Coconut oil has a controversial health history. Although it is composed of mainly saturated fats, which doctors usually want people to avoid, coconut oil has been shown to slightly increase eaters' good cholesterol in some studies. It also appears to help with weight loss, and virgin coconut oil may contain antioxidants.
As my last roommate - Bri - can attest, coconut oil rocks with external applications. It can act as a hair shiner, moisturizer, shaving cream and more. According to articles like this one, coconut oil is basically the duct tape of personal hygiene.
My favorite ways to go coco-loco, though, stick to food. (And the foodie I am, can you really be surprised?). First off, my favorite breakfast trick: a coconut oil magic shell for my smoothie bowls.
The sauce is simple, yet always has Instagrammers begging for the recipe. Step 1: melt the coconut oil if needed (20 seconds in the microwave usually works for me). Step 2: pour a small serving into a separate bowl. Step 3: choose your flavoring. I usually use cacao powder, but I've also added acai, spirulina, or PB2 powder for equally delicious results. Step 4: mix and pour over your cold smoothie bowl, placing the bowl in the freezer for 30 seconds for the ultimate shell.
The result? Crunchy, chocolate goodness that's way healthier than it looks!
Coconut oil can also make an appearance in my lunch. Just recently, I learned a trick from Jessica Fisher's new cookbook, Good Cheap Eats. To blast your rice, millet, cauliflower rice, or "grain" of choice into new levels of deliciousness, sautée it with a drop of coconut oil before adding the liquid to cook it.
When I added coconut oil to my rice pre-cooking, it made my kitchen smell amazing and my coconut rice taste even more creamy and rich than usual. Plus, combining coconut oil and grains creates a super food equation of healthy carbs and fats. AKA - that rice will fill you up longer than its mainly-carb cousin!
Finally, coconut oil is a secret weapon for all those avoiding dairy. In pastries - like my allergy-friendly recipe for chicken pot pie or my experiments with galettes - mostly solid coconut oil makes the perfect butter substitute.
As for how it makes the pastries taste? I can never get enough of the light, flaky coconut oil crusts! While I initially worried it would make the crust too heavy or rich, I actually tend to use a little less coconut oil than the recipe calls for. This means I get the same taste with less grease (and less money spent on ingredients) - a win-win for this college student!
In terms of controversy, coconut oil stands out among other oils in the grocery aisle. At the same time, though, its unique properties of solidifying in cold temperatures and melting in hot ones makes it one of the most versatile oils. As with anything, it should be used in moderation.
But when you do use it, the options are endless - and delicious!
*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*
Do you use coconut oil? What's your favorite cooking oil? Comment below!