Can Coconut Oil be a Substitute for Butter?
Using coconut oil instead of butter is a popular choice that can improve your overall health and add new flavors to your cooking. The two substances have a similar smoke point, meaning that they are equal in terms of their “upper limits” for cooking without losing their beneficial nutrients. Many people are making the switch away from butter because of the recent information about coconut oil’s impressive effects on our health.
In terms of health, coconut oil is a better choice than butter, as it does not contain salt and has a healthier balance of fats. Coconut oil contains roughly 90% saturated fats, versus 50% saturated fats in butter, and this is where a lot of the confusion starts. Many people think of saturated fats as being bad for health, but the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil, particularly lauric acid, have certain cholesterol-lowering, metabolism-boosting, digestion-soothing and weight loss-inducing properties. Furthermore, these medium-chain fatty acids are converted directly into energy, rather than being stored as fats, something that the fats in butter do not do as effectively.
Coconut oil also contains vitamin E and various other minerals, antioxidants and nutrients that can reduce oxidative stress, protect the skin and strengthen your hair. Finally, this tropical oil is vegan, and doesn’t negative effect those who may be sensitive to dairy products.
Butter, on the other hand, also contains certain medium-chain fatty acids, but additionally has high levels of less healthy fats, such as palmitic and myristic acids, which are long-chain fatty acids. These have been directly linked to a poor cholesterol balance and an increase in plaque build-up in the arteries. Many types of butter are also salted, which acts as a preservative, allowing the butter to remain edible and avoid becoming rancid for long periods of time. That extra salt content can also have negative health effects, particularly for people who have cardiovascular issues or high blood pressure. People also tend to use large amounts of butter, due to its low cost and seemingly universal presence in most refrigerators.
Coconut oil can be highly effective in smaller quantities (often 50% less than butter), and still achieve the same effects in cooking applications. When cooking, many people choose to cut the recommended amount of butter in a recipe in half, in order to avoid adding too much of the coconut flavor. Many culinary professionals also suggest that the oil from coconuts is able to bring out the flavor in savory dishes better than butter, and thus prefer it when sautéing and frying meats and vegetables. It also complements citrus and highly sweet flavors well, such as those in cakes, brownies, pie crusts and frostings.
How Do I Substitute Coconut Oil for Butter?
You can easily substitute coconut oil for butter in many different cooking applications, from frying food to baking cakes and desserts, provided that the coconut oil is the same consistency as the butter called for in each recipe. Butter can be solid, softened or melted for different recipes, and to achieve the same consistency and quality of your food, you should be sure that the substitute coconut oil is in the same state.
Coconut oil has a slightly lower melting point then butter, meaning that it dissolves a bit easier than normal butter. Therefore, if a recipe calls for melted butter, it is very easy to melt coconut oil to match (melting point = 76 degrees Fahrenheit). If you need softened butter, possibly when using the creaming method in cookies, muffins and cakes, you will also need softened coconut oil, so popping the liquid oil in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before use may be required, so that it retains its consistency during the cooking process. Solid butter, which is often called for in scones, biscuits, or pie crusts, will require you to put your liquid coconut oil in the freezer for 5 minutes.
As mentioned, the ratio of coconut oil to butter can be 1:1, but in this case, the flavor might be a bit too “coconut heavy”, so you can cut the amount of this oil by 1/4 or 1/2 without compromising its effect in your cooking, or the health effect it can have on your body. This will also help you prevent unnecessary weight gain. Remember, coconut oil is healthy in moderate doses, but it is still high in calories and rich in fats!