Coconut oil has popped up in the news in recent years, mostly as a magical property that can do everything from whiten your teeth to slim down those growing hips. In March, researchers in Sri Lanka suggested that using coconut oil to cook rice cuts the calories in half if the rice is cooled overnight and reheated.
Lots of stories have debunked that claim, but still, it begs the question: What is coconut oil and how do we use it?
Coconut oil is the edible oil extracted from the meat of coconuts that comes from coconut palms. It is a mild tasting oil that doesn’t impart much coconut flavor. The smoke point is about 350 degrees, comparable to olive oil, though lower than peanut or safflower oil.
Like most oils, it’s 120 calories a tablespoon (butter is 100) and is one of the highest in saturated fat at 90 percent. (Butter is 65 percent.)
Coconut oil can be solid, semi-solid or liquid depending on room temperature, and it does not contain cholesterol since it’s plant-based.
This oil is used in cooking in many tropical countries around the world, which is why that rice-calorie research came out of Sri Lanka, a country off the southeast tip of India. Think about how you use olive oil or vegetable oil when you saute meats or vegetables; that’s the same way you can use coconut oil. It is a staple in tropical Asian cooking, especially Thai.
If you want to try coconut oil, look for virgin varieties (unrefined, non-hyrdogenated or cold-pressed) and expect to pay $12 to $18 for a pint. Some people put a spoonful into their oatmeal in the morning to get some of the benefits of the oil’s lauric acid which may help to lower cholesterol. There are many claims about the benefits coconut oil, including that it might help combat acne. Check out this story on 101 uses.
Among recent claims, this one from a Chicago dentist, is that coconut oil will whiten your teeth. Though, he says, you have to swirl it in your mouth like mouth wash … for 15 minutes.
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1¼ cups coconut milk
- ¹/3 cup coconut oil (liquefied)
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1 cup grated fresh coconut
- For the topping:
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup grated fresh coconut
- 1 tablespoon solid coconut oil
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, combine the egg, coconut milk, coconut oil and extract; mix well. Stir into dry ingredients just until combined. Stir in coconut. Fill 12-cup greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. (You will only get 9 to 10 muffins; fill other holes with water.)
- Combine the topping ingredients; sprinkle over batter. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.
- Makes 9 or 10.