Until we took our “No Refined Oils” mini-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!
236 thoughts on “How to cook with coconut oil”
Do you use the same coconut oil both for cooking and for personal uses such as hair or skin? Or do you buy different kinds?
I use the same.
Not to undermine the nutritional benefits of organic coconut oil, because it is a gorgeous food. However, I don’t use it to cook with as it actually doesn’t have the high smoke point that has unfortunately become urban myth. Avocado oil actually has a smoke point of around 271C, where as coconut oil starts to smoke at around 177C. When an oil reaches their smoke point they start to release all sorts of free radicals that are not great for your health. So by all means enjoy your coconut oil, but not for cooking. Personally I use the lard that I save from the top of my bone broths after it has cooled, this has a smoke point of around 182C and is certainly a cheap alternative or even good old extra virgin olive oil that has a smoke point of around 216C.
So, I hate coconut… Bought a jar from trader joes and have yet to open it. Not sure why I’m nervous lol
What’s the best way to try for an ultimate newbie?
Also I read a few comments.. My 3yr old son has bad chapped lips which causes him to lick more.. Should I try this?
Is it okay to use “refined” at times? There are times I just don’t want stuff tasting like coconut. When I use unrefined that is all I taste. This is find with pancakes and smoothies but not veggies. Thanks.
I use coconut oil in cooking but also use it to cleanse my face and shave my legs. For my face I use a little bit of oil and massage it into my skin with clean fingers. I then take a warm moist washcloth and remove the oil. I rinse the cloth and repeat several times then pat dry. This leaves just enough oil behind to moisturize my face without any added oil. It feels smooth but not oily.
What brands of Coconut Oil are recommended. I see Nutiva mentioned in the post, but what other brands are good also?
Hi Becky. There is no shortage of good brands. This might help you read the labels and pick your favorite: http://www.thankyourbody.com/coconut-oil-101-decoding-labels-storage-uses/.
Hi, I have recently decided to make a change in my diet and LOVE this website. I’m also a fan of the rebel dietician. With that being said, I know there are varying opinions regarding nutrition, however I am completely confused with what oils to use. The rebel dietician claims you should avoid cooking with edible oils and she believes there is no health benefit to use coconut oil. She says “there is no scientific evidence to suggest adding coconut oil to the diet is beneficial to health long-term”. Can you clarify and let me know what the best oil to cook with for egg white omelets and chicken & vegetables? THANK YOU!
Hi there. This post goes into more detail about what oils/fats to use and when: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/05/14/mini-pledge-week-10-no-refined-oils/.
Thank you, Lisa for this blog. I am a firm believer of all the great benefits, using coconut oil for cooking & as a moisturizer, as well. Although, I am fairly new to this miraculous ingredient (6 mths), I am certainly 100% satisfied, impressed and I will continue to use it faithfully. I wish I knew about it sooner. ^_^ Thanks, Pamela Gordy, Orlando, FL
Fats don’t make you fat…sugar makes you fat and unhealthy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s what the American Heart Association has to say about coconut oil (just something to note)..
The American Heart Association recommends cooking oils lowest in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol â€“ such as canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil. Use them sparingly, though, because they contain 120 calories per tablespoon. Use liquid vegetable oils or nonfat cooking sprays whenever possible. Stay away from coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil. Even though they are vegetable oils and have no cholesterol, they are high in saturated fats.
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.
Works great when popping popcorn too!
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.
Instead of butter in homemade granola, I use a combo of CO and unsweetened applesauce with wonderful resents. It’s so nice to know exactly what’s in my granola. No more store bought for us.
Question about refined vs unrefined…I do not like the smell/taste of coconut and I’ve noticed that the refined doesn’t smell or taste like coconut. Am I losing the benefits of the coconut oil because it is refined, therefore more processed? Both the refined and unrefined I have bought are organic. Thanks!
Hi Sara. This might help: http://deliciouslyorganic.net/coconut-oil/. ~Amy
When you use CO in a recipe do you use the same amount as the oil in the recipe? I used the same amount in some peanut butter cookies and all I could taste was coconut which I am not a big fan of but my boys really loved them. I am wondering if maybe I used to much plus I left it in the solid form instead of liquid form. Any suggestions? I just discovered CO and really don’t know what I am doing.
