Since coconut oil offers such fantastic health benefits, I try to work it into our diet as much as possible. These days we go through cups and cups of coconut oil every month. Back when I was first getting into traditional foods, however, I remember that I had a hard time figuring out just what to do with coconut oil. Unlike more commonplace traditional foods, adding coconut oil to your diet can be a bit of a learning curve. Here’s how I like to use coconut oil in my kitchen.
Virgin vs. Refined Coconut Oil
There are two different types of coconut oil: virgin coconut oil and refined coconut oil. Refined coconut oil has been processed so that it’s tasteless and odorless, while virgin (or unrefined) coconut oil still tastes and smells like coconut. Virgin coconut oil has slightly more health benefits than refined coconut oil, but refined coconut oil is still very good for you as long as you buy a good-quality, expeller-pressed variety. (Find quality sources of both types of coconut oil here.)
Choosing Between Virgin and Unrefined Coconut Oil
I keep both virgin coconut oil and refined coconut oil stocked in my kitchen. I decide between the two oils for a particular application based on a few factors:
- Taste: This is the number one factor I consider. Depending on the dish, virgin coconut oil can impart a noticeable coconut taste to your cooking and baking. In some instances, this flavor is a welcome addition, but in others it can be offensive or overpowering. If you don’t think a coconut flavor is a good match for whatever you’re making, opt for refined coconut oil.
- Price: Depending on your source for coconut oils, you may find that you can buy one version more inexpensively than the other. Right now, for instance, I pay less for virgin coconut oil than I do for refined coconut oil. In instances where I don’t mind a coconut flavor, I will opt for virgin coconut oil because it’s slightly less expensive. If you can get a better price on refined coconut oil, you may make the opposite decision, perhaps deciding to save your virgin coconut oil for particular applications in which you can really appreciate the flavor.
- Health Benefits: The final factor to consider is that virgin coconut oil offers more health benefits than refined coconut oil. Even if you can purchase refined coconut oil more inexpensively, you may choose to deliberately include a portion of virgin coconut oil in your diet just for the health benefits.
Baking with Coconut Oil
Coconut oil can be used to replace most oils in baking. For sweet recipes like muffins, fruit crisps, cupcakes, and so on, I like to use virgin coconut oil to replace the original oil in the recipe. Virgin coconut oil has a slightly sweet taste so I think it pairs perfectly with fruit, chocolate, or any other sweet flavors. These days, we’re so accustomed to eating a ton of coconut that most of the time we can’t even taste the coconut oil, but even back when I was first starting out I don’t remember finding the coconut taste particularly noticeable or offensive. If you think you might be sensitive to it, though, you might want to start out just replacing a portion of the original oil with coconut oil.
I don’t typically use coconut oil in savory baked goods, although that may mostly be because I just don’t tend to make a lot of those recipes. I think refined coconut oil would work well in most of these recipes, unless you think you’ll miss the flavor of the original oil.
Cooking with Coconut Oil
Refined coconut oil makes a wonderful all-purpose cooking oil. I keep a bucket of refined coconut oil next to our stove, which we use it for eggs, vegetables, meats, and any other cooked dishes that we don’t want to taste like coconut.
I use virgin coconut oil for sweeter cooking, like when we’re making butternut squash fries, sautéed apples, or pancakes. As I mentioned earlier, I think the coconut flavor goes really well with these types of flavors.
Other Ways to Eat Coconut Oil
Our favorite non-cooked/baked ways to use coconut oil are homemade mint chocolates, coconut berry delights, and lemon coconut delights. Coconut oil is also great for a variety of other non-baked treats like coconut haystacks or chocolate macaroons.
You can also just eat coconut oil plain off a spoon…although I personally really do not care for that sensation!
A Couple of Non-Food Uses for Coconut Oil
Coconut oil can also be useful outside of your kitchen. Many people like to use it as a skin moisturizer. I’ve never been fond of straight coconut oil on my skin, but I did have good success using coconut oil in this homemade hard lotion recipe.
Coconut oil is also a common ingredient in homemade deodorant recipes. I used to use (and love) this homemade coconut oil deodorant recipe. (At some point it started giving me a rash, though, so I eventually switched to using milk of magnesia as deodorant.)
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How do you use coconut oil?
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