Can Coconut Oil Be A Substitute For Butter

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Using coconut oil instead of butter is a popular choice that can improve your overall health and add a new flavor 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 the health.

Why is Coconut Oil better than Butter?

In terms of health, coconut oil is a better choice than butter, as it does contain 0% salt and has a healthier balance of fats according to USDA. [1]

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 consider saturated fats harmful for health, but the medium-chain fatty acids in this 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 getting warmed on frying pan with a wooden spoon

Coconut oil Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Butter, on the other hand, also contains certain medium-chain fatty acids, but additionally has high levels of unhealthy 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. [2] [3]

Coconut oil also contains vitamin E and various other minerals, antioxidants, and nutrients that reduce oxidative stress, protect the skin, and strengthen hair. Finally, this tropical oil is vegan and doesn’t affect those who are sensitive to dairy products.

Many types of butter also contain salt, which acts as a preservative, allowing the butter to remain edible and avoid becoming rancid for a long period of time. This extra salt content can also have negative health effects, particularly for people who have cardiovascular issues or high blood pressure.

Adding Coconut Oil to your Recipes

Coconut oil can be highly effective in smaller quantities (often 50% less than butter), and can still, achieve the same effects in culinary applications. When cooking, many people choose to cut the recommended amount of oil in a recipe by half, in order to avoid adding too much of the coconutty flavor.

Many culinary professionals suggest that coconut oil is able to bring out the flavor in savory dishes better than butter, and thus prefer it when sautéing and frying meat and vegetables. It also complements citrus and highly sweet flavors well, such as those in cakes, brownies, pie crusts, and frostings. [4]

How Do I Substitute Coconut Oil for Butter?

You can easily substitute coconut oil for butter in different cooking applications, from frying food to baking cakes and desserts, provided that it has the same consistency as the butter called for in each recipe. Butter can be solid, softened or melted for different recipes, and to achieve a similar quality and consistency in your food, make sure that the substitute coconut oil is used in the same state. [5]

  • Coconut oil (76 degrees Fahrenheit) has a lower melting point than butter (90-95 degree Fahrenheit), meaning that it dissolves easily as compared to normal butter. Therefore, if a recipe calls for melted butter, it is very easy to melt coconut oil to match it.
  • If you need softened butter, possibly when using the creaming method in cookies, muffins, and cakes, you will also need softened coconut oil. So, refrigerating the liquid oil for 10-15 minutes before use will retain its consistency during the cooking process.
  • Solid butter, which is often called for in baking food items like scones, biscuits, or pie crusts, will require you to put your liquid coconut oil in the freezer for few 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 effectiveness in your cooking, or the health effect it can have on your body. This will also help you prevent unnecessary weight gain. [6]

Remember, coconut oil is healthy in moderate doses, but it is still high in calories and rich in fats. So don’t go nuts over coconuts! Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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