Coconut oil is a wonderful edible cooking oil that has a variety of uses and may have some decent health benefits too! This post covers everything you didn't know that you needed to know about coconut oil and why it's a great alternative to other cooking oils.
Who knew that there was so much to learn about coconut oil?!? We're covering the different types of coconut oil and their uses, how to safely and effective store your oil, how to tell if it's still safe to use and some of the benefits you can get from cooking and baking with coconut oil.
Types of Coconut Oil
Let's start with what coconut oil is before diving into it more. It's an edible cooking oli that comes from the wick, fresh coconut meat, and milk of the coconut fruit itself.
Naturally, it's a white solid fat but changes consistency when the temperature changes. When coconut oil melts it turns into a thin and clear liquid form that is great for cooking things in.
There are two general types or varieties of coconut oil, refined and unrefined.
What's the difference between the two you ask? Well, the nutritional info is similar between the two, but there are some distinct differences.
Their scents, smoking points, melting point, and flavoring differs greatly.
Unrefined coconut oil comes from the meat or flesh of a mature coconut. It's extracted and then stored. It is not processed any more once it's been removed from the coconut.
Unrefined coconut oil is also called virgin coconut oil and you'll see the names used interchangeably.
You may also see cold-pressed on an unrefined coconut oil label, that's just a distinguishing factor between unrefined and refined oil.
If you don't enjoy the taste of coconut, I would suggest steering clear of using unrefined coconut oil in any of your recipes.
Refined coconut oil also comes from the flesh of the coconut but then it undergoes quite a bit of processing.
The refining process changes unrefined oil to refined oil by removing any excess natural gum, neutralizes it by removing the free fatty acids to lower the risk of oxidization and spoilage, and deodorizes it by removing most of the natural coconut smell and taste leaving refined coconut oil with its neutral taste and smell.
Unfortunately, you won't be able to tell if an oil is refined or unrefined just by looking at it. Both of them will have the same coloring and consistency.
Uses for Coconut Oil
Both refined and unrefined coconut oil have many uses and benefits.
The benefits of coconut oil used in cooking are still being researched, but there are some preliminary thoughts worth mentioning.
Consuming coconut oil used in any of your food is believed to help improve cognitive function and metabolism, as well as improve both hair and skin health (source).
Unrefined coconut oil is preferred in sauteeing recipes since it has a lower smoking point, a stronger coconut flavor and scent compared to refined coconut oil.
If you're considering coconut oil, it's important to remember the different types and grades as some are great for sauteeing food, searing, and even frying food.
You can even bake with refined coconut oil since it can withstand high temperatures because of the high smoke point, better than unrefined. I love making my banana brownies and vegan peanut butter cups with refined coconut oil.
Swapping out vegan butter and using refined coconut oil to grease your griddle or frying pan is what I prefer to use when making vegan buckwheat pancakes or homemade, fluffy vegan banana oat pancakes.
Baking with coconut oil is a great substitute for butter, especially when compared to other types of oil like canola oil or vegetable oil, but be sure to use a tested recipe as it cannot always be substituted or swapped out one for one with vegan butter.
When choosing between processed and refined coconut oil versus unrefined virgin coconut oil to cook with, it's also important to think of the flavor profile of the dish you're creating.
Would the flavors of what you're baking or cooking clash with a sweet coconut flavor you'd get when using unrefined oil, or would you need it to be more neutral tasting like you would get from refined coconut oil?
Keeping this is mind will help you choose which type of coconut oil you want to use for that recipe.
In my opinion, using coconut oils is a healthier oil source to use in vegan recipes, especially compared to canola or vegetable oils.
For example, looking at 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, you'll find it has 121 calories, 0 grams of protein, 13.5 grams of fat (11.2 grams being saturated fat), and 0 milligrams of cholesterol.
It's also a source of Vitamin E, but lacks other vitamins, minerals or fiber.
Coconut oil is almost all fat, being 90% saturated fat, and is made up of a high number of medium chain fatty acids (also great for helping with good cholesterol). These fatty acid chains are harder for your body to convert into fat to be stored.
Instead, it's easier for the body to burn off that fat source from the saturated fat in the coconut oil, which is why coconut oil has become thought of as a healthy cooking oil choice (source).
