Substitute For Coconut Oil?

I can't find the email, but a reader recently wrote and said she was allergic to coconut, what could she substitute for coconut oil? Would canola do? Calls for a slightly more complex answer than you might think.

It depends, you see, on what you're using the oil for -- are you sauteing? Or are you using it for shortening in a baking recipe? These are my two most common uses for coconut oil.

I would be unlikely to use canola; I'm not a fan. It's highly processed stuff. Further, it's a variant of an oil that historically has been used not for food, but for varnish. The original is toxic; canola has been bred to reduce the dose of toxic erucic acid. I'm just not certain the stuff is... well, food, you know?

For sauteing, the possibilities are endless, and the oil I chose would depend on the flavor of the dish. I might use olive oil, or butter, or bacon grease, or, if I wanted a bland fat, peanut or macadamia oil, or possibly lard.

For baking, however, the choices narrow. I use coconut oil for baking because it makes a good substitute for the nasty, dangerous, artificially saturated vegetable shortenings like Crisco. However, in baking, coconut oil must be used in its solid state. This means that if it's summer, and your home is warm enough that your coconut oil is liquid, you need to refrigerate it for baking, or you'll get a nasty, greasy finished product.

To substitute for coconut oil in baking, you'll need another solid fat. You could use butter, but of course it has a distinct flavor, and is expensive. It also yields a somewhat less flaky result, though of course it's super-tasty, and very nutritious. You could perhaps use palm oil, another highly saturated tropical oil traditionally used in tropical climates, and widely used in commercial baked goods before those wankers at the Center For Science In The Public Interest (CSPI, feh!) convinced many commercial bakers that somehow hydrogenated fats would be safer. (CSPI is also why McD's started using nasty vegetable oil for their fries instead of traditional tallow. CSPI has a lot to answer for.)

But the obvious choice for a substitute for coconut oil in baking is lard. Why? Because it was lard that vegetable shortening was originally invented to displace. Lard was a standard fat for baking for centuries; my grandmother used it in her pie crusts.

However, the lard available in buckets or blocks in your grocery store is not what you're looking for. That sad substitute for the real thing has been bleached, refined, and often hydrogenated to make it stay solid at room temperature. Why does it need to be hydrogenated to stay at room temperature? Because in its natural state, lard is 48% monounsaturates, and only 42% saturates. That means it's soft or even liquid at room temperature -- just like the bacon grease I keep by my stove is. After all, bacon grease is just flavored lard.

How are you going to get untampered-with lard? If you have locally raised pasture-fed pork being sold nearby, they should also have buckets of nice, healthful, natural lard available; I have just such a bucket in my refrigerator.

If you don't, then you'll have to get creative. Ask the Nice Meat Guys at the local grocery store if they can get some for you. If not, ask them to save you any fat they trim off of pork. Tell them you'll pay for it -- they shouldn't charge a lot. To turn those meat scraps into lard, put 'em in a big kettle with an equal quantity of water, and simmer till the fat's melted and has risen to the top. Skim it off, drain off all the water you can, and refrigerate. Congratuations! You now have natural lard.

The best-quality lard is leaf lard, which is made from the visceral fat, the fat surrounding the internal organs, especially the kidneys. If your meat guys can get it for you, you'll pay extra, but it's the blandest lard with the best texture. However, I have had good results making pie crust using my regular lard from pasture-raised pigs half and half with butter (and Carb Quik.)

Another traditional fat you could consider is schmaltz, aka chicken fat. My mother told me it's what my grandma used to use to make brownies, and they were wonderful. If you save the fat and skin from chickens and simmer it as for lard, you should get nice, bland schmaltz. Or you could look for a grocery store in a Jewish neighborhood; schmaltz is traditional in Jewish cookery.

Hope this helps!

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allegic to coconut -- substitute for coconut

Hi, I love coconut but became allergic to Palm trees when we lived in Fl and am now allergic to anything that comes from the palm tree---including palm oil. I imagine most anyone allergic to coconut is going to be allergic to palm oil. The abundance of palm oil used in commercial products is probably what started my problems with palm trees since I never ate a palm tree. Thanks for your help.

