I have received several requests to explain what are different kinds of coconut oil available in the market.
I can understand this confusion as there are so many kinds of coconut oils available in the market – virgin coconut oil, extra virgin oil, organic coconut oil, expeller pressed coconut oil, refined coconut oil and several more.
In such cases, it is difficult to judge which one to buy and identify which ones are suitable for you. I explain here, in brief, these various kinds.
Table of Contents
- History of Coconut oil
- Types of Coconut Oil
- 1. Virgin Coconut Oil
- 2. Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- 3. RBD Coconut Oil
- 4. Organic Coconut oil
- Difference Between Virgin and RBD Coconut Oil
- Which coconut Oil to choose: Virgin or RBD?
- Nutritional Value of Coconut Oil
- The magic of Medium Chain Fatty Acids
- How to Store Coconut oil
- Which coconut oil brand is best?
History of Coconut oil
In tropical areas across the globe, our ancestors have been using this wonderful fruit for their good health.
In fact in many tropical countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Nigeria etc. people still use coconut oil very prominently.
For example, in India coconut oil is used a lot for cooking as well as hair oil; it is also a very important part of India’s Ayurvedic medicine system which has evolved using thousands of years of research and experience.
In Panama, for example, people drink coconut oil to overcome sickness. Similarly, in Nigeria and Jamaica, people use coconut oil in various ways to ensure they remain fit and fine.
Such examples are numerous, studies have shown that excellent health of natives who inhabit the islands of South Pacific can largely be attributed to their largely coconut diet.
According to various records, formal documentation and research on the benefits of coconut oil were on full swing in 1950’s.
But in spite of all its benefits, it lost its traction by 1980’s.
The primary reason for the same is the popularity of Soybean oil. The Soybean oil lobby propagated that as coconut oil is a saturated oil (more on types of oils later in this chapter), it leads to heart-related problems.
The primary reason for this campaign was to ensure that tropical oils (coconut and palm) which were primarily imported loose grounds in this multi-billion dollar industry and can be replaced by domestically produced Soybean oil.
Despite extensive research produced by many researchers that tropical oils are not harmful and the claims by ASA and other organization are not correct, tropical oils across the board lost their popularity because of an extensive negative campaign run by American Soybean Association (ASA), health groups, etc.
It was joined by print and television media alike. Restaurants stopped using coconut oils, so did food manufacturers and later end consumers also were trapped into the misconception.
Thus, what was a popular oil type reduced to villain.
The result of the above is, today in America, usage of the health-promoting coconut oil is next to nil, while Soybean oil accounts for biggest consumption chunk.
Most of this oil is hydrogenated which is contain a high amount of trans fatty acid very harmful for human body.
Studies have shown that average in a single restaurant meal in 1982 contained 2.4 gms trans fatty acid while today it has close to 20 gms!
As our eating habits have not changed drastically, it is easy to deduce that it’s the oil we use which is causing the majority of this increase.
Types of Coconut Oil
If we get down to basics there are just two kinds of coconut oils in the market:
- virgin coconut oil
- and refined, bleached, and deodorized (RBD) oil
All other coconuts oils are variations of these two kinds of oils. The primary difference between these two oils is based on 1) the types of coconuts used and 2) extent of procession done to produce them.
Let’s now see what all types of coconut oils are available in market and terms used to describe them –
1. Virgin Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil is made using the meat of fresh mature (brown coconuts) coconuts.
The word virgin is added in front to signify that the coconut oil has not been extracted by applying extreme heat and using harsh chemical solvents.
This is simple terms means that virgin coconut oil almost retains the health benefits and quality.
Virgin coconut oils retain naturally occurring phytochemicals which also give this oil a distinct flavor and aroma.
Virgin coconut oil is considered to be the purest / non-adulterated form of coconut oil and expensive than RBD oil.
How is Virgin coconut oil produced?
There are three methods of producing virgin coconut oil – fermentation, cold pressed and centrifuge method. Each method has its pros and cons.
