Coconut has truly been a food revelation and appears in so many recipes now, from baking to even being used as a butter replacement. It’s now often as much a cooking ingredient as it is part of many people’s beauty routines, but how much do you know about it?
Coconut oil is made from the fruit of the coconut palm, which grows in tropical climates. There are two main types – refined and virgin.
Refined coconut oil is made from copra – the meat from the coconut that has been scraped out and dried for several days, either in the sun or in a kiln in more sophisticated processing plants. This refining process can strip away some of the nutrients and taste but refined oil has a higher smoke point than unrefined, so makes it a better option for higher-heat cooking and baking. Refined oil can be heated up to 185C.
Virgin oil is from fresh coconuts, so the flavour is more pronounced but has a lower smoke point (up to 140C) so is a good choice for no-cook or -bake recipes as well as light sautéing on medium heats, where the more pronounced coconut flavour will also add a beneficial flavour profile.
Coconut oil has a melting point of just 25C so can often be liquid in a jar unless it is stored in a cool place with little heat fluctuation.
But is it really good for me?
Coconut oil is high in saturated fats, but more understanding of fats now means we look at those differently in each case rather than just deeming them all bad. Coconut oil contains several different types of saturated fatty acids, including lauric, myristic, palmitic and caprylic acids, with virgin coconut oil containing the most lauric acids. These fall into a special category of fatty acids known as medium chain triglycerides, or MCTs. MCTs are metabolised quicker than others, making them better for us as they boost the good cholesterol (known as HDL). The downside is they also raise LDL, or bad cholesterol, too, so their use – like any saturated fat with the same sort of profile – is great in moderation. Bear in mind coconut oil is 90% saturated fat. Butter is about 60%, something to ponder when you are thinking abut moderation and use.
Coconut’s natural sweetness and taste are good factors when using the oil for baking, where it can be used in place of butter or oil. It can also be used to fry chicken, roast vegetables or be used as a base oil to cook off curry pastes.
We stock various coconut oils at Farro for both your cooking and everyday beauty routines, and now you know a bit more about it, you can choose which one works for you.
Coconut milk: Organic and Fairtrade origins are extra considerations when buying coconut products, so check the labelling for that aspect. We stock Fairtrade coconut milk, which is fantastic and only costs a little extra, but is a preferred option for our recipe creators as its taste is very good and as the cream separates in the can it can easily be scooped out to use in other dishes.