Why use coconut oil in baking?

tools and ingredients for baking with coconut oil

If coconut oil is a kitchen or pantry staple in your house, chances are you already know how beneficial it can be to bake with. Coconut oil is a popular ingredient in vegan recipes, but you don’t have to follow a strict vegan diet to incorporate it into your baking. This aromatic oil is versatile, potentially better for you than other cooking oils, and works incredibly well as a vegan butter substitute in baking. Here’s what you need to know about getting creative in the kitchen and using coconut oil for baking.

What Is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil is the liquid gold extracted from the milk and meat of a coconut. It’s produced in both tropical and cooler climates alike. There isn’t just one type of coconut oil, it actually comes in a variety of types. Each type has unique properties best suited for specific applications. Coconut oil comes in two basic varieties: refined and virgin. The difference between virgin coconut oil and refined coconut oil lies in how the oil is extracted. Virgin, or unrefined coconut oil is cold-pressed. The oil is extracted without any additives or solvents, remaining in its purest form. Using a cold-pressed coconut oil for baking will bring a strong coconut fragrance and flavor to your recipes. The extraction process for refined coconut oil involves heat and may include additives (depending on the brand). The payoff of opting for a refined oil in baking is in the taste and scent. Refined oil is much more neutral in scent, so the coconut flavor does not come through in the final bake. For those with a hypersensitivity to the flavor and scent of coconut, try Wildly Organic’s expeller pressed coconut oil. This is a no-taste option that maintains the benefits of using coconut oil, without the flavor.

Learning about how each oil type is produced will help to determine which oil will work best for your needs. When choosing the right coconut oil for you, consider things like processing methods, taste, stability and intended use.

How To Bake With Coconut Oil

One of the best things about coconut oil is how versatile it is, both inside the kitchen and out. You can use coconut oil as a vegan butter substitute in baking and cooking, at a roughly one-to-one ratio. While this substance is flexible in terms of use and measurement, there are some key differences to be mindful of. Things like temperature, type of oil, and texture can impact the outcome of your recipe.

When using coconut oil for baking as a substitute for butter or other oils, it’s important to remember moisture. Depending on the recipe, you may need a splash of additional liquid to add back in the moisture that would normally come from butter. Coconut oil can be used in liquid form or as a solid, and can easily transform between the two states. Consider which form makes the most sense for your recipe. Use solid coconut oil as a solid butter substitute and liquid coconut oil as a replacement for melted butter. Temperature plays an important role in determining which kind of oil is best for your bake. Refined coconut oil begins to smoke at 400 degrees fahrenheit. Because of its ability to withstand heat, it works best as a vegan butter baking substitute in recipes that call for medium to high temperatures. Unrefined coconut oil is best for low temperature recipes. Most baked goods go in the oven at 350 degrees (Fahrenheit), making the best substitute virgin coconut oil for baking. Coconut oil has an average shelf life of two years. It is normal for the product to liquify and solidify multiple times, changes to the form are not harmful. 

solid coconut oil with wooden scoop

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil’s rising popularity, in part, stems from its potential health benefits. Coconut oil is primarily derived from a particular type of saturated fats called medium-chain triglycerides, MCT’s for short. Evidence suggests that MCTs *may contribute to weight loss by increasing the number of calories burned. Coconut oil may also be an appetite suppressant. However, any factors contributing to weight loss should be taken with a grain of salt. Extensive research with concrete results needs to be conducted to confirm potential effects. Keep in mind that while coconut oil as a vegan butter substitute in baking, may be considered a more health conscious baking oil, it is still very high in saturated fat. In addition to coconut oil’s possible metabolic impact, it can be a great source of energy. MCT’s are easily and quickly absorbed by the body; much like drinking a cup of coffee, consuming coconut oil may temporarily increase energy levels. Individuals with caffeine sensitivities may find coconut oil to be a helpful alternative.

Using coconut oil for baking is a great way to get your daily dose of antioxidants. Coconut oil contains five main antioxidants: tocopherols, tocotrienols, phytosterols, flavonoids, and polyphenols. Studies suggest that products rich in antioxidants, like coconut oil, have anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and brain-protective properties, all of which ward off disease and promote overall wellness. 

What to Expect

Making the switch from butter and other baking oils to coconut oil is easy! This should be a seamless transition, but if you are new to using coconut oil for baking, knowing what to expect from your finished bake will eliminate any unpleasant surprise outcomes. 

Be mindful of the form. Using room temperature, or solid, coconut oil will result in a light and flakey finish. Proactively think about your flavor. Liquid or softened oil can be mixed with sweeteners to create a desired flavor. Remember the taste difference in virgin vs. refined coconut oils. The texture of your dish is equally as important as the flavor. Adding a bit of extra liquid will help avoid a dry or brittle bake. Using coconut oil as a vegan butter substitute in baking adds dimension to the recipe’s flavor profile and results in a lighter, less dense finished product. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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