A versatile alternative for conventional vegetable oil in both cooking and baking, coconut oil substitutes for other oils with just a few modifications. The oil has both pros and cons for you to consider as you substitute it for canola, corn, olive or sunflower oils.

Tips

Choose virgin coconut oil if you want a strong coconut flavor in your food, such as in a curry sauce. For less flavor, opt for expeller-pressed coconut oil, which has little to no coconut taste.

Although coconut oil works well for cooking in a skillet or wok, you need to keep certain factors in mind:

  • Use coconut oil as is, in its solid state, for pan-frying and sauteing; it melts quickly and turns from a solid to a liquid even more quickly than butter.
  • Substitute coconut oil for only half of the oil you need if you cook over high heat, keeping conventional oil for the other half. Coconut oil, like butter and extra-virgin olive oil, has a lower smoke point than more conventional cooking oils, making it more apt to smoke and potentially catch on fire than the other oils.

  • Use a strong-flavored coconut oil instead of butter when you want to add a tropical flavor to a dish, such as in shrimp scampi from the Food and Wine website.

  • Contrast the bitterness of sauteed vegetables like kale or spinach by cooking them with a little coconut oil along with vegetable oil.

Tips

To balance coconut oil’s relatively low smoke point of 350 degrees Fahrenheit, supplement it with oils that have higher smoke points, such as safflower oil at 510 F; corn oil and sunflower oil at 450 F or canola oil at 400 F.

Coconut oil typically comes in a solid form with a layer of oil on the top. Stir the oil into the solid before using it for baking, and follow these guidelines:

  • Substitute coconut oil on a 1-1 ratio for oil or butter. Melt the oil and cool it to just above room temperature before measuring it.
  • Use a ratio of 3/4 to 1 when substituting coconut oil for shortening. Use the oil in its solid state or melt it first.