You may be hearing more and more about coconut oil lately. It seems like you can use it for anything; I know people who use it as a hair supplement, and I personally use it on my skin whenever I get a sunburn. However, coconut oil is a great substitute for other cooking oils and fats like butter, shortening, and vegetable oil. I’m here to tell you all about cooking with coconut oil and how you can use it in the place of other everyday ingredients.

There are actually several benefits to incorporating coconut oil into everyday meals. As I’ve already mentioned, people use it for their hair and skin. It has moisturizing properties and promotes youthful skin, and many people swear by its ability to add a natural shine to hair. In addition, despite it being an oil, it’s actually very good for your heart. The lauric acid in coconut oil actually maintains cholesterol and blood pressure levels, rather than increasing them. Lauric acid also does wonders for the immune system. Coconut oil is also very easy to digest compared to other oils or butters, so it increases the body’s metabolism and could be a natural aid in weight loss or even digestive issues (such as IBS).

So, now that I’ve convinced you to switch over to the coconutty side, here are some tips for using coconut oil in the kitchen.

  1. The magic number is 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on where you’re storing it, coconut oil can actually be a solid or a liquid (which is why you can substitute it for shortening as easily as you can substitute it for olive oil). It will be a solid below 76 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure you’re storing it according to how you need it!
  2. When substituting for fats, the ratio is 1:1. If the recipe calls for one cup of butter, canola oil, vegetable oil, etc., you can swap it out for one cup of coconut oil. Simple as that!
  3. When substituting for shortening, the rule’s a little different. If you want to use coconut oil instead of shortening (like Crisco, for example), you should actually add 25 percent less coconut oil than the recipe calls for. For example, if the recipe calls for one cup of shortening, you would use ¾ cup of coconut oil.
  4. Keep it consistent. One of the most common things people replace with coconut oil is butter. That’s great, but make sure you pay attention to the recipe. Remember how I said coconut oil can be a solid or a liquid? That’s really important when you’re using it instead of butter. If the recipe calls for solid butter, you’ll want to make sure you’re using solid coconut oil in order to keep the texture of whatever you’re cooking consistent. Likewise, if the recipe calls for melted butter, make sure you’re using liquid coconut oil.
  5. If you’re using liquid coconut oil, bring all the other ingredients to room temperature before incorporating them. Say, for example, you’re using milk and liquid coconut oil in a recipe. If you pull the milk right out of the fridge and mix it with the coconut oil, it’s possible that the coconut oil could get too cold and start to seize up into a solid. Make sure all your cold ingredients are about the same temperature as the coconut oil before you start to mix them in.
  6. Decide if you want to taste the coconut. If you’re making cookies, for example, and you decide you want a little extra coconut flavor, no one would blame you. Or maybe you don’t like coconuts at all, but you want the health benefits of cooking with coconut oil. There is a solution to all of it. If you want to taste the coconut, you should buy unrefined coconut oil. This is pure coconut oil, so it isn’t as processed. When you cook with it, a lot of the coconut flavor is retained. On the other hand, if you don’t want to taste coconut at all, you’d want to buy refined coconut oil. It’s a lot more processed, so the flavor is removed even before you start cooking with it.
  7. Substituting with coconut oil does not affect cook time. If the recipe calls for 45 minutes in the oven, using coconut oil as a substitute will not affect that at all.
  8. You may have to adjust the amount of salt in your recipe. Especially if your original recipe calls for salted butter, you may have to add a little more salt so that your final product tastes the same. The rule of thumb here: A stick of butter has about half a teaspoon of salt.

With these tips about replacing everyday ingredients with coconut oil, I wish you happy (and healthy) cooking!

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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