When it comes to coconut oil there are a lot of variations out there – from virgin, extra virgin, refined, cold-pressed, and expeller-pressed…it can be a lot!
Whole kernel coconut oil and white kernel coconut oil describe the coconut flesh used to extract the coconut oil. Whole kernel coconut oil is made from coconut flesh (kernel) that includes a layer of skin on the outside (using the whole kernel). White kernel coconut oil is made from coconut flesh where the skin is removed, leaving only the white part of the flesh.
If you didn’t know that coconut had more than one type of skin, don’t worry – we’ll explain some coconut anatomy to make everything clearer in terms of whole vs. white kernel, and will help you decide which type to choose!
Coconut anatomy 101
Before we get into terms like whole kernel and white kernel, it’s helpful to understand the structure of coconut oil’s source – the coconut.
Coconuts are a one-seeded drupe, which is a fruit with a hard covering around its one seed. Grown from flowers on a coconut palm tree, it takes around one year for the coconut to mature from a flower to a mature coconut!
Mature coconuts (the kind coconut oil is made from) are brown in color while young, unripe coconuts are green in color. (While an unripe coconut might not sound appealing, you should know that they are prime sources for obtaining naturally sweet coconut water!).
The coconut is made of a thin outer layer called the exocarp (the part you see that is green or brown), a thick and fibrous middle layer called the mesocarp, and a hard inner layer called the endocarp. The endocarp contains the endosperm, which is the white coconut flesh/kernel that you can eat or extract oil from!
The white flesh of the coconut is where the oil resides – it’s this flesh that is pressed to make coconut oil. The flesh is also known as the kernel, which has a layer of skin (also called the “seed coat” or testa) around it that can be removed, similar to how you can peel a cucumber or eat it with the skin on.
What is whole kernel coconut oil?
Whole kernel coconut oil is made from coconut flesh with the layer of skin still attached to it. With the skin left on, whole kernel coconut oil is described by many as having a “nuttier” flavor compared to white kernel coconut oil (don’t worry, we’ll get to that next).
Some coconut oil lovers describe whole kernel coconut oil as being more nutritious than white kernel, but it’s difficult to ascertain how different they are when compared because their nutrition stats are identical. (We’ll show you a comparison chart in just a second!)
What is white kernel coconut oil?
White kernel coconut oil is made from coconut kernels (flesh) with the inner skin removed, leaving only the white flesh without any traces of the skin (remember that this skin is called the seed coat or testa).
White kernel coconut oil is more of a pure white color compared to whole kernel coconut oil, which may have less of a bright white color with a slight brown tint from the skin/seed coat/testa being left on during oil extraction.
Nutritional information for whole kernel coconut oil vs. white kernel coconut oil
Let’s compare the nutritional stats for Dr. Bronner’s brand organic whole kernel coconut oil and organic white kernel coconut oil below:
|Organic whole kernel coconut oil (1 tbsp.)||Organic white kernel coconut oil (1 tbsp.)|
|Total fat||14 g||14 g|
|Saturated fat||13 g||13 g|
|Trans fat||0 g||0 g|
|Polyunsaturated fat||0 g||0 g|
|Monounsaturated fat||1 g||1 g|
|Carbohydrates||0 g||0 g|
|Protein||0 g||0 g|
Source: Dr. Bronner’s
As you can see, the nutritional information is the exact same from what we can see on the nutrition facts label for both whole kernel and white kernel coconut oil. (Things like vitamins and minerals aren’t listed on coconut oil because it isn’t considered a significant source of them, nor are compounds like antioxidants listed on nutrition facts labels.)
Which should I use – whole kernel or white kernel coconut oil?
Since they are so similar nutrition-wise, you might be wondering why there’s a need to specify between whole and white kernel coconut oil.
When it comes to culinary use and skincare, both whole kernel and white kernel coconut oil will do the same job. So which one should you choose?
The main factor it comes down to is this: Whole kernel coconut oil has a stronger coconut flavor, while white kernel coconut oil has a milder flavor. If you want to maintain the nutty, stronger flavor, then go for whole kernel coconut oil. If you want a more neutral/mild flavor, go for white kernel coconut oil!
You can use either whole kernel or white kernel coconut oil for your skin! Both have great moisturizing properties for your skin and hair. If you enjoy the scent of coconuts, then go for whole kernel coconut oil, which may have a nuttier scent compared to white kernel coconut oil.
Whole kernel coconut oil has a stronger nutty flavor, which may be preferred among coconut enthusiasts. However, there are no major nutritional advantages to choosing whole kernel coconut oil over white kernel coconut oil. (If you want nutritionally superior coconut oil, the more important factor is choosing virgin coconut oil over refined coconut oil, which maintains its nutritional value better than refined oils.)