How to cook with coconut oil

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.

How to cook with coconut oil on 100 Days of Real Food

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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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236 thoughts on “How to cook with coconut oil”

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  1. Because Coconut oil along with all tropical oils such as palm oil, have saturated fats in them and you don’t want a lot of saturated fats in your diet because it raises the LDL cholesterol which is the bad one. I got this information from my nutrition teacher, I just finished a nutrition class. I use vegetable oil for baking but olive oil is one of the healthier oils.

    “the Food and Drug Administration has informed consumers to avoid coconut oil, a saturated fat. (The American Medical Association agrees that saturated fats should be limited in our diets.) Evidence in favor of coconut oil has not yet met the FDA’s standards for recommendation; studies are regarded as either inadequately controlled or not extensive enough to be conclusive.”

    here’s something about olive oil:

    “The Hype: Olive oil will protect you from a heart attack. The Truth: Olive oil is not heart-healthy. Yes, foods rich in monounsaturated fats like olive oil are healthier than foods full of saturated and trans fats, but just because something is “healthier” does not mean it is good for you”

    While oil period isn’t going ot be healthy, there are ones that are higher in sat fats (unhealthy fats) and ones higher in mono and poly fats (better fats). Just like with peanut butter, if you read the ingredients it has palm oil in it which is another “tropical oil” which is bad for you because its high in saturated fats.

    1. There is widespread misconception that coconut oil is bad for you because it is said to raise blood cholesterol and cause heart disease. The only “proof” is one four-decades old study. The study used hydrogenated coconut oil.

      It is now known that the process of hydrogenation creates “trans fatty acids” (TFAs), which are toxic entities that enter cell membranes, block utilization of essential fatty acids (EFAs) and impede cell functionality. TFAs also cause a rise in blood cholesterol. These substances are not present in natural coconut oil.
      Coconut Oil as Saturated Fat

      Another reason people believe coconut oil must be bad for you is misguided association: it is a saturated fat and “saturated fats are bad for you.” Dietary guidelines inevitably fail to distinguish between different kinds of saturated fats and insist that saturated fats (meaning all saturated fats) are harmful.

      This is not just misleading. It is bad science. Leading scientists now recognize that just as there is good cholesterol, there are also good saturated fats.

      Fats are classified as short-, medium- or long-chain based on the number of carbon molecules they contain. Nearly two-thirds of the saturated fat in coconut oil consists of medium-chain fatty acids.

      When we eat long-chain fatty acids, they must be emulsified by bile salts in the small intestine before they can be absorbed into our body. Short- and medium-chain fatty acids, such as those in coconut milk, are absorbed directly through the portal vein to the liver, where they are immediately available to the body.

      In other words, most of the saturated fat in coconut oil is easily digestible and converted into quick energy. And these types of fatty acids are less likely to cause obesity because they are immediately used by the body and have no opportunity to be stored.

      Benefits of Coconut Oil

      Nearly 50% of the fatty acid in natural coconut oil is lauric acid, which converts to the fatty acid monolaurin in the body. Monolaurin has adverse effects on a variety of microorganisms including bacteria, yeast, fungi, and enveloped viruses. It [monolaurin] destroys the lipid membrane of such enveloped viruses as HIV, measles, Herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), influenza and cytomegalovirus (CMV). The usefulness lauric acid/monolaurin in treating AIDS is currently under investigation. Lauric acid is a main component of human breast milk and helps protect children from illness during infancy.

      Capric acid, which comprises another 7% of coconut oil fat content, also stimulates anti-microbial activity.

      In other words: not only does coconut oil not cause heart problems, it is good for you. To quote Dr. Mary Enig: “The research over four decades concerning coconut oil in the diet and heart disease is quite clear: coconut oil has been shown to be beneficial.”(See endnote 4.)

      Coconut oil is a “functional food,” defined as a food that “provides a health benefit over and beyond the basic nutrients.”(See endnote 5.) It is an immune-system enhancer.

      For further reading: Mary G. Enig, Coconut: In Support of Good Health in the 21st Century (offsite). Also the Center for Research on Lauric Oils, Inc (offsite).

