Refined vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil: 3 Reasons I Use Refined Coconut Oil

Refined vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil: 3 Reasons Why I Choose Refined Coconut Oil

Ah, the refined coconut oil vs. unrefined coconut oil battle. But of course unrefined is always better, right?

Well, not always.

One of the biggest misconceptions I see in the health world is that unrefined automatically equals better.

This isn’t always the case, especially with coconut oil.

The refined vs. unrefined coconut oil debate has raged on for decades, with unrefined coconut oil usually winning the battle. However, this mostly seems based on the assumption that unrefined always means better.

I actually choose refined coconut oil every time (this is the one I use).

Call me crazy, but I’ve weighed the pros and cons, and for me personally, refined coconut oil ends up on the shopping list.

Here’s why:

Refined vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil: 3 Reasons I Use Refined Coconut Oil

1. It’s All in the Fat

Coconut oil’s benefits are due to one important factor: its fatty acid composition. Coconut oil contains a high concentration of medium-chain saturated fatty acids like caprylic acid and lauric acid (read more about the benefits of lauric acids HERE).

These fatty acids fight inflammation caused by unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids, and are a great substitute for processed vegetable oils. These fasts are also easily digested. And the best part? They put up one powerful fight against pathogens like bacteria, viruses and fungal infections.

So here’s the question: does unrefined coconut oil have a better fatty acid composition than refined coconut oil?

The answer is no. They are essentially the same. So if you’re looking for the benefits of coconut oil’s fatty acids, you’ll still find them in the refined oil.

Coconut meat itself contains 17 amino acids, B vitamins, potassium, iron, and fiber — but the majority of these are already filtered out during the process of making coconut oil.

Coconut oil is all about the fat, and that’s pretty much the same between refined or extra virgin coconut oil.

2. The Taste is More Practical

Don’t get me wrong: I really dig the occasional coconut macaroon or coconut cream pudding. But I don’t want coconut flavor invading my scrambled eggs, fresh popcorn or homemade chicken broth. And neither does the rest of my family.

We tend to eat more coconut oil when it’s refined and flavorless, because it’s so much easier to blend into any kind of dish.

If you love coconut-flavored anything, then this probably isn’t a big deal. But if you’re like me, refined coconut oil simply fits into your life more seamlessly. Frankly, we’d barely touch our coconut oil if it wasn’t the unrefined variety. So I choose refined because I know we’ll actually use it.

3. It’s Better for Sensitive Digestion and Allergies

Digestive issues and allergies are some of the most common health problems invading our society today.

For this reason, unrefined coconut oil can be irritating to a sensitive digestive system. The coconut solids in the oil contain a lot of potentially allergenic compounds. In refined oil, these have been completely removed, which is why it is odorless and flavorless.

Do you have stomach pains after eating a small amount of coconut oil?

If someone tells me they have stomach pains after eating a very small amount of coconut oil, my first question is what kind of oil are they using. Chances are, they tell me unrefined coconut oil.

Switching to a quality refined oil often eliminates this problem. (The other possibility is that you’re just eating too much coconut oil too fast — see my advice at the end of this article for how to avoid that.)

Refined Coconut Oil has a Higher Smoking Point

Extra virgin coconut oil has a relatively low smoking point of 350 degrees F. This is pretty low as far as a cooking temperature goes. If you’re eating your oil raw or using it mostly for baking, this is probably not an issue. But for stovetop cooking, this is generally too low of a smoking point.

Refined coconut oil as a smoking point of at least 400 degrees F (some sources I’ve read say 450 degrees). This is an easier temperature to work with when cooking on the stove or baking at higher temperatures.

So keep in mind how you’re going to be using your coconut oil when you’re deciding between refined and extra virgin.

Read more about oils and smoke pointer here.

How Refined Coconut Oil is Made

Don’t get me wrong: in the battle between refined vs. unrefined coconut oil, high quality oil is still a must.


Because there is a “right” way and a “wrong” way to refine coconut oil — the natural version and the industrialized version.

You see, coconut oil comes from “copra” — or dried coconut meat. The oil is extracted from the coconut meat.

