What’s the Difference Between Coconut Oil & Coconut Butter?

published Jun 9, 2015
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(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

If you love all things coconut as much as I do, you’re probably familiar with coconut oil and coconut butter. Or, maybe you’ve seen them on the shelf at the grocery store; these two pantry staples have been increasing in popularity and becoming more and more widely available. While both can be used with sweet and savory dishes alike, do you know what sets these coconut-centric products apart?

The Difference Between Coconut Oil and Coconut Butter

It can be easy to confuse the two, especially when coconut oil solidifies, but these are two different products. Think of coconut oil and coconut butter like peanut oil and peanut butter — two distinct products used for very different purposes.

Coconut oil is simply the oil that’s been extracted from the coconut meat, while coconut butter is made from coconut flesh that’s been ground into a spreadable paste.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

More About Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is oil that has been extracted from coconut meat. It has a mellow, sweet, nutty flavor that sticks around even after cooking. The consistency of coconut oil varies depending on temperature. At room temperature, coconut oil is typically solid and semi-soft, although if you live in a hot climate it will likely be softer or even melted.

You can find coconut oil at specialty markets, health food stores, and most grocery stores.

How to Use Coconut Oil

Depending on what the recipe is for, coconut oil can be used in either solid or melted form and is generally used for cooking. Coconut oil can be used in both cooking and baking, with both sweet and savory foods. Use it to sauté greens and other vegetables, drizzle it over popcorn, or bake with it. I especially love using it when I make granola as well as spicy curries. You can also use it to season cast iron pans and wood cutting boards.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

More About Coconut Butter

Coconut butter is coconut flesh that’s been ground into a spreadable paste. Unlike oil, it includes all the fat, fiber, and nutrients from the coconut.

The consistency can vary depending on temperature and how the coconut butter is stored. It ranges from semi-soft and super creamy (like in the photo above) when it’s warm, to hard and almost waxy when stored in a cool place and during cooler months.

The flavor is pure, in-your-face coconut. It’s intense in a good way (as along as you like coconut), and not too sweet.

You can find coconut butter at specialty markets, health food stores, and larger grocery stores. And if you’re up for a project, you can also make your own at home.

→ Make it yourself! How To Make Coconut Butter

How to Use Coconut Butter

Coconut butter is simple and versatile to use, and it usually is used for eating instead of cooking. It can be as basic as spreading it on a piece of toast. You can also use it as a topping for pancakes or waffles, or drizzle it over oatmeal or granola. Coconut butter pairs well with savory dishes, too. I like drizzling it over sautéed greens and roasted sweet potatoes.

Tell Us How You Use Them Both!

Both coconut oil and coconut butter are nice staples to keep in the pantry. They’re two distinct products, used for different purposes, so they can’t really be substituted for one another. Coconut oil is best used for sautéting and roasting foods, and even baking. Coconut butter, on the other hand, is best used with foods that are already cooked. Use it as a spread or spoon it over sweet and savory foods alike.

Do you have favorite uses or recipes for these?