Coconut oil seems to be everywhere these days! You see it in the beauty aisle, in hair-care products, for salad dressings, baked goods, marinades, biscuits, and crackers—the list goes on and on!
However, if you’re looking to buy coconut oil at the store, you might end up becoming a little confused with all of the different labels!
You’ve got extra-virgin, virgin, expeller-pressed, raw, whole-kernel, hydrogenated, partially-hydrogenated—what does all this mean!? Did anyone get the manual?
Well, luckily we have done a deep dive into all the different types of coconut oil and the many benefits it provides.
So, what are the different types of coconut oil? The two most basic categories of coconut oil are refined or unrefined. Refined coconut oil refers to processed coconut oil and unrefined means it is natural and unfiltered. You can also look at extraction methods as well as processing methods. This will all have an effect on the flavor, aroma, and nutritional value.
Today, we will be looking at every type of coconut oil you can find. We will explain the different processing methods, extraction methods, as well as common terminology used to market these products.
Finally, we will look at some of the nutritional content coconut oil has and the many ways you can use it.
What Is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil, also commonly referred to as coconut butter, is an edible oil that can be used for cooking and baking, as a moisturizer, herbicide, and even a lubricant for mechanical equipment.
Using it for cooking, baking, and cosmetic purposes is the most popular and it will (to a certain extent) determine which type of coconut oil you choose.
One thing that makes this oil so extremely unique is that it is a solid fat when it is cool, and as it heats up (even to room temperature on hot days) it starts to melt and become a clear liquid.
This oil is obtained from coconut palm fruit and is extracted from virtually all parts including the meat, milk, and wick.
There are two main ways that coconut oil is extracted from the fruit: either using wet processing or dry processing methods. These phrases basically describe which part the oil came from in the fruit.
This method uses only coconut milk to extract the oil from. The milk is boiled for quite some time which forces the milk proteins to become unstable. These proteins are what keep the oil and milk emulsified.
The oil is basically then separated from the milk and further processed if necessary.
This method isn’t as common because it usually gives much lower yields and isn’t very time and cost-effective. It also tends to change the color and flavor of the oil.
Manufacturers have developed alternative methods to help extract more oil (without affecting its characteristics as much).
This method involves making copra. Copra is the term used to describe dried coconut meat. Once the meat has been removed from the hard shell, it is dried in either sunlight, over the fire, or in large kilns.
The copra is then pressed to produce coconut oil. About 370 pounds of copra produces roughly 15 gallons of coconut oil.
Different Types of Coconut Oil
Okay, so now we get to the good part: all the different types of coconut oil available! Now, this may seem daunting at first but fear not, because we will give an in-depth explanation of each and exactly how they differ from each other.
First, we looked at some of the processing methods (dry processing or wet processing). This basically refers to what part of the coconut is used to extract the oil from.
There’s also extraction methods, which is the method used to extract the oil from the different parts.
Regardless of the extraction method used, the manufacturers can then produce either refined or unrefined oil. Within each of these categories, you also get a few different types.
For example, hydrogenated oil is a type of refined oil whereas virgin coconut oil is a type of unrefined coconut oil.
These are all different phrases used to market coconut oil and while many of them might seem pointless to one consumer, they are important to another.
Let’s start by looking at the two main categories of coconut oil, refined and unrefined.
Refined Coconut Oil
Refined coconut oil, also known as RBD oil, is the processed category. RBD stands for refined, bleached, and deodorized.
And, it sounds exactly what the name says! This category of oils is that beautifully crisp white oil that smells like nothing and only has a slight coconut flavor.
RBD is made from copra (dried coconut meat) and dried coconut kernels – never fresh coconut meat. It is placed through a heated hydraulic press that extracts basically all of the oil present in the mass.
Unfortunately, refined oils (as is) aren’t safe to consume because of all the contaminants that are present. Before it can be sold for food uses, it first has to undergo further heating and filtering, making it even “less healthy”.