Quality sources make sure their coconut oil is clean, pure and uncontaminated. They don’t use chemicals, bleach, or solvents to refine their oil. They simply use an expeller press to remove cocout solids from your oil.

This is why I still don’t by the cheapest coconut oil at the grocery store. I want to buy from a company that cares about preserving the integrity of their oil, and who used natural processes to refine it.

Click here to find my favorite source of refined, expeller-pressed coconut oil.

New to Coconut Oil? Start Slow

If you are new to coconut oil, heed my advice: start with less than a teaspoon per day. Slowly add more over a period of days (or even weeks). You can work up to 1-3 tablespoons per day (in your food, or in tea or coffee).

This can help your digestive system get used to the oil. It also prevents any possible reaction that your system might have to coconut oil’s strong antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. I know it’s easy to fall in love with coconut oil and want to use it all. the. time. But please work up slowly. You’ll thank me, for real.

More of My Posts About Coconut Oil:Super Easy Coconut Oil Fudge - The Nourished Life

Refined VS Unrefined Coconut Oil and 3 Reasons I Use REFINED Coconut Oil - The Nourished Life

Enjoy this post? Please share!

700x266 download my free ebook awake PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own. Your support keeps this blog running and is greatly appreciated!

AMAZON DISCLOSURE: The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties including, but not limited to,,,,, or
Comment Policy


  1. What about the chemicals that have to be used to rid it of the coconut taste and smell. Aren’t we exposed to enough chemicals in things out of our control? Number three on the list is the only practical excuse for using the refined. If a person likes coconut the very minute taste that it adds to soups, popcorn, eggs or even coffee is better than the chemicals. Every person I know that hates the taste of coconut will not even try unrefined. Choosing ghee or bacon drippings or tallow would be better than unrefined.

      • Tropical traditions refines their coconut oil naturally and gently with no chemicals. Check into their process if you are afraid of chemicals.

      • And how would you go about doing that? It doesn’t sound easy to find out. So how is refined better if it has potentially dangerous chemical in it? Keep in mind how bad most food is because they want to make it more “shelf stable”. It sounds like refined is just this.

          • Oh I am absolutely thrilled to find this. A natural product lover by choice, and a clinical trials coordinator by trade, you can imagine how many directions I get pulled with this stuff!

            Unfortunately I’ve found that there are far too many myths floating around in terms of what’s best, what’s dreadful, what should be organic (there’s really no reason to buy organic avocados, for example) and what does and doesn’t matter.

            Oh – I also talk too much…

            Anyway, thank you. I do love the taste of coconut, let’s be honest. But when it comes to non-cooking uses, I’ve had no problems at all using refined expeller pressed coconut oil.

    • I agree, but alternatives like ghee or tallow are only better if they are from naturally/organically fed animals and if they’re not, than this can make these fats as unhealthy (Or more so) than refined coconut oil. Buying organic/ naturally fed animal fats is much more expensive though. So, it’s usually a a lot cheaper to buy the refined coconut oil, especially as it’s only £2 for a 500ml jar in Tescos.

  2. I agree with you on all points but one. I use refined for most things, but I make my popcorn using unrefined coconut oil and butter (with some sea salt) and it is amazing. People always rave about how delicious my popcorn is, not knowing my secret. You should give it a try. :)

    • i find that if i pop the popcorn myself using unrefined coconut oil it doesn’t taste like it :) then we just add butter if needed! if we use the air popper, we toss it in butter :) some things just aren’t meant to taste like coconut! hehe! (unless you like it, of course!)

      • We use an air popper, too, and I love it! Mixing butter with coconut oil does taste incredible (but I definitely only use the refined for that purpose–my husband does not appreciate even a hint of coconut in his popcorn!).

    • The movie theater I worked at for 10 years uses coconut oil as well! It was a major brand that we bought from so I image that most theaters do as well. It was a combination of coconut oil and beta carotene (for color)

  3. I don’t agree that the benefits of coconut oil are solely due to the lauric acid. I think there are other beneficial compounds that are reduced in the refining process. In two studies by Nevin and Rajamohan (1,2) rats were fed different oils, including virgin and highly refined coconut oil, for 45 days. At the end of this period the virgin coconut oil resulted in lower cholesterol, more oxidant resistant LDL, lower triglycerides, higher antioxidant status, lower thrombotic risk factors, and less lipid peroxides in microsomes.

