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Coconut Oil, Coconut Butter, Milk, Flour, Flakes… What’s the difference between them?

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Coconut Oil, Coconut Butter, Milk, Flour, Flakes… What’s the difference between them?

I am often amazed at how versatile coconut products are. Can you believe how many wonderful ingredients you can get from only ONE, delicious fruit? But what is the difference between coconut butter and coconut oil? How is coconut milk made? And why are coconut flour and coconut flakes different?

In today’s VIDEO BLOG I’ll try to give an answer to your questions about all things coconut, one of the most resourceful ingredients for those who are experimenting with gluten free and grain free cooking! Head over to mu You Tube, watch me rambling about my favorite coconut things and if you don’t catch something due to my impeccable Italian accent ;)… I wrote it all down here!

What is the difference between coconut butter and coconut oil?

Coconut oil is a very popular oil for cooking and baking. It smells fantastic and it adds an amazing tropical flavor to all of your dishes, from stir fries to pies. Personally, I can’t live without it and it’s the main ingredients for all of my baked treats.

At the grocery store, coconut oil is easy to be mistaken with coconut butter. They both come in a jar, they have a whitish color and have a pretty hard texture. Also, both coconut oil and coconut butter are calorie-dense: the first one contains 130 calories per tablespoon while the latter has 100 calories per tablespoon.

are coconut oil and coconut butter the same

No matter their similarities though, coconut oil and coconut butter differ from each other from both a nutritional and a culinary standpoint:

  • Coconut oil is pure fat. It’s made up of more than 90% saturated fats, which solidify at room temperature. For this reason, unless it’s summer and it’s very hot in your house, coconut oil is usually solid and opaque, not liquid.
  • Given its high saturated fat content, coconut oil is suitable for high temperatures. It’s smoke point, the temperature an oil can reach before its natural impurities begin to burn, is 350 F and therefore coconut oil is perfect for sautéing and stir-frying. And did I mention coconut oil is also amazing for baking pie crusts and biscotti?! (check out my Paleo Dome Pastries recipe to see how I use it!)
  • Coconut butter on the other hand contains not only the oil, but also pureed, raw coconut meat. It’s not made exclusively of fat, but also of fiber as well as small amounts of potassium, magnesium, and iron.
  • Since coconut butter contains solid parts of coconut flesh, it has a creamy consistency and it retains a decent amount of sweetness. Its thicker, more solid texture makes it more similar than coconut oil to the other butters traditionally used in cooking.
  • Coconut butter and coconut oil are not interchangeable. As opposed to coconut oil, which is one of the most resistant oils to high heat cooking, coconut butter is not good to be used at elevated temperatures, as the bits of flesh in it burn. It’s great to use in raw desserts, or in baking when mixed with coconut oil. Coconut butter is also great for finishing off savory dishes such as curries, risotto or cauliflower rice. A dollop of coconut butter added in at the end gives the perfect creamy touch!

Also, if you are a coconut fan, you’ll love to enjoy the full taste of coconut butter by using it as a spread just as you would with regular butter.

THE BEST OF ALL: COCONUT MILK!

Coconut milk, one of the yummiest coconut ingredients, is made by mixing shredded, fresh coconut meat with water, which is then squeezed through a sieve or cheesecloth. The thick, creamy liquid that comes out is coconut milk and can be used for Thai curries, to make dairy free Nutella or to bake amazing dairy free cakes and cookies. And did I mention it’s the main ingredient to make the most delicious coconut yogurt and the dairy free gelato you see in these photos?!? (for the recipe check out my EBook)

According to the different preparation methods, coconut milk can vary its fat percentages, ranging anywhere from 5% to 22% fat.

are coconut oil and coconut butter the same

High-fat coconut milk is traditionally obtained by grating coconut meat and squeezing it through a cheesecloth. In order to decrease the fat percentage, the coconut meat is left to soak in warm water and then the process is repeated two or three times.

If you buy a low fat coconut milk, it’s normal to expect a natural separation of coconut milk and the water part in the can. For this reason, most canned coconut milk often includes thickening agents like guar gum.

Since I always prefer to opt for all natural ingredients, I like to buy Arroy-D, a brand from Thailand that provides amazing 100% natural coconut milk, that’s perfectly creamy and delicious. I tried many brands and I don’t think it gets any better than that!

coconut oil uses

Last but not Least: Coconut Flour & Coconut Flakes. What’s the difference?

Coconut flour is made from the left over pulp that remains after making coconut milk, that’s defatted and contains mainly fiber. This remaining flesh is first dried in the oven and then processed and turned into a fine powder.

Coconut flour is:

  • Sweeter than other types of flour and therefore perfect for sugar free baking as it requires less sweetening.
  • Very low in carbs.
  • Because it’s high fiber, this flour is very dense and it absorbs liquids like crazy. Make sure you change all the proportions of ingredients if you try to use coconut flour to replace any other gluten free flour.
coconut flour uses

Because it’s high fiber, this flour is very dense and it absorbs liquids like crazy. Make sure you change all the proportions of ingredients if you try to use coconut flour to replace any other gluten free flour.