Because of all the processing, the oil eventually loses virtually all of its flavor, aroma, and even nutritional content.
On the plus side though, refined coconut oils have a much higher smoking point compared to unprocessed oil. On average, refined coconut oils can reach temperatures of up to 400°F before starting to smoke.
Hydrogenated Coconut Oil
A very common word you will see in many oils is “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated”. What this basically means is that the RBD oil has been even further processed to increase the melting point.
Unrefined oil and RBD oils melt at 76°F. Once hydrogenated, this melting point increases to 97-104°F. This means products containing coconut oil (like chocolate) won’t melt at room temperature.
Unrefined Coconut Oil
Unrefined coconut oil refers to any oil that wasn’t bleached and deodorized. Virgin ad extra-virgin coconut oils are examples of unrefined oils.
Unrefined coconut oils are less white in color and have a much more distinctive coconut smell and flavor. The exact intensity depends on the extraction method used.
Unrefined coconut oil is most often obtained from fresh coconut meat that was scooped out of its hard shell by hand. Naturally, this is a much more expensive product.
It is also important to note that because it hasn’t been processed, it has a very low melting point and a lower smoking point.
Unrefined coconut oils will melt at room temperature, around 76°F. It will also smoke around 350°F, making it better suited for baking and low-temperature cooking.
Virgin Vs. Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil
Unrefined oils are always labeled as either “virgin” or “extra-virgin”. Personally, we can’t see a lot of differences between the two and there isn’t even a legal definition to distinguish them from each other.
In our opinion, go for the cheaper one. Different manufacturers have different marketing strategies and that’s the only reason they use different wording.
People who are very health conscious would probably immediately reach for the “extra-virgin” because it sounds healthier.
At the end of the day, both are made from fresh coconut meat and both are unprocessed.
|Refined Coconut Oil (RBD)
|Unrefined Coconut Oil
|Distinct coconut aroma
|Slight coconut flavors
|Distinct coconut flavor
|Copra and coconut kernels
|Fresh coconut meat
Now, as we have briefly mentioned before, there are different extraction methods used to get the oil from different parts of the coconut.
Each of these methods can make use of either the dry processing method or the wet processing method. Basically, meaning that they can either use fresh meat and milk or the dried copra to extract oil from.
Regardless of which extraction method is used to get the coconut oil, the final product can still either be refined or unrefined.
Centrifuged Coconut Oil
This method produces the most natural and unrefined form of coconut oil and is often the most expensive type you can buy. It is usually used to produce unrefined oils like “virgin” or “extra-virgin”.
With this method, the shells of the coconut are first removed. The meat is then ground into a paste so that the milk can be extracted. Whatever remains is then placed into a high-speed centrifuge.
While the content is spinning, the oil separates from the meat and is bottled immediately.
This method allows the oil to have an extremely strong coconut flavor and smell and it also doesn’t need to be refined further.
Cold-Pressed Coconut Oil
This method is also a relatively healthy option for coconut oil as the oil never gets heated above 120°F (before or after extraction).
With this method, the oil is pressed from the meat using a machine that only slightly heats the contents, but never above 120°F. This allows the oil to keep its coconut flavors, aromas, and even more nutrients.
Usually, this method is used to make unrefined coconut oil, but some manufacturers further refine it.
Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil
The expeller-pressed method is the opposite of cold-pressing as it uses high temperatures to extract the maximum amount of oil from the coconuts. This method is always used to produce a lower-quality refined oil.
The way the heat is introduced is usually in the form of steam, but also electric heat.
Whole Kernel Coconut Oil Vs. White Kernel Coconut Oil
You won’t see these terms used often when coconut oil is marketed, but in some parts of the world, it is quite common. These terms refer to which parts of the kernel were included when making the oil.
Whole kernel coconut oil, as the name suggests, uses the entire kernel (the inside skin is left on for the process). It has been said that this type of oil produces a much more flavorful oil that is also more nutritious.
