Vegetable oils are defined as oils that come from plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, or other plants. These plant-based oils can come with many benefits, both nutritionally and for skin care.
Coconut oil is a great choice for low-heat cooking or baking and is a natural moisturizer. It’s an all-around champ!
Meanwhile, argan oil is a bit more specialized. It’s an even better choice for using for your skin and hair but its culinary uses are limited. That said, it offers a nutty flavor for use as a finishing oil in cooking.
How else do these plant-based oils compare? We’ll break down their characteristics as well as the pros and cons of each in this article.
Coconut oil vs argan oil – how are they made?
Made by squeezing (pressing) the liquid oil out of fresh coconut meat or dried coconut meat called copra, coconut oil has increased in popularity over the last couple of decades. Virgin coconut oil is a popular choice among many coconut oil enthusiasts and it’s made from fresh coconut, while refined coconut oil is usually made from copra.
Two common methods of producing coconut oil are cold-pressing and expeller-pressing. Expeller pressing uses friction and pressure to extract the coconut oil, which can introduce heat to the oil due to friction and pressure (no additional heat is used in the process, though).
Cold-pressed oils are believed to be higher in nutritional value because they aren’t exposed to heat, which can degrade certain nutrients. Cold-pressing doesn’t yield as much oil as using heat-based methods, which is why the price of coconut oil varies based on how it’s produced.
Due to its high saturated fat content, coconut oil is solid at room temperature. In contrast, most other vegetable oils are liquid at room temperature because they are higher in unsaturated fats.
The lesser-known oil between the two is argan oil, which is made by pressing the oil from the argan nut, a type of tree nut. Argan trees are rare and are native to Morocco; in fact, you won’t find argan trees anywhere besides Morocco.
To make argan oil for culinary purposes, roasted argan nuts are pressed. Argan oil meant for use in cosmetics is from unroasted argan nuts.
Before the oil is extracted from the argan nuts, they are dried and de-hulled (the outer portion removed).
Argan oil is liquid at room temperature and has a golden color and a taste many describe as similar to hazelnuts.
Nutritional comparison of coconut oil vs argan oil
|1 tbsp. unrefined coconut oil||1 tbsp. culinary argan oil|
|Total fat||14 g||7 g|
|Saturated fat||13 g||1.3 g|
|Trans fat||0 g||0 g|
|Total carbohydrate||0 g||0 g|
|Protein||0 g||0 g|
Sources: USDA, Casablanca Market
Common uses – coconut oil vs argan oil
- A popular oil for cooking and baking, especially if you follow a special diet such as a vegan diet or a dairy-free diet (coconut oil is a great substitute for butter in baking).
- An excellent natural moisturizer, coconut oil is found in skin lotions, creams, and other personal care products.
- Known for its high medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) content, many low-carb dieters and other MCT enthusiasts add coconut oil to things like coffee to make “bulletproof coffee”. MCTs are shorter chain fats than many other oils and can be broken down by your body more quickly to use as energy vs. storing as fat in your body.
- Very popular as a moisturizer for hair and skin, argan oil is found in many beauty products such as skin serums and products to smooth frizzy hair. It’s also very high in vitamin E compared to many other plant-based oils.
- Argan oil is superior to coconut oil for use on your face because it’s considered non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog your pores (which can lead to acne) like coconut oil might.
- As a cooking oil, argan oil is meant to be used on room-temperature foods as a dressing oil, not for cooking foods with high heat.
Comparing the properties, pros, and cons of coconut oil vs argan oil
|Use for high-heat cooking?||Use in baking?||Texture at room temperature||Nutritional highlight||Taste|
|Coconut oil||No, due to low smoke point||Yes||Solid due to high saturated fat content||Rich in MCTs||Mild coconut flavor – intensity varies depending on the type|
|Argan oil||No; known to “go bad” at high heat||Not typically. Used as a dressing oil most commonly (dipping bread, dressing salads, etc.)||Liquid due to high unsaturated fat content||High in vitamin E, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids||Described as tasting “nutty”, similar to hazelnut|
The ultimate verdict: coconut oil vs argan oil
If you want an oil you can use in baking and low-heat cooking, then coconut oil is the best choice between the two. Coconut oil is easier to find in regular grocery stores compared to argan oil, and it’s a popular ingredient in dairy-free/vegan baking, or just as a substitute for butter.
While coconut oil is a good moisturizer, you might not want to apply it to your face if you’re prone to acne since it can clog pores. You can use coconut oil in your hair (such as a coconut oil hair mask), but repeated use might start to make your hair a little greasy.
If you want a non-comedogenic (doesn’t clog pores) moisturizer for your skin and/or hair, then argan oil might be the one for you. It’s liquid at room temperature, so it’s easily applied. Its rich vitamin E content makes it a wonderful moisturizer and is used in products to de-frizz and add shine to your hair.
You might also choose argan oil if you want a nutty, delicate culinary oil to drizzle over salads, dip bread in, or use in other ways besides high-heat cooking.
Argan oil is a better choice for use in your hair. It’s less greasy and is less likely to clog your pores or lead to oily buildup compared to coconut oil.
Argan oil is a popular ingredient in heat-protectant hair sprays, which may help reduce damage to your hair from using high-heat styling tools like curling irons and straighteners.