This is considered to be one of the oldest processes of producing virgin / pure coconut oil.
This process can also be used at homes to produce coconut oil.
In the process, This process involves making coconut milk from fresh meat of mature coconuts. This meat is then allowed to ferment for almost a day or two in containers.
After fermentation, the containers develop three layers – coconut oil, water, and coconut curd.
Water drops down at the bottom and coconut oil forms the middle layer. Water is removed and then coconut oil is removed from curd.
This method is great but with certain limitations.
This method produces coconut oil of different taste every time. This is because of the extent of fermentation which takes place.
The second issue can be that acid of fermentation is sometimes left in the oil giving it even more peculiar taste. Thus different batches of the same brand may have different taste.
Cold press method
To extract virgin coconut oil, coconut should be subjected to minimum heat and chemicals.
In cold press method of production, a mechanical press is used to extract oil from the coconut. The process is as follows:
- Fresh mature coconuts are cut and dried/dehydrated using heat (but not at high temperatures).
- A mechanical press is then used to press these coconut flakes to extract oil from them
- Putting pressure dies increases the temperature of coconut but it is so low that it does not alter its natural properties at all
There might be some solids which remain the oil. They are then removed using simple filtration techniques.
As one can notice this method of making coconut oil is not very complicated and can be produced at both small and large scale.
In tropical regions where high-end mechanical press engines are not available bullock based pressing techniques are used to extract the oil.
Benefits of a cold / expeller pressed coconut oil?
These are no additives added and there are no heat and chemical treatments. Coconut oil produced using cold press / expeller press method is pure and retains all the key health-promoting nutrients of a coconut namely – medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, etc.
This means that almost all key health benefits one associates with coconut meat are also provided by this oil. Thus as compared to ordinary coconut oil (RBD coconut oil) cold pressed coconut oil has the potential to provide more health benefits.
The second key benefit of cold/expeller pressed coconut oil is its aroma and taste.
This oil tastes like fresh coconut and smells like the same too. Thus the food prepared using this oil has the natural aroma of coconuts.
Limitations with using cold / expeller pressed coconut oil
This type of coconut oil has low smoking point (smoking point is a temperature where an oil starts degenerating ) and thus not very suitable for deep frying etc.
This oil is also expensive as compared to ordinary coconut oil because of obvious reasons.
Some people consider cold pressed coconut oil better than the one produced using fermentation as the taste of fermentation-based oil changes from batch to batch thus leading to inconsistencies.
As the name suggests the key aspect of the whole method is a centrifuge.
A centrifuge is an equipment driven by electricity which rotates around a fixed axis.
You must have seen a washing machine dryer, it works on the same principle – drum acts as centrifuge and water is literally forced out due to the fast spinning.
How does this work in case of coconut oil?
In the case of coconut oil extraction using the centrifugal method, the first step is to produce coconut milk using fresh mature coconut meat.
Coconut milk actually is a natural oil in water emulsion. An emulsion consists of two immiscible liquids, where one is dispersed as very fine droplets into another.
When kept for sometime this unstable emulsion starts separating but takes too much time, this is where the centrifugal process helps.
With the use of the centrifugal process, the separation speed of oil and water is greatly enhanced without using any chemical process of heat.
As centrifuge moves, coconut oils start moving towards its center and then can be collected.
This separates coconut oil and water.
There are several parameters which can be altered to increase the efficiency of the process including the temperature of coconut milk, time of rotation and rotation speed.
These parameters are tweaked to get the best quality of coconut oil.
Characteristics of Centrifugal process coconut oil
As mentioned earlier, coconut oil produced using centrifugal process is one of the closest to the properties of actual coconut meat because of lack of harsh processing. This oil has the following characteristics :
- Retains all health properties of a raw coconut as all nutrients – vitamins, minerals, MCTs are preserved in the process
- It smells like fresh coconut
- It tastes like fresh coconut
- In terms of colour, it is colorless as normal vegetable oil
- It has a low smoking point (close to 170 C) as compared to above 220 C for refined coconut oil
- Expensive as compared to buying refined coconut oil
Which coconut oil method is best?
