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What’s the difference between refined vs unrefined coconut oil? Here’s what to know about these two distinct types and when to use them.

refined vs unrefined coconut oil
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Refined vs unrefined coconut oil: what’s the difference? Which type of coconut oil is better for you? We’re glad you asked. While they sound like the same product, there’s a distinct difference you’ll want to know about. Here’s a breakdown and when to use each in your cooking.

Refined vs unrefined coconut oil: the differences

What’s the difference between these two coconut products? Which one do we recommend that you buy? Refined coconut oil. Here’s why:

  • What is unrefined coconut oil? Also known as virgin coconut oil, this type comes from fresh coconut meat that is cold pressed. Unrefined coconut oil has a strong coconut flavor. You can heat it up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • What is refined coconut oil? 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 without making the recipe taste like coconut. You can heat it up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Which type of coconut oil is better for you?

Here’s the key thing to note. Unrefined and refined coconut oil have the same nutritional profile. That’s good news! Because it means that you can use the more versatile oil, refined coconut oil, all the time (which we do). Scroll down to see some of the ways we use it.

Refined vs Unrefined Coconut Oil

Is coconut oil healthy?

This is a subject of great debate in the health and wellness community. Coconut oil has been portrayed by some as the best healthy oil for cooking, and by others a poisonous toxin. It’s hard to know who to trust, so we go by the Harvard opinion.

According to Harvard Medical School, “coconut oil is neither superfood nor poison.” That is, it’s a cooking oil that’s best consumed in moderation. Feel free to use it in the occasional baked goods or pie crust (see below), and it’s a great vegan substitute for butter. What’s the healthiest oil choice? Experts agree you should opt for olive oil.

Refined vs unrefined coconut oil: when to use them

What’s the best way to use refined vs unrefined coconut oil? As we mentioned above: the most versatile coconut oil is refined coconut oil. It has a neutral flavor so you barely taste the coconut at all. You can also heat it up to 400 degrees so it’s great for sauteing. In fact, we only buy refined coconut oil over here. Here’s a breakdown of how to use both types:

  • Unrefined coconut oil: Use it in recipes where you want a strong coconut flavor. You can use it in baking and body care.
  • Refined coconut oil: This oil is much more versatile because of its neutral flavor. Use it in body care, vegan baked goods, for sauteing and stir fries, vegan pie crust, vegan scones, vegan cookies, and more.

Coconut oil recipes

Ready to get cooking? Here are a few of our recipes with coconut oil:

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Vegan chocolate chip cookies

Coconut Oil Cookies

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 16 cookies 1x


These coconut oil cookies are a one-bowl recipe that makes for a chewy gluten free cookie topped with flaky sea salt. Go to Coconut Oil Cookies for more.


  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 3 tablespoons water, plus more if necessary
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, softened but not melted
  • ½ cup brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
  • ¼ cup almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup vegan semisweet chocolate chips
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together the ground flaxseed and water and let thicken for 5 minutes.
  3. To the same bowl, add the coconut oil, sugar, almond butter, and vanilla. Whisk until well combined. Add the almond flour and sprinkle the baking soda and salt evenly over the mixture. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to stir until well combined, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons water if the mixture is too dry. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Use a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop the dough onto the baking sheet. Press each ball down slightly and sprinkle with flaky sea salt, if using. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes or until the edges are just starting the brown.
  5. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  6. When the cookies are completely cool, they can be stored in an airtight container or frozen. (To reheat frozen cookies, bake in a 350F oven for 5 minutes or until warmed through.)


Reprinted with permission from Love and Lemons Everyday by Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Matthews

  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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