Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How to Substitute Out the Coconut in Recipes

Something that has been on my mind a lot lately is the amount of coconut oil showing up in recipes.  I often joke with people that I totally wouldn't mind being a vegan, but I can't, because I'm allergic to coconut. Seriously, it's in everything these days because it's been marketed as the newest "healthy" fat.

I would like to provide some reassuring yin to the yang for all of us who are longingly wishing we could march along in the coconut oil parade.  I cook pretty much everything from the periodic table because of my allergies, so, not to brag, but my time in the kitchen has taught me many things about making good food that doesn't taste at all tropical.


  • Virtually ALL oils contain less saturated fat than coconut oil.  It's considered a SOLID fat even though it is liquid at room temperature.
  • One tablespoon has 11.8 g of saturated fat, .8g monounsaturated fat, and .2 grams of polyunsaturated fat.  It has only trace amounts of nutrients.  It also has 117 calories.  Genuine butter has 102 calories, and 7g of saturated fat, .4 polyunsaturated, 3g of monounsaturated, and .5 g of trans fat. 
  • Coconut oil has a neutral, not beneficial effect on cholesterol.  It raises both good and bad cholesterol.
Now that we are less sad that we are allergic to it, what do we do with it in recipes that we want to try?  Well, it depends entirely on the recipe!  
  • Coconut Oil-  substitute butter, shortening, or other vegetable, canola, etc oils.
  • Coconut Milk- substitute whole milk, or non-dairy milks (paying attention to the flavor of the milk)
  • Shredded coconut- this one really depends on what you are making!  For example, if you want to alter the frosting on a german chocolate cake, just add extra nuts to the frosting instead (try slivered almonds), OR sunflower seeds, dried shredded fruit (like thinly sliced apricots), or rolled oats.
  • Coconut flour- regular wheat flour, or a combination of gluten free flours (let me know if you need help with this because you'll need to keep it high in protein and fiber, so adding flax seed and soy flour will help any rice flour mix)
For stand alone cake forms, look for a pound cake type recipe with real butter. 

Baking
When subbing coconut oil in baked goods, look at the end result and the amount of fat in the finished product, for example:
MOST FAT= like brownies  - use butter or margarine
HIGH FAT= like cookies or biscuits- use less butter or margarine
MODERATE FAT= like muffins - use oil
LOWER FAT= cakelike - use oil or cream
NON FAT= like cardboard if you leave it out

Usually, you can make baked goods hold together and have a slightly more cakelike texture if you substitute applesauce.

In baked goods, depending on the item, you can use melted butter, shortening, cream, yogurt, applesauce, milk, or milk substitutes.  It all depends on what you are making and how much fat you want to eat.  The end texture will be more like cake as you remove the saturated fats.  

What is killing me recently is the amount of recipes that call for butter AND coconut oil.  That gets kind of confusing.  I usually just add milk or cream and end up with something slightly more (and delightfully) fluffy than it is probably supposed to be.

 If you have a recipe you want to send me, I can give you advice on what to sub out. 






4 comments:

Crafty Cherry said...

I'm allergic to coconut and have been vegan for 10 years, it's totally do-able. Yes it requires more reading of packaging, but I'm used to that anyway.

TG said...

If you're baking cookies and the 2 1.2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil, do you just sub the same amount but use butter? I know in your post you said less butter? If so, how much less?

Also, I read somewhere that bacon fat would be a good sub in a cookie recipe. Have you heard of this?

Thanks!

Amy said...

Thanks so much for your blog! We've recently found out that our two year old has a contact allergy to coconut. I am leaning a lot by reading through your archives, and feeling a little overwhelmed but thankful to have access to your information!

To be on the safe side, I'm removing coconut from our diets as well.

We are whole foods, plant based. We don't eat animal products and also avoid refined products which includes eating refined oils like coconut.

Amy said...

Thanks so much for your blog! We've recently found out that our two year old has a contact allergy to coconut. I am leaning a lot by reading through your archives, and feeling a little overwhelmed but thankful to have access to your information!

To be on the safe side, I'm removing coconut from our diets as well.

We are whole foods, plant based. We don't eat animal products and also avoid refined products which includes eating refined oils like coconut.