What Is the Difference Between Coconut Oil & Coconut Butter?

Halved coconuts

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Although the two look and perform in many of the same ways, coconut oil and coconut butter are different products produced in different manners. One of the most telling characteristics that set them apart is their color -- coconut oil becomes clear when melted at 76 degrees Fahrenheit, while coconut butter maintains its rich white color. Beyond just looks, the two are used differently and can taste worlds apart.

Coconut Oil Basics

Close-up of coconut oil on the wooden spoon

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Coconut oil is the cold-pressed oil extracted from a mature coconut. It is very shelf -stable and its high smoke point makes it suitable for high-temperature cooking such as frying and sauteing. Commonly used as a nutritional supplement, coconut oil is also functional as a skin moisturizer and appears in many natural skin care products. Produced predominately in Southeast Asia, coconut oil is used as a dairy butter replacement, and is a dominant cooking oil in the region.

Coconut Butter Basics

Shea butter

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Coconut butter is produced by grinding the meat of a coconut into a butter-like creamy product. Used most commonly as a spread similar to butter, its meaty properties also make it a functional skin exfoliant. Comprising both fat and fiber, coconut butter has a harder texture than coconut oil and should not be used for frying because it burns easily. When used in cooking such as candy making, coconut butter is melted at very low temperatures to prevent burning.

Coconut Oil & Butter Uses

coconut oil

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While coconut oil is typically used as a cooking oil, coconut butter is more commonly used as a condiment or spread, often in the same way as peanut butter or almond butter. Because it is nut-free, it is a popular substitution for people with allergies to nut products. Coconut oil is used predominately for sauteing and frying; it substitutes in a 1-to-1 ratio with other cooking oils in baking recipes as well.

Shopping & Storage Tips

Coconuts Hanging on Palm Tree

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There are many types of coconut oil and coconut butter available on the market, in varying quality, similar to other oils. Virgin coconut oils bear a strong coconut flavor, while more refined coconut oils have little to no coconut flavor. Both coconut butter and coconut oil are available in organic and non-organic varieties; shop at health food stores and online for the widest selection. Store both coconut oil and coconut butter at room temperature. Stir coconut butter well before use to incorporate any separated oil back into the coconut butter for a creamy product.