White kernel oil on the other hand removes the brown inner skin and has a less intense coconut flavor and supposedly is less nutritious.
Both of these terms are almost exclusively used for unrefined oils. They have the same characteristics such as smoking and flash point and are used interchangeably.
So, as we have mentioned before, unrefined oils (and products in general) are much more nutritious compared to refined products.
They have much more nutrients and therefore health benefits. The following health benefits and nutritional facts apply regardless of which type of coconut oil you use.
Can Help Promote Weight Loss
Coconut oil is very high in saturated fats, specifically medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These may help you burn more calories which helps promote weight loss.
In essence, what makes coconut oil healthier compared to other oils are the types of fat it contains, which is mostly saturated fat.
Antimicrobial And Antifungal Properties
Coconut oil contains lauric acid that helps fight against diseases caused by microorganisms. Some of these diseases include Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
Basically what it does is prevent the bacteria from multiplying and growing without killing them entirely.
This is one arguably everybody has heard before. Coconut oil helps moisturize the skin and helps protect it from chemicals, allergens, and other possible infections.
It does virtually the same for your hair. Coconut oil can help your hair become more flexible and prevent them from breaking as easily.
Coconut oil is an extremely versatile oil unlike any other. It can be used in food or as a cosmetic product.
Coconut oil is often used as cooking oil (lubricant) instead of sunflower, canola, and even olive oil. This is because it contains healthy fats which have other nutritional benefits.
You can use it to make stir-fry, to sauté meats and vegetables, to shallow-fry food, or even in pasta to prevent it from sticking to each other.
Dressings and Sauces
Instead of regular oil or olive oil, you can also incorporate coconut oil into a dressing, marinade, basting sauce, or serving sauce—regardless of whether it is savory or sweet!
It will not only function as oil should but also add an interesting flavor.
Coconut oil is an excellent way to change the flavor profile of your baked goodies. Instead of making a boring old vanilla cake, you can make a coconut cake with the oil and some coconut cream frosting.
And because coconut oil works well at lower baking temperatures, it does great for virtually every recipe!
Just make sure it fits the flavor profile of the ingredients, but luckily, it is a pretty versatile flavor that doesn’t overpower much.
Add It To Drinks
Believe it or not, but you can even add coconut oil to drinks! Especially because it doesn’t have a very savory flavor, it goes great with smoothies and even with teas and coffees.
You’ve probably seen it everywhere! Coconut shampoo, coconut face cream, coconut hairspray—coconut is everywhere!
Because it has many benefits for your skin and hair, manufacturers have incorporated coconut into virtually any product imaginable. However, you don’t necessarily have to spend all that money to get the benefits.
You can actually use coconut oil as is on your hair and skin and it can do exactly the same as the expensive products do.
Now that we’ve gone over all of the different types of coconut oil, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
Can you eat too much coconut oil?
If you are using coconut oil in baked goods and products, you cannot get any side effects from it, unless of course, you have an allergy or intolerance.
You can however have some pretty bad effects if you are consuming the coconut oil as is. Right off the bat, you can become very nauseous and it can cause headaches due to the high fat content.
What are the negative effects of consuming coconut oil?
As with any type of oil, regardless of it containing good or bad fats, fat is still fat. Coconut oil has pretty much the same amount of calories compared to other oils.
What is the shelf life of coconut oil?
Coconut oil, as with virtually all plant-based fats, has a naturally long shelf life. If kept under the right conditions, your coconut oil can last up to 2 years. You can either keep it at room temperature or in the fridge.
Regardless of which method you use, make sure the oil doesn’t melt and solidify too much—this will change the texture and shorten the shelf life. Also, make sure to keep your oil in an airtight container away from heat and direct sunlight.
Can you freeze coconut oil?
Coconut oil can be frozen if you are planning on keeping it for a really long time or if you don’t use it very often. Just make sure to place the coconut oil in a freezer-safe container.
Your coconut oil should now keep for up to 5 years!
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