Can You Use Coconut Oil Instead of Vegetable Oil?
Vegetable oil is a common ingredient found in a lot of prepared foods. You will find vegetable oil in almost everything edible, ranging from freshly cooked to processed foods. While you may not be able to detect vegetable oil in a freshly cooked meal, processed foods are a different story. Take a look at the nutrition facts as well as the ingredients which will have to list whether or not the processed food contains vegetable oil.
The word "vegetable" in vegetable oil is misleading. While yes, the oil is made from vegetables with the idea that the oil could be heart healthy, which is one of the major reasons vegetable oil is so widely used, that’s far from the truth. However, multiple concerns have been raised about the type of fat within vegetable oil, and the health implications of consuming vegetable oil. This led to a search for something that was a heart healthy substitute.
A type of oil that is an excellent vegetable oil replacement is coconut oil. You might have questions like, “Can you use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil?” Absolutely! Coconut oil is an excellent substitute for vegetable oil.
Coconut Oil vs Vegetable Oil
Recently, more and more people are starting to use coconut oil. One reason is that there is an increasingly popular belief that coconut oil has more health benefits than vegetable oil. Then there is the added perk of enjoying the tropical and luscious taste that coconut oil offers in your cooking or baking instead of the bland taste of vegetable oil.
Swapping Coconut Oil for Vegetable Oil
According to Palak Patel, a chef at the Institute of Culinary Education, swapping coconut oil for vegetable oil is straightforward: one cup of vegetable oil is equal to one cup of coconut oil when cooking and baking. However, when using coconut oil as a substitute for vegetable oil, there are a couple of things to consider and note.
Firstly, you need to consider the cooking technique and health benefits offered.
As far as the cooking technique is concerned, here are a couple of things to bear in mind when using coconut oil:
- Coconut oil is usually supplied in a solid form since it has a lower melting point. You can’t just add it to your recipe like this, so it is necessary to melt the oil before mixing in the coconut oil.
- When you substitute coconut oil for vegetable oil, swap a cup of it with a cup of vegetable oil using coconut oil to vegetable oil ratio of 1:1.
- Add a teaspoon of vanilla if you want to mask or reduce the flavor of the coconut oil when baking.
- Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so you should store it properly in a cool dry area. Without proper storage, the oil can separate out and have a grainy texture before it is melted.
Can you mix coconut oil and vegetable oil?
Yes, you can! If you’re new to using coconut oil, you can gradually swap it in for your vegetable oil. This will allow you to get used to the unique flavor of coconut oil. Because of the 1:1 ratio between coconut oil and vegetable oil, use half of one oil and half of the other in your recipes until you’re used to its taste.
While this is a way that you can adjust to the flavor, we suggest making the transition quickly to remove vegetable oil from your diet. Since the oil can lead to an increase in inflammation, heart disease, and more, it’s best to quickly remove the oil rather than go too slowly while adjusting.
The Downsides Of Vegetable Oil
Although using vegetable oil for cooking or baking has its advantages, it has many disadvantages. The following are the downsides of using vegetable oil:
Increase Risk of Inflammatory Diseases
Over the last few decades, there has been an increase in inflammatory diseases due to increased vegetable oil consumption. Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids are major constituents of vegetables. However, these unsaturated fatty acids undergo oxidation reactions and, in the process, release free radicals, which are known causes of inflammation in humans. This can lead to heart disease, cancers, as well as diabetes.
Vegetable oil is very susceptible to changes in the environment. When it is exposed to light, air, or moisture, the unsaturated fatty acids in the vegetable oil, undergo a hydrolysis reaction; this leads to rancid oil. Once an oil becomes rancid, there is a change in the oil's taste and odor. This also affects packaged food prepared with vegetable oil. If not properly stored, this packaged processed food will get spoiled before being purchased.
Loss of Nutritive Value and Toxicity
Vegetable oil contains a high amount of trans-fats which are not heart health: when heated above its smoke point, the oil becomes unhealthy and loses its nutritional value. Toxic compounds are produced, which increases the cancer-causing properties of the oil which makes it unsafe for use. Vegetable oil becomes unfit to eat once this carcinogenic potential is elevated and shouldn’t be used or you can risk increasing the chance of getting cancer.
Rigorous Production Processing
Before vegetable oil became available for purchase, it would have already been processed with chemicals, bleach, solvents, and heating. These processes reduce the oil's quality and increase its potential “toxicity” levels.
The Upsides of Coconut Oil
However, unlike vegetable oil, coconut oil has numerous health and culinary benefits, making it a perfect vegetable oil substitute. Some of these health and culinary benefits include:
High Energy Source
Unlike vegetable oil, which contains trans-fat, coconut oil is made of medium-chain saturated fatty acids. Saturated fat is easily digestible, and when ingested, it gets transported to the liver, where it serves as a source of energy for the body.