    I’ll admit rat studies comparing VCO with highly refined (copra) CO may not be the best evidence for the superiority of the virgin type, but since I lack both evidence and allergies/intolerances against it, I’m sticking with virgin coconut oil myself.


    • Great comment. I always agree it’s good to look research from both sides of an issue. I am curious if the type of processing in the refined oil made a difference. But in the end, it’s best to go with what you prefer and feel great using. For some people, that’s going to be virgin coconut oil, and I certainly don’t think that’s a problem.

  4. Truly, I was wondering about the difference tonight as I was buying some coconut oil at Whole Foods…I was going to look it up, but now, after reading your post I don’t have to. Thanks so much for the information!!!

  5. With all due respect, you are wrong on this one. Th lauric acid is not all that is present in coconut oil. What about the enzymes? They are significant. I don’t care what anyone says. I use coconut oil for health reasons…I am hypothyroid and diabetic (both food controlled for 22 years). I have tried them all and centrifuge (the one I chose to sell) is without a doubt the king of kings of coconut oil (in my opinion). I have customers that have tried many as well. So far, it is a unanimous decision. But if you are taking coconut oil for a health reason (IBS, heartburn, Herpes, hypothyroid, diabetes, inflammation issues, weight loss, whatever) you are doing yourself a great disservice without the enzymes (killed over 104 degrees)…that leaves out expeller pressed and refined, sorry.

    • Thanks for your comments, Tiffany. I personally feel one of the best reasons to use coconut oil is its fatty acid composition. When you replace high-PUFA oils with coconut oil, you’re avoiding the damaging effects of PUFAs in addition to getting the benefits of coconut oil. If someone is avoiding coconut oil because they don’t like the taste, they’re missing out on those important benefits.

      Plus, I know that I (and probably many readers here) use coconut oil for cooking and baking, which would heat it above the raw point anyway.

      I definitely still recommend buying the highest quality coconut oil you can afford, whether refined or not.

    • Unless you’re getting your coconut oil packaged and shipped to you refrigerated, there are no “enzymes” to speak of by the time it gets to your door.

  6. I think there is more to the story then many have written here. I agree mostly with Tiffany, but there is some misunderstanding with her view as well. She states that her coconut oil never is exposed to a temperature over 104 degrees. If expeller or centrifuge is used (mostly likely the later), it can be spinning at 6,000 to 12,000 rpms… and I can tell you that it that is generating significant heat. But no matter if there doesn’t cause doubt, have you ever been in the Tropics and opened up a container in the summer heat? (actually hot year around there). The inside of a container is about 20-30 C higher than the outside temperature, which can be near 40C. What does that mean? The product is being exposed to heat of 150 F for much of its trip from Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka, or whatever the hot country is producing it. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this link for a shipping company stating exactly that.

    • Great points, John. My husband and I were just talking about a similar issue the other day. Someone had posted on Facebook not to drink bottled water that had been sitting in your car, because the heat could leach toxic chemicals from the plastic into your water. My husband asked, “Do they know how hot this stuff gets during shipping?” I totally had to agree. I’ve even heard some recommend not ordering raw honey and similar products during the summertime because they’re likely to get so hot during shipment they might not actually be “raw” anymore by the time they get to you. It’s definitely something to consider.

      • “Someone had posted on Facebook not to drink bottled water that had been sitting in your car, because the heat could leach toxic chemicals from the plastic into your water.”

        This is only true for poly-carbonate plastic which contains BPA. The plastic that the water bottles come in is usually polyethylene, not poly-carbonate. Some people get just enough information to make them dangerous. Too much misinformation out there!

  7. Coming across your article here was a breath of fresh air/common sense. Who needs to spend a fortune to get into the 99th percentile when you can get into the 90th percentile with the cheap stuff?