      TFAs – The Real Cause for Concern

      In fact, the real problem fats in our diets are the trans fatty acids, mentioned above as a by-product of hydrogenating fats. Here are just a few of their adverse effects: lower the “good” HDL cholesterol and raise the “bad” LDL cholesterol while raising total serum cholesterol levels; increase blood insulin levels in humans in response to glucose load, increasing risk for diabetes; affect immune response by lowering efficiency of B cell response and increasing proliferation of T cells; interfere with utilization of essential omega-3 fatty acids; and escalate adverse effects of essential fatty acid deficiency.

      You get these effects, and more, every time you consume hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil, which is present in most processed food, including margarine, potato chips, baked goods, etc.

      For Further Reading: Interview of Mary Enig (offsite).

      Why are We Misinformed?

      In one word: economics. Beginning with a flawed study four decades ago, continuing through the 1950s, intensifying in the 1980s, and again in the 1990s, the misinformation about coconut oil has been promulgated by such economically motivated organizations as the American Soybean Association (ASA), the Corn Products Company (CPC International) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). They are aided by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many of whose key personnel are recruited from and return to the vegetable oil industry. Previously, coconut oil was widely used in baked goods and fried goods until their publicity campaigns, based on erroneous information, totally discredited coconut oil and caused its nearly complete elimination from the American diet.

      Finally, after years of denial, The FDA and CSPI are finally talking about the harmful effects of trans fatty acids, evidence of which has been accumulating since the 1950s. Nonetheless, they continue to disparage coconut oil and take no effective action to limit TFAs, which already have been banned in some European countries. TFAs will finally be listed on food labels, starting in 2006 — why has it taken them so long! TFA dangers have been known for decades and continue to cause disease! News items coming from the USDA and FDA still lump TFAs with saturated fats, which are natural and do contain nutrients vital for our bodies. The current FDA Consumer’s Guide to Fats was last updated in 1999 and consistently warns against (all) saturated fats, while failing to mention any harmful effects of trans fatty acids.

      How effective is this brainwashing? Many of you will not believe the facts on these pages and will continue to avoid coconut oil and coconut milk out of health concerns. Despite the proven benefits. We invite you to investigate further.

      For Further reading: Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, The Oiling of America (offsite).

      1. Lori, Thanks for all the info. I was trying to explain to my friend the benefits of coconut oil vs. canola oil. Wish I had your response on hand.

    2. The FDA is not to be trusted. Their pockets are lined by the Big Pharma. The FDA only approves anything that is guaranteed to make people sick and drive drug profits.

  2. Jennifer, what Kelly just posted about the tropical oils is plain wrong. That is from a study put out in the early 40’s by the American corn industry to get people to switch to an American product and away from Pacific Rim products (who where the bad guys in WW2). Since then coconut (UNREFINED) oil has been vindicated with modern studies. I’m not sure why Kelly felt the need to post. This whole blog is about how good coconut oil is.

  3. you have the right oil. I bake with it all the time, nothing special is needed. Just make sure you get the UNREFINED coconut oil. BTW, I get mine from amazon.com. They have a subscription program. They send my order every 4 mo and no shipping charge.

  4. Tropical oils like coconut oil and palm oil are the worst oils you can eat. You need to stick with oils like olive oil that are much healthier.

    1. I am a little confused…everyone on here seems to say otherwise and I have heard that olive oil isn’t the best for baking. Of course, there are so many opinions I have lost count. It honestly wants me want to just stick to my canola oil in the cabinet!

      1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

        Alecia – Thanks for sharing the link on the uses for coconut oil. Jill

  5. I went to find coconut oil today at Whole Foods today, but the only vigin unrefined one I could find said it could only be used up to 280 degree. I wanted to use it in the muffins on this site which bake at 400. Am I going to have to order it online or I can I find it somewhere else? We don’t have a Trader Joe’s.

  6. I threw out my vegetable oil and canola oil the day I purchased my Wilderness Family Naturals coconut oil. I haven’t missed either of them!

  7. Hi. I have been implementing the GF/CF diet for my children for about 10 years and it has helped my son to recover from autism. I am now overlaying the GAPS diet to focus on “further the healing his leaky gut” and for optimal health for all of us. I will remain committed to using non-processed foods and I am “making the switch to natural coconut oil” so I am glad to read this blog. I was staying away from it previously because of my concerns about heart disease and cholesterol but I am glad to hear “coconut oil was wrongly accused on all counts!” Thanks and health to all.

