8 Best Substitutes For Coconut Oil & How To Use Them

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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The best coconut oil substitutes for baking or cooking include olive oil, shea butter, vegetable oil, almond oil, avocado oil, neem oil, hemp seed oil, grapeseed oil, and sunflower oil.

Coconut oil is one of the most sought-after and highly prized ingredients in cooking and cosmetic products and for good reason. As per the USDA, coconut oil is rich in beneficial fats, which can help balance your cholesterol levels. It also has natural antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.

The high levels of lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid mean that this oil can boost immunity, improve the appearance of your hair, prevent chronic disease, and lessen signs of aging. Clearly, there is a reason why coconut oil can be found in a vast array of hair products, skincare treatments, and healthy cooking recipes. It is an excellent alternative to harsh or abrasive skin and hair treatments and is healthier than butter or canola oil.

However, some people may experience contact dermatitis on using this oil. Even for regular users, there may come a day when one simply runs out of one’s stock. In either case, it is good to know the best substitutes for coconut oil, as well as any different health benefits or side effects they may have on the body.

A bottle of almond oil and a bowl of coconut oil with half coconut and almonds on green leaves

Almond oil and coconut oil Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Oil, coconut
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]0.03
Energy [kcal]892
Energy [kJ]3730
Total lipid (fat) [g]99.06
Ash [g]0.03
Calcium, Ca [mg]1
Iron, Fe [mg]0.05
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.02
Choline, total [mg]0.3
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.11
Tocopherol, beta [mg]0.6
Tocopherol, delta [mg]0.18
Tocotrienol, alpha [mg]2.17
Tocotrienol, beta [mg]0.13
Tocotrienol, gamma [mg]0.36
Tocotrienol, delta [mg]0.25
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]0.6
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]82.48
4:0 [g]0.01
6:0 [g]0.48
8:0 [g]6.8
10:0 [g]5.39
12:0 [g]41.84
14:0 [g]16.65
15:0 [g]0.02
16:0 [g]8.64
17:0 [g]0.01
18:0 [g]2.52
20:0 [g]0.08
22:0 [g]0.02
24:0 [g]0.03
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]6.33
16:1 [g]0.02
16:1 c [g]0.02
18:1 [g]6.27
18:1 c [g]6.25
20:1 [g]0.04
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]1.7
18:2 [g]1.68
18:2 n-6 c,c [g]1.68
18:3 [g]0.02
18:3 n-3 c,c,c (ALA) [g]0.02
Fatty acids, total trans [g]0.03
Fatty acids, total trans-monoenoic [g]0.02
18:1 t [g]0.02
18:2 t not further defined [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total trans-polyenoic [g]0.01
Phytosterols [mg]86
Sources include : USDA

Substitutes for Coconut Oil

Let us look at the substitutes for coconut oil in detail:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Arguably the most popular and simplest substitute for coconut oil is extra virgin olive oil. It is rich in antioxidants and critical minerals and is commonly used in hair care products and cosmetic supplies. It is a natural moisturizer and is linked to reductions in dandruff and irritation on the hair and scalp, respectively, as well as increased healing and regenerative properties for the skin.

When it comes to cooking, extra virgin olive oil can be used in the same quantities as coconut oil. While there has been some concern over the low smoking point of extra virgin olive oil, a 2018 article published in Acta Scientific Nutritional Health showed that the oil’s fatty acid profile and natural antioxidants allowed it to remain stable at high temperatures. In fact, multiple studies on Mediterranean diets, which are rich in extra virgin olive oil, show its inclusion has a host of benefits, from reducing the effects of aging to improving cardiovascular health.

Sunflower Seed Oil

Derived from sunflower seeds, this oil is a great replacement for coconut oil, as it is rich in vitamins A, E, and D, along with key antioxidants. The fatty acids in the oil help lower cholesterol levels, protect heart health, and reduce your risk of chronic disease. The sunflower seed oil has certain carotenoids that are able to protect the skin from sun damage can increase the luster and appearance of your hair. It can be used in the same quantities as coconut oil in its wide range of applications. Sunflower seed oil is rich in selenium, oleic acid, conjugated linoleic acid, and vitamin E all of which are linked to anti-cancer benefits. However, additional research and clinical evidence are required to support the anti-cancer benefits.

