Some swear by the creamy richness of butter, while others tout the health benefits of coconut oil. So, which is the ultimate winner?
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and uses of each to help you make a decision on which is the best type of oil/fat.
Comparing coconut oil vs butter
|Coconut oil, Virgin/Unrefined||Coconut oil, Refined||Butter|
|Solid or Liquid?||Semi solid||Semi solid||Solid|
|Smoke Point (Fahrenheit)||350 degrees||400 degrees||300-350 degrees|
|Good for Cooking…||Raw, low heat, moderate heat||Raw, low heat, moderate heat||Raw, low heat|
|Allergens||Coconut, tree nut||Coconut, tree nut||Lactose, casein|
When deciding between coconut oil and butter, we have many factors to consider, including their different ingredients/source, composition, extraction methods, and more. So, let’s get started!
Differences between coconut oil and butter
Butter is an animal-based dairy product made from churning cream or milk until it separates into solid butter and liquid buttermilk. On the other hand, coconut oil is derived from the meat of mature coconuts. It can be extracted using a variety of methods, including cold-pressing, expeller-pressing, and centrifugation.
While butter is technically a fat, it also contains water and milk proteins, which give it a creamy texture and distinct flavor. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is 100% plant-based oil.
Butter is a solid at room temperature, while coconut oil can be either solid or liquid depending on the ambient temperature. This is due to their different fatty acid compositions – coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which have a shorter chain length than the saturated fats in butter, which gives coconut oil a lower melting point.
Virgin/unrefined vs refined coconut oil
Coconut oil is available in two forms: refined and unrefined.
Unrefined coconut oil, also known as virgin or extra-virgin coconut oil is the most natural and pure form of coconut oil! It’s made from fresh coconut meat that has been grated and pressed to extract the oil (no chemicals or heat). Unrefined coconut oil has a distinct coconut flavor and a lower smoke point, making it better suited for lower-heat cooking.
Refined coconut oil is made from dried coconut meat that has been treated with chemicals or heat to extract the oil. The resulting oil is then bleached and deodorized to remove impurities and neutralize the flavor. So, refined coconut oil has a more neutral flavor and a higher smoke point, so you can get away with higher-heat cooking.
Baking and cooking with coconut oil vs butter
Coconut oil has a higher smoke point, ranging from 350°F for unrefined to 400-450°F for refined, making it a better choice for low-moderate heat cooking techniques like sautéing, frying, and baking. It adds a tropical flavor to dishes and is a popular ingredient in vegan and dairy-free cooking. Here are more tips for cooking with coconut oil!
Butter has a lower smoke point around 300-350°F and is better suited for lower-heat cooking methods like sautéing, pan-frying, and grilling. It adds a rich, buttery flavor to dishes and is a staple in French cuisine, where it’s used in sauces and as a finishing ingredient. Butter also works well in baking and pastry-making, where it adds a distinct flavor and helps create a tender, flaky texture.
Can coconut oil and butter be substituted for each other?
Coconut oil and butter can be substituted for each other in some recipes, but it really depends on what you are making. Coconut oil has a more mild flavor, making it a great alternative for butter in vegan and dairy-free baked goods.
However, it may not provide the same richness and flavor that butter does in certain dishes, such as sautéed vegetables or mashed potatoes, so coconut oil may not always be the best substitute for butter… and vice versa – check out the best coconut oil substitutes for cooking and baking!
Nutrition: Coconut oil vs butter
While both are mostly saturated fat and high in calories, coconut oil is often considered healthier than butter because it’s high in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which can be metabolized by the body for energy more efficiently than other types of fat.
Unrefined virgin coconut oil is best because it retains more of the natural nutrients and antioxidants found in coconut.
Because coconut oil is plant-based, it contains no cholesterol. However, coconut oil is even higher in saturated fat (unhealthy fat) than butter, which could raise LDL cholesterol levels. So, it’s important to note that both coconut oil and butter should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
|Per tablespoon (15mL)||Coconut oil, Virgin/Unrefined||Coconut oil, Refined||Butter|
|Polyunsaturated||0 g||1 g||0.4|
|Monounsaturated||1 g||1 g||3.0 g|
|Saturated||13 g||12 g||7.3 g|
|Trans||0 g||0 g||0.5 g|
|Total Fat||14 g||14 g||14.2 g|
The primary fat source is bolded.
How to store coconut oil and butter
Coconut oil should be stored in a cool, dark place to maintain it’s freshness. Typically lasting up to 2 years, coconut oil is resistant to oxidation and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. It will solidify at temperatures below 76°F, so if it becomes too hard, simply place the container in warm water until it softens.
Butter is much more likely to go bad (see the signs and best storage practices). To keep it fresh, butter should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container, away from strong-smelling foods for about 3 months. It can also be frozen for longer storage (4-6 months). Once open, you’ll want to use butter within 3 weeks, or longer for salted butter. Always check the expiration date and discard it if it becomes rancid or develops an off flavor or odor.
Coconut oil vs butter: The ultimate verdict
All things considered, coconut oil (specifically, virgin coconut oil) is the ultimate winner. I prefer coconut oil for its arguably better nutrition, high smoke point, and versatility… and of course, its delicious, tropical flavor and aroma are hard to beat!
Here are our ranked 5 best coconut oil brands!
While both coconut oil and butter can be enjoyed in moderation, coconut oil may be slightly healthier than butter due to its higher medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) content.
Yes, you can use coconut oil as a substitute for butter in many recipes. However, keep in mind that coconut oil has a distinct coconut flavor and may not work well in every recipe that calls for butter.
Coconut oil has potential health benefits such as improving metabolism, fat burning, hair and skin health, and cognitive function. It also doesn’t contain cholesterol and is plant-based.