Refined vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil: What’s the Distinction?

Coconut oil has emerged as one of the crucial in style cooking oils worldwide over the previous a number of years, and it’s historically used as one of many main sources of fats in lots of Pacific and Asian nations.

This plant-based fats has some properties that different cooking oils don’t. For example, as a result of it’s principally made up of saturated fats, it’s strong at room temperature reasonably than liquid.

It additionally accommodates medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and lauric acid, which can present some fat-burning and heart-protective advantages (1).

Nonetheless, chances are you’ll be inquisitive about which sort of coconut oil is best on your wants.

This text opinions the variations between unrefined and refined coconut oil, in addition to which sort must be utilized in particular cases.

The foremost distinction between refined and unrefined coconut oil is how they’re produced, which in flip impacts a few of their bodily properties, resembling taste and smoke level.

Unrefined coconut oil

Generally referred to as virgin coconut oil, unrefined coconut oil is oil that has been pressed from coconut meat and undergone no additional processing.

There are two strategies of extracting unrefined coconut oil from coconuts (2):

  • Dry. This technique makes use of a machine to press coconut oil out of dried coconut flesh, or copra.
  • Moist. This system includes urgent each coconut milk and coconut oil out of recent coconuts after which separating the 2.

Most unrefined coconut oil is extracted utilizing the moist course of. You might even see some unrefined coconut oils labeled “chilly pressed,” which signifies that no warmth was utilized in its extraction.

Unrefined coconut oil is strong at room temperature and has a robust coconut taste and scent, which it will probably impart to meals that embrace it. Its smoke level, or the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke, is 350°F (177°C) (3).

Refined coconut oil

However, refined coconut oil undergoes some extra processing to make it higher fitted to cooking.

The method begins with urgent crude coconut oil from copra. At this step, the method could also be just like the dry extraction of unrefined coconut oil. Subsequent, a number of of the next steps might happen, relying on the manufacturing course of (4):

  • Degumming. The crude coconut oil is combined with a degumming agent to take away gums, which might change the feel and high quality of the oil. The oil is washed in water to separate these gums from the oil.
  • Neutralizing. Sodium hydroxide, or lye, is added to the oil and varieties a cleaning soap with free fatty acids within the oil. The oil is then washed with water, eradicating the cleaning soap and free fatty acids. This reduces the chance of rancidity, as free fatty acids are vulnerable to oxidation.
  • Bleaching. The oil is “bleached” by filtering it by an activated clay filter. No bleach is used on this course of.
  • Deodorizing. The oil is heat-deodorized to take away any remaining coconut scent or style.

Whereas the ensuing coconut oil is extra extremely processed, it has the next smoke level of 400–450°F (204–232°C), which makes it extra appropriate for prime temperature cooking. For essentially the most half, it’s additionally flavorless and odorless (5).

Moreover, refined and unrefined coconut oils have related nutrient profiles, offering 120 energy of pure fats per tablespoon (14 grams). The 2 varieties comprise related ratios of MCTs, lauric acid, and saturated and unsaturated fat (3, 6, 7, 8).


Unrefined coconut oil might be extracted utilizing both a dry or a moist technique, whereas refined coconut oil undergoes some extra processing steps. Refined coconut oil is generally flavorless and has the next smoke level than unrefined coconut oil.

For essentially the most half, selecting refined or unrefined coconut oil is a matter of private desire. Nonetheless, in sure purposes, one sort could also be higher suited than the opposite. Listed here are some examples.


As a result of unrefined coconut oil has a robust coconut style and scent, refined coconut oil could also be a better option for baking. If you happen to use refined coconut oil, the ensuing baked good might be freed from a coconut style and scent that would in any other case conflict with its flavors.

Nonetheless, in case you desire unrefined coconut oil and don’t thoughts the flavour, its decrease smoke level is unlikely to have an effect on the standard of baked items, because the meals itself gained’t attain such excessive temperatures, even in an oven set increased than 350°F (177°C).

Regardless, both sort of coconut oil is a good vegan different to butter in baking purposes, as each fat are strong at room temperature.

This makes coconut oil very best to be used in baked items resembling vegan biscuits and pie crusts, through which the usage of strong fats helps create a lightweight and flaky product.


In cooking, the upper smoke level of refined coconut oil makes it a transparent winner. It’s very best for prime warmth cooking, resembling stir-frying and sauteing.

This lets you cook dinner at increased temperatures, leading to a product that’s crispy however not burnt.

You should utilize unrefined coconut oil for cooking, though chances are you’ll must cook dinner at a decrease temperature for an extended time period.

Alternatively, avocado oil could also be even higher fitted to excessive warmth cooking purposes resembling deep-frying. It has a smoke level of 488–520°F (253–271°C) and a gentle, nutty aroma that’s usually complement to fried or sauteed meals (9).

However, in case you’re searching for an oil to make use of in salad dressings or drizzle over ready meals, extra-virgin olive oil is the best choice, as a result of it’s mild-tasting and liquid at room temperature.

Olive oil may additionally be used for cooking as a result of its smoke level ranges from 350–410°F (175–210 °C) (9).

Pores and skin and hair care

Many individuals use coconut oil on their pores and skin and hair as a pure moisturizer or conditioner.

You should utilize refined coconut oil for this if the scent of the unrefined selection bothers you. Nonetheless, unrefined coconut oil could also be a better option as a result of it’s much less processed and due to this fact prone to be gentler in your pores and skin and hair.

Dietary wants

Lastly, some folks use coconut oil as a result of it fits their dietary preferences. For example, the oil is a well-liked selection for folks on the low carb, excessive fats keto weight loss plan as a result of it accommodates small quantities of doubtless fat-burning MCT oil (1).

For folks on keto, both sort is mostly effective given their very related nutrient profiles (6, 7).

Nonetheless, some folks could also be extra involved with weight loss plan high quality than macronutrient content material. For instance, for individuals who comply with diets consisting of minimally processed meals, unrefined coconut oil could be the higher choice as a result of it’s much less processed.


As a result of its delicate taste and excessive smoke level, refined coconut oil is a better option for baking and cooking. Nonetheless, minimally processed unrefined coconut oil could also be higher for pores and skin and hair care, in addition to sure dietary preferences.

Whereas refined and unrefined coconut oil have basically similar nutrient profiles, they’re in any other case remarkably completely different.

Refined coconut oil has a milder scent and taste however the next smoke level, whereas unrefined coconut oil is minimally processed and has a robust coconut taste and decrease smoke level.

Relying on what you want the oil for, one sort could also be higher fitted to you than the opposite. Regardless, due to their related nutrient content material, each refined and unrefined coconut oils are nice sources of wholesome fats.

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