The Best Coconut Oil

Best Coconut Oil

Cooking is my passion; I love to try new recipes, new tools, and, especially, new ingredients. Currently, one of my most favorite ingredient to test out are different kinds of cooking oils, as the type of cooking oil that you use can greatly impact both the taste and the nutritional content of meal being served. One of the most popular oils right now is coconut oil, as people have been rediscovering its numerous health benefits. However, many people do not understand what they are buying or its benefits. I have spent the past 6 months testing different kinds of both coconut oil and compiling information that I think would be most helpful to those currently shopping for these products.



Best Coconut Oils

 Nutrient Content (per 1 tablespoon)
Brand and Price
(Hover over text to see price)
Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil


Barlean's Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Carrington Farms Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Nature's Way Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil

Viva Labs Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil


CommentsBest all-around brand in terms of quality and price.Highest quality, best taste and smell, but somewhat pricy.Great quality for a super-low price--the best buy for the dollar.Has a different taste, but is still of good quality. Other consumers have had various problems with this brand, so it is a riskier purchase. However, it is one of the most affordable.Oil is of fantastic quality, but the company has some problems with quality control in its packaging and their customer service needs work. This is another affordable, but risky option.
Calories130130130130125
Calories from fat130130130130125
Total fat14g14g14g14g14g
Saturated fat13g12g12.5g13g13g
Trans fat0g0g0g0g0g
Polyunsaturated fatN/A0g0g<0.5g0.1g
Monounsaturated fatN/A1g0.5g<1g0.7g
Medium chain fatty acidsN/A≈ 8g8g9g9g
Lauric acidN/A6,220mg6.2g7g7,210mg
Caprylic acidN/A640mg1g1g906mg
Capric acidN/A550mg800mg900mg836mg
*Please note that lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid are all medium chain fatty acids; the amount of MCFs listed is the total sum of the amounts of the three.

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Testing Process and Criteria

I tested each product for one week and during that week I substituted it for every oil or fat with which I usually cook—butter, shortening, and even creamer for my coffee! I sautéed, baked cakes, made smoothies and salad dressings, made stir fry—basically, if it could be used in the food I was preparing, it went into the pot/pan.

Additionally, because coconut oil has beneficial effects when used topically, I put a little on my skin each day in place of lotion and used it as a hair treatment twice per week. (For those interested, when I use coconut oil for my hair, I soak all of my hair in it, from root to tip, then put it up in a high bun, and leave it there for several hours before washing it out) In order to get the most accurate results on its moisturizing benefits, each week I would pick one part of my body and only use the coconut oil there. Doing so, I was able to evaluate the difference between the skin treated with coconut oil and untreated skin.

My judging criteria consisted of: taste, odor, specifications, uses outside of the kitchen, affordability and value, overall quality, and other consumer reviews, which I take into account because I am one person and I realize that others may have different experiences with the same product. As a rule, I only take into account those complaints that seem to be common amongst unhappy customers.

Refined vs. unrefined coconut oil

There are two basic types of coconut oil: unrefined and refined. Both present their own advantages and disadvantages.

Refined coconut oil

At its most basic level, refined coconut oil is defined as oil that is made from dried copra that has been bleached and deodorized. Using bleaching clays is often necessary to remove contaminants that may have arisen during the copra’s (coconut meat, from which the oil is derived) drying process. Producers typically dry the copra in the open air, where it can come into contact with pathogens, bacteria, and other substances that you don’t want in your food, which is why it must be purified through bleaching. After this, the oil is heated to a high temperature in order to remove its flavor and odor—a process known as “deodorization.” While it is true that some nutrients are lost by refining coconut oil, this does not make it unhealthy. It is still one of the healthiest oils available.

However, there are some things of which you must be aware when shopping for coconut oil. First, understand that there are two methods of refining: physical refining and solvent refining. When you have a choice, choose oil that has been physically refined, as chemicals from the solvent can sometimes still be present in the oil. Second, be on the lookout for oils that have been hydrogenated and do not buy them—these products contain trans fats, which are bad for you, as they lower good cholesterol and raise bad cholesterol. Purchase refined coconut oil if you are cooking at high temperatures and make sure to purchase a product with the least amount of chemicals that is not hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.

Unrefined coconut oil

Unrefined coconut oil comes from fresh coconut meat and is often labeled as “virgin” or “extra virgin”; there is no real difference between the two. It does not require bleaching or deodorizing; its flavor and odor depend on the method used to extract the oil, as explained below.

Purchase the unrefined variety if you want to take full advantage of the nutrients within it and are cooking at temperatures lower than 350°F.

Please note that coconut oil melts at 76°F. At temperatures lower than that, it is in a solid state and it will return to that state after it has been melted and allowed to cool. The products I recommend in this piece are safe to ingest and use in both their solid and liquid forms.

Why choose coconut oil?

In recent years, people have been rediscovering the healthful benefits of coconut oil, as it contains a variety of advantages, some of which are not present in other types of oil. Why should you choose coconut oil?