It has a high smoke point of up to 230 degrees celsius, which makes it highly suitable for cooking, including deep frying.

Grapeseed Oil

This mild oil is known to be slightly astringent, making it an excellent replacement for coconut oil treatment of the skin. It can help improve elasticity and remove the appearance of blemishes and wrinkles, thanks to its rich antioxidant content. The range of fatty acids that it contains, including stearic, linoleic, lauric, palmitic, oleic, and myristic acids make it excellent for heart health. It is a natural anti-inflammatory substance, both when consumed and when applied topically. It has a smoke point of 205 degrees Celsius, which makes it ideal for salad dressing or roasting.

Almond Oil

Slightly more expensive than other replacement options, almond oil is usually used for skin and hair care. It is easily absorbed by the skin, does not make the skin oily, and does not clog the pores. The wealth of vitamins, including A, E, B, and D also makes this oil an excellent treatment for the hair. You can mix almond oil into other hair products, or simply apply it to the scalp to revitalize the skin and strengthen the hair. Its primary use, however, is as a moisturizer, particularly on inflamed or irritated areas.

You can use unrefined almond oil in cooking. An article published in the Journal of Nutrition found that the consumption of almond oil was associated with reduced cardiovascular risk and favorable plasma lipid profiles. However, be aware of its strong nutty flavor. It is ideally used as a finishing oil, such as in a salad dressing or to drizzle over a nutty soup.

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil also makes a surprising substitute for coconut oil in cooking. It has a mild taste and a higher smoking point than extra virgin olive oil. You can use it for medium-heat cooking, such as sauteing or baking.

This vegetable oil isn’t the most common choice, but it has a wealth of nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and volatile organic compounds that moisturize the skin and protect it from infections and irritation. Use smaller amounts than coconut oil when applying on your hair or skin.

A jar of avocado oil, guacamole in a wooden bowl, and sliced avocado fruit

You can include avocado in any form in your diet to reap its benefits. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Hemp Seed Oil

Although not very popular as cooking oil, hemp seed oil can be a highly suitable substitute for coconut oil. It retained many of its beneficial properties under microwave treatment, showing that it can withstand heat. It has a low smoke point. Hence, it is best used in light cooking where you don’t use high direct heat or in baking. It is ideally used in salad dressings, to drizzle over a finished dish, or to blend in smoothies or soups.

One of the most beneficial organic oils on the market, hemp seed oil does an amazing job protecting the skin from sun damage and oxidation, helping shrink the size of pores and acting as an astringent to improve elasticity and remove signs of aging. The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids also make this a popular cooking oil for those looking to protect their heart health and avoid the use of butter or canola oil in their meal preparation.

Neem Oil

Legendary in India for its health benefits, neem oil often replaces coconut oil in natural health remedies and cooking applications. This powerful oil has antiviral and antibacterial properties, and can even ward off insects when applied in cosmetic or skincare functions. It can prevent infections, reduce the appearance of acne, strengthen hair follicles and prevent hair loss.

Note: It is not usually used for cooking as it is quite bitter.

Shea Butter

Shea butter is a popular ingredient in skincare products. However, it is also a thick cooking fat that can impart a number of benefits internally, such as protecting against atherosclerosis and heart issues, while also soothing the stomach and promoting rapid healing throughout the body. When used as a cooking ingredient, it is important that you check the label. It should be unrefined and not the chemically processed version that you can get easily. You can use it like any other cooking oil.

In addition to being used as a moisturizer around the world, shea butter also soothes burns, bites, eczema, psoriasis, cracked skin, and dry patches. Finally, it can provide your hair with a bright sheen and a healthy luster, and clear up split ends and unexplained hair loss. A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Butter

The best substitute for coconut oil in baking or cooking is butter. While coconut oil is more prevalent in tropical countries, butter was the cooking fat of choice in many of the European cuisines. The popularity of coconut oil in baking is a comparatively recent phenomenon. Substituting with butter is easy, especially in baking. Use the same quantity as coconut oil. When cooking with direct heat, keep in mind that butter burns easily. Burnt butter or browned butter has a distinct flavor.

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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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