  8. Just a caution about coconut oil. I purchased some after making the switch to healthier foods. I had it “raw” in a dessert I found online for a raw vegan site. I was throwing up four hours later just to get this off my stomach. It was a strong reaction. Two of my kids ate some with me and also had a reaction. I’m a little nervous to cook with it at this point. I googled it and apparently it’s common to have this reaction.

    1. wow, maybe you guys are allergic? my husband eats 3 TB a day of it, has been for over a month now, and we have used it in a lot of cooking. no reactions from either of us or our 6 yr old. that stinks.

    2. so glad you said that! i put it on my face and skin as a moisturizer and it made me nervous and sleepless.i didn’t think it could possibly be the coconut oil but perhaps.

  9. We’ve been buying Vitacost brand from Amazon ($21 for 54oz).
    http://www.amazon.com/Vitacost-Virgin-Certified-Organic-Coconut/dp/B0044MTGHI
    My husband has been using it on his skin, hair, and we’ve been using it in place of any other oil or spray when cooking. We’ve used it in many “savory” dishes (where you would NOT want a coconut flavor) and it’s been fine. I am pregnant now and have a sensitive sense of smell but still haven’t noticed it having an intense smell or flavor. I can certainly smell it (and it’s heavenly!) when we open the lid, and somewhat during cooking, but it hasn’t impacted the foods’ flavor or smell. OH my husband also eats I think 3-4 TB of it per day and swears that between doing that and putting it on his skin/hair that he’s noticed so many types of improvements. I have used it on my skin a few times and love how it absorbs quickly, softens instantly, and does not seem to clog my pores (I get acne easily from putting things on my skin). It really does seem to be a magical product! :)

  10. My dad used to manage a local movie theater back in the 70’s and he said the popcorn was made with coconut oil back then. I now make mine in coconut oil and it’s fantastic! I use less oil than the recipe calls for though, by about a tablespoon. I also use it to deep condition my hair (messy but works).

  11. I use expeller-pressed coconut oil from Tropical Traditions, because it has no coconut flavor. I’m very happy with it and use it in most of my cooking and baking now.

  12. I ended up with a nasty sun rash (bumps) after spending a weekend at the beach…it itched, it hurt, it burned, and I was miserable. I tried perfumeless lotions, aloe vera, cold compresses to no avail. Remembered I bought coconut oil to make bread…the relief was almost immediate! I don’t think it really reduced the rash, but it made the pain and itchiness disappear. I took it with us this past weekend to a race just in case the sun made it flair up again. LOVE the stuff!

  13. Good to try—first heard about it with Alz. will do anything to find a cure for this awful sickness that people have from early age on until?

  14. POPCORN. Delicious. I just scoop out a spoonful, let it heat in my pan over med heat and it is ready when a drop of water sizzles. Use a handful or so of popcorn- just cover the bottom of the pan in one layer- and cover. A little bit of good salt…yum!

  15. As I read this I am munching on soy nuts from Sprouts Market. They are made with sunflower oil. Where does sunflower oil fall in this equation?

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Here’s an answer from this guest post (in the comments): Sunflower oil contains over 50% omega-6 and minimal amounts of omega-3. Research continues to show the dangers of excess omega-6 oils in the diet so they should be strictly limited. Sunflower oil should not be consumed after it’s been heated. Sunflower oil is more stable than other oils but it is difficult to find a truly cold-pressed version of this oil. It’s better to reach for other oils such as organic coconut oil, butter, or ghee since they are higher in omega-3 fatty acids. (paraphrased from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions)
      https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/05/14/mini-pledge-week-10-no-refined-oils/

  16. I buy Garden of Life extra-virgin coconut oil. It is a little expensive full price, but health food stores have some great sales on it at times. It has a nice coconut flavor but I don’t find it overwhelming. Extra-virgin is the least processed form. I don’t like the taste of the coconut oils labeled “pure” at this point.

  17. We use the Trader Joes Virgin Coconut Oil and love it. We keep one in the kitchen and one in the bathroom. I use it in place of any oil. it does have the coconut flavor but I love my coconuts so it is a bonus to me, I have used Spectrum with no scent.
    We use it in the bathroom head to toe! conditioner, body moisturizer, athletes foot…

  18. I made deodorant with it and it works great. It also killed two plantar warts that my daughter had. I also cook my eggs in it among other things. It’s amazing stuff!

