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Health & Nutrition

5 Healthy and Delicious Coconut Oil Recipes

Coconut oil is a great way to make recipes healthier — check out these great snacks and dishes for inspiration.
Coconut oil and coconut on a blue wooden table

By Emma Caplan-Fisher

Is coconut oil healthy to cook with? It's a question many ponder, drawn by its touted health benefits. From potentially boosting metabolism to aiding in reducing inflammation, coconut oil offers a range of advantages. In this article, we explore how to use coconut oil in 5 different recipes. Whether you're seeking to enhance your cooking skills or harness the goodness of coconut oil for skincare, this guide aims to showcase its versatility and potential health perks.

Is coconut oil good for you?

Is coconut oil healthy? It can be when the right type is consumed in moderation. Here are some potential benefits it can offer.

May boost metabolism and help with fat burning. Coconut oil made of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), fatty acids that get absorbed and metabolized quickly into the body, can help us to feel full, burn more calories, and prevent our bodies from storing the oil as fat. This differs from coconut oil made of lauric acid. While lauric acid has been reported to raise HDL cholesterol, thereby protecting the heart, it does take longer to absorb and metabolize.

May reduce inflammation. Animal studies have found that coconut oil has anti-inflammatory effects, and some human studies suggest this to a degree as well.

Cardiovascular disease risk? Some studies of populations that regularly consume coconut oil (e.g. in the Philippines, India, and Polynesia) have reported low rates of cardiovascular disease (however, other factors may also contribute to the findings).

However, since coconut oil contains a high amount of saturated fat (up to 90% of its total fat), something associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, it should be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. 

How can I use coconut oil for my health?

Here are a few ways you can incorporate coconut oil into a healthy routine:

1. Cooking. At room temperature, coconut oil stays solid, and it's stable at high temperatures due to its saturated fatty acids. This makes it ideal for many things like mixing into dressings or sauces, making homemade soups or stews, or sauteeing veggies or eggs, for example.

2. Baking. Melted coconut oil can be used instead of any other oil in baking like bars, cookies, and cakes. To avoid clumped batter, ensure any eggs and milk you're using are at room temperature before mixing in the coconut oil.

3. Drinking. You can enjoy coconut oil by adding 1-2 teaspoons to drinks like smoothies, juices, coffee, and tea.

4. Moisturizing and relieving skin. Coconut oil is a natural moisturizer, great for your hands, cuticles, legs, and other parts of the body. It can even repair cracked heels and chapped lips. The oil has also been found to improve skin disorders like dermatitis and eczema.

5. Protecting hair. A study found that coconut oil reduced protein loss from hair when it was applied before or after shampoo. This is because of the lauric acid's unique structure that penetrates the hair shaft.

Pros and cons of cooking with coconut oil

As you consider how you can use coconut oil in your routine, check out some of the main pros and cons of cooking with coconut oil.

Pros

  • Readily available
  • Less expensive than many other alternative oils
  • Maintains healthy fats when heated, as it withstands higher temperatures than other oils
  • Increases good cholesterol (HDL)
  • Dairy-free and vegan diet-friendly
  • Versatile for many uses — from baking cakes to frying veggies
  • Nice taste and texture, especially organic extra-virgin coconut oil

Cons

  • High in calories compared to alternatives like olive oil or butter
  • High in saturated fats, which should account for up to 13 grams of our daily intake
  • Not for deep-frying — the low smoking point (339.8°F) of coconut oil may cause carcinogens to release after continuous deep-frying

Tasty, healthy coconut oil recipes: What can I cook with coconut oil?

There are countless things you can make with coconut oil, for whatever you're craving. Here are just a few delicious coconut oil recipes to try.

Chocolate chip cookies with coconut oil

You'll need:

  • ¾ cup liquid-form coconut oil*
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 ½ cups flour (be precise here)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

*To melt coconut oil, microwave about 1 cup of solid, room-temperature coconut oil for 30-40 seconds until it’s melted down. Stir, then check your measurement and adjust accordingly (excess melted oil can be put back into the container).

