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Cooking with Coconut Oil

By Lindsay Robison, August 9, 2016  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Lindsay Robison

Updated August 9, 2016

Seared Tuna Steaks with Coconut Oil

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 oil Roasted Sweet Potatoes

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

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.

Coconut Oil Chicken

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 Coconut Oil Cilantro Dressing

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.





Morgan says ...
This was a great post as I have been curious about using coconut oil but didn't really know where to start. Are there nutritional benefits associated with the switch to coconut oil or is it really used for a change in flavor? Thanks!
01/20/2014 8:20:14 AM CST
marty says ...
01/20/2014 1:37:47 PM CST
Lynn Doherty says ...
My husband and Granddaughter are in LOVE with your berry scones!! I thought I saw a cookbook on Amazon that has recipes from Whole Foods Market, do you sell the book at the store and is the scone recipe in the book? Thanks for any information you have. Lynn
01/23/2014 10:48:01 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@MORGAN - There are some folks that choose coconut oil for added health benefits. I have not been able to tell any flavor differences but everyone's palette is different!
01/24/2014 2:28:50 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@LYNN - Our cookbooks vary between stores. I have not heard of one selling on Amazon. You can always check with your local store to see what books they have in stock!
01/24/2014 2:30:28 PM CST
susan says ...
We've been using coconut oil for about a year I would guess - we buy it by the gallon and I just bought a 5-gallon pail. I put it in just about anything hot - hot cereal, coffee, casseroles, soups.... I bake with it, grease my crockpot and pans with it, use it on my face I've begun using it on my shoulder which I've injured, hoping it will heal whatever is injured. We make chocolate candy with it using raw chocolate, raw honey or maple syrup and fruits and nuts... the possibilities are endless! We don't notice the taste, but I greased a pan one day and took the item to work and someone who is allergic to coconut picked up on it right away. It has also been said to help the brain - people with Alzheimers, Parkinsons, those types of things. We have a family memeber that has some issues and when they take the coconut oil in adequate amounts I think I can tell a difference in them. There are numerous health benefits.
01/25/2014 10:35:36 AM CST
MARIAN says ...
i needed this info. i always thought coconut oil was a bad oil. now i will try it. thanks a lot. i appreciate you.
01/26/2014 5:03:34 PM CST
les wilson says ...
great cooking ideas for using coconut oil. whole foods needs to do a cooking class on this subjest
01/29/2014 1:47:44 PM CST
Jennie says ...
These recipes all look good. I tried the sweet potatoes very good. I have been making sweets in general but brownies specifically are fabulous with coconut oil. I get the best comments from friends and family. They love it but can't quite figure it out. Coconut oil in nutty coconut oatmeal is wonderful too.
01/29/2014 1:50:13 PM CST
Amy says ...
I absolutely adore coconut oil and think it's so underused in cooking. Thanks for the fantastic post!
01/29/2014 1:56:47 PM CST
Mary W says ...
More coconut (oil, flour, etc) related recipes please--especially baking....thanks for all you do!
01/29/2014 1:58:21 PM CST
Sandy says ...
I'm so happy to see this article. I just bought a jar of organic coconut oil to use in a baking recipe I found. I was surprised to see that the "oil" is a solid in the jar. Are you supposed to heat it to make it liquid before adding to recipes?
01/29/2014 3:03:12 PM CST
Michele says ...
Im not really sure how to substitute the amount of coconut oil in recipes. IF I choose to use it instead of regular oil, do you use the same amount? What else would I use it in place of? I have a container of it in my closet for 6 months and still have not opened it. I know I can cook with it in pretty much everything, but when I follow recipes I don't know how to substitute.
01/29/2014 3:32:25 PM CST
Susan says ...
Is it better to use in solid form and melt or liquid form? If solid form, what is the best way to liquefy it? Thank you.
01/29/2014 4:42:31 PM CST
Joyce says ...
Thanks so much for the tutorial on Coconut oil. I have been wanting to try it, but was unsure of ways to use it. Now I'm getting it and trying some of your suggestions.
01/29/2014 4:49:28 PM CST
Florine Kreeb says ...
Thanks for the tips. I saw the coconut oil at Whole Foods in Charlotte but wasn't sure what to do with it. Now, I am definitely going to buy some and try it out.
01/29/2014 5:26:32 PM CST
Sherrel Jones says ...
I would like to know where it ranks compared to canola oil and olive oil and the other nut oils when heated and in healthy cooking. What is its flash point? Why is it healthy? If a person breaks out when coconut oil is in a lotion does that mean they could be allergic to coconut oil?
01/29/2014 6:27:30 PM CST
Kazetta King says ...
excellent information
01/29/2014 9:01:05 PM CST
Darlene says ...
Susan-thank you for so much good info. You talked about using coconut oil for pain...I put peppermint essential drops in my melted coconut oil and put it on my painful areas. I melt about a 1/4 cup coconut oil in the microwave and add 7 drops of peppermint oil, then, use a wash cloth to soak it up and rub onto my pain when I go to bed. Not only does it feel ever so good, it smells so nice, too.
01/29/2014 9:19:58 PM CST
Phil Burgio says ...
I blend a stick of butter and 1/4 coconut oil for a very good butter spread.
01/29/2014 11:39:51 PM CST
Susan Hemann says ...
I am on Weight Watchers and coconut oil is WW friendly, if you don't go over board. Could you elaborate on the uses for your body and hair?
01/30/2014 6:01:30 AM CST
Jonna says ...
I can't wait to try all of these recipes! I use coconut oil for my skin and hair, and for some cooking. I use it as a substitute for butter or oil in a few recipes and to make pancakes. I can't wait to try the recipes in this article and put them on my blog!
01/30/2014 7:40:41 AM CST
Ann says ...
Can solid coconut butter be used like coconut oil? It looks like a spread to replace butter or margarine. I have Artisana brand 100% Organic Coconut Butter. Can I use it like you are describing above? Thanks.
01/30/2014 9:10:47 AM CST
Stephanie says ...
I love coconut oil, but right now I mainly use it as a cooking oil. I am curious on how to use it as a butter substitute in baking. Does it require coconut milk and coconut oil like in the biscuits and cake recipes in this article? Is there a conversion to try in a classic baking recipe that could make it healthier? Thanks for the info!
01/30/2014 9:34:52 AM CST
Christy says ...
Unrefined coconut oil also works great as an all-natural solution for diaper rash.
01/30/2014 10:23:05 AM CST