BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Coconut Oil Craze

44 Comments

No longer seen as the evil cholesterol killer it was once billed as, coconut oil has been practically reborn within the span of a year, now sitting proudly in health food stores right along with the other miracle cures and potions. Though I don’t quite buy into the whole craze, it always struck me as being every bit as worthy of the limelight as any other plant-based cooking fat, so congratulations to the coconut for its sudden redemption. The real difference for me comes not in the perception, but in the choices. Once upon a time, few sources for a high quality, food grade option existed, and now the marketplace has been flooded by a veritable downpour of tropical cooking fats, each one touting at least one or two of the latest buzz words: “Unrefined,” “Organic,” and “Fresh-Pressed” are popular slogans, each bottle chanting nearly the same health mantra at exactly the same volume. So, what’s a curious cook to do? Start tasting, of course.

Kelapo is a new brand to me, but when they offered me a sample, I was very much intrigued to see how it would compare to my standby, Tropical Traditions, which can conveniently be ordered in bulk, at very reasonable prices. Unassuming at first glace and looking very much like all of the other solid, white bricks available these days, I wasn’t expecting any revolutionary discoveries within the rotund twist-top jar. And yet, that first spoonful surprised me- Instead of scraping off shards of completely hardened oil, that flimsy wooden spoon slipped right in, yielding a dollop of creamy oil as soft as (non-dairy) butter. Already, I could see the new possibilities.

Slathered on toast and unadorned, this could be the new breakfast staple everyone will be talking about. No kidding, that subtle but sweet nuttiness adds richness beyond just fat, and amazingly, it actually spreads at room temperature with no muss or fuss. Though the flavor is admittedly comparable to most other coconut oils, it’s the consistency that really sets it apart.

Craving a classic movie-theater style tub of popcorn, it’s practically a matter of luck that most theaters have been popping their kernels in the tropical stuff for decades, and that same flavor is so readily available at home now. With a light sprinkle of fine sea salt, a handful of coconut oil-popped corn is quite a treat, movie night or not.

Not content to leave such a versatile ingredient alone, it struck me as the perfect start to a rich caramel sauce, ideal for topping everything from ice cream to cake to waffles. The experimentation certainly won’t end right here, but for now, I think I have a naked stack of pancakes and a big jar of this golden elixir to attend to…

Coconut Caramel Sauce

1 1/4 Cups Granulated Sugar
5 Tablespoons Light Agave Nectar
2 Tablespoons Water
1 Cup Coconut Milk
1/3 Cup Coconut Oil
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

In a medium sauce pan with high sides, combine the sugar, agave and water, and set over moderate heat. Allow the sugar to dissolve completely and continue cooking gently without stirring. Swirl the pan gently to keep the contents moving, as necessary.

Meanwhile, heat the coconut milk, oil, ginger, and salt together in a separate pot, just until the mixture comes to the brink of boiling. Set aside.

Now is the time to pay full attention to the pot of sugar. You should see caramelization starting to occur slowly, and at that point, you should keep swirling the contents of the pot fairly steadily to get even browning and prevent burning. Continue cooking until the liquid sugar is a deep amber brown just barely beginning to smoke, and very quickly pour all of the hot coconut milk in to stop the caramelization. Stand back slightly when you do this and make sure your face is not right over the pot, as this can sputter and spit quite severely- Be careful!

Once the bubbling subsides, stir gently and cook for a minute or so longer, as the sugar on the bottom may briefly solidify. Stir just until the mixture is fully combined and liquified, and turn off the heat. Incorporate the vanilla, and let cool briefly before serving, or transferring to glass jars for storage.

Make About 2 Cups

Printable Recipe

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Author: Hannah (BitterSweet)

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

44 thoughts on “Coconut Oil Craze

  1. Yum. That caramel sauce sounds so decadent. It’s funny how nutritional wisdom can change so much!

  2. Wow that caramel sauce looks really yummy

  3. Yeah, I think it’s funny how different fats become in vogue and then back out again, when I was a kid coconut oil was to be avoived like the plague!

  4. I’m a big fan of coconut oil popped corn too! But that sauce just looks divine…might have to whip some up :)

  5. I have been using coconut oil for a few years and I love it! I use it in food (especially in raw desserts)and on my skin.But it is really important to use a good quality virgin coconut oil.I wish I had known of this oil before….Your sauce sounds so yummy that I must make it some day!

