If you have a craze for all things coconut as much as I do, you’re probably familiar with coconut butter. Or, maybe you’ve seen jars of the creamy, whitish coconut product at the grocery store.
But do you know what sets coconut oil and coconut butter apart?
How about the health benefits of coconut butter? Is this pricey product really worth its price tag? Or is it a jar-full of ‘artery clogging’ saturated fats?
And how do you use coconut butter? Or store it?
This article will cover all the questions you may have about coconut butter. Plus, I’ll also share a do-it-yourself video to try at home – this will save you a lot of money over time.
Coconut butter vs. Coconut oil: One and the same?
Short answer: Not at all. But it is quite common to confuse the two, especially when coconut oil is in its solid form.
Although they both come from the coconut, coconut butter, and coconut oil are very different. Just like peanut butter and peanut oil are very distinct products. Coconut butter is a spread that is made by blending the meat of a coconut. On the other hand, coconut oil is, well, the oil that is extracted from the coconut meat.
In cold climates, coconut oil is usually a hard solid with a nutty flavor that sticks around even after you’re done cooking. When the weather is warmer, coconut oil becomes a semi-soft solid at room temperature. If you live in a hot climate like I do, the oil will turn into a thick liquid unless you refrigerate it.
If the weather is hot, coconut butter is likely to be a semi-soft solid. During cooler months, or when refrigerated, coconut butter becomes quite hard. The texture of coconut butter will depend on how well it has been blended – blending for 15 to 20 minutes or using a high-end blender will usually yield a very creamy paste.
Coconut butter vs. Coconut oil: Nutrition facts
Unlike coconut oil, coconut butter still contains some protein and fiber. According to the USDA Food Products Database, 1 tablespoon (16g) of pure, unsweetened coconut butter made from the whole coconut contains:
- 105 calories
- 1g of protein
- 5g of fat
- 4g of carbohydrates
- 5g of fiber
- 1g of sugar
- 0.54g of iron
1 tablespoon (16g) of virgin coconut oil contains:
- 121 calories
- 0g of carbohydrate (0g of sugar)
- 0g of protein
- 5g of fat
- 0g of fiber
- 0 g of iron
The other names of coconut butter
As far as I know, coconut butter has three other aliases namely:
- Coconut manna
- Coconut concentrate
- Creamed coconut – this one usually has a grainy texture
Top 6 proven health benefits of coconut butter
1. Can help reduce inflammation
Did you know that the fat in coconut butter contains various antioxidants known to lower inflammation? In a lab study involving rats with induced arthritis, rodents given coconut fat experienced a reduction in inflammatory markers (substances that cause inflammation). They also healed faster.
Why should everyone care about reducing inflammation?
Simple: low-grade, persistent inflammation has been linked to a host of diseases ranging from autoimmune conditions to heart disease, accumulation of fat around the organs, and even depression.
2. Can strengthen the immune system
Have you heard of lauric acid, the medium-chain fatty acid found in coconut butter? Well, it is most well-known for its antimicrobial properties. You see, when you eat coconut butter, you’re also ingesting lauric acid which enzymes in your digestive tract will transform into monolaurin.
Monolaurin has been found to prevent the proliferation of harmful bacteria thanks to its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. In other words, lauric acid can indirectly help to keep the gut healthy. And since about 85% of our immune system resides in the gut, this fatty acid can therefore boost your immunity.
3. May improve insulin resistance
In a nutshell, insulin resistance occurs when cells are no longer able to respond appropriately to the hormone insulin. When this happens, blood sugar levels tend to become erratic. This can pave the way for diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease among other complications.
And that’s where coconut butter can help. Thanks to the healthy fats it contains, coconut butter can help improve insulin function by:
- Improving the function of the hormone insulin
- Preventing blood sugar spikes – this, in turn, lowers the need for insulin
- Repairing the cell walls, thus allowing the cells to respond better to insulin
4. May facilitate weight loss
You’re probably asking yourself ‘How can fat help you lose weight?’ Well, coconut butter is not just any fat.
Contrary to popular belief, weight gain and accumulation of body fat is not necessarily caused by eating too much or not moving enough. You can actually gain weight if:
- You can’t sleep well
- Your gut is unhealthy
- Your hormones are out of whack
- You’ve developed insulin resistance
- You’re unable to deal with stress well
- Your immune system is constantly being triggered
- You’re in a state of chronic low-grade inflammation
And the list goes on.
How can coconut butter help?
Consuming coconut butter can make it easier for you to lose weight by helping to (i) decrease inflammation; (ii) heal the digestive tract; and (iii) improve insulin resistance as discussed earlier.
Moreover, coconut butter is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of fat that has been shown to:
- Boost the metabolism (that is, help your body burn more energy even when you’re not doing anything)
- Nourish muscles and facilitate muscle recovery after training. This can make it easier for you to increase your muscle mass. And the more muscle you have, the more energy your body will burn. This being said, you won’t turn into Rambo even if you eat one jar of coconut butter daily.
