Baking with Coconut Oil Review – Does it Work?

5 out of 5 leaves
5 out of 5 leaves

Coconut Oil is a made from the meat of coconuts.  While high in saturated fat, many natural health professionals advise that the main type of saturated fat in coconut oil promotes the formation of healthy cholesterol (HDL).  In fact, many in the real food community recommend coconut oil as the smartest oil you can use in cooking.  Many domestic chefs are still unfamiliar with this healthy fat and are unsure how to use it.  Can coconut be easily substituted into baking with little negative effects?

The Good

  • Better for You – Coconut oil is one of the healthiest fats available
  • Versatile – can be substituted for almost any other fat in a recipe
  • Mild flavor – coconut oil can vary from flavorless to having a slightly sweet and nutty flavor depending on how it’s produced.

The Bad

  • Can be expensive – especially for the highest quality versions
  • Solid at room temperature – usually must be melted to incorporate into baking recipes

My Experience

It has only been in the last year that I ran into coconut oil as a natural health food.  Growing up in the midwest, I’m not sure i had ever even heard of it.  But as I started following along with the “crunchy mom” blogs, everyone everywhere kept going on about coconut oil.  It turns out, that coconut oil is a super healthy fat that can be used in baking, cooking and personal care.

When I got my first tub of coconut oil, I was a little unsure how to proceed as it is a fat that is solid at room temperature.  After a little testing and trial, I found that the best way to melt is by placing the whole container of oil in a pan of hot water.  If I do this as I start baking, it is ready by the time I need it.  Once melted, the oil can be easily poured from the jar into your measuring device.

I’ve used coconut oil as a substitute for butter, shortening, and vegetable oils in many baked good recipes.  It has worked great in every instance, without exception.  Brownies, muffins, breads, cookies, mmmm…   I have not tried it in pastry, as I am no good at making pastry dough with traditional ingredients.  I don’t think the coconut oil would actually help me get better 🙂  The only watch out I would give when using it is that if you pour warmed oil into a bunch of cold ingredients (like sour cream and eggs from the fridge) it can solidify quickly before it’s incorporated fully into the batter.  In this case it may be prudent to heat it a little extra, or to stir really fast!

When I first started baking with coconut oil, I found it a little difficult to find. It doesn’t seem to be carried in conventional grocery stores, or home goods stores like Target. I’ve had the most success finding it at natural foods store (there’s one on practically every corner in Los Angeles). If you’re not near a big city, or A Whole Foods market, there are a lot of good internet resources as well.

One last note – there are lots of methods of coconut oil manufacture, and lots of grades of oil out there.  You can get oil that is refined, unrefined, virgin, raw, expeller pressed, centrifuged, and the list goes on.  Certainly some method of manufacture are less healthy than others (hexane extraction, anyone?).  So do your homework and read your labels, just as you would with any major cooking ingredient.  One of my favorite real food blogs, Food Renegade, has a great article on how to choose a good coconut here.

 Have you tried coconut oil in baking?  What’s your favorite baked good to add it to?

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41 Responses to Baking with Coconut Oil Review – Does it Work?

  1. I often use coconut oil in baking – it’s great in brownies!

  2. 'Becca says:

    I love coconut oil for greasing pans! It stays in place better than liquid oil, doesn’t burn like butter, and is tasty to lick off our fingers after greasing!

    I use it as an ingredient, too, especially in recipes that call for solid fats–shortening or butter. I really dislike the flavor of shortening, but I love the flavor that coconut oil gives to food.

    I also use it in place of butter sometimes, like spread on toast or quick breads and added to my oatmeal.

    In Los Angeles, I would think your coconut oil would be liquid at room temp this time of year–or if you use air conditioning, you could just set it outside for a while when you need it to be liquid. I live in Pittsburgh and don’t have AC, and my coconut oil has been liquid since Memorial Day. In colder weather, I liquefy the amount I need for a recipe by putting it in a metal measuring cup and setting it on our 30-year-old gas stove above the pilot light; that gets it at least quite soft (really makes me think about how much waste heat comes from the pilot light…) and if I’m preheating the oven it will get fully liquid.

    • Victoria says:

      Thanks for all the tips and new ideas, Becca.

      I’m fortunate to live on the West Side of Los Angeles – just a few miles from the beach. Our summers are very cool in my neighborhood – 80F is a pretty hot day. We don’t have AC in our house and my coconut oil is solid year round. Setting the jar in the sun would probably do the trick though!

  3. Carol says:

    I’m wheat and gluten intolerant, so started exploring the use of coconut oil and coconut flour in my cooking not too long ago. I just updated the recipe page on my blog yesterday with a couple of cookie recipes that use coconut flour.

    The only downside to it is if you don’t like the taste of coconuts (my eldest daughter doesn’t). If you do (unfortunately for her, all the others do), then it’s wonderful! Although coconut flour is dearer than normal flour, I find that I don’t use anywhere near as much. It absorbs the moisture and expands. I still use butter for oil content in the cookies, but coconut oil can easily replace the butter for those who want an even stronger coconut flavour.