Hi there. It should be a one to one exchange. Different brands/types (go for virgin oil) of coconut oil will have varied strengths in coconut flavor. You may need to shop around a little to find the one that works for you. ~Amy
Thank you very much for your simple & easy information on how to cook with coconut oil. I didn’t realise how many things you can use it in. I’d like to start using it abit more in cooking & again thanks to your great tips I am looking forward to experiment with coconut oil.
thanks for all these hints, I’m anxious to try coconut oil- in a stir fry and
as a face cream- yahoo!
What exactly do you cook with coconut oil? Basically anything that calls for canola oil or anything else like that?
Hi there. It is very versatile. I, personally, substitute coconut for butter in most of my baking. I also use it for sautÃ©ing at higher heats or when roasting, grilling, or broiling almost anything. Here is even more info: http://deliciouslyorganic.net/coconut-oil/. ;) ~Amy
Hey All, I used coconut oil instead of other oils to attempt to make Corn Bread, and I don’t think it turned out as the end product was sooo salty. I put sugar in the reciepe instead with a pinch of salt, and there is this awful after taste. I am wondering if this is because I cooked the corn bread at 380 degrees, instead of the cooking point of the oil at 365 degrees. Any experiences baking with the oil on too high or heat, and getting a weird salty taste?
Thank you! This is SO helpful when you’re just starting to use these kinds of ingredients! I was lost the first time I opened mine, and I was hoping you had a post just like this one! Thanks again for being so generous with your information!!
OH What a WONDERFUL article. I just mixed up a batch of pumpkin crumble muffins (last can in the pantry and I move next week)and it called for coconut oil. It occurred to me after the fact that I should have brought it to more of a liquid state. LOL So I’m waiting to see… and hope from your waffle experience that it still turns out. I tried to dissipate the chunks. I was mostly sucessful. OOoh there’s my beep!
I have used coconut for poppy popcorn or frying chicken and egg plant. If I use it in say a cake mix do I measure it like I would veg oil?
Hi Holly. Here is a post on cooking with coconut oil: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/02/07/how-to-cook-with-coconut-oil/. ~Amy
Hi there. We’ve not tried it as a salad dressing. I know the Nutiva website, linked in the above post, has info about that. ~Amy
I have found that I can use coconut oil in everything but salad dressing it was awful! Any suggestions? I am relatively new to using CO as a cooking base for vegetables and i find it does have a coconut taste unless I add a little salt. But on my salad it made the vegetables taste bitter.
I use coconut oil to pan fry chicken! Yum
For a year, we collected waste vegetable oil from an Asian restaurant and filtered it, which fueled the car. We drove on free fuel like … At that time vegetable oil collection became fiercely competitive.grease trap service
Does coconut oil flavor the finished product like coconut? I hate coconut which is why I’m asking. We use olive oil for many things, and I’m open to trying the coconut oil, I just don’t want all my food to taste like coconut.
Hi Lisa. I cook with coconut oil everyday and never notice it changing the flavor of what I am cooking. ~Amy
There are different kinds. I bought 3 different cooking oils: two from Whole Foods and one from Sprouts and took them home and smelled all three. One of them clearly stands out as hardly having a smell and one of the them was clearly much more coconuty and fruitier smelling. The third one was right in the middle. I fried two different sets of vegetables in the non aromatic and very aromatic ones. Then I gave them to my husband to taste test them without telling him I had cooked them in coconut oil. My husband said he liked the vegetables with the non aromatic oil but couldn’t quite put a finger on why he didn’t like the other ones. My husband happens to hate coconut also. After I told him that one of them was cooked in a highly aromatic coconut oil he said that he could indeed taste the coconut and much preferred the vegetables in the non aromatic oil. Honestly I could taste it also, and I do like coconut but not when it sweetens something that is supposed to not be sweet. So you might have to go through many brands/bottles until you figure out which one is best for you. I use all the highly aromatic ones for baking and can’t taste the coconut then.
Great post! You make a really good point about using coconut oil for vegetables in stir fry (I hope you’ve gotten a chance to try it!) It really does enhance the flavor. I love that it’s healthier than some of the other oil choices.
isnt’ it easier to just put the coconut oil in the sink in hot water and let it melt that way? i find that microwave usage isn’t the healthiest option and if you put it on the stove, you’re likely to waste some in transfer… just a thought. I love when my coconut oil turns liquid, surely a sign of summer!