- Reduce the appetite by balancing appetite-controlling hormones and by facilitating the production of ketone bodies by the liver.
5. Can decrease risks of heart disease
Yes, I am fully aware that coconut butter, like all coconut products, contains saturated fats. But consuming saturated from whole foods can, in fact, increase HDL-cholesterol which is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.
6. May offer protection against viruses and bacteria
As mentioned earlier, coconut butter contains lauric acid which is then transformed into monolaurin in the digestive tract. Monolaurin also possesses anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties – it can disintegrate the fatty envelope that enclose the virus or bacteria. Since this envelope protects the virus or bacteria, breaking it apart exposes the organism.
Research indicates that monolaurin can effectively kill certain types of viruses and bacteria. Interestingly, Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers, is very sensitive to monolaurin. So, if you have digestive issues, regularly consuming some coconut butter (whilst also supporting your digestion, liver, and gallbladder) could relieve some of your symptoms.
Important note: Coconut butter is not some magic food that will compensate for an unhealthy lifestyle. It’s unlikely that you’ll reap the health benefits of coconut butter if you’re still:
- Not getting enough quality sleep
- Eating processed foods or lots of sugar
- Not managing your stress levels properly
How to store coconut butter
Got some raw, unsweetened coconut butter on hand? Just store it at room temperature for a few months in the pantry so that it will remain soft and easy to spread (unless the temperature drops a lot). Don’t worry; the coconut butter won’t go bad as long as you use a clean and dry spoon when scooping it out.
You can also keep the coconut butter in the fridge. But be forewarned that doing so will cause the coconut butter to become rock solid.
If you haven’t used your jar of coconut butter for some time, you’ll notice that it will settle with a layer of oil on the top. To emulsify the coconut butter, simply place the jar in a saucepan containing hot water. Heat on low temperature while stirring the coconut butter.
How to soften coconut butter
One thing you should never do is add hot water to solid coconut butter unless you plan to use the whole thing. You’re probably thinking ‘Who would such an idiotic thing?’
Well, I did that once and ended up having to throw it all away after a few days because the coconut butter got all moldy… Not fun!
Instead, try one of the following options.
Option 1: Place the jar in a pot or saucepan containing hot water. The water should come halfway up the sides of the jar. Heat on low heat while stirring the coconut butter.
Option 2: Put your jar of coconut butter in your oven and dial the heat up to 350F. Switch on your oven for 5 minutes before turning it off and removing the jar of coconut butter. Give the contents a good stir.
Option 3: If you’ve just used your oven, turn it off and let it cool for a few minutes before putting in your jar of coconut butter. Remove the jar after 5 to 10 minutes and stir the coconut butter well.
Option 4: Need a small amount of coconut butter? Try to scrape some out and then place on a candle warmer. Or mix with some warm coconut oil to make it smooth.
Or just come to Mauritius during the summer…
How about using the microwave?
I haven’t tried that but others have. One precaution is to warm the jar at a low temperature for a maximum of 15 seconds.
Where can you find coconut butter? And how do you select the best one?
Most grocery stores usually carry coconut butter. Look for a brand that contains no added sugar, salt, preservatives or flavors.
Think these are expensive? They cost twice as much where I live which is why I prefer making my own coconut butter. Plus, somehow the homemade version is much tastier.
DIY coconut butter – A must-try recipe
Coconut butter is very easy to make – check out the video below to see what I mean. Moreover, you can get 16oz (1pint) of homemade coconut butter for about $5. That’s about 50% cheaper than the store-bought version.
Your coconut butter is not as creamy as the stuff you get in the store? Then try this three-ingredient recipe.
Help! My coconut flakes are just becoming finer. They’re not turning into butter!
Here’s how to troubleshoot your coconut butter situation:
- Did you blend the flakes long enough? Depending on what blender you’re using, you may have to blend the flakes for 10 to 20 minutes because they are very dry. Patience is key when making coconut butter!
- Did your blender overheat? Turn your blender off a few times to allow it to cool down. When it’s off, scrape down the blender’s edges. This is a very important step for those of you using blenders with taller sides.
- Still not turning into butter? Just add in some raw, melted coconut oil to help along with the process.
Brilliant yet simple uses of coconut butter
1. Straight from the jar
One of the things I like the most about my job as a real food dietitian is that real food suppliers often contact me when they have new products. So, a few years ago, this lady contacted me about various coconut products she was selling. I bought a few jars of coconut butter and kept one in the office for a rapid pick-me-up afternoon snack. A-MA-ZING! The only ‘problem’ is that the stuff is addictive. Well, for me at least.
2. With some fruit
Going for an intense workout? Or a long run? And you don’t really feel like eating but you know that if you don’t, your blood sugar (and you along) will drop? Then try one or two teaspoons of coconut butter with a banana, an apple, some fresh pineapple slices or any fruit you fancy. You could also sprinkle a little bit of salt over the fruit to bring out the fruit’s natural sweetness.
This works great for individuals with blood sugar issues (such as those with PCOS), diabetes or insulin resistance. The healthy fats in the coconut butter will help stabilize your blood sugar levels.
