Updated August 9, 2016
More people are turning to coconut oil opens in a new tab 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.
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 opens in a new tab.
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 opens in a new tab or this wonderful Coconut Crumb Cake opens in a new tab. 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 opens in a new tab cooked in coconut oil.
More ways to use coconut oil opens in a new tab 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:
Sweeten up breakfast with a Creamy Tropical Smoothie opens in a new tab or Gluten-Free Coconut Pancakes with Bananas opens in a new tab.
Use it in a dressing to drizzle over your favorite salad like this Tangy Cilantro-Coconut Dressing opens in a new tab.
Try this tasty one-dish meal — Tropical Quinoa Pilaf with opens in a new tabCoconut, Sweet Potatoes and Kale opens in a new tab.
Enjoy a taste of the tropics (vegan style!) with our Coconut Tofu with Spicy Pineapple Dipping Sauce opens in a new tab.
Boost flavor in dishes like Chicken and Vegetable Curry Soup. opens in a new tab
Pan-fry fish in coconut oil. Try Seared Tuna with Cumin opens in a new tab or Seared Tuna Steaks with Coconut, Corn and Cilantro opens in a new tab.
Use in bread baking or for making crackers like these Seeded Coconut Crackers opens in a new tab.
Make potato or Sweet Potato Pancakes opens in a new tab cooked in coconut oil.
Create a firm chocolate shell over ice cream opens in a new tab (try Raw Banana Ice Cream opens in a new tab!) or chocolate dipped pretzels by stirring coconut oil with melted chocolate. Dunk or pour before it !
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 opens in a new tab with pro tips and tricks.