Baking instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Whisk together liquid coconut oil, vanilla, eggs, and both sugars In a large mixing bowl.
3. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt until ingredients are combined and the dough is smooth.
4. Fold in chocolate chips until they're evenly distributed.
5. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop dough about 1 inch apart.
6. Bake for 9-12 minutes or until lightly browned.
7. Place on wire rack to cool.

Makes about 25-30 cookies.

Apple cinnamon granola

You'll need:

  • ¼ cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • ¾ cup coconut oil, melted
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ¾ cups walnuts, chopped
  • ½ cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 cup dried apple chips
  • 1 tablespoon apple pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Baking instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 250°F and line a sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, coconut oil, apple sauce, apple pie spice, cinnamon, and salt.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, stir in the oats with the pecans and walnuts.
4. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir well to coat and combine all ingredients.
5. Transfer the wet granola to a large baking sheet in a thin and even layer.
6. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown and toasted, stirring once halfway through.
7. Remove from oven to cool for 15-20 minutes and do not stir.
8. Add the apple chips and combine.

Coconut oil apple muffins

You'll need:

  • 1 ¾ cups white or regular whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup grated apple
  • 1 cup apple diced into ¼” cubes
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup melted coconut oil*
  • ½ cup maple syrup or honey**
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar to sprinkle on top

*To melt coconut oil, microwave about ½ cup of solid, room-temperature coconut oil for 20-30 seconds until it’s melted down. Stir, then check your measurement and adjust accordingly (excess melted oil can be put back into the container).

**If using honey: it can brown quickly, so bake muffins at 325°F for 23-25 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean).

Baking instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 425°F and, if needed, grease muffin cups with butter or non-stick cooking spray (nonstick pans won't require this).
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
3. Stir in the diced and grated apple (if dripping, gently squeeze it over the sink to release excess moisture).
4. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the oil and honey or maple syrup with a whisk. Beat in eggs, followed by the applesauce, yogurt, and vanilla, and mix well.
*If coconut oil solidifies, heat the mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time.
5. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix until just combined (expect a thick, slightly lumpy consistency).
6. Divide the batter evenly between 12 muffin cups and sprinkle tops with raw sugar.
7. Bake for 13 to 16 minutes, or until golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
8. Place on a cooling rack before serving.

Roast carrot coconut soup

You'll need:

  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 14-oz can coconut milk
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • kosher salt and pepper

Cooking instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Place carrots on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then roast for 20-25 minutes or until golden and caramelized.
3. Heat coconut oil in a pot. Once melted, stir in onions, garlic, ginger, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until onions soften (about 5-6 minutes).
4. Once carrots are ready, add them to the pot along with the stock. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
5. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender. Blend until pureed, then pour the soup back into the pot and heat on low.
6. Stir in coconut milk and lime juice until the soup is warmed. Season with more salt and pepper as needed.
7. Serve with a drizzle of coconut milk and sliced scallions on top.

Roast Brussels sprouts

You'll need:

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted*
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

*To melt coconut oil, add the two tablespoons to a small bowl. Set on top of oven to warm or, if needed, place inside oven for two minutes.

Cooking instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Slice Brussels sprouts in half and place in a large bowl.
3. Pour balsamic vinegar over the halves, toss to coat. Add melted coconut oil and toss again.
4. Arrange Brussels into a single layer on baking sheet, cut side facedown, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
5. Roast for 25 minutes or when lightly golden, turning the pan after 10 minutes.


Premade healthy snacks and foods that use coconut oil

You can reap the benefits of coconut oil even when you're on the go or don't otherwise have time to prepare homemade snacks. Plenty of premade healthy snacks are made with coconut oil. For example, simply grab a coconut oat bar or coconut almond chocolate chip bar on your way out the door.