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Cooking with Coconut Oil

Updated August 9, 2016

Seared Tuna Steaks with Coconut, Corn and Cilantro

More people are turning to coconut oil these days, and it’s easy to see why. This versatile oil works beautifully in all sorts of dishes — from raw to baked, roasted to fried. Pressed from the fruit of the coconut palm tree, it is an increasingly popular alternative to butter. Before diving in, here’s what you need to know about buying, storing and cooking with coconut oil:

Buying coconut oil:

Shop for either virgin (unrefined) or refined, depending on your recipe and your personal taste. Virgin coconut oil has a soft coconut aroma and more pronounced coconut flavor. If you don’t care for the taste or smell of coconut, the refined version is a perfect choice. It has a higher smoke point (meaning you can cook with it at higher temperatures) than its unrefined counterpart (450 degrees vs. 350 degrees) and doesn't impart a coconut flavor or aroma. 

Handling coconut oil:

  • As with all oils, coconut oil should be kept in a cool spot out of direct sunlight.
  • Coconut oil has a melting point of 78 degrees, warmer than that and the substance is liquid. So if you live in a warm climate, note that at room temperature your coconut oil may be liquid. Make sure to stir room temperature oil before scooping to mix in any floating solid oil on top.
  • When measuring solid or chilled coconut oil, spoon into a measuring cup, pack it down, and then scrape along the top (just as you would with flour) to get an accurate measurement.

Coconut Roasted Sweet Potatoes

How to cook with coconut oil:

Toss vegetables in a tablespoon of coconut oil and then roast until lightly browned for a lightly crisp texture and caramelized flavor. Or, sauté your favorite protein and vegetables for a quick-and-satisfying dinner. For a winning side, try Coconut-Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

Coconut Oil Biscuits

How to bake with coconut oil:

Coconut oil works well in many baked dishes that call for butter. Store coconut oil at room temperature, and when it’s time to bake, follow the temperature guideline for butter, be it melted, room temperature or chilled. We love coconut oil in these tender Coconut Oil Biscuits or this wonderful Coconut Crumb Cake. For best results, look for tested recipes that specifically call for coconut oil as an ingredient.

How to fry with coconut oil:

Refined coconut oil is a great choice for pan frying. Be sure to preheat the oil in the pan as you would with any other oil — 350℉ to 375℉ is best for a crisp result. Upgrade fried chicken with these crispy Coconut Chicken Tenders cooked in coconut oil.

Tangy Cilantro-Coconut Dressing

More ways to use coconut oil in the kitchen:

  • Scramble eggs in coconut oil, or melt over hot, poached eggs.
  • Sauté your favorite veggies in coconut oil, add cooked legumes (great time to use your canned beans or lentils!) and spices for a quick, delicious meal.
  • Rub a chicken with coconut oil and seasonings before roasting.
  • Cook bananas in coconut oil with nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon.

More coconut oil recipes:

Love coconut oil and want to learn more? Find out how you can use the tropical essential to care for your skin, your pets, and even your home with pro tips and tricks.