1. Saturated fat

Coconut oil is high saturated fat, which is why it had been largely shunned until recently; decades ago, some scientific studies conducted by influential individuals determined that saturated fats were Enemy #1--the culprit behind heart disease. Other research seemed to indicate that coconut oil was unhealthy. However, the coconut oil used in those studies was the refined, hydrogenated variety that is full of trans fats, which is possibly the most unhealthy incarnation of coconut oil on the market. And that research declaring saturated fats to be some unholy evil? It has been largely supplanted by new data that shows that there is no link between saturated fat and heart disease.

2. Fatty acid content

Coconut oil has a unique composition of fatty acids; almost 90% are unsaturated, which means that it is more resistant to oxidation at high temperatures than other oils that contain less saturated fat. This quality makes coconut oil ideal for high-temp cooking methods, such as frying.

Additionally, the fatty acids in coconut oil are medium-chain triglycerides, which also have healthful benefits, including aiding in excess calorie burning (which helps weight loss), reducing food intake, and promoting fat oxidation. MCTs are also easy for the human body to digest and are a great source of energy and help reduce blood triglycerides more than their long-chain counterparts.

The most common fatty acid in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is broken down into monolaurin once it enters the body. Both substances are effective antimicrobial agents. Blood lipids and cardiovascular disease Human and animal studies have shown that coconut oil increased HDL (known as “good cholesterol”) and decreased the LDL:HDL ratio. Soybean oil had the opposite effect.

3. Weight Loss

That’s right, ladies and gents, coconut oil has been shown to help people lose weight and reduce their waist circumference. Additionally, a greater proportion of the weight loss was the result of fat, not muscle loss.

1. Nutiva Certified Organic Coconut Oil

Nutiva’s coconut oil has the perfect balance of taste and odor

Hands down, this is definitely my favorite coconut oil. It was the third product that I tested and after two let-downs, this product was like a gift from coconut heaven. I actually liked it so much that I ordered more and have been using it ever since I stopped testing coconut and olive oils.

The Good

  1. It is certified organic, unrefined, and cold-pressed and is made without hexane or pesticides. In other words, it is totally free of any harmful chemicals or additives and chock-full of phytonutrients, healthy fats, and even some vitamins and minerals.
  2. Made from fresh coconuts
  3. It is an excellent source of healthy fats.
  4. Vegan-friendly (I’m not a vegan, but I do enjoy vegan-friendly products)
  5. Gluten-free and kosher
  6. The company emphasizes social and environmental responsibility; their red palm and 15oz. and 23oz. glass containers of coconut oil are certified fair-trade, they have California Green Business certification, B Corp certification, they buy from farms that practice sustainable agricultural practices, and fund a variety of project aimed to help not only their local community, but the communities of the places from which they receive their products. Basically, if you want to be a conscientious consumer, Nutiva is your company.
  7. Works great on skin and hair. After one week of use, my hair looked healthier and felt softer and my skin (especially my lips) was no longer cracking or itching, but soft and smooth.
  8. Has a pleasant taste and aroma that is coconutty enough to stimulate the senses, but not so much as to be overpowering. In general, I found that when I cooked with it, the coconut taste and smell were negligible, but when using it in things like coffee or smoothies, I could detect a hint of coconut. Plus, it made my kitchen smell like a tropical paradise, which is a nice added bonus.
  9. When compared to the other products on this list, I just found that the Nutiva coconut oil was of a better quality.

The Bad

  • This is the most expensive product on this list.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for the best organic, non-refined coconut oil, Nutiva Certified Organic Coconut Oil is your product. When compared to the other products, Nutiva’s coconut oil had the perfect balance of taste and odor and, although it is the most expensive product on this list, it is still reasonably priced. Additionally, I was very impressed by the company’s emphasis on social and environmental responsibility.


 

2. Barlean’s Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Barlean’s coconut oil is smooth and has the perfect amount of sweetness, which is somewhat rare in coconut oils

Barlean’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil is amazing. In fact, it would probably be in the number one spot if it was not so expensive.

The Good

  1. Full disclosure: I usually cannot take coconut oil straight out of the jar and eat it plain. It’s a texture thing for me. (I don’t include that fact in reviews because that is not a flaw with the product, simply my personal tastes.) However, Barlean’s is different. It is smooth and has the perfect amount of sweetness, which is somewhat rare in coconut oils, so I checked the back to make sure it didn’t have any additional sweeteners (it didn’t).
  2. Pressed and bottled on demand
  3. Solvent and chemical-free
  4. USDA certified
  5. When used as a moisturizer, it left my skin velvety smooth and my hair soft and incredibly shiny.
  6. Out of all of the products on this list, I found Barlean’s to be of the best quality and have the best scent, taste, and texture. There was no weird aftertaste (as is common with many coconut oils).

The Bad

  • The only negative here is the price.

The Bottom Line

In my opinion, Barlean’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil is just as good as Nutiva’s, maybe even better, in terms of taste, odor, consistency, and capabilities, however, the high quality comes with a high price tag. I still believe that it is totally worth it if you can afford it.


