil in a solid form when using it as a replacement for Crisco or butter in recipes like pie or pastry crust
  • Coconut oil can also be used to sauté veggies and other foods on the stove, and although I haven’t tried it yet I’ve heard it can add an especially good flavor when making stir-fry
  • Check out the Nutiva website for some other general FAQs regarding coconut oil

To learn more about why we use coconut oil (and what kind of coconut oil to buy) check out our “No Refined Oils” mini-pledge post from last year. And  if you have any other tips please share them with us in the comments below!

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238 comments to How to cook with coconut oil

  • Willi

    The refined does not lose any of the benefits. I also use it on my face and sometimes to make my hair shine. There is a kindle book that has all the benefits of coconut oil.

  • Sue

    Works great when popping popcorn too!

  • Rose

    I know that coconut oil is all the rage these days, but I prefer olive oil. I guess it’s all personal preference. For me, I noticed that coconut oil has a much higher percentage of your daily fat content per serving when compared to other oils. At the end of the day, I think fat is still fat and all oils should be used in moderation. For me, coconut oil is just too fatty. I could easily pack on the pounds if I cooked with this every day. I’m surprised that more people don’t notice this. I mean no offense to those who love it ~ just my own personal opinion.

    • MJ

      Actually, Rose, the longer-chain fatty acids found in olive oil are more likely to contribute to the buildup of body fat than the short and medium chain fatty acids found in butter and coconut oil. EVOO is 75% oleic acid, the stable monounsaturated fat, which makes it ideal for salads and cooking at moderate temps, but coconut oil is great for baking and cooking because it can take the heat. It has many other, different from EVOO, benefits. They should both be used in the diet. Coconut oil is very high in lauric acid, also found in large quantities in breast milk. Coconut oil can be kept at room temp for many months as it is so stable, full of anti fungal and anti bacterial properties.

      • Rose

        I use extra light olive oil for cooking which can withstand higher heat temperature, and I use EVOO for salads and dressings. My doctor advised me against using coconut oil excessively. The scientific reviews on it are mixed and there isn’t enough long term evidence yet to support it’s beneficial qualities. Even the American Heart Association doesn’t yet recommend it. I have no issues with other people cooking with it, but it’s not for me. I’m sticking with olive oil. Thanks for your feedback though.

    • Robyn

      While you are kinda sorta correct that “fats are fats”, you have a lot more research to do because your supposition is not scientifically correct; eg, you will not “pack on the pounds” by using coconut oil rather than EVOO (measure for measure.) More people “don’t notice it” because it isn’t true. As MJ noted, a variety of oils and fats makes the most sense.

  • […] Ok, ok, here’s a handy link on coconut and the health benefits. And here’s one on cooking with coconut oil. […]

  • I put coconut oil (virgin cold pressed) on my face every night. I am 58 and my skin is like a baby’s bottom. Softer than ever.

  • Joyce

    Used coconut oil on my son’s lip the other night. He had stitches several days ago and the scab was beginning to pull away and cause pain and discomfort when he opened his mouth. His stitches still have not fallen out and the skin underneath was not ready to lose the scab. The pharmacist(practicing student) did not have a good suggestion. Tried room temperature coconut oil since it was natural and easy to apply with a Q-tip. Success! His lip felt better, he was able to eat more easily and without pain. The scab is still in place and will hopefully allow the skin underneath to keep healing for a day or two.

  • jayne

    Natural oils, olive, coconut, etc. are great as moisturizers too. I use them as lip balm because it’s healthier than wax.
    Sweet oil is just olive oil and has been used for earaches. I recommend an oil, like olive oil, that is liquid at room temperature for things like that.

  • Jen

    Fats don’t make you fat…sugar makes you fat and unhealthy.

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