    Sure i believe that owning a $1,700 espresso machine and a $600 grinder will make better coffee than i make with my drip machine, but guess what? NOT THAT MUCH BETTER! (BTW, if you roast your own with a popcorn popper you’ll get into the 90th percentile)

    Its like saying you refuse to drive anything less than a ferarri.

    How do you like my meme:

    Thanks Elizabeth

    • Exactly. The 90th percentile is just fine for me…plus the cost savings associated with quantity consumed. I pay $4.99 for a 30oz jar of Kroger refined pure coconut oil as opposed to $3.99 for a 14oz jar of organic coconut oil. In, effect a dollar more for more than twice the size of the organic brand. I can keep my money in the bank by buying the 90th percentile Kroger brand!

  8. Can I reuse the coconut oil that I fried stuff in? Like homemade doughnuts or chicken nuggets? I would really like to be able to fry every now and then but its expensive using coconut oil and then throwing it out afterward. Could I just run it through a sieve and store it in the fridge? Thanks.

  9. Thank you so much for this!! I have been avoiding coconut oil because of the taste. I truly have tried, but I couldn’t do it. I cannot stand the taste of coconut. I have tried many time to make homemade mayo, with coconut, olive and yes, even canola oils. I was disappointed with all of them. So yesterday I bought a jar of refined coconut oil. I just made mayo with ALL refined coconut oil and I (and more importantly my kids) love it. So I reluctantly searched if it was still as good for you as unrefined. In my opinion, it is WAY better than the canola kind I have been using. I am so relieved and excited! Now and I try and make some of the chocolate recipes I’ve so wanted to try but haven’t because of coconut. So very thankful for this!!

  10. Hi Elizabeth
    am I throwing money down the drain if I cook with Extra Virgin raw cold pressed coconut oil? I honestly never gave it much thought, just buy the stuff and use..the coconut flavour doesn’t bother me, hardly taste it.
    But wondering now, am I damaging the fats using it in cooking, so should I use refined instead for cooking? When it says expeller pressed, does that mean its refined?

    • The fats aren’t damaged when you cook with coconut oil, but it’s definitely not raw anymore. I do prefer using expeller-pressed for cooking because, like you said, it doesn’t make sense to spend extra money on “raw” just to cook with it.

      Expeller-pressed is “refined” through a mechanical process rather than a chemical one–I would stay away from refined coconut oils that don’t explain how they are refined, since it will often be refined and bleached with chemical solvents.

  11. What brand of refined coconut oil do you use please?
    I recently got my hands on the KTC Pure coconut oil (I am quite new to coconut oil), and my biggest concern if I can use it for eating purposes (not frying but literally EATING since I recently heard about its great properties)? Have you ever experienced KTC coconut oil? I read a blog which claims that it is not hydrogenated which is good :)!

    Many Thanks!


    • I’m not familiar with that brand unfortunately, so I can’t give you more info. I’ve used everything from Radiant Life to Wilderness Family Naturals to Spectrum–most are decent, but I prefer resources that speak openly about the processes they use, so I can have a better idea of what I’m buying.

  12. I’m new trying to use coconut oil. I’m torn between refined & unrefined coconut oil. I do not like coconut taste or smell. I mostly want to use it topically for my skin and hair and hopefully I will learn to use it while cooking. However, I still want the most benefits from it. Which kind would you suggest? Also which brands do you suggest as well? Thank you for your help!

    • I really feel that if it’s a quality coconut oil, refined coconut oil will still retain most of the benefits from the fats. The resources I link to from my post are some of my favorites, but there are a few quality brands out there that do not refine their oils with chemicals–those are the ones I would use.

      • Hi. Even though trans fat should be avoided, I’d like to point out that when it comes to trans fat coconut oil is never a significant source of it. This is because of its composition of fat. Coconut oil consists mostly of a fat that is very stable even at high temperatures. In my opinion this makes coconut oil one of the healthiest available. The more points of unsaturation a fatty acid contains the higher the risk of rancidity. This means saturated fat is the most stable and resistant to rancidity and polyunsaturated fats are the least stable and the most prone to rancidity. Saturated fat is very resistant to oxidization. When an oil breaks down by being heated beyond its smoke point it becomes oxidized and when consumed = free radicals. Of course, unchecked free radicals and a lack of antioxidants in your diet leads to sickness and disease. This is undeniable even to the doctors who wage war on saturated fat. So no matter what form of coconut oil you buy or how you cook with it, it’ll always a healthy choice compared to other oils. Coconut oil is very unique we are all fortunate to enjoy its benefits.