 

3. Carrington Farms Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

This product is a great choice for those on a budget, offering the best bang for your buck

Carrington Farms Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil was one of the most affordable products that I tested, though, unlike its other cheaper counterparts, there was very little difference in the taste, odor, and quality of this product when compared to more expensive brands, like the others on this list.

The Good

  1. This is the most affordable product on the list, costing just $0.45/oz. when you buy the 54oz. jar.
  2. Cold-pressed and certified organic
  3. Unrefined, with no trans fats
  4. Non-hydrogenated

The Bad

  • On Amazon, Carrington Farms Coconut Oil only comes in two sizes: 12oz. and 54oz. I’ve found that 12oz. is far too little and is gone rather quickly, but 54oz. is way too much.
  • Comes in a plastic container, which may be viewed as a negative by those trying to live plastic-free.
  • Unlike the other products on this list, Carrington Farms Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil does not have a near-perfect record on Amazon. While the majority of the reviews are positive, and while my own experience with it was quite enjoyable, there have been complaints of it arriving with “grayish/greenish spots sunk into the top,” and of it having a bad taste and smell, with one reviewer describing it as smelling like “burnt rubber.”
  • Can only be shipped within the U.S.

The Bottom Line

This product is a great choice for those on a budget, those looking to save money, and those who are curious about coconut oil, but hesitant to spend a large amount of money on a product that is unknown to them. It is a fantastic starter product that, when compared to the other items on this list, performed almost as well, though the taste and coconut were a little stronger with Carrington Farms coconut oil. My final word is that although there is a tiny difference between the quality of this product and those ranked above it on this list, the low price more than makes up for it.


 

4. Nature’s Way Organic Coconut Oil

The Nature’s Way Organic Coconut Oil is also a good choice for those on a budget

Nature’s Way Organic Coconut Oil was fifth in my series of testing.

The Good

  • Contains no artificial ingredients, chemical solvents, gluten, trans fat, or preservatives.
  • Certified organic by Pro-Cert, which is a North American certifier of organic products. (They are accredited under the USDA National Organic Program, the Japanese Agricultural Standards, the CFIA Canada Organic Regime, and Quebec’s Committee on Accreditation for Evaluation of Quality)
  • Comes in a BHP-free plastic jar. (For those that dislike plastic, this will likely still be a negative)
  • Cold-pressed in a temperature-controlled environment.
  • Unrefined
  • Worked well as a moisturizer, though I found that the Nutiva and Barlean’s made my skin softer and my lips less prone to cracking.
  • Though it tasted a little differently from other coconut oils that I have tried, it was not bad and still had a pleasant aroma. I did not notice any irregular tastes in the food that I prepared.

The Bad

While my experience was, overall, quite a positive one, there are several complaints from other consumers that I feel should be mentioned.

  • Many customers have reported that the product they received was packaged in a leaky container.
  • Some have found that their product contained crunchy, plastic-like pieces in their coconut oil, which is definitely something of which you need to be aware if you are planning to cook with this oil.
  • There may be an issue with its melting point and re-solidification, as some have stated that their coconut oil melted before 76°F and did not re-solidify until it had been refrigerated.

The Bottom Line

Compared to the other products on this list, Nature’s Way Organic Coconut Oil seems to be more of a riskier purchase due to the similarity of the submitted complaints. However, I received a good jar of coconut oil and while I marked it down for its different taste, I would still recommend this product, especially since it is one of the more affordable products.


 

5. Viva Labs Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Viva Labs provides a high quality oil with a light scent and taste

Viva Labs Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil was the second-to-last product that I tried during my coconut oil testing. After testing it for a week, I found that overall, while they product a good product, there are some issues that the company needs to resolve.

The Good

  1. USDA-certified organic, kosher, and gluten-free
  2. Non-GMO
  3. Free of pesticides, bleach, trans fats, and hexane
  4. Unrefined and cold-pressed
  5. Oil was of very high-quality and did not have a heavy coconut taste or odor.
  6. Produced in a tree nut and peanut-free environment, packed in a GMP-certified facility, and is free of all common allergens.
  7. Vegan-friendly

The Bad

Viva Labs is the only product on this list with which I did not have a totally positive experience.

  • My jar had a large air pocket in it; I estimated that I only received 2/3 of the product that I purchased.
  • I attempted to contact Viva Labs about this and received no reply. Looking at the comments on Amazon.com, I have seen that this a common issue, so apparently Viva Labs has a tiny quality control and customer service issue
  • While my jar was fresh enough, it seems that some customers have received incredibly rancid jars of coconut oil from Viva Labs. Several consumers reported that it smelled, “like vomit,” which, considering that coconut oil is supposed to have a light coconutty scent, is definitely a problem. Those who had this problem and attempted to contact Viva Labs had the same problems I and many others did, either non-response or, when they did respond, they seemed like they did not care.
  • Can only be shipped within the United States.

The Bottom Line

Why would I recommend this coconut oil? Because for all of its faults, Viva Labs provides a high quality oil with a light scent and taste (at least for me) that seemed to boost my energy more than other brands and left my skin softer. In fact, if it had not been for those problems that I discussed in the previous section, this product would have ranked second.

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