  19. I bought the Trader Joe’s Organic Virgin oil and the coconut taste is so strong I only use it on my skin, not cooking. I’ll have to search out the other brands for cooking.

  20. Love Coconut oil! But I’ve only been using it in frying or as a replacement for other oils in things like Multigrain pancakes and my homemade granola. I am inspired to try it in real “baking” now. Thanks for so many helpful tips! Oh, and the last thing… I love it when it gets a little messy, because I can just rub it in my skin. It’s so good for it!

  21. My husband and I have talked about buying and trying coconut oil a lot lately but I assumed we’d need to order it online and/or make a trip to a health food store so we’ve been putting if off. Yesterday he went to Food Lion and just happened to notice a container of it there made by Lou Ana. http://www.louana.com/product-detail.aspx?productID=75&catID=44&pcatID=37#overview
    I couldn’t find many details on it as far as what “type” of coconut oil it is, it’s pretty vague. We just used it to coat the pans for fish and sweet potato fries we baked in the oven last night for dinner. No special or new flavors but our food was good. :) We also noticed it does not have any type of coconut smell at all (or taste – my husband ate a spoonful of it, said it was basically flavorless). Just wondering if anyone knows anything about this brand, is there anything “bad” about it? I guess it’s not organic, but other than that?

    1. hmm, I may have answered my own question with a little reading around on this site… I think? this brand may be hydrogenated? it didn’t say that anywhere on the label, but I guess if it doesn’t say it’s not, then it probably is? does that sound right?

      1. Monica, The LouAna brand coconut oil is pretty low quality. I highly recommend tropical traditions (tropicaltraditions.com) or Nutiva brand (on amazon.com). You’ll also find that pure, virgin coconut oil DOES smell like coconut, and adds a slight coconut-ty flavor to foods. If you don’t want that, buy the expeller pressed coconut oil from tropical traditions. It doesn’t smell or taste like coconut at all. Hope that helps!

  22. That sounds good Amy! Last week, we made a stir fry of chicken, green peppers, onions, and broccoli cooked with garlic pepper seasoning and soy sauce and we used coconut oil instead of our old veg oil. It was amazing!!!

  23. For those with younger kids, coconut oil is a great cloth diaper safe diaper cream. It won’t make the cloth diapes repel like most commercial/zinc based creams, has amazing healing properties, and forms a great waterproof barrier. :)

    1. I love using coconut oil on my son with his cloth diapers! I even put a little with water and a few squirts of organic baby wash and tea tree oil for a wipe solution. I’ve also put it in his bath water, especially in the winter.

      1. Emily are you implying that you make your own baby wipes? If you do do you mind sharing with me how you do them and what you use? I would like to make my own baby wipes but not sure what to do besides water and paper towels. THanks

      2. Angela,
        I make baby wipes out of my hubby’s old tshirts or old towels. You just cut them to the size that you like. Stick them in a wipe container or tupperware of some sort and cover with the following solution: 2 cups warm/hot water, 1 Tb baby soap or shampoo, and 1Tb olive or coconut oil(may also use vinegar or 5 drops of tea tree oil in lue of oil). The wipes on top sometimes dry out, but just flip them over to coat from liquid on bottom. You may want to start with 1/2 the solution and a small stack of whatever you are using for wipes. They can start to smell musty if you don’t use them fast enough.
        Hope this helps.

  24. LOVE coconut oil! One of our very favorite quick side dishes — shred a couple of sweet potatoes in the food processor, melt coconut oil in the pan and once hot “fry” your shredded sweet potato (like hash browns) and finish with a little sea salt and garlic powder! Yum. My boys, 5 and 3 devour them!

  25. I use Spectrum organic coconut oil and I find it to be rather neutral tasting not “coconutty” our grocery store just had it on sale for $6.99 score!

  26. I am confused by coconut oil. I actually bought my first coconut oil last week, before this post went up, but I bought refined (oops!) because based on reading the labels it seemed that refined coconut oil would have a neutral taste and be suitable for cooking at higher temperatures, whereas unrefined coconut oil would have a coconut taste and not be suitable for cooking at high temperatures (I think the limit was around 300-350). Is this the case, or did I misread the labels? Is there an unrefined coconut oil that has a neutral taste and can be used at high temperatures? I’m wondering if the people who use coconut oil for popcorn and who say it has a neutral taste are using unrefined or refined coconut oil.

