Exploring Coconut Oil Alternatives: Substitutes for Various Cooking Needs

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Welcome to the wonderful world of culinary experimentation! Whether you’re a seasoned home cook or a connoisseur of concocting flavors in the kitchen, you’ve likely encountered coconut oil in a recipe or two. It’s renowned for its tropical flavor, versatility, and utilized for everything from frying to baking. However, there are times when you might find yourself searching, perhaps due to dietary restrictions, personal preferences, or simply for a fun flavor twist, for a coconut oil alternative.

If you’ve ever been in this particular culinary predicament, you’re not alone. Back when I was working at Boat Basin Cafe downtown New York years ago before it closed down, coconut oil was all the rage. It was the go-to for most of our dishes, but occasionally, we’d run out (those were the wild days!) or have to cater to customers with specific dietary needs. And so, my journey of exploring healthy substitutes began.

coconut oil alternative
Exploring Coconut Oil Alternatives Substitutes for Various Cooking Needs

01 Avocado Oil – A Healthy All-Rounder

Exploring Coconut Oil Alternatives: Substitutes for Various Cooking Needs 1
Avocado Oil

Let’s kick things off with possibly the most wholesome all-rounder in the culinary world – avocado oil. This healthy coconut oil substitute has been gaining traction in the culinary sphere for its multitude of beneficial properties. It boasts a very high smoke point, making it perfect for sautéing, frying, and grilling. Plus, its mild, neutral flavor doesn’t overpower your dishes like some other oils can.

Back in the Boat Basin Cafe, we swapped coconut oil for avocado oil in our famous downtown grilled chicken. For a while, we kept this change a secret. Imagine our delight when customers praised the “new” recipe, highlighting the crispiness of the chicken skin and the subtle flavor enhancement. From that day on, avocado oil became a staple in our kitchen litany.

02 Vegetable Oil – Affordable and Versatile

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Vegetable Oil

Next up on our list of coconut oil alternatives is the humble vegetable oil. This incredibly versatile oil, which is often a blend of different plant oils such as soybean, canola, or corn, is an excellent, wallet-friendly substitute for coconut oil. With a high smoke point like avocado oil, vegetable oil can handle a lot of heat, making it ideal for various cooking methods.

One memorable Boat Basin Cafe moment involved a colossal birthday cake order. Midway through, we realized we were out of coconut oil. An emergency coconut oil run was out of the question. So we rolled up our sleeves and experimented with vegetable oil instead. The result? An incredibly moist and tender cake that had everyone asking for seconds and thirds.

03 Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Delicate Flavor for Light Cooking

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Best Practices for Storing Olive Oil

If you’re looking for a coconut oil substitute for light cooking, consider extra virgin olive oil. This oil is arguably one of the best for low-heat cooking due to its delicate flavor and well-documented health benefits. In the Boat Basin Cafe, we often used extra virgin olive oil in our salad dressings and light sautés, and it was a hit every time.

One particular instance stands out. We were catering to a group of vegan customers who wanted a plant-based alternative to our popular pesto. Swapping coconut oil with extra virgin olive oil resulted in a lighter, more aromatic pesto that was nothing short of a revelation. This little experiment just goes to show the power of vegan-friendly options and the incredible versatility of extra virgin olive oil.

And that, friends, is our half-time whistle. We’ve explored three fabulous coconut oil substitutes so far, and there’s more in store. So whether you’re baking, frying, or sautéing, remember that you have a world of healthy substitutes and neutral oil options at your disposal.

04 Butter – Perfect for Baking

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How Butter Is Sold In The US Vs Elsewhere

In some situations, the best coconut oil substitute comes from an all-time kitchen favorite—butter. Particularly when it comes to baking, butter shares a similar fat content and melting point with coconut oil, creating a texture in baked goods that’s hard to beat.

Back in the day at the Boat Basin Cafe, we tried substituting coconut oil with butter in our best-selling chocolate chip cookies. What resulted was a batch of cookies with a richer, more pronounced flavor than usual. Although different from our original recipe, they were a delightful treat that our customers couldn’t resist.

Of course, if you’re a vegan or are removing dairy from your diet, butter won’t work as your coconut oil substitute. But not to worry, the next section has you covered!

05 Applesauce – Healthier and Vegan Baking

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If you’re looking for a healthier or vegan-friendly coconut oil alternative for baking, then applesauce might just be what you need. With its high moisture content, applesauce is often used as a substitute for fats in baking.

When we first tried using applesauce at the Boat Basin Cafe, we were skeptical. We decided to test it out in our muffins and to our surprise, the results were phenomenal! The muffins were still fluffy and moist, with just the right touch of natural sweetness. To this day, it’s one of my favorite plant-based alternatives for baking.

Choosing the Right Oil for Your Needs

Now that we’ve explored various coconut oil alternatives, it’s essential to remember that the right substitute for you would depend on your specific needs and the flavor profile you’re after. For those who are after a neutral oil that closely resembles coconut oil, avocado, grapeseed, and sunflower oils are your best bet.

In my experience at the Boat Basin Cafe, we found that while olive oil is a great coconut oil substitute, its distinct flavor could alter the end result of the dish. So if you’re after culinary creations that taste as originally intended, opt for the more neutral oil options.


And there you have it! A universe of coconut oil substitutes right at your fingertips! From avocado oil to applesauce, you have a plethora of options to suit your cooking and baking needs. Whether you’re looking for vegan-friendly optionsneutral oils, or simply a fun way to shake things up in the kitchen, these coconut oil alternatives have got you covered.

As we concluded our culinary adventures at the Boat Basin Cafe, we found that sometimes, the most exciting part of cooking is the chance to experiment with different ingredients. So, in your journey of finding the perfect coconut oil alternative, remember – don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun.

Happy Cooking and remember, the world of cooking is yours to explore!


  1. Healthline: Best Coconut Oil Alternatives
  2. Medical News Today: Coconut oil alternatives
  3. VegNews: Best Vegan Alternatives to Coconut Oil
  4. Olive Oil Times: Can Extra Virgin Olive Oil Be a Substitute for Coconut Oil?

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