When deciding which oil to use, it’s important to consider these facts and comparisons.
If you’re thinking about making the switch from olive oil to coconut oil, you’re in the right place to learn all the details about how and when to use each.
Fact of the matter is, both coconut oil and olive oil benefit from being so versatile – they are both frequently used for baking, frying, hair and skin care, to make soaps, and so many other things! But when deciding which to use when, it’s important to have all the facts about their comparative benefits.
Let’s dive in.
Comparing coconut oil vs olive oil
|Per 1 tbsp||Coconut oil||Olive oil|
|Calories||117 calories||119 calories|
|Total Fat||14 grams||14 grams|
|Saturated Fat||12 grams||2 grams|
|Carbohydrates||0 grams||0 grams|
|Sugar||0 grams||0 grams|
Coconut oil + olive oil nutrition facts
As you can see, olive oil and coconut oil have broadly similar calorie and total fat profiles – 117 calories and 14 grams of total fat for 1 tablespoon of coconut oil vs 119 calories and 14 grams of total fat for olive oil. They’re also naturally carb-free and sugar-free.
Both are also naturally vegan, keto-friendly, and gluten-free, so they can accommodate a broad range of diets and needs. Coconut oil is made from coconuts, so it technically incorporates a top eight allergen (coconuts are classified with tree nuts for allergy purposes by the FDA, although technically coconuts are fruit, not nuts).
Key differences between coconut oil vs olive oil
The key difference between coconut oil vs olive oil is in their saturated fat content. Coconut oil has 6x as much saturated fat per tablespoon as olive oil, per the USDA. Other differences between coconut oil vs olive oil include their health impacts, their taste, how they’re produced,, and their primary cooking uses. Let’s go into a little more detail on each of these.
Is coconut oil healthier than olive oil?
No – in fact, olive oil is healthier than coconut oil. This is because of its far lower saturated fat content (2 grams per tablespoon vs 12 grams per tablespoon for coconut oil). Saturated fat can increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (that’s the bad kind of cholesterol), which in turn can make heart disease and stroke more likely.
Now, here’s the thing – here at coconutmama, we believe in “all things in moderation.” Cooking with coconut oil from time to time is probably not – on its own – going to destroy anyone’s health. And there are some things we really like about coconut oil, too. For example…
Coconut vs olive oil: Which tastes better?
Coconut oil tastes FAR better than olive oil. It’s not even close. Coconut oil adds a richness to any dish that’s more akin to butter than olive oil, so it gives body and texture that olive oil simply can’t provide when cooking.
And like butter, you can also use coconut oil directly as a spread. You can do this with olive oil too (think: Dipping bread in olive oil), but generally you need extra spices to make this happen, as olive oil can be a little bland all on its own. Coconut oil, by contrast, adds richness and a coconutty flavor immediately, nothing else needed.
How to make coconut oil and olive oil
Coconut oil and olive oil are made similarly, but with some slight differences. Coconut oil is made by extracting the meat from a coconut (usually with a knife), then shredding it, then blending it with water. Next, you strain the mixture, heat the resulting coconut milk over the stove, and wait until the oil starts to separate from the rest of the mixture. Then strain the oil, and voila – you have coconut oil! Here’s our detailed step-by-step guide to making coconut oil.
Somewhat similarly, Olive oil is made by mashing olives into a paste, straining the paste, and then pressing it to extract the olive oil.
Which oil is better for cooking, baking, and frying?
Because of its high saturated fat content, coconut oil is generally better than olive oil when baking. Its consistency is similar to butter, which makes it a good swap-in. I generally prefer coconut oil for most frying as well because – again, like butter – you get a richness to your fry that olive oil simply can’t generate with its lower saturated fat content. (Of course, as anyone who has fried with olive oil can attest, it’s still a perfectly fine oil for frying, and anyone who has made olive oil brownies knows that olive oil can also be good for baking too. Just because coconut oil is “better” doesn’t mean olive oil is terrible.)
Related: check out our awesome coconut oil popcorn recipe.
I tend to like olive oil a little better for cooking just because it’s so neutral in its taste, and generally I’ve found that oils are used in cooking for the body they add, not so much their taste. That said, coconut oil can be an excellent substitute as well.
Coconut oil smoke point vs olive oil
Unrefined coconut oil’s smoke point is 350 degrees Fahrenheit; refined coconut oil’s smoke point is about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Similarly, olive oil’s smoke point is between 350-410 degrees Fahrenheit (depending on the grade of olive oil). As you can see, this smoke point means both oils are useful for most baking and cooking scenarios. (As always, important to note that cooking above an oil’s smoke point can cause it to burn, which can leave a nasty taste and also release chemicals that aren’t great for your health.)
Yes, it’s safe to fry with coconut oil. It’s one of my favorite oils to use with frying because of its relatively high smoke point and rich, buttery flavor. Of course, whenever frying, it’s important to follow appropriate safety precautions (like checking the oil’s temperature to make sure you aren’t hitting that smoke point, always staying near the stove, etc.).
Yes, generally you can replace olive oil with coconut oil. Coconut oil will add a little extra flavor and a little extra richness to any dish where you sub it in, whereas olive oil is fairly neutral in its taste, so I’d encourage experimenting and seeing what you find!
Coconut oil has 117 calories per tablespoon, while olive oil has 119 calories per tablespoon. (Of course, these numbers may change a little based on the brand, grade, and level of refinement of each. As always, read the label.) And while the calories matter, I think it’s more important to look at the fat content – both have 14 grams of total fat, but coconut oil has 12 grams of saturated fat, while olive oil has just two grams of saturated fat.