The once vilified coconut oil has made a comeback in all sorts of dishes. Despite its high levels of saturated fat, this traditional oil is now considered a healthy fat praised by scientists as well as those seeking a substitute for butter and animal fats in their diet. Hailing from Southeast Asia, coconut oil is a favorite among foodies who use it for everything from a vegan butter alternative, to a cooking oil, to a baking ingredient. Coconut oil comes in many grades and can be enjoyed in countless ways.
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Coconut oil is commonly used as a vegetable oil substitute and dairy alternative in baking. Refined coconut oil has no coconut flavor, and works as an equal substitution in baking items such as quick breads, muffins, cupcakes and pastries. Virgin pressed coconut oil maintains a strong coconut flavor that imparts on the finished product; this works well in some instances, but may not be desired in others. Substitute coconut oil for butter in equal proportions as called for in your recipe. Use solid state coconut oil for making pastries like pie crusts and biscuits that require cold butter. If your coconut oil is melted at room temperature, measure the needed amount and place it in the refrigerator until it hardens. Keep an eye on it because if you leave it in the refrigerator for an extended period of time, it may become too hard to work with when cold.
Stir-Frying & Pan-Frying
Coconut oil is commonly used for sauteing because of its high-temperature smoking point. It can be used in all the same ways as vegetable and olive oils. Use it when cooking a meat and vegetable stir-fry, or saute bitter greens in coconut oil to mellow out their bite. Roast potatoes or sweet potatoes in coconut oil to enhance their caramelized appeal. Try it in place of vegetable oil for popping popcorn -- unrefined coconut oil will impart an unexpected coconut flavor.
Fresh From the Jar
Some of the best ways to eat coconut oil require no cooking at all. Spread some on your toast in the morning instead of butter, or add a spoonful to a smoothie and blend it in. Coconut oil can be added to coffee or tea for a quick lift in the morning, or simply eaten by the spoonful for a dose of healthy fats. Mix coconut oil into a homemade salad dressing with a few simple ingredients or use it in place of olive oil in hummus. When in its liquid state, coconut oil is a great topping substitute for butter on steamed vegetables.
Gravies & Sauces
Coconut oil can be used to create a wide range of sauces that are commonly made with oils, butter, cream or milk. Use refined coconut oil to make your favorite chicken, turkey or beef gravy from a healthier fat, but with no noticeable coconut flavor. Reach for virgin coconut oil to make rich chocolate, vanilla and butterscotch ice cream toppings, as well as whipped icings and frostings that excite with their delicate coconut flavor. Coconut oil solidifies at 77 degrees Fahrenheit and instantly hardens when in contact with cold foods like ice cream, adding to its appeal for chilled dessert sauces.