Coconut Oil vs Olive Oil

Coconut oil vs olive oil: which is healthier? Can you substitute one for the other? Here’s what to know about these cooking oils.

Coconut oil vs olive oil

Coconut oil vs olive oil: which oil is healthier? Can you substitute one for the other? These popular oils have cult followings for their purported health benefits. But are they all they they’re cracked up to be? And which should you use when? Here’s what to know about when to use them.

Coconut oil vs olive oil: which is healthier?

Both the New York Times and Harvard Medical School agree: there’s a clear winner. Here’s what to know:

  • Olive oil is healthier than coconut oil. Why? Coconut oil has 6 times the amount of saturated fat as olive oil. High saturated fat has been linked to increased levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL), which can increase the risk of heart disease. Olive oil has “good” fats or monounsaturated fats, which can have a beneficial effect on your heart when eaten in moderation. So olive oil is heart healthy; coconut oil is not.
  • Can you still use coconut oil? Yes! Coconut oil is essentially equivalent to other cooking oils: it may even have advantages over butter (source). But there is currently not enough data on coconut oil to support its use as a primary fat in our diets (source).

Coconut oil vs olive oil: definition and uses

Olive oil is a heart-healthy cooking oil that we recommend using as your primary cooking oil. But coconut oil is a great backup oil that’s especially suited for vegan baking. Here’s a quick primer on how to use each:

  • Olive oil is oil that’s extracted from olives, and this Mediterranean food is one of the healthiest cooking oils in the world. The uses for olive oil in cooking are endless: use it for sautéing and roasting vegetables, making marinades, drizzling on raw vegetables, or making salad dressings. It can be used in baked recipes, but it has a strong fruity flavor so its applications are unique.
  • Unrefined coconut oil or virgin coconut oil comes from fresh coconut meat that is cold pressed. It has a strong coconut flavor and you can heat it up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s good for recipes where you want a coconut flavor.
  • Refined coconut oil comes from dried coconut meat that is steam refined (no chemicals are used in the process). Refined coconut oil has a neutral flavor, meaning you can use it as a substitute for butter in vegan baking without making the recipe taste like coconut. You can heat it up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s also good for sautéing. Because coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it’s not used for salad dressings or drizzling.

Olive oil recipes

So many of our recipes have olive oil, it’s hard to pick which to share! Here are some of our favorites:

Coconut oil recipes

Here are some coconut oil recipes to get you started:

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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