Palm Kernel Oil: The Palm Tree’s Milder-Tasting Oil

Palm kernel oil comes from the same tree and the same fruit that provides red palm oil. Palm oil is extracted from the flesh of that tree’s fruit while palm kernel oil is extracted from the fruit’s stone. As a result, the histories of both oils began in the same place: Africa. The oil palm trees would be brought from Africa to the New World by Portuguese slave ships. The oil palm tree would thrive in Brazil.

The British and the Dutch took oil palms to India and Java in the 1800s. The trees were ornamental at this point but their value for providing oil would become evident later on and by the 20th century, oil palm plantations were growing in Malaysia and Indonesia. By the end of the 20th century, both of those countries would dominate the palm oil industry. Malaysia produces a little more than half of the world’s palm kernel oil.

Even though palm oil was being traded at the start of the 1800s, it would take until 1832 for the trade in palm kernel oil to develop. Around this time, palm kernels were exported from West Africa with Nigeria being the largest exporter. Nigeria dominated the palm kernel trade for about a century and then Malaysia became the world’s largest exporter in 1934.

Today, palm kernel oil is not as widely used as palm oil. Not as much of it is produced either; only one ton of palm kernel oil is produced for every ten tons of palm oil. The oil extracted from the flesh of the oil palm fruit is the world’s most popular cooking oil; however, palm kernel oil’s market share has been increasing.

Palm kernel oil flavor profile

Palm kernel oil has a milder flavor profile than palm oil. Its taste is subtle and nutty with a flavor similar to that of walnut.

Health benefits of palm oil

While it is not a great source of any major nutrient, palm kernel oil does have some nutritional value thanks to compounds like:

  • Lauric acid: The high lauric acid content of palm kernel oil makes it very different from palm oil and a lot more like coconut oil. Palm oil has very little lauric acid. Lauric acid is believed to have multiple important health benefits.
  • Vitamins: Palm kernel oil can provide you with a small amount of vitamins E and K.

If you consume palm kernel oil, you may prevent or treat health problems like:

  • Cancers: Researchers have found that lauric acid inhibits the growth of colon cancer cells.
  • Heart disease: Researchers believe that lauric acid is what enables coconut oil to boost good cholesterol, also called high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Because palm kernel oil is another good source of lauric acid, it will provide that benefit as well. HDL is beneficial for heart health by preventing atherosclerosis.

Health concerns

About 85 percent of palm kernel oil is made up of saturated fat, which can raise blood cholesterol levels and cause a buildup of cholesterol in blood vessels.

Common uses

Palm kernel oil’s high smoke point (450 degrees Fahrenheit) makes it suitable for high-temperature cooking methods like deep-frying and stir-frying. Palm kernel oil is a popular commercial cooking oil because of its low cost and the fact that it contains a lot of saturated fat, which keeps it from going rancid as quickly as other oils.