Coconut butter and coconut oil are two different coconut products, despite their similar names and appearances. They are not usually interchangeable. Learn more about them in the SPICEography Showdown below.
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How does coconut butter differ from coconut oil?
Coconut butter and coconut oil have different compositions. Coconut butter is similar to nut butters in that it consists of puréed whole coconut meat, which includes the oil. Coconut oil is cold-pressed from the meat of the coconut. Some types of coconut oil are refined.
Coconut butter has a different flavor from coconut oil. Coconut butter has a much more intense coconut flavor since it contains coconut meat. Coconut butter’s texture is similar to that of peanut butter. It is stiffer when stored in cooler temperatures, but acquires a semi-solid consistency at higher temperatures.
Unrefined coconut oil’s coconut flavor is mellow and restrained. It is strong enough to be a complement to even pungent flavors, but always stays in the background. Refined coconut oil has an almost neutral flavor. Coconut oil has a waxy consistency at low room temperatures, but becomes liquid at higher temperatures.
Coconut butter differs from coconut oil in that it has its own nutritional profile. Because it contains coconut meat, coconut butter will have more fiber along with a significant amount of some important minerals. Coconut oil is almost pure fat and contains no vitamins or minerals.
Coconut butter and coconut oil have both become more popular in the West in recent years, but to differing extents. Coconut butter can be found in many larger grocery stores, but has not yet achieved the popularity of coconut oil. Coconut oil is an alternative cooking oil that you can find in many parts of the world, including the US. Along with being ubiquitous, coconut oil is also relatively affordable.
Coconut butter and coconut oil have different smoke points, which is the temperature at which they start burning and smoking. Unrefined coconut oil has a low smoke point of 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176.67 °C). Coconut butter has an even lower smoke point because of the coconut meat it contains.
Can you substitute one for the other?
Coconut butter will be a good coconut oil substitute in some pastry recipes since it will provide fat and a strong, sweet nutty flavor. Use it in recipes that can benefit from its strong coconut notes. It won’t be ideal in dishes that need a neutrally-flavored fat source. You also can’t use coconut butter to replace coconut oil for frying because of its ultra-low smoke point.
Coconut oil won’t be an ideal substitute for coconut butter in any recipe. It can be a passable one in some baked goods, where it might be a source of fat and mild flavor. It will play the same role in those preparations as butter or any other cooking oil. Its lack of fiber and a strong coconut flavor will be a drawback in recipes that call specifically for coconut butter. Also, it won’t be good on its own as a spread because of its relative lack of flavor.
When should you use coconut butter, and when should you use coconut oil?
Coconut butter works best as a spread for bread and as a nut butter substitute in baked goods. Use refined coconut oil as a frying oil and whenever you need neutral-tasting cooking oil. Use unrefined coconut oil for more flavor in uncooked, baked, or lightly cooked applications.