It is tough to say which method is best. In terms of processing – centrifuge method has interfered least with raw coconut meat.
Thus in some sense, it is closest to a coconut. Other two involve chemical and physical intervention and thus their taste and aroma also become different.
Most of the companies which make virgin coconut oil write the process used to make the oil. Based on what type of oil best suits you and your pocket you can choose one.
In my opinion, there will not be a huge difference between the health benefits of the oil produced from any of the above three methods.
How to test is coconut oil is indeed virgin coconut oil
The biggest issue with virgin coconut oil identification is that there is no set standard on when a coconut oil can be called virgin coconut oil.
This causes a lot of low-quality oils to be sold as virgin coconut oil. The hallmark of virgin coconut oil is that it smells and tastes like coconut.
The smell is generally mild and so is taste. If your oil has no taste or has very strong one then it is most likely not a virgin coconut oil.
Most virgin coconut oils are expensive. If you are getting a coconut oil with a virgin label on it very cheap then you should get suspicious of the quality.
Virgin coconut oil is the purest form of coconut oil made from fresh coconuts (mature coconuts). As the name suggests these are subjected to light processing.
This means high temperatures, chemical solvents etc. are not used to produce virgin coconut oil. Key methods used to produce virgin coconut oil include fermentation (using this method you can make virgin coconut oil at home too), boiling, refrigeration, pressing etc.
The greatest benefit of using virgin coconut oil is that you get the benefits of coconut oil as present in a fresh coconut.
2. Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Many producers added extra in front of “virgin” to signify that the processing which the oil has undergone is even lesser than what a virgin oil would undergo.
Primarily this means that the oil has not been subjected to heat. The primary issue with this term is that there is no set “definition” for the same.
One producer can actually not use heat and add “extra” in its name while the other can use mild heat and still call it extra virgin coconut oil. In my opinion, in most cases, it is a marketing tool and nothing else.
3. RBD Coconut Oil
This is the common coconut oil we see in the market. This is made using dried coconut (also called copra).
Coconut meat is cut into small pieces and then left to dry under the sun for a period it is ready for extraction. While this kind of drying is an essential step it has its disadvantages too.
During this process, coconut meat may gather dust, infections, fungus, or other potentially unwanted and harmful substances.
What this drying does is it leaves coconut oil in the meanwhile water/moisture is evaporated.
When coconut meat is sufficiently dry (often called as copra) it is then pressed (with a temperature 100-130 C) to extract the oil in it.
Temperature also serves by killing microorganisms etc. which might have grown on copra. Now, this oil may have all possible harmful contaminants one can think of and thus is not fit for cooking.
This oil is then taken through refining, bleaching, and deodorizing process. The process is as follows:
- The first stage is to remove the gums, this is also called degumming. This stage also removes pro-oxidative trace metals present. Then free fatty acids are neutralized using caustic soda.
- Oil is then bleached using activated charcoal (or other materials). The aim is to remove pigments, etc.
- Using filters such as Diatomaceous earth (is a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that is easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder) chemicals added above for refining ad bleaching are removed.
- Deodorization of the oil is done using steam or vacuum methods.
This basically is the process of RBD coconut oil production. Refining aids used can vary from company to company.
Characteristics of refined coconut oil
Key characteristics of RBD coconut oil are:
- It is tasteless
- It is odourless
- It has high smoke point (close to 220 C)
- It does not have any colour
- It is less expensive as compared to virgin coconut oil
Apart from the above, refined coconut oil is much more easily available as compared to virgin coconut oil.
4. Organic Coconut oil
This is another popular one.
Organic coconut oil actually means that the coconuts used were grown organically and the process did not use chemicals etc.
Well, again in this case just adding a term “organic” does not mean anything unless it’s certified by an authority (USDA organic for example in case of USA).
USDA organic certification is the seal that the product is genuinely organic. Many coconut oil providers such as Nutiva etc. have such certification for their products.
