A few years ago, I had never even heard of coconut oil. Now? I use it almost daily!
Chances are, you’ve heard of coconut oil, too, since it’s been getting a lot of press lately. If you’ve wondered what to actually do with it, let me share with you the main uses I’ve found for coconut oil.
Although you’ll find coconut oil in the health food store–and even in many local grocery stores now–it’s usually just sold in small jars and it’s on the pricey side. If you want coconut oil to become a staple in your pantry, buy a jar in a larger size, online. I currently get mine from Amazon. The prices for different brands of coconut oil change, so shop around a bit each time you place a new order. Organic virgin coconut oil is the least processed and has the most health benefits, so look for that on the label!
Note that coconut oil is a liquid at 76 degrees Fahrenheit, so you may need to change its consistency, depending on what you’re using it for. If you need it in liquid form, melt it on low heat over the stove top or in the microwave. If you need it more solidified, place it in the fridge until it hardens up to the desired consistency.
Here’s how I use coconut oil in my home:
In baked goods
When a recipe calls for vegetable oil, you can easily replace it with coconut oil. And no, the finished product will not taste like coconut!
The key to using coconut oil in baked goods is to bring all of the cold ingredients to room temperature before beginning your recipe. If you add liquid coconut oil to cold eggs or milk it will begin to solidify, making it difficult to distribute throughout the batter. To be honest, you get the best results with baked goods when you bring all the ingredients to room temperature anyway, regardless of whether or not you’re using coconut oil. Coconut oil works great for these Heavenly Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins and this Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting!
You can also use coconut oil in solid form as a substitute for shortening. (Shortening is a hydrogenated oil and contains trans fats. It’s one of the top ingredients we try to avoid around here!) If you use solidified coconut oil in pie crusts or cookies, you might notice a slight nutty flavor, which I think is pretty tasty. But if the flavor is off-putting to you, use refined coconut oil instead of virgin coconut oil.
We’ve found that coconut oil works well for frying and sauteing a number of different foods. With fried foods, you might get just a hint of coconut in the final taste, but we haven’t found it to be off-putting for most foods. Here are some things you can use coconut oil for on the stove top:
- Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Salmon Burgers
- Coconut Fried Shrimp
- Fried Shrimp with Lemon Butter Sauce
- Home fries and potato hash
- Sauteed vegetables and greens
Coconut oil seems to go especially well when frying seafood or Asian-inspired dishes.
For chaffed skin
When Little Dude was a newborn, I would apply coconut oil after every nursing session. Coconut oil is antibacterial, which makes it a good choice over lanolin for keeping infection at bay. It’s very moisturizing; I never experienced any cracked skin or bleeding.
I also sometimes massage coconut oil into Little Dude’s skin before bedtime. It works great for chapped skin if he’s been outdoors on a cold day, or for chaffed skin from dry indoor heat.
Occasionally I use coconut oil to soothe irritated skin after shaving, or as a carrier oil when using essential oils for a massage. It’s important to note that coconut oil can stain your clothing if it drips onto it, so wash your hands after applying the oil. If you use it for massage or moisturizing, blot your skin with a towel afterwards to remove any excess oil.
In skincare products
I don’t actually make most of my own skincare products. I prioritize other from-scratch items, like food, to keep my life simple. However, I do really like this recipe for homemade whipped body butter, especially for winter skin. In the past I’ve used coconut oil in this homemade natural deodorant, although now I buy a similar ready-made deodorant from Lexie:Naturals.
Although some people recommend it, I don’t use coconut oil as a facial moisturizer, since it is mildly comedogenic (i.e., it can clog pores).
For oil pulling
I’ve recently incorporated oil pulling into my regular morning routine. I swish a teaspoon of oil around in my mouth for about 10 minutes, then spit it into the trashcan. Oil pulling helps to whiten teeth naturally and promotes better oral health. Supposedly, it’s also a gentle way to detox. I haven’t been doing it regularly for long, so I don’t have any dramatic results to report. But maybe I’ll let you know further down the road when it’s been a habit for longer! For now, I’m just enjoying how clean my mouth feels after pulling! For more info on oil pulling, you might be interested in checking out Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxifying and Healing the Body Through Oil Cleansing by Bruce Fife. Other bloggers have written more extensively about oil pulling here and here.