I Cooked With Coconut Oil For A Week & The Results Were Surprising

Over the past few years, we've gone absolutely cuckoo for coconuts. We pick up everything from its water, milk, and flakes to coconut-infused beauty products. Our beauty team spent an entire week using coconut-only beauty products — so it's safe to say that R29 staffers are super fans of the super fruit. Since we've already covered most areas of coconutty goodness, we figured it was about time to dig into a specific area of this tough-to-crack tropical nut: the oil.
For those who may still be unfamiliar, coconut oil is "a fatty oil or semisolid fat extracted from fresh coconuts and used especially in making soaps and food products." It can be purchased in two varieties: refined or unrefined. Refined is essentially a tasteless and odorless processed form of the oil — ideal for those not into the coco-flavor and also for cooking foods at higher temperatures (because refined has a higher smoke point). Unrefined jars come stamped with a seal of "virgin" or "extra-virgin," and are generally regarded as the "healthier" of the two options — because they are fresher and unprocessed. The oil comes from raw coconuts with no additives or chemicals involved in the pressing process.
Although I've been a coconut oil user over the past few years, I decided to put the stuff in every single thing I ate AND drank (except for water) for an entire week. The results? Well for an already avid fan, they were pretty surprising — and may have just displaced my need for olive oil, almost completely.
Trader Joe's Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, $5.99, available at Trader Joe's.
My week long journey with coconut oil began with a brand new jar of organic, unrefined coconut oil (you can grab a jar at any old grocery chain convenient to you). I jumped into the week with a fresh jar of the oil and my list of weekday meal go-tos (i.e. smoothies, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, baked veggies, chicken, stir-fry, and more).
Breakfast: Frozen banana, mango, cherry, and almond milk smoothie
Lunch: Kale salad
Dinner: Sautéed veggies & farro
In my usual smoothie this morning, I blended a tablespoon of coconut oil in with the rest of the ingredients and it created an even creamier consistency without the addition of any almond or peanut butter. For lunch I had my standard kale salad with walnuts, feta, dried cranberries, and avocado — but instead of an olive oil based dressing, I whipped up some coco-oil with a little lemon juice. It was delicious! Later, I sautéd spinach and kale in the coconut oil, which ended up feeling less oily in the end than if I had used my usual olive oil. And spooning in a dollop into my pot of farro added a light burst of unexpected fresh flavor.
Breakfast: Smoothie
Lunch: Leftover sautéed veggies & farro
Dinner: Vegetable and tofu stir-fry
I had my same creamy smoothie for breakfast and leftovers for lunch, but for dinner I got back in the kitchen for a spin on one of my go-to faves. My finished stir-fry had a slightly fresher taste than my past attempts where I used sesame oil, and the coconut flavor mixed nicely with the addition of soy sauce and ginger.
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Leftover stir-fry
Dinner: Oven-baked chicken and roasted sweet potatoes
This might sound weird, but, yes, I stirred coconut oil into my oatmeal. And surprisingly it added a very velvety consistency to the cooked oatmeal. I also sprinkled some coconut flakes on top for good measure. Dinner was my first meal so far that wasn't exactly a success. I coated my chicken in a coconut oil marinade with added spices and popped in the oven to bake, like I normally would with olive oil when making a baked chicken dish. However, my meal started to smoke up very quickly and I had to adjust the temperature and remove the chicken prematurely before it had time to caramelize. The roasted veggies coated in coco-oil reacted very similarly — coconut oil just can't handle high heat oven situations.
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs
Lunch: Leftover sautéed veggies & farro
Dinner: Leftover baked chicken and sweet potatoes
After my slight chicken disaster, things got back to normal. For breakfast, I scrambled my eggs in a tablespoon of coconut oil instead of olive oil or butter and the result was even fluffier, and creamier than I imagined possible. (Seriously, give this one a shot.) For lunch and dinner, I went with trusty leftovers, although once again the chicken left something to be desired.
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Kale salad
Dinner: Penne pasta with lemon zest and red pepper flakes
For breakfast and lunch, it was back to my new favorite way of eating oatmeal and making salad dressing. At dinner though, I tried something that might be seen as semi-blasphemous — using coconut oil in my pasta. I melted a few tablespoons together with lemon zest and red pepper flakes in place of olive oil for the pasta sauce — the slight sweetness of the coconut oil mixed with the punch of the lemon and red pepper flakes was an unexpected, but delicious flavor combo. The only downside was my wariness to add cheese in this instance. I'm just not sure the two would have mixed...
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs
Snack: Popcorn
Dinner: Leftover pasta
I won't be going back to my old buttery ways when this experiment ends. Scrambled eggs with coconut oil have really won me over. Later in the day, it's time for a snack. I have been popping my popcorn on the stove with coconut butter for a few years now, and I swear by it. The oil cooks and coats the popcorn in a perfectly smooth way so that all the finished product needs is a pinch of salt. Dinner is leftover pasta, sans cheese again.
Brunch: Pancakes and coffee
Dinner: A leftover hodgepodge
Dessert: Chocolate chip cookies
This one was shocking! I usually drink my coffee black, but this was the first day I made coffee at home all week and I had to put my experiment to the test. Surprisingly, the coconut oil added a velvetier consistency with a nutty taste, without any dairy. And I swear putting some coconut oil into my pancake batter made them fluffier than ever.
Less, shocking was that adding coconut oil in place of butter in baked goods like chocolate chip cookies turned out to be a seriously tasty substitution. And although the consistency of the finished product was a bit flatter (not as fluffy as with butter), it had a punch of coconutty flavor and I was into it.
Here's what I learned:
After a week of cooking with coconut oil, I found that each of my usual recipes reacted surprisingly well to the new addition — whether I was replacing olive oil or simply using it as an extra add-in (yes, even in coffee!)
The overall effect I'd best describe as luxurious without feeling too oily. Past dishes where I used olive oil that tended to feel a bit too drenched (e.g. sautéing spinach or kale) now felt brighter and still creamy with coconut oil. And while the tropical coconutty flavor was hinted at occasionally, it was never overpowering — at it's most apparent, it was only a bit nutty!
The only times in which this experiment went awry occurred when I attempted to roast and/or bake with the oil at high temperatures for extended periods of time (e.g. roasting vegetables and baking chicken). For those sorts of future cooking feats, I will be sticking to olive oil. But all in all, the coconut oil pros heavily outweighed the cons in taste and quality alone. Plus the $5.99 jar lasted me longer than a comparable sized (and probably more expensive) bottle of olive oil would have.
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