    My favourite use for coconut oil is in the wok. I throw chicken, prawns or pieces of firm white fish into hot coconut oil with some ginger, chilli, coriander, and garlic, and stir-fry it fast and hot for a few minutes. The coconut oil flavour adds a tropical feel to the dish. If I went back to olive oil, everyone would complain. I use sesame oil when I want a more Asian feel to the dish.

    I buy organic, raw, virgin coconut oil from my local health food store. It’s extracted using a low heat soon after harvesting to ensure it retains the flavour and nutrients. I read somewhere that it’s also very good for your skin, so stop licking it off of your fingers Becca and rub it into your hands! 🙂

  4. I’m glad I found your post on using coconut oil. I bought some from our health food store to try in place of oil in the frying pan. There are obviously so many more uses which I’m going to explore from the links on your post.

    • Victoria says:

      Yes, it’s works great for frying. I’m planning to do a using Coconut Oil in COOKING review soon as a companion piece to using it in baking.

  5. Labbie1 says:

    I have found that using coconut oil as a moisturizer on my face has been wonderful! The anti-bacterial properties of the oil have improved the texture of my skin and the relaxation of wrinkles and “age lines” has been amazing! Great on my hands before bed too! Awesome!

  6. I love my coconut oil! We use unrefined for baking, smoothies and making homemade chocolates, while the refined is used as our general sauteing oil.

    Coconut oil seems to be one of those things that you can save a lot on when you buy it in larger amounts. The best price I’ve found for unrefined coconut oil is buying Nutiva through Amazon.

    • Victoria says:

      Megan, can you share why you use unrefined for some things and refined for others? I’m interested to learn more!

      • From what I’ve read, unrefined coconut oil offers more health benefits than refined. So, I try to use unrefined whenever I can. But, unrefined also has a coconut-y flavor that doesn’t go well with everything. I use unrefined in places that the flavor goes well, like in chocolates, most baking, smoothies, etc. I’d say I most often use it in sweet rather than savory foods. In these places I think the flavor is fantastic. Sometimes it;s hardly noticeable – we eat so much coconut here that we often don’t even notice the taste anymore in certain applications.

        I use refined coconut oil whenever I don’t want something to taste like coconut. Usually this is when sauteing vegetables, or when I need some oil to brown meat. My husband also uses it to cook eggs.

  7. Kim says:

    While I don’t bake hardly at all anymore, I use coconut oil for sauteeing meats and vegetables. The flavor is very subtle and very good. My daughter let me know about it, and I am so glad to be using it, as it is a healthier alternative.

  8. rebecca says:

    We love coconut oil in pancakes as well as to fry them in. On adding it to cold things, mix it with a little of the egg first, it emulsifies it and it will mix right in with the rest of the ingredients.

  9. I love using coconut oil as a body moisturizer, but I haven’t cooked much with it. Thanks for sharing your experience with it! I’m going to start using it more in recipes.

    • Victoria says:

      That’s funny – I’ve only ever used it in cooking. I’ll have to try it out for personal care applications.

  10. This is so good to know! I bought some and have used it to condition my hair (works AWESOME, by the way), but was wondering what I was going to do with ALL of it. Not sure why I didn’t think of using it to cook.

  11. Love all these ideas…can’t wait to try my first coconut oil replacement – which will probably be in brownies! 🙂

    I haven’t found it in my local stores yet…although my mom did tell me yesterday that our local supermarket carries it in the health food section? Now to find the time to go grab some!


  12. Sarah says:

    I love coconut oil. I find when I use it in our food it helps to keep my family healthier and more regular. I use it on my daughter too, clears up diaper rashes and prevents them too.

  13. They sell both refined and non-refined coconut oil in our local Walmarts, and now Trader Joe’s carries it, so I think stores are catching on!

  14. Swathi says:

    We are from part of world , Kerala, where everything is cooked with coconut oil. My grandma makes coconut oil in home. Nice review. thanks for sharing with Hearth and Soul Blog hop.

  15. Jennifer W says:

    I live in a small town and I’ve found it at my local Walmart. It’s in with the shortening, not with the other oils. It really is great for baked goods and for beauty products!

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  18. Susy B says:

    I’ve used this for soooo much! Usually as a non-greasy moisturizer – on face and body! Amazing on hands and elbows!! My daughter is ‘allergic’ to most of the ingredients in body lotions – so I put some of this in a small jar [gave her a ‘fancy spoon’ to help get the last bits 🙂 ] and she loves it! No more dry skin or reactions to ingredients. My grandson finally does not complain about being ‘slimed’ lol.
    And as to taste – there is none – no coconut taste at all. That’s why you can use it in any recipe!

    Well, that’s been my experience anyway – I use it any way I can think of. 🙂

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  21. Cathy says:

    I would love for you to share and link up at my weekly TGIF Link Party if you haven’t already this week. Your favorite posts, most popular, recent or new! The party is open every Thursday night and closes Tuesday’s at midnight. Followed by (Not SO) Wordless Wednesday!
    I would be honored if you join us and follow to stay connected Have a wonderful week!
    Hugs, Cathy

  22. Arline Byers says:

    How much cocnut oil is to much when frying?

  23. Arline Byers says:

    The cocnut oil that i have stays in a liquid form when kept in the cupboard. So I have to refrigerate it to keep it solid. The solid form can be measured out like crisco , is that right?

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