      • So true. I use Sonoma Harvest Organic Refined Coconut oil for cooking when I don’t want the coconut taste. It is expelled processed, no Trans Fat non-GMO, NO Hexane.

  13. Just started using it have type 2 diabetes and find myself confused on which is better refined or unrefined . What to do I got unrefined is this as good.

  14. […] When I saw the title of this article I thought to myself……..huh!?? WHY would anyone prefer refined over UNrefined coconut oil (well, except for the whole taste factor). Elizabeth over at The Nourished Life brings up some intriguing points to ponder re: why she mostly chooses refined coconut oil. What about you…would you choose unrefined? What are your thoughts re: refined versus unrefined coconut oil? […]

  15. I agree with your opinion about them being the same. I bought 2 one organic one I always buy at Kroger and a bigger cheaper Kroger brand. I didn’t pay any attention to the Kroger brand being refined but as I looked at the nutrition label everything was the same Calories from fat 120, total fat 14g @ 22%, saturated fat 14g @ 64%. All the same stuff……

  16. I have Coconut oil Refined/ Unrefined to cook the frying veggies, put on bread, etc. (not sure which one is properly to use ?) I used to put on my face but apparently my face become pink or my lip become dry before. I did not use it for a quiet long time. The problem is I do not know why many different coconut oil with Expeller or not or not organic or organic, etc. I have a hard time but I got both. I have to pay attention again to see if you would help me better to understand just simple charts with list and break down which best use for face, lip, frying, banana bread, mouth oil pulling from time to time or must daily or what?(I do not have time for daily perhaps on Sundays, hair(forget this because I got really grease hair. Is putting on hair is good for everyone or depends on what kind of hair?)I think we, the people still confused. I think best to have the list of food, etc on the charts with Refined and Unrefined that would help us to understand better what we can use and can not use. Are various coconut oil good or best to use organic than unorganic, etc. What do you think? Thanks.

    • I think organic is always the best choice if you can get it. As far as virgin or expeller-pressed, that’s more of a matte of personal taste than anything else in my opinion. I would only get expeller-pressed refined oil (not the refined oils that use chemically solvents for refining–it should specify expeller-pressed). Otherwise, either one is fine for hair, face, or cooking–it just depends on whether you enjoy the coconut smell/taste (if you do, using the virgin oil is fine).

  17. Ha Ha. The thing that really got my attention, was the sentence that contained: “I don’t want coconut flavor invading my scrambled eggs.”. The only reason I find this funny, is because, I am NOT an egg person, and the only way I’ll eat them, is if I use the virgin oil. 😛 Just had to share!

  18. Thank you for this. I was doing some research on what to pick up as far as coconut oil goes and having never used it before I had no idea, that the unrefined was not going to be a neutral flavor. Was expecting it to be similar to grape seed oil. My food doesn’t taste like grapes when I cook with it, and had assumed the same was true for coconut oil. Thanks for pointing out the difference between refined and unrefined. VERY helpful!

  19. I agree, I do not use unrefined coconut oil very often because I just don’t care for the taste of it in combination with other foods. I use refined coconut oil for everything and consume more of it because there is no taste. Coconut-flavoured eggs just isn’t my thing!! Bleh!!

  20. i was eating unrefined and was getting stomach aches. I just bought some refined organic coconut oil today and have been eating it, and I feel fine. I looked it up online and found this article. Good to find this. Thanks.

    • You’re welcome! I’m glad you figured out what was bugging your stomach. I know a lot of people who can eat unrefined without issues, but occasionally it seems to cause problems, and in that case I don’t want anyone to miss out on the benefits of coconut oil! :)

  21. After reading all of this, I am still confused! (Doesn’t take much though. Lol!) If I want coconut oil to help me with weight loss and also to give to my animals, which should I use? Thank you!

Leave a reply