How Frugal Is Coconut Oil, Really?

Coconut oil is this year's kale. It is everywhere. If you pay attention to the opinions of daytime talk show hosts, then you already know that coconut oil is the magical food of unicorns that will give you the power of invisibility.

Okay, I lied about the invisibility part.

I have used a variety of coconut oil brands in the past with success, but I prefer Dr. Bronner's because they have a proven track record of fair trade business practices. I use Dr. Bronner's White Kernel Organic Virgin Coconut Oil for cooking, and the slightly less expensive Dr. Bronner's Whole Kernel Organic Virgin Coconut Oil for everything else.

Coconut oil, like apple cider vinegar and baking soda, is a staple product in my home. I use it for cooking, personal hygiene, and for general housekeeping projects. Here are some of its many uses.

In the Kitchen

There are so many ways to use coconut oil as an everyday ingredient in your favorite foods. Such as….

1. Pop Delicious Popcorn

Because of its high smoke point (350 F for unrefined, 400 F for refined), coconut oil is ideal for frying and sauteing food, which is why it is still the go-to oil for movie theater popcorn (which contains more calories than a pepperoni pizza). Personally, homemade popcorn is one of my favorite uses for coconut oil, calories be damned. Then again, I'm the person who usually pops her popcorn in bacon grease, so…

2. Fry Coconut Donuts

I don't know why this recipe's author doesn't fry coconut donuts in coconut oil. But I do, and the results are delicious.

3. Sear Meat

My vintage kitchen doesn't include an oven fan. One of the reasons why I like cooking with coconut oil is that I can sear meat or fish without setting off the fire alarm in my house. I also like the twist the light coconut flavor imparts to classic dishes like garlic and rosemary lamb chops.

4. Season Cast Iron Pans (Vegan Friendly)

For Southerners who regularly cook with lard or bacon grease, maintaining a perfectly seasoned, non-stick cast iron pan is a no-brainer. However, for vegetarians and vegans who like the feel of cast iron and the additional nutritional value from cooking on iron, it's hard to keep a pan properly seasoned with vegetable oil. With its high smoke point and its saturated fat content, coconut oil is the perfect, animal-friendly solution.

5. Brew Bulletproof-Style Coffee

Fatty caffeine is not a new idea. The Tibetans have been doing it for centuries with yak butter tea. What is new is the trend of replacing breakfast with coffee that has been laced with butter and coconut oil. Aka, Bulletproof coffee. It's super tasty, but I would personally suggest this beverage is best as an occasional treat.

6. Graze on Great Granola

Speaking of breakfast, coconut oil works well as part of a solid meal. For example, replacing the olive oil in a favorite granola recipe is all kinds of win.

7. Thicken Smoothies

It seems super weird to add oil to a smoothie, but beverage manufacturers do it all the time. Just look at the ingredients of non-dairy coffee creamer or soft-serve shakes. I like to add coconut oil to my smoothies because I don't like the texture of blended bananas.

8. Create Raw, Non-Dairy, Gluten-Free Sorbet

For everyone else on the planet who has no trouble with blended bananas, this recipe for raw banana ice cream with coconut oil is a great base for all sorts of non-dairy sorbets.

9. Indulge on Lactose-Free, Vegan-Friendly Chocolate Cake

One of the reasons for coconut oil's rise in popularity is that is an excellent vegan alternative to butter and lard in baking. Before substituting it for butter or shortening, novice bakers should try a few recipes that call specifically for coconut oil to get a handle on how it performs in baked goods. Butter contains a lot more water, so substitutions will definitely impact texture as well as flavor and cooking times. This chocolate cake recipe is a great starting point for baking with coconut oil and includes a recipe for vegan chocolate fudge frosting.

10. Bake Gluten-Free Brownies

I originally tried this recipe to use up some sorghum flour I'd received as a gift. Now I find myself buying sorghum flour just to make these brownies, using coconut oil, of course.

11. And Coconut Rice Krispie Treats

The name says it all: Coconut Rice Krispie Treats. Add some shredded coconut for extra coco-nuttiness.