Coconut flakes differ from coconut flour because they are not the defatted leftover from making coconut milk, but are all made from the meat of the ripe brown coconut, which is dried and ground.

These are the main differences between the most famous coconut based products that are often mistaken for another. Of course, coconut is such an amazing fruit that there are even more ingredients that can be made with it such as coconut sugar, coconut nectar, coconut water and young Thai coconut.

coconut flour uses

I will share more about these other ingredients in one of my next posts, but for now I hope I gave you some useful information and I can’t wait to hear from you!
What are your favorite coconut products?
What do you like to use these ingredients for?

Please, leave a comment below and share your thoughts with me!

I send you a big kiss and I will catch you next time!!

Ciao,

Ambra

P.S. If you have a favorite ingredient you’d like me to feature, simply leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to create an indulgent recipe with it!

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ambra
Ambra Torelli
Ciao! I'm Ambra Torelli, founder of Little Bites of Beauty, a website that helps people on free-from diets live an awesome life and travel without limitations! Born and raised in Italy, I visited over 20 countries and now I divide my time in between Italy and the US, where my husband is from. My recipes are an expression of my passion for Italian food combined with all the wonderful culinary influences from the places I traveled to. I hope you love them! more about ambra

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16 Comments

  • Avatar
    Alexander pope July 16, 2016 5:03 am

    Our favorite brand is TIANA virgin coconut products…..if anybody needed then they can buy near in their market.Moreover,this site is awesome…i want to say that rare products recognize is hard but our brand shows it is real or organic.

  • Avatar
    Elaine Magoteaux March 24, 2018 6:41 am

    I’m trying a new WOE. I want to coat avocado with almond flour and coconut flour and deep fry it and use it as a vessel for my bacon, eggs, sour cream, (you get it, my breakfast).
    My question is, instead of using coconut flour do you think it would be feasible to use coconut flakes instead? I was just thinking that might be an added lightness to the coating instead of the floor.

    • ambra
      ambra March 24, 2018 10:44 am

      Great Idea Elaine, that sounds like yummy recipe. If it was me, to keep it lighter I would opt for baking the crusted avocado instead of deep frying it. I think coconut flour is better that coconut flakes for this specific recipe as it’s more likely to stick to the avocado.
      Enjoy your creation!!

  • Avatar
    Elaine Magoteaux March 24, 2018 6:41 am

    I’m trying a new WOE. I want to coat avocado with almond flour and coconut flour and deep fry it and use it as a vessel for my bacon, eggs, sour cream, (you get it, my breakfast).
    My question is, instead of using coconut flour do you think it would be feasible to use coconut flakes instead? I was just thinking that might be an added lightness to the coating instead of the floor.

    • ambra
      ambra March 24, 2018 10:44 am

      Great Idea Elaine, that sounds like yummy recipe. If it was me, to keep it lighter I would opt for baking the crusted avocado instead of deep frying it. I think coconut flour is better that coconut flakes for this specific recipe as it’s more likely to stick to the avocado.
      Enjoy your creation!!

  • Avatar
    Liza April 21, 2018 1:54 pm

    Thank you, this was helpful. I am eating the AIP way and it is always helpful to get new ideas.

    • ambra
      ambra April 21, 2018 4:23 pm

      Thanks so much Liza, I am glad you found this useful and looking forward to hearing more about topics you’d like to see on the blog!!
      Ambra

  • Avatar
    Sarah May 5, 2018 9:28 am

    Could I use coconut powder in my coffee instead of using sugar? Is it sweet enough?

    • ambra
      ambra May 5, 2018 11:15 am

      Hey Sarah, what do you mean with coconut powder? Are you talking about coconut flour os coconut sugar? Anyways, there is no right or wrong, just whatever you like better 😉

      • Avatar
        Sarah May 7, 2018 8:53 am

        Is coconut flour sweet like sugar? Sweet enough to replace sugar in coffee?

        • ambra
          ambra May 12, 2018 6:30 am

          No, it’s not. It’s an actual flour, so I would not recommend using it as a sweetener 🙂

  • Avatar
    Tejinder April 3, 2019 7:56 pm

    Hi Ambra,

    I am currently on Keto diet and since my hobby is cooking so I love to experiment a lot while cooking. My Keto diet includes coconut flour flat breads and recently I tried the same with coconut flakes. It came out well. The only question which I have is that will there any nutritional value difference between the both.

    • ambra
      ambra April 8, 2019 8:52 pm

      Thanks for the question Tejinder! Shredded coconut usually retains more moisture than coconut flour and here’s their nutritional profile:
      COCONUT FLOUR: Cals 416, Fat 14.99g, Carbs 58.82g, Prot 15.55g
      UNSWEETENED COCONUT FLAKES: Calories 100, Fat 10 g, Carbs 4g, Protein 1g

      I hope this helps!
      Ambra

      • Avatar
        Tejinder April 9, 2019 12:25 am

        Thanks Ambra 🙂

  • Avatar
    mu September 17, 2019 6:45 am

    I have to take 2 tbls of coconut oil per day, can I substitute it for coconut flakes

    thank you

    • ambra
      ambra September 17, 2019 7:50 am

      I don’t think so Mu, but you should ask the person who prescribed you the 2 tbsp a day 🙂

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