To be honest, it never occurred to us until we read Melissa Clark's recent article in The New York Times touting its sweet nutty flavor and excellent cooking performance. According to her, coconut oil makes the best roasted sweet potato fries ever!
Say no more, Ms. Clark. We're sold!
But what about those health claims? Coconut oil is definitely high in saturated fat, but most of that fat is actually lauric acid. This is a medium chain fatty acid known to increase levels of good HDL in the blood. Beyond this, few health claims have been proven scientifically, but it seems that pure (ie not partially-hydrogentated) coconut oil is definitely not as bad for you as it once seemed to be.
Clark says that coconut oil keeps its sweet coconut-y flavor even after cooking. Sweet potatoes tossed in a little coconut oil gain a deeper caramelization and a bit of coconut flavor. She also likes using it to sauté vegetables and bitter greens since the flavor of the oil mellows the sharper flavors in the vegetables.
And we hardly need convincing of its uses in the baking world. Vegans already have been using coconut oil for years as a replacement for animal fats - it's time the rest of us caught on, apparently! Clark recommends trying the oil in a pound cake or using it to create a perfect homemade "Magic Shell" chocolate sauce for ice cream.
Keep an eye out for jars of coconut oil in the health food section of your grocery store or the oil section of stores like Whole Foods. We'll definitely be picking up a jar ourselves very soon!
What do you think about cooking with coconut oil?
• Read the Article: Once a Villain, Coconut Oil Charms the Health Food World by Melissa Clark in The New York Times
• Get the Recipe: Coconut-Oil Roasted Sweet Potatoes from The New York Times
(Image: Spectrum Naturals Coconut Oil, $8.99 on Amazon)