I also love drizzling coconut butter over chilled fruits – this makes the coconut butter harden a little bit and adds some crunch to the fruit.
3. As a spread for pancakes
Have you ever tried slathering peanut butter on pancakes? Yummy, right? Then, do the same with coconut pancakes – try the wheat-free pancake recipes in this post about healthy breakfast foods to enjoy.
4. Make chocolate spread or chocolate drops
If you’re feeling a little bit adventurous, why not mix some raw cocoa in your coconut butter? This way you’ll have a deliciously healthy chocolate spread that’s free from toxic additives and won’t send your blood sugar levels on a roller-coaster. This chocolate spread + pancakes = Pure gustative bliss.
Or, using a spoon, you could drop some of the chocolate mixture on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Put the baking sheet in the freezer and allow the drops to solidify before eating.
You can make chocolate drops with various flavors simply by getting creative with ingredients. For instance, you could use cayenne pepper, chopped frozen berries, chopped nuts, crushed mint leaves, or tiny pieces of organic orange or lemon peel.
5. Try blueberry coconut bites
You can make these bites in a breeze. To do so, simply dip one blueberry at a time in softened coconut butter before dropping the berry on a parchment-lined baking tray. Keep in the freezer for when you’ll feel like having a frozen snack or treat. Warning: these bites will also disappear fast.
6. Try tropical fruits and coconut bars
Chop tropical fruits like pineapple and mangoes before mixing them in some softened coconut butter. Spread this paste on a parchment-lined baking tray and, using a blunt knife or a pastry cutter, pre-cut the paste into bite-size pieces or bars. You can also use berries if you want.
7. Make some ‘cocoyonaise’
What’s ‘cocoyonaise’? It’s a word I invented and which means vegan coconut mayonnaise. Yes, it’s a lame name but it is a very tasty option for those of you who can’t eat eggs. And I like that name – I don’t know why but it makes me think of Will E. Coyote and the roadrunner.
To make the cocoyonaise, you’ll need:
- 1/2 cup of warm and softened coconut butter
- 1/2 cup of warm water
- 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 5 cloves of garlic (or less if you don’t like garlic)
- Salt to taste
- Optional: barbecue spices or mixed herbs
Simply add all the ingredients to your blender and blend on high for two minutes until the sauce thickens. Let the cocoyonaise cool down before use. Refrigerate in small containers so that you simply have to reheat a small amount each time you feel like having some cocoyonaise.
8. Add to your stir fry
Once you’re done cooking the meat and veggies you’ll add to your stir-fry, add one or two tablespoon(s) of coconut butter to the saucepan. The amount will depend on how much sauce you want and how thick you want the sauce to be. Add some warm water until your sauce reaches the desired consistency. For extra color, add some coconut aminos to your stir-fry before or after adding the coconut butter. Remove from the heat once you’re happy with the sauce’s texture otherwise it will continue to thicken.
9. Try this dairy-free version of hot cocoa
Mix a teaspoon of raw, cocoa powder with a little bit of hot water to dissolve the powder. Then add a heaped teaspoon (or more) of coconut butter. Mix well to combine before slowly pouring in extra hot water. Need some extra sweetness? Add a little bit of honey to taste.
10. Make a creamy tomato sauce in a breeze
Start by warming the tomato sauce and add at least two tablespoons of coconut butter in the sauce. Stir well. Pair this creamy sauce with sweet potato noodles or zucchini noodles.
11. Make a creamy soup
For a different twist on your broccoli, beet, or pumpkin soup, add a few tablespoons of coconut butter to the pot once the soup is cooked. Stir well.
12. Make a cilantro-coconut paste
To make this paste, simply blend 1/2 cup of coconut butter with 1/4 cup of warm water, one or two garlic cloves, and a few tablespoons of cilantro. Add salt to taste before blending for 2 minutes. Serve with sweet potato chips or sautéed plantains.
13. Try this two-ingredient Magic Shell chocolate coating
Magic Shell is that chocolatey syrup that hardens into a crunchy layer when drizzled over ice cream. For this version of Magic Shell, add one part of coconut butter and one part chocolate chips to a saucepan. Melt over low heat. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before dipping your fruits in it or pouring it over your ice cream.
14. Make creamy green smoothies
All you have to do is add one or two teaspoons of coconut butter to your blender when you’re adding in the other ingredients. Blend well. The coconut butter will help prevent your blood sugar from spiking.
Recipes with coconut butter
Take your coconut craze to the next level with these recipes and share your experience on our Facebook page. Simply click on a recipe you feel like checking out – this will take you to the website where the recipe is posted.
- Toasted cocobutter
- Coconut pancakes – these pancakes use coconut butter in the batter
- Chocolate coconut bars
- Dates stuffed with coconut
- Dairy and egg free strawberry mousse
- Coconut balls dipped in dark chocolate
- Sweet pumpkin spread – great as a spread for pancakes
- Coconut blueberry pudding – the ‘coconut spread’ used in this recipe refers to coconut butter