  6. Yum! That caramel sauce looks awesome! I have yet to try coconut oil, but now I will because you make it seem so good :)

  7. Never thought to pop my corn in it. Fabulous idea. I shall. I love coconut everything.

  8. Coconut Oil still doesn’t rank high in my book. While the pathway of CO increasing cholesterol is still debatable, there is no denying this product is 90% saturated fat. 1/2 of people who have a heart attack have normal cholesterol levels, so that’s a false sense of security. However, a high intake of saturated fat isn’t good for your ticket. Just one high SF meal can temporarily cut endothelial function almost in half. Good endothelial function increases blood flow, prevents fatty deposits from sticking to blood vessel walls, keeps walls from getting too thick and stiff, and prevents the arteries from narrowing. Anyways- LOVE your idea for caramel sauce, just want to point out that Coconut Oil isn’t as amazing as it’s marketed to be. I wrote a post on it here: http://delicious-knowledge.com/?p=427

    • Very interesting- Thanks for sharing your take and in-depth post, I’m always happy to have more info and learn the other side of the story. I have to ask you though, in that case, how do you feel about coconut oil vs. non-dairy margarine, such as Earth Balance? Does one strike you as being vastly better than the other? Just curious to hear your opinion on this one!

      • Thanks Hannah. Really, it’s all about the type of fat. Non-dairy margarines such as earth balance contain mostly unsaturated plant fats- they are expeller pressed which allows the fats to solidify without changing their structure. That’s compared to margarines made by hydrogenation which changes the plant-based unsaturated fat to a trans fat. We know now that trans fats increase heart disease risk. Earth balance still has some saturated fat in it (the blend contains tropical oils) but far less than coconut oil. While the health benefits of coconut oil are still heavily debated, the fact that it contains 90% sat fat is a concern. One of the reasons a plant-based diet is so helpful in lowering heart disease risk is that fact that it’s naturally low in saturated fat. However, just like other “fun foods” like sugar, coconut oil can have a place in a healthy diet, but I wouldn’t assume that there is an benefit to adding it. Anyways, just my two cents :)

      • Well, when you put it like that, I would probably have to agree… Very good to hear the other side of this, since it’s so easy to get swept up in the pro-coconut oil hype that’s so rampant these days. I still don’t think it’s terrible and will continue using it on occasion, but I at least feel better about calling for non-dairy margarine in my desserts now! Thank you for some new perspective.

  9. I live in a warmer climate, so my coconut oil is always soft as described, so I would probably have a jar of complete liquid if I got the Kelapo. However, SWEET POTATO SLICED INTO COCONUT OIL IS THE BEST POTATO CHIP EVER!!!

  10. I’ve had some coconut oil sitting on my counter for longer than I care to admit…I really need to start using it! This caramel seems like the perfect start…so lovely!

    I’m so sorry I didn’t make it to the bake sale!! I got caught up in studying (I’m taking the medical boards all too imminently) and when I looked up it was already 5 PM! I hope it was fun and also that perhaps we can plan something for when I’m done with my exam! Possibly this summer!

  11. The biggest reason I haven’t bought into the coconut oil craze so far is because I’m loathe to pay so much for any oil, but I do hear really good things about it. I had a craving for popcorn the other night, though, nice choice!

  12. I’m now officially lusting after coconut caramel sauce. I can only imagine the long nights we’ll spend together with a bowl of chocolate ice cream.

  13. Oh wow, that coconut caramel sauce is the perfect use for that tub of coconut oil in my pantry! I also love the idea of using it to pop my popcorn…I’m definitely going to try that next time instead of canola oil!

  14. I recently tries coconut oil for the first time and so far I love it. It smells so good

  15. i LOVE coconut oil. I often use it as a butter replacement (Add a touch of salt, and it tastes WAY yummier than butter) And… NO cholesterol!! Win win! :-)

  16. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! I want to eat a bowlful of this with a spoon. I received coconut oil for Christmas and have barely used it, because I find it too strong in suntan-oil flavour to eat by the spoon, which is how I eat all my nut butters. I’d love to try this!

  17. That coconut chocolate sauce sounds over the moon! Have you ever made your own coconut butter? I’ve seen people making it by just food processing unsweetened coconut.. might have to give it a go!

    • I haven’t, but I’m definitely intrigued by the idea and want to give it a go as soon as I have some time to play around in the kitchen! I’ve never actually had coconut “butter” (vs. oil) so I’d love to compare and contrast. Thanks for reminding me that I can make it at home!

  18. I’ve definitely been intrigued about coconut oil for quite some time, but never actually went out and bought any. I think that may change, because I definitely need that caramel sauce in my life! =)

  19. I need to get my hands on some coconut oil. I feel like the last food blogger on earth who hasn’t tried it yet. I have a weird relationship with coconut though (sometimes I love it, other times I don’t), which is why I’ve been avoiding it.

