I love coconut oil. The taste, the properties … it is magical for a dairy-free diet. High in saturated fat (is it really that evil?) this oil solidifies at cooler room temperatures, yet is easy to liquefy. This wonderful quality in addition to its rich taste, has allowed me to use coconut oil to make everything from buttery spreads to chocolate fudge with delicious results.
Due to its saturated fat load, coconut oil was declared a villain decades ago, and replaced by hydrogenated oils across our great land. Well, we all know how well that went. So now coconut oil is back in the good books and even touted by many as a health food. Able to strengthen immunity, promote weight loss, ease digestion, and leap tall buildings in a single bound. But seriously, one of our favorite blogging nutritionists, Meghan Telpner, sings the praises of coconut oil nicely. For information on coconut oil's health benefits, enjoy her post in its entirety. For a review of some delicious brands (Artisana, Tropical Traditions, and Nutiva), suggestions for use, and recommended recipes, read on …
I have tried a few different brands of coconut oil, and I must admit they are all quite similar in performance and taste. Nonetheless, they each have their own nuances and claims:
Artisana – Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Alisa’s Opinion: Of the three, this is the purest tasting to me. Though it is still quite neutral in flavor, it offers various nuances that gently dance around on my taste buds. Because this one is the most “raw” tasting, I like to use it only for “raw” applications such as spreads and no bake treats. Likewise, its higher price tag also makes it most worthy of using when quality is preferred over quantity. In terms of taste and purity, this one receives my top vote. In terms of affordability, I consider it a treat, but will definitely keep my eye out for sales.
Company’s Claim: “Our extra virgin coconut oil is derived from the kernel of the coconut (cocos nucifera)… known by many indigenous cultures as The Tree of Life. From the moment of harvesting the coconuts, absolutely no heat at all is applied in the making of this oil. It retains all the flavor and essential nutrition of pure fresh coconuts! Simply taste the unique difference that Artisana™ coconut oil brings to your experience. Coconut oil is a non-hydrogenated, cholesterol free, and is extremely rich in Medium-Chain Fatty Acids, which are broken down efficiently by the body, providing an immediate source of energy.” See the company's website for more information: www.premierorganics.org.
Tropical Traditions – Gold Label Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
Alisa’s Opinion: This is the brand I would describe as “clean” tasting. I could nary detect a hint of coconut in this oil, making it perfect for the coconut averse. I subbed this oil into baking and cooking where a coconut flavor wasn’t desired, but where the richness of coconut was most helpful. Though it falls in the middle of the pack in terms of price, Tropical Traditions frequently offers great sales and specials direct via their website (even free samples) that significantly reduce the cost. I also found their customer service to be excellent. We received a 32 ounce glass jar of the coconut oil during a hot summer month, so it was a pure liquid in our kitchen. My husband accidentally knocked the full, unopened jar onto the tile floor the very day we received (oh yes, an enormous mess). But, Tropical Traditions kindly and quickly replaced it, even though it was our own error.
Company’s Claim: “… there are other companies now selling coconut oil again in the US, most of them mass-produced by machines. But we are committed to time-honored traditional practices that have produced healthy coconut oil for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Our producers have learned a lot of things over the years …They have learned how to pick out the best coconuts from each harvest that produce the best quality oil, for example … Independent laboratory analysis shows this to be one of the highest quality coconut oils on the market, having the highest levels of antioxidants … Today when you buy Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil, you are buying the highest quality coconut oil we have to offer and it is still made by hand and benefiting families in the rural areas of the Philippines where the coconuts grow.” This company believes so strongly in the powers of coconut oil that they have written an entire book on this single food (Virgin Coconut Oil: How It Has Changed People's Lives, and How It Can Change Yours!). See the company's website for more information: www.tropicaltraditions.com.
Nutiva – Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Alisa’s Opinion: I think Nutiva has the strongest coconut essence of these brands, but the coconut taste may still go completely unnoticed by many. However, since it does have that slight distinction, I prefer to use it in sweet baked goods and recipes that will benefit from a hint of coconut (rather than tasting “off”). I love it in Thai dishes in particular, but it is also delicious as a butter substitute in banana bread and other types of quick bread. Since I can purchase it in quantities for a great price on Amazon, it tends to be regularly stocked in my house, and thus often used for making spreads and other recipes calling for butter or oil. Though it may not be the most environmental, I do like that this oil is sold in plastic tubs, avoiding the potential for breakage catastrophes.
Company’s Claim: Certified organic and non-GMO, Made from fresh coconuts, not dried copra, Cold-processed, Unrefined, Chemical-free, Unbleached, Undeodorized [some brands chemically deodorize to remove that coconut scent], Unhydrogenated, Pure white like fresh coconut, Tastes like fresh coconut, Has a fresh coconut fragrance, Made with our Fresh is Best ™ commitment. See the company's website for more information: www.nutiva.com.
Though I am not certain if this would vary by batch, of the jars of each that I had in my possession, the Artisana brand was softest at room temperature, followed by the Tropical Traditions, and then the most solid of the three, Nutiva. Once again, this corresponds well with my recommendations for using Artisana raw, since it is the easiest to work with without heating.
Aside from food, I should note that coconut oil does make a wonderful emollient for the skin; especially for those of us with food allergies and/or very sensitive skin. Unless you are allergic to coconut, it is a fairly safe option, and very rich.
Recommended Recipes using Coconut Oil:
- Chocolate Chip Crispy Cereal Treats
- Creamy Thai Tomato Soup
- Guilt-Free Banana Bread
- Toasted Coconut Cupcakes
- Overnight Double-the-Cinnamon Rolls
- Sauteed Lemon-Garlic Broccoli(ni)
- Simply Scrumptious Cinnamon-Apple Sauté
- Perfect Coconut Millet
- Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
Recipes in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook that Feature Coconut Oil:
- Creamy “Margarine” Spread
- Whipped Coconut Buttery Spread
- Carrot Whip
- Quick Chocolate Chunks
- Peanut Butter “Chips”
- Super Yummy Ginger Cookies
- Rice Crispy Cake
- Banana Crumb Coffee Cake
- Magical Shell
Partially melted coconut oil – Artisana brand
This is a third party review by Alisa Fleming, author of Go Dairy Free: The Guide & Cookbook.