In the Bathroom

Although I love using coconut oil in the kitchen, I think I use equal amounts of the stuff in the bathroom. In a downsizing frenzy, I replaced my gigantic collection of lotion, moisturizers, foot creams, and other random lubricants with grape seed oil and coconut oil. My bathroom is much tidier and my wallet thanks me.

12. Use as Makeup Remover

Coconut oil is a great alternative to cold cream. It even removes waterproof mascara without tugging. I like the fact that it not only removes every speck of make-up, but it leaves my face moisturized.

13. Swap Out Your Night Cream

Coconut oil is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, so for me it works well as a facial moisturizer. (Fair warning: acne-prone adults report both great and terrible results with coconut oil). Since I can feel the weight of the oil on my face (a sensation that I don't find pleasant), I use coconut oil as a night cream.

14. Create a Dewy Glow

Coconut oil gives skin a dewy glow, without makeup. If overall shine isn't your thing, use a little coconut oil, and spread it as a highlighter just across the cheekbones.

15. Fade Age Spots

Tons of beauty blogs make this claim. However, as someone who uses coconut oil daily I can tell you that I am just as spotty as ever. I will say that coconut oil does reduce the appearance of small wrinkles around my eyes, which makes me look younger, spots and all.

16. Use as Tropical Lube

Long lasting, chemical-free, and it doesn't taste like poison. Improve sexy-times with coconut oil. It works well as massage oil and as personal lubricant. Just don't use coconut oil (or any oil) with latex condoms!

17. Use as Foot Balm

In addition to being a bang up massage oil, coconut oil softens dry, cracked feet. I apply coconut oil to my feet at bedtime (I wear socks to bed to keep my sheets clean) and wake up with the softest toes.

18. Body Lotion

Overshare: I rub myself down with coconut oil at night before bed, and marinate in it while I sleep. My husband tells me it's like sharing a bed with a lady pirate. Of course, now I want to know how many lady pirates he knows.

19. Shaving Cream

Speaking of my husband, I haven't asked him to test out coconut oil as a shaving cream for his face, but coconut oil gives me a close shave on my legs and doubles as body lotion.

20. Body Scrub

Why pay for expensive spa treatments when you can make your organic version at home for pennies? This three-ingredient sugar scrub would make a great gift!

21. Lip Balm

Since I am a beekeeper, I use my bees' own wax mixed with coconut oil to make my lip balm, but plain old coconut oil works well too.

22. Hair Conditioner

After applying coconut oil to my skin as a lotion, I rub the residue on my hands into the ends of my hair to prevent split ends. A little oil goes a long way.

23. Scalp Treatment

Coconut oil can sooth a flaky scalp. Coconut oil is anti-fungal, which means it can help kill off Malassezia, a very common fungus that causes dandruff. Since I am one of those annoying dirty hair evangelists, I avoided using coconut oil as a scalp treatment since it would leave my hair looking greasy. But then I found this recipe for an egg rinse, which sounds disgusting, but totally works as a post-hair mask degreaser.

24. Cure Cradle Cap

Coconut oil is also a safe treatment for baby scalps.

25. Ease Eczema

My Ayurvedic doctor introduced me to coconut oil. She prescribed it as a topical treatment for my stubborn creeping crud skin condition. It works better than my $60 tube of prescription skin cream.

26. Breast Feeding First Aid

Is your baby literally chapping your hide? Soothe your sore nipples with a little coconut oil. It's cheaper than nipple cream, safe for babies, and an alternative for vegans and women with lanolin allergies.

27. Diaper Rash Help

Use plain coconut oil to sooth diaper rash and provide a barrier between the baby and the diaper or use it to mix up your own diaper cream.

So, Is Coconut Oil Frugal?

Although it is becoming mainstream, coconut oil is still a specialty food that comes with a specialty food price. If you use coconut oil as a substitute for cheaper vegetable oils, then your grocery bill is going to take a hit. However, if you are like me, and substitute coconut oil for more expensive products in the kitchen and your beauty routine, then coconut oil can be very cost-effective.

Are you a coconut oil lover or a coconut oil hater? Explain yourself in the comments section.

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Guest's picture

Toothpaste when added to baking soda.

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Nancy Willhite

Great article Max. You always inspire me with your ideas and wisdom.