  20. Clever flavor combinations! I never would have thought to pair coconut with caramel.

  21. I am somewhat obsessed with coconut oil, but even I never thought to try it on popcorn. INTRIGUING.

  22. Great use of coconute oil Hannah! That caramel sauce does look wondeful.

    Regarding the whole coconut oil craze too much of any fat isn’t good especially saturated fats. I think when there is a big craze over a food or something people go to the extremes with it. My mother-in-law recently told me that they have added about 2 T. of coconut oil to their diet everyday because she saw on Dr. OZ that it is good for you. My concern is that my in-laws are both on meds for high cholesterol and they consume dairy and meat on a daily basis so the addition of this fat isn’t necessarily good for them.

    Keep up the great recipes!

  23. It’s just absolutely delicious. I always use coconut oil in my pastries, and you can use less than butter when veganizing your recipe. I use unflavored and get a pound for about five dollars, which makes me extra happy. :)

  24. Hannah, such an informative post…I never used coconut oil in my cooking only coconut milk. It is time to try it out…and popcorn with coconut oil will be my very first one :-) The coconut caramel sauce look delicious…hope you are having a wonderful week :-)

  25. What an interesting product!

  26. That caramel sauce looks seriously delicious and a “must try.” And soon.

    That said, oddly enough, I’d read a blog post that had mentioned coconut oil. So naturally, being the curious culinary cutie that I am, I went on a mission looking for it. Turns out that Nutsonline.com carries the liquid form and since I was placing an order, I ordered a jar.

    Can I just say… I made the Best. Popcorn. Ever. Even though I made it in my microwave Presto PowerPop, the little bit of coconut oil totally changed the flavor of the popcorn. A dusting of sea salt, and I could’ve eaten the entire bowl by myself in one sitting.

    While any oil isn’t going to be the best for you, all things in moderation is a good credo to live by. And a bit of coconut oil does seem to really provide a major flavor boost. If the bulk of your diet isn’t full of saturated fats, I see no reason why the occasional use of coconut oil (as well as olive oil) can hurt much.

    But seriously, best popcorn ever!!! (Plus the house still has a faint coconut smell!) Yum!

  27. I use coconut oil in everything from toppings to stirfries to slathered on my skin!! Thanks for the review of this brand, I will have to give it a whirl :-)
    Jenn

  28. I love coconut oil… I just hardly use it because 1.) I’m never sure what to use it for, and 2.) It’s expensive,…
    although, using it on popcorn sounds wonderful *o*

  29. Coconut oil also works well as a massage oil. Perfect after a long day in the kitchen. ;)

    I have not used it much in cooking. I’ll have to see how the popcorn turns out compared to the movie theater stuff.

  30. Thanks for the great ideas, Hannah! I got a free sample too and now I can’t wait to dig in =D

  31. Wonderful recipe! I just need to get all the ingreients… And the photo is amazing! Thanks!

  32. The wonders of coconut oil! I love the popcorn!

  33. I feel about coconut oil the way lots of non-vegan chefs feel about butter–NEED IT LOVE IT WANT IT.

    I get cheap jars of it from a local halal market, but I’m curious about the rather pricey coconut “manna” I’ve seen in health food stores. A mix of coconut meat and oil, I think. If you try it, please do tell.

  34. Hi!
    So I just received your newest cookbook in the mail and I had a question pertaining to the meringue cookies. I am baking my sister’s wedding cake and I wanted to do two layers angel food cake. Can I sub the cookie recipe in for the egg whites that angel food cake normally calls for?
    Also if I wanted to make a meringue based frosting could I use this recipe.
    Thanks! Really excited about your cookbook!

    • Hi Maureen,

      Sad to say, the meringue method does not work to produce an angel food cake- I have tried, and failed. While the flavor is similar, the texture ends up too dense and chewy to be considered “angel food”. I’m still working on that one! I haven’t tried meringue frosting, but I have a feeling that it will take more fiddling than just using the meringue cookie recipe, as with the cake.

  35. Well being the Brit I am, I do love my roast potatoes with a great Sunday Lunch and cooking them in cocnut oil gives them a flavour that is second to none. You don’t need much but the buttery, creamy flavour you get just makes me want to cook up a big bowl right this minute! Add a healthy handful of chopped sage straight from the oven & mixed in the roasting tin just before serving and you have crispy golden fluffy heaven.

  36. I do use coconut and palm oil some – they’re great solid fats for vegan baking, but I would suggest using them sparingly. True, they don’t have trans fats, but they do have (like many other plant oils) a bad balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3.

  37. Hey Hannah,

    I keep trying to make the caramel syrup from your Vegan Desserts cook book and saw that this was similar. My syrup never turns to a dark amber. Am I doing something wrong? Perhaps my heat is not on high enough?

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