But there is a catch here also. There is not one but several kinds of “organic” certifications provided by USDA based on “the extent of organic” a product is. Here are the categories :
- 100 % percent organic certification is given when an agricultural product (raw or processed) is made of ingredients which are also certified 100% organic and all processing aids should also be organic.
- “Organic” certification: This certification is given in cases when all agricultural inputs used are also certified organic. There is a limited % of non-organic ingredients allowed in this case.
- “Made with organic” certification: At least 70 % of the ingredients should be certified organic.
The above is just a summary of the parameters, you can get details here. If the above criteria are met, a product must also ensure:
- It is produced without using a process such as genetic engineering, etc.
- Should not use prohibited substances
So when a company approaches USDA for certification it sends agents to verify their claims and the issues certificates accordingly.
Characteristics of organic coconut oil
Organic coconut oil has to be virgin coconut oil because if it is not virgin then anyways it is not organic.
Thus as far as health benefits are concerned, organic coconut oil will have benefits of virgin coconut oil. There is no specific characteristic as such except these:
- Coconut cultivation should not use inorganic methods to grow the coconut
- Should not use inorganic chemicals to process the coconut to make coconut milk/coconut oil
So how to identify organic coconut oil then?
- You can use this points to identify organic coconut oil:
- Refined coconut oil cannot be organic at all
- Not all virgin coconut oil may be organic unless certified. This is a huge problem with coconut oil as there is no set standard for what one will call “virgin” coconut oil. Thus virgin coconut oil producers may use a different degree of processing and still call themselves virgin. But this is not the case with organic certification (atleast in USA).
- To be organic coconut oil SHOULD have a genuine certification from an independent agency. In the USA this is USDA.
- There are several types of organic coconut oils possible – make sure you understand them well before buying them. A “100% organic” oil is different from “Organic” etc.
So next time you see an organic claim make sure to take care of the above points and you will be able to identify if your coconut oil is genuinely organic or fake.
Difference Between Virgin and RBD Coconut Oil
The key differences between Virgin and RBD coconut oil include – the source they are made from, production process, appearance, taste, aroma, smoking point, % presence of healthy nutrients in oil and lastly price tag.
All these differences are discussed below in detail.
1. The difference in terms of source of the oil
The difference between the two oils starts as early as the source used to produce them.
Virgin coconut oil is made using the meat of fresh coconuts (mature coconuts) while RBD or ordinary coconut oil is produced using dried coconut or copra.
2. Production / extraction process
This is the key differentiating factor between the two oils. As the name suggests, virgin coconut oil is exposed to least possible processing in terms of heat, pressure, and chemicals.
The same is not true with ordinary coconut oils and chemical solvents and heat are used to produce them.
There are three ways one can produce virgin coconut oil – 1) fermentation 2) cold press and 3) centrifugal process.
All these three processes do not use high temperatures nor chemical solvents to extract the oil.
In the case of the centrifugal process, the rotation is used to separate the oil while in case of fermentation mild heat / refrigeration is used for the same. The key thing is – low temperatures and no chemicals.
The same is not true in case of RBD oils. The extraction involves the use of heavy pressure, heat, and solvents to make the oil tasteless and odorless.
3. Difference in appearance
In terms of appearance, there is not much difference between these oils. Both these oils look almost the same when in liquid form.
In a few cases one may find fine solid particles in virgin coconut oil (this is due to the processing method used, for example, fermentation sometimes leaves sold particles behind if the separation is not done correctly).
RBD coconut oil is very clear primarily because it has been processed to achieve it.
4. Taste, Smell/aroma
This is one great way to distinguish virgin coconut oil and ordinary coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil tastes and smells like a fresh coconut. This smell is mild, not strong.
On the other hand, ordinary coconut oil / RBD has no odour at all. RBD coconut oil is like any other vegetable oil, it does not smell of the source it is extracted from. RBD coconut oil does not have any taste of its own.