Stability to Heat
The stability of coconut oil to heat is high since it has a high smoke point. Also, no oxidation reaction occurs in coconut oil when heat is applied. Thus, no production of free radicals, and it does not cause inflammations. There is no production of toxic by-products, and it is safe for consumption as it is not carcinogenic.
Has Medicinal Properties
Lauric acid is the major fatty acid present in coconut oil, accounting for about 50% of the whole compound. Research indicates that lauric acid effectively kills disease-causing microorganisms such as Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Streptococcus pyogenes, Helicobacter pylori, and Streptococcus mutans. Also, the acid can function as a bacteriostatic agent, preventing bacteria from reproducing and inhibiting their growth.
Protect the Hair and Moisturize the Skin
Coconut oil helps protect the hair by making it healthy and preventing hair loss. It is also a good moisturizer for the skin and helps repair cracked heels. You can also apply it to the face if you do not have oily skin.
Choose the Right Type of Coconut Oil
The coconut oil option you want is a virgin, unrefined coconut oil simply because it is obtained from fresh coconut meat. The flavor of refined coconut oil is neutral since it is obtained from dried coconut meat, unlike unrefined oil, which still has the taste and smell of the coconut since it is obtained from fresh coconut meat.
According to Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, when you press dried coconut meat, you will obtain refined coconut oil, which has less coconut flavor. However, when fresh coconut meat is pressed, it produces virgin coconut oil, which will have the flavor of the coconut. Therefore, if you love the coconut flavor, use virgin coconut oil for your baking. However, you can opt for refined coconut oil if you do not love the coconut flavor or don't want its flavor to be evident in your cooking.
Baking: Replacing Vegetable Oil with Coconut Oil
In baking, the precision of measurements is of utmost importance, so if you intend on substituting coconut oil for vegetable oil, here are a couple of things you want to remember:
- The ratio of coconut oil to vegetable oil conversion, which means replacing the former with the latter in a baking recipe, is one to one. For instance, if you need to add 120ml of vegetable oil to a recipe, you can swap the vegetable oil with coconut oil by adding 120ml of coconut oil instead.
- At room temperature, coconut oil is solid. Thus, before using the oil, you need to melt it. You can melt the oil by boiling water and then placing the coconut oil container in hot water. Note that when using coconut oil as a substitute for vegetable oil, ensure the consistency is like the latter.
- Before mixing the coconut oil with other ingredients, ensure they are at room temperature as it is when the oil mixes best. Ingredients like butter and eggs need to be set an hour or two before you start baking; thus, they will be at room temperature already by the time you want to start baking.
Cooking: using Coconut Oil instead of Vegetable Oil
There are also a couple of things to note if you intend to use coconut oil in cooking your dishes. Some of these factors are:
- Using coconut oil when the flavor of the food you are cooking is sweet is not advisable as it could result in an “overwhelming” sweet taste which, despite how it sounds, is something you don’t want. However, if the ingredients used in preparing the food are bitter, use coconut oil as it helps in balancing the bitter taste by adding sweet flavor.
- Use coconut oil to fry your vegetables and meat. The preparation of several recipes requires that you use vegetable oil; however, since the conversion ratio of vegetable oil to coconut oil is 1:1, you can simply use coconut oil instead to prepare such recipes.
- Suppose you want your dish to have a mild tropical flavor; one of the easiest ways is to opt for coconut oil. You will also be able to use coconut oil to prepare several kinds of food like salad dressings. What’s more, you can fry your chicken in coconut oil for that extra bit of traditional flare.
- If you prefer a strong-flavored dish and are a lover of coconut, use extra virgin coconut oil, as it has a very strong flavor that will remain noticeable even after heating or cooking.
Things to Note When Using Coconut Oil
- Coconut oil is made of saturated fatty acids, which can increase cholesterol; if you have high cholesterol, discuss what oils to use with your doctor before using coconut oil regularly.
- Do not refrigerate coconut oil to prevent it from becoming hard since it is already in solid form and requires heat to melt the oil before you can use it. You can store the coconut oil in your kitchen cabinet if you intend to use it frequently.
- Measuring ingredients by weight over volume is advisable.
Oil in a Coconut Shell
- Is a heart healthy oil that decreases inflammation so good for starting an anti-inflammatory diet.
- Can protect your body from rapidly growing bacteria.
- Has a higher smoke point which decreases free radicals and keeps nutrients intact.
- Is a perfect substitute for vegetable oil.
- Can help you remain full longer and increase your metabolism.