Bacon "grease"

First off, I must say I prefer the term bacon "fat." Grease just sounds to me like the nasty stuff you clean off range hoods. :)

Anyway, the bacon fat I collect is always solid at room temperature. I have a clear glass jar of it sitting on my counter right now, and it is white and solid throughout. Could yours perhaps be partially liquified because of its proximity to the hot stove?

Regarding schmaltz, another good way to collect that is from the top of a homemade chicken stock that has been refrigerated overnight.Pull it off, rinse any gelled stock off, re-melt it, and pour it into a small jar. Instant schmaltz.

Oh, and as an aside, I really hate it when I have decided to "cheat" by using canned chicken stock, and the only stuff on the shelf at the store is the low fat variety. Fat is flavor, especially in chicken stock.

Speaking of substitutes...

Dana, I just got your slow cooker book in the mail and am wanting to try a custard recipe this weekend. Do you think half-n-half or heavy cream will work as a substitute for the Carb Countdown, if I can't find it? My local store used to sell it (under a different brand name now) but most of the time I can't find it anymore.

Don't see why half-n-half wouldn't work, but you never know...

Coconut substitutes

Don't overlook goose or duck fat, either. I roasted a goose for Christmas and the rendered fat from just one goose has been more than enough to last the year. I use it to cook cabbage, and the whole house smells like roasting goose as the fat melts in the pan:) I've seen duck fat available for sale at specialty markets, although it's rather pricey.
A wonderful cookbook that every low-carber should have is "Fat" by Jennifer McLagan. It's a bit high-falutin' but is a great read and has wonderful recipes for all kinds of fat. I've been meaning to try the grapefruit and cabbage salad with duck fat vinagrette:)
Ms. McLagan has also written "Bones", which is another wonderful book.

Lard & Coconut oil

Hi Dana!

I'm so mad, I just typed out a long blog comment to you and accidentally hit some button that made it all disappear!!! ARG.

Anyway...

Here in New Mexico we call that yummy fried pork fat "chicharrones". It's a staple in my husbands family. His family has Mantanzas, which is a big, outdoor party with lots of friends, yummy food, games of horse-shoes, beer and Grandpa's homemade wine (in our case). They butcher a pig and make all sorts of yummy dishes including chicharrones, carne adovada (slow cooked pork with red chile), carnitas (pork strips cooked with onions, jalapenos or other peppers), and liver & onions. The carne adovada is cooked underground and the chicharrones are cooked in a huge kettle over an open fire. It's an all day event and is so much fun!

We don't wait for mantanzas to have chicharrones however. I buy the pork fat (with some meat attached) at a local meat market for anywhere from 50 cents to 99 cents per pound. We simmer it just like you said, but with salt water. It produces that wonderful lard that I use for everything from baking to frying eggs in the mornings. My husband likes to eat his chicharrones with pinto beans or wrapped up in a flour tortilla with green chile and cheese. Since I can't eat the flour tortillas or much of the beans, I either use a low carb tortilla or just plunk them in a bowl and top them with green chile and cheese and eat em with a fork. So yummy! We have them often enough to always have fresh lard on hand. One batch of chicharrones will make 2-3 jars of lard.

On the subject of coconut oil- After reading your blog the other day about LouAna brand coconut oil, I went to walmart and bought a 12 or 16 oz jar for $5.86. I usually order the 2 pound jar of the Jarrow brand from amazon.com or luckyvitamin.com for fairly inexpensive ($13 I think). I not only use coconut oil for cooking, but I also use it on my hair, for shaving (instead of shaving cream) and for making a skin cream with shea butter, mango butter and cocoa butter. I thought the LouAna brand was okay, it was about the same price as the other, but without the shipping costs. It doesn't have that fresh coconut smell that the other brand does. For cooking, I don't mind that because coconut smelling fried eggs are not always appealing first thing in the morning. But for my other uses I think I prefer the other brand. I like the coconut smell for my cream and such. Maybe the difference is because the Jarrow brand is extra virgin, the first pressing of oil keeps the coconut smell? Anyway, I will use LouAna for cooking and order the Jarrow for my other uses.

Thanks for all you do!

yummy fats

I'm in total agreement! CSPI? Wankers, for sure!