This peculiar taste and smell of virgin coconut oil is the reason of not its uniqueness. But not all users like to have coconut smell and taste in their food. For them, RBD coconut oil is more suitable.
5. Smoking point
Smoking point is the temperature where the oil starts degenerating and becoming bad for using.
Higher the smoking point safer the oil for frying purposes (as frying involves higher temperatures than normal cooking and baking).
Smoking point of virgin coconut oil is close to 170 C which is good enough for normal cooking but not very good for frying.
The smoking point of RBD coconut oil is above 220 C which is very suitable for frying purposes.
Thus, if you want to use coconut oil for extensive frying, it is better to use RBD coconut oil.
6. Medium chained triglycerides (MCTs)
MCTs are one of the key reason why coconut oil is so healthy. Fortunately, MCTs are not destroyed even while coconut oil is subjected to processing to make RBD coconut oil.
This is because MCTs are very stable and do not get destroyed easily by heating.
7. Other healthy nutrients
While MCTs are not destroyed during processing some other nutrients such as Vitamin E, poly-phenols etc. may get affected.
These are some of the nutrients which are more sensitive to heat and chemicals used for refining and bleaching of coconut oil.
8. Price tag
Virgin coconut oil is expensive than ordinary coconut oil. This is because the way it is produced. Further, the production is also less.
RBD coconut oil is mass produced and benefits from economies of scale due to extensive use of technology in producing it.
Which coconut Oil to choose: Virgin or RBD?
If given a choice always go for virgin coconut oil as the health benefits of virgin coconut oil are more prominent as compared to RBD. But this is not to say RBD coconut oil is bad.
RBD coconut oil is also not bad because even in that case the key ingredient which provides benefit in coconut oils – medium chain triglycerides are present. Thus RBD coconut oil will be better than going for any other long-chain polyunsaturated oil any day.
Another factor which can play an important part in deciding is how much you love the aroma and taste of coconut. Many people do not like their oil to define the taste of their food.
For them, RBD is the best option. In case you do not mind your food to have mild coconut aroma and taste go for virgin coconut oil.
The way I handle this is – I keep both virgin and RBD coconut oil.
Based on the dish we prepare we decide which one to use. In case we feel the dish should have an independent aroma, we go for RBD else we go with virgin coconut oil. maybe you can use the same method!
Nutritional Value of Coconut Oil
When I had posted about the nutrition value of coconut milk and coconut water, I received an email if I can write the same on coconut oil. Of course, I can but there is a difference when we write on a food as compared to an oil – in most cases the oil is just fat and only a few other nutrients (mineral and vitamins).
The second problem which I face while writing about nutrition value of coconut oil is the data available in most cases is for refined (RBD) coconut oil and not of virgin coconut oil and in many other cases it is not even specified which coconut oil type the writer is talking about.
This is an important information as RBD coconut oil is stripped of most of the nutrients except the fat content.
I believe the reason behind non-reporting of nutrition value of virgin coconut oil is that there is no standard of what you can call as virgin coconut oil, while in case of RBD coconut oil it exists.
Nevertheless, here are some stats for RBD coconut oil. As you can observe, it has only a few other nutrients except fat. In fact, if you see in terms of weight, coconut oil is 100% fat.
|Total lipid (fat)||g||100|
|Carbohydrate, by difference||g||0|
|Fiber, total dietary||g||0|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 1||mg||0.09|
|Tocopherol, gamma 1||mg||0.2|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone)||µg||0.5|
|Lipids / Fats||g||100|
|Fatty acids, total saturated||g||86.5|
|Fatty acids, total monounsaturated||g||5.8|
|Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated||g||1.8|
Minerals and vitamins
Trace vitamins present in coconut oil are – Vitamin K, Vitamin E, Tocopherol, gamma 1, Choline. In the case of minerals, iron is the only mineral present, that too in very small quantity.
As indicated above, coconut oil is 100% fatty acids. Most of it is saturated fats followed by monounsaturated and then polyunsaturated fats.
