Most people are unaware of the difference between refined vs unrefined coconut oil, but it all comes down to processing methods, as well as changes in taste and some variability in nutrient composition.
Refined vs Unrefined Coconut Oil
These two types of coconut oil are both derived from the meaty flesh of a coconut, but from that point, they undergo a different process to be produced, resulting in two different products.
Unrefined Coconut Oil
Unrefined coconut oil is often referred to as virgin or pure coconut oil since it hasn’t been adulterated or chemically treated in any way. Unrefined coconut oil can be produced by passing fresh coconut meat through either wet- or dry-pressing extraction methods. The wet extraction process is more time-consuming, and can even be done in your own home, but purer virgin coconut oil you find in stores is made through the dry-pressing method. With both approaches, the oil is physically pressed or removed from the meat of the coconut, resulting in a slight coconut flavor to the oil, making it popular for many dishes that require a sweet base. Without the processing, you also retain more polyphenolic compounds, antioxidants and beneficial fatty acids in this variety of coconut oil.
Refined Coconut Oil
Refined coconut oil is also made from the flesh of the coconut, but it is often dried already and is called copra. When sanitizing and cleansing the copra, it goes through a process of refining, bleaching, and deodorizing, and is therefore often called RBD coconut oil. During the production process, the oil is filtered, bleached, and chemically treated to remove free fatty acids. The flavor of refined coconut oil is almost completely neutral, as many of the characteristics of the coconut have been removed. This includes quite a few of the antioxidants and desired nutrients in the oil. There is still a significant level of saturated fats found in refined coconut oil, and this product is still often used for cosmetic and natural health applications, due to its milder flavor and longer shelf life.