As coconut oil is still being researched and studied, many are still suggesting that we treat the saturated fat in coconut oil just as we would in any other oil and use it appropriately and sparingly.
How long does coconut oil last?
Depending on which type of coconut oil you're using, how long your coconut oil can last will vary. It also depends on the type and how it's being used.
One of the reasons coconut oil refined coconut oil is so popular is because of its naturally long shelf life. Usually, this oil lasts about two years if stored properly.
Always check the expiration date on the jar of coconut oil, but know that some types can be extended slightly.
Refined coconut oil can last up to 2 years when stored properly. Virgin coconut oil has an even longer shelf life and can last up to 5 years when properly stored.
How to properly store coconut oil
Storing your coconut oil correctly is the key to maintaining a nice and long shelf life of coconut oil.
Oil that has been stored incorrectly will go rancid faster, so make sure you're following all necessary precautions and look out for the signs of spoilage shared below.
Here are some tips for storing oil:
- Store it in a cool, dark place, not in direct sunlight. Too much exposure to direct light, increased heat, and even air exposure can make your oil go bad.
- Store in a cool place like the pantry, kitchen cupboard, or in the refrigerator. These options are best used depending on the state you wish to store it in. Room temperature oil will be in its liquid state and refrigerated will turn back to its solid form.
- Whichever method you choose for storing, make sure the temperature stays consistent and it's a consistently dry place. Too much drastic changes in temp will create chemical reactions in the oil and will decrease the shelf life and spoil faster.
- Always be sure to use a clean spoon when scooping your oil from the container. Unclean utensils may have contamination on them that can cause the formation of mold on the oil.
- Since oil exposed to air will go bad faster, always be sure to close or seal the lid on your coconut oil.
- Store the oil in a glass jar or see through jar when you can. This will let you see if the oil is starting to go bad easier.
Can you freeze coconut oil?
Wondering if you can freeze oil for long-term storage? That's a great question!
You can extend the coconut oil shelf life EVEN LONGER than before by storing it in a freezer-safe container in the freezer.
When stored this way, your oil can last 2-5 years making this the longest shelf life for storing coconut oil.
When you need to use it, just remove some oil, and place it in a container in the fridge to thaw before using.
How to tell if coconut oil has gone bad
There are various ways to tell when you have rancid coconut oil. Here are some signs to look for using your different senses:
- Color: If your oil has a yellowish color, that's a sign of spoilage. Good oil should still have clear or milky white coloring.
- Consistency: If your coconut oil has become chunky and no longer has a smooth consistency it's not safe to use.
- Spots: If the oil has dark spots or black spots, that could be mold developing indicating that you need to toss the oil.
- Aroma: If the oil has a strong bitter or sour smell it's bad. Refined oil that's still good should have a mild, neutral scent and extra virgin oil should have a sweet coconut smell. If your oil has an unpleasant smell, it's smarter to be safe and throw it out.
- Taste: If the coconut oil tastes sour, toss it. Refined oil that's still good will have a neutral taste, like the scent and unrefined will still have it's coconut sweet flavor.
What happens when you use expired coconut oil? Are there any side effects of using bad coconut oil?
If you noticed that you have some rancid or spoiled coconut oil, toss it out.
Do not risk using bad coconut oil in any recipes, topically on your skin or in your hair.
Using rancid oil can cause food poisoning, but it can also be linked to other concerning things.
Bad oil creates harmful free radicals that can cause havoc in our bodies, and damage arteries and our DNA cells.
While testing is still being done, using spoiled oil is believed to link to cancer.
But don't let that scare you away from baking or cooking with coconut oil. Just be extra cautious when storing your coconut oil and checking for signs of spoilage.
Now that you know all this useful coconut oil information, I can't wait to hear what you used it in.
Share your favorite recipes using coconut oil in the comments below and be sure to share if you use refined or unrefined oil!
More popular questions answered
- Is cocoa butter vegan?
- How long does quinoa last?
- How long does hummus last?
- How long does tofu last?
- What dairy-free drinks are at Starbucks?
©Watch Learn Eat. All content and images are copyright protected, and are not to be used or republished without prior permission. You may; however, link back to this post on your website as a reference tool. Some images shown in this post are used with permission as part of Creative Commons CCO through Pixabay.com.