Based on the stats close to 87% of fats are saturated fats. In terms of specific names of these saturated fats – lauric acid, myistic acid, palmitic acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid are main.
In monounsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid is main. Three of its main constituents – lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid are medium chain fatty acids (carbon chain 8 to 12 carbon long).
While one may feel that coconut oil is devoid of any nutrients, its MCFA – medium chain fatty acids are key health promoters.
They are the ones which are responsible for fighting disease, promoting health of various internal organs such as the liver, kidneys, heart etc. Thus the role of these saturated cannot be overlooked.
coconut oil provides lot of energy. 100 gms can provide as much as 862 Kj of energy. This is more than 40% of the energy required by our body in a day! Thus you can imagine how energy-rich this oil is.
Another factor which is interesting that unlike long chain fatty acids, medium chain fatty acids are absorbed and directly burned to produce energy – thus after eating coconut oil, you will feel a spur of energy like you get by an energy drink!
So there are some key nutritional aspects of coconut oil. I know they are very different from coconut milk and coconut water, but equally, health promoting (even more).
I would like to highlight a few more points here. The nutritional advantage you will get from virgin coconut oil will be different from that of RBD coconut oil, thus always prefer (as much as possible) virgin coconut oil from a good brand or a known vendor.
Secondly, saturated fat is considered harmful by many. It is considered to be promoting heart-related problems. As coconut oil is very rich in saturated fats, if you are in doubt please consult a doctor before taking it.
Thirdly, there is a decent dosage of coconut oil which should do just fine on a daily basis to provide you required health benefits from MCFAs – it is 3.5 tbps. If you take more, it is not likely to do any harm though.
The magic of Medium Chain Fatty Acids
Why when we take coconut oil it helps in weight management while other oils increase our weight? Why fat from coconut oil is not stored in our body as like other fats?
When I first started hearing about coconut oil benefits years ago I was not sure what was the reason, as all oils looked the same to me!
But when later I started reading books and research papers on this topic I came to know that not all oils are created equal. The difference lies in “fat molecules” which make up coconut oil. Confused? Let me explain.
Fat molecules: Quick Intro
(forgive me but I love chemistry, this may become a bit technical here, but don’t worry if you do not understand it)
All oils are composed of fat molecules known as fatty acids. In terms of chemistry, a fatty acid is a carboxylic acid with a long aliphatic tail (chain).
Carboxylic acids are organic acids characterized by the presence of at least one carboxyl group (R-COOH). Further, aliphatic compounds are compounds which are composed of carbon and hydrogen. Here is an example of a few common fatty acids.
The first one is lauric acid found predominantly in palm and coconut oil and the second one is oleic acid found in butter, lard, beef, etc. Note how both of them have – a carboxyl group and long chain of carbon atoms.
Now we know a bit about how the chemical composition of fatty acid, let’s focus on what kind of fatty acids are there and how they are categorized. Fatty acids can be categorized in two ways:
- Based on the length of the molecule (in a nutshell how many carbon atoms are present in the chain)
- Based on saturation (how many double bonds are there in the molecule)
Based on a number of carbon molecules, fatty acids are categorized into:
- short chain (fewer than 6 carbon atoms)
- medium chain (6-12 carbon atoms)
- long chain (13-21 carbon atoms)
- very long chain (21+ carbon atoms)
Based on saturation fatty acids are categorized into:
- Saturated fatty acids – no double bonds
- Mono-saturated fatty acids – single double bond
- Poly-saturated fatty acids – multiple double bonds
One last thing here, no oil has a single type of fat in it. It is composed of fatty acids of various types (saturation and length) in various proportions. The prominent ones decide the profile of the oil.
For example, soybean oil has 51% linoleic acid, 25% oleic acid, 11% palmetic acid etc.