  27. I keep my coconut oil in a glass jar with a stopper and a spout (I think it was originally meant for vinegar) right near the stove. That way, when that part of the kitchen warms up from cooking, the coconut oil is liquid and ready to use.

    I buy from Tropical Tradtions, but I wait until they offer free shipping every few months before ordering.

  28. The only thing I don’t use it for is cooking eggs. It is great with roasted veggies, in baked goods, on steamed veggies, in granola, oatmeal, mixed in with tea or coffee or hot chocolate. A teaspoon in the bath at night is heavenly. I use it in place of butter on toast or bagels. Coconut oil mixed with a little castor oil is excellent as a facial 1x per week, and for getting off stubborn make-up. And this may be TMI, but because it is anti-fungal I actually used it last week to get rid of the last of a vaginal yeast infection. Treated at night and I have not had ANY trouble since. It was lingering for 2 weeks before Tx.

  29. I love all of these ideas! I have been cooking with it but never thought to use it on my skin. I have eczema and am going to start applying the oil to my affected areas. Great post Lisa!

  30. I haven’t read through all the comments, so someone might have already mentioned this, but you can use coconut oil to make your own “magic shell.” We buy organic chocolate chips, and melt some with some coconut oil and pour it over ice cream. As soon as the oil and chocolate get cold, they harden and create a “shell.” :)
    We also melt some coconut oil, and add essential oil scent (like lavender) and use it as a lotion.

  31. ^ Liz- those are some great tips! I have been using coconut oil in place of a moisturizer, deep conditioner, and eye makeup remover for months now and my skin has never been better! Another miracle oil is olive oil- massage a small amount onto your face as a make up remover and wipe off with a warm, steamy wash cloth several times. That’s all there is to it! You could also reapply a little bit to your skin in the same way and leave it on the rest of the night..your skin is amazing in the morning with such a healthy glow! I swear by the two of those oils…I have 2 jars of each, one for the kitchen and one for the bathroom :)

  32. saw this somewhere. Can’t remember, but thought it was cool.
    Things to do with coconut oil.

    1. Coconut oil can be used for dandruff relief. Massage the oil into your scalp at least twice a week, let it set for 20 minutes, and rinse. This is really helpful for those dry winters!
    2. If you rub coconut oil on a bruise, it will disappear faster.
    3. Coconut oil has a longer shelf life than most oils. Unlike other oils, it won’t go rancid for years.
    4. Coconut oil is a great weight loss aid. It contains short and medium-chain fatty acids that help take off weight; in addition, it increases metabolism, which burns more energy.
    5. It’s a great replacement for tradition lip balm. It’s the most natural lip moisturizer on the market, and it feels great!
    6. Coconut oil can be applied all over your body. It’s a wonderful moisturizer that makes your skin really soft, and it actually delays wrinkles!
    7. Coconut oil contains anti-viral properties that reduce the risk of influenza, measles, herpes, and other illnesses. It’s even believed to help reduce susceptibility of HIV.
    8. It helps protect the body from breast, colon, and other cancers.
    9. Coconut oil raises good cholesterol and reduces bad cholesterol. It can actually clear artery blockages and protect your heart.
    10. It promotes the development of strong bones and teeth, thereby protecting against osteoporosis.
    11. It helps dissolve kidney stones.
    12. It reduces inflammation.
    13. Coconut oil kills bacteria that cause throat infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and other diseases.
    14. Coconut oil can be used instead of deodorant. No chemicals or suspicious ingredients!
    15. Using coconut oil instead of acne cream can reduce irritation, unclog pores, and clear skin.
    16. It can be applied directly to a topical infection. The coconut oil forms a chemical layer which prevents dust, air, and bacteria from getting inside the infection.
    17. Coconut oil helps with the absorption of other vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
    18. It improves digestion. Enough said.
    19. Coconut oil can be used in place of traditional chemical lice treatments.
    20. Coconut oil has a high smoking point and does not form dangerous by-products when heated.

  33. I have a question about the cooking temperature for coconut oil. The jar I have at home says that the coconut oil is good for temperatures up to 350 degrees. What happens to the oil above that temperature? Is it still safe to eat?

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      The oil will start to smoke and break down if higher than 350 degrees…it is not recommended.