How coconut oil is different as compared to other oils
Coming back to coconut oil now. Most of the food (containing fats) we take come from two sources – plants and animals. Majority of these fats are saturated and also consists mostly of long chained fatty acids, for example,
- 100% fat in beef consists of long chain fatty acid out of which 54% are saturated
- 88% fat in butter consists of long chain fatty acid out of which 69% are saturated
- Almost 100% fat in palm oil consists of long chain fatty acid out of which 49.8% are saturated
Thus our fat intake is almost 100% long chain fatty acids. But coconut oil is different, it has around 60% of medium chain fatty (MCFA) acids and low percentage of long chain (LCFA) ones.
It is also 92% saturated! It is this which makes coconut oil so special.
So what makes these medium chain fatty acids better than long ones?
Some of the points are:
MCFA are digested differently, they are easily broken down and absorbed by the body. These are absorbed directly from intestines and are sent to the liver where they are converted into energy.
This is different from LCFAs which are broken down using pancreatic enzymes, and rather than going to the liver, are circulated into the body through blood.
As MCFA are sent directly to the liver, they provide an energy boost to the body. This is good for people doing a lot of physical work.
Good for every age
One cannot give food with LCFAs to children and very old people. But the same is not the case with MCFA
Protection from illness
MCFA play a great role in protection from various kinds of illnesses spread by bacteria and virus.
These are just a few of them as I will write more on coconut oil and coconut will cover each one of them in detail.
Thus, as you can see it is MCFAs and their amazing qualities which make coconut oil stand out among so many available oils we use. So, now you know the scientific secret behind this wonderful food, do include it in your diet asap!
How to Store Coconut oil
Storing an oil is an important step to ensure it remains usable and not oxidize or turn rancid. The extent and ease of this oxidation depend upon various factors – chemical composition of the oil and how harsh the external factors are two key ones.
Oils which have a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids tend to get oxidized when exposed to heat and oxygen.
Thus these oils should be stored carefully.
Also, it is best advised to buy small quantities of them at a time so that one does not need to use the same “opened” oil for a long duration.
Coconut oil is exactly opposite to this. It is very low in polyunsaturated fatty acids and rich in saturated fatty acids (92% of coconut oil is saturated fatty acid) thus it is very stable in most adverse conditions.
Based on this information here are some tips to store coconut oil:
- Coconut oil is extremely stable and can go on upto 2 years without any issues.
- Unlike other oils, coconut oil changes to liquid above 75 F. This does not mean that the oil has gone rancid. This is just a state change and no chemical change happens in the oil.
- Similarly, when exposed to cold weather, coconut oil becomes solid. Again this is just a physical state change and nothing else.
- While coconut oil is stable, avoid putting it against direct sunlight. Based on my personal experience of living in extreme weathers, there are no issues whatsoever even if coconut oil is exposed to extreme heat (temperatures at my place cross 50 C or 122 F). But just to be cautious you may want to store it away from sunlight
- If you do not plan to use it for skin and hair (where you would want it to be in liquid state), you can even store it in your refrigerator. Just use a spoon to take it out when you need it for cooking.
- If given a choice, I will store my coconut oil in a wide-mouthed glass jar and not a plastic one.
- Do not warm your coconut oil in a microwave, this will for sure have adverse effects on it.
- I never warm my coconut oil directly over a stove or burner. I just place it at a slight distance from the stove and let the heat slowly and gradually melt it. There is no particular reason to do so as a smoking point of coconut is well above this temperature.
To help bust more misconceptions – I personally have coconut oil of more than 2 years which we still use for cooking, it smells and tastes as fresh a new one!
So trust me, if you have brought a good brand of coconut oil, it will last long even in harshest conditions. But you are always welcome to store it with extra precautions 🙂
How do you store your coconut oil? share your method here
Which coconut oil brand is best?
Regarding brands of virgin coconut oils, every brand will have its own unique smell, taste, and price. Based on all these factors you can decide which one to choose.
One good thing about virgin coconut oil is you can make it at your home if you want (check here)!
In case of choosing among RBD coconut oil – taste and aroma do not play any part. In such cases, I will go for a popular and well-known brand which I can trust.