Is Palm Oil the Same as Coconut Oil? (Full Analysis)

Short answer: Coconut oil comes from the white flesh found in the fruit of coconut trees (Cocos nucifera), producing virgin coconut oil and copra oil. On the other hand, palm oil comes from the fruit of oil palm trees (Elaeis guineensis), producing palm oil and palm kernel oil. 

When it comes to edible tropical oils, both coconut oil and palm oil have taken the culinary world to new and exciting heights.

Of the two, coconut oil is the more familiar and used product, especially by those following a vegan diet. A

vid epicures enthusiastically use both for cooking and baking, enjoying the flavor and preferred health aspects.

Keep reading to discover whether palm oil is the same as coconut oil, get a glimpse into the environmental impact to assist in making informed choices, and decipher the nutritional benefits and best culinary uses.

Palm Oil vs. Coconut Oil

Behind every food product lies a story. Let’s see what it’s all about.

The Palm Oil Story: What is Palm Oil Exactly?

img of palm oil

Palm oil is made from the fruit of several species of oil palms. The most common variety is the African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis).  

Its culinary use dates back to around 5000 years ago, when archeologists in Egypt discovered an “oil substance” in the tomb of Abydos. Due to the vast quantity, culinary uses were presumed more than likely.  

Furthermore, written records from Europeans traveling to West Africa in the mid-15th century confirm its culinary applications moving forward.  

Palm Oil Production

Typically, manufacturers extract oil from the reddish pulp fruit, then process and refine it. After pressing, they either refine or leave the palm fruit oil in its raw-pressed state.

The results yield either a nutrient-rich, unrefined (raw) deep-red palm oil or a refined and bleached white palm oil with less nutrient value.  

Notably, one should not mistake palm oil for palm kernel oil. Palm kernel oil originates from the kernels and possesses distinct qualities and applications.

To avoid confusion in our article, we focus on palm oil.

Let’s dive into the tale of coconut oil.

The Coconut Oil Story: What is Coconut Oil Exactly?

img of coconut oil

In recent years, coconut oil has become popular due to trending diets such as ketogenic, paleo, and veganism.  

Coconut oil is made from the white flesh of coconuts (Cocos nucifera) that grow on coconut palms.

Scholars believe it originated in South East Asia around 4000 years ago, where people frequently utilized it as a food ingredient due to its health benefits and appealing flavor.

That said, carvings and paintings dating back around 5000 years from New Guinea suggest they, too, used coconut oil as a food source.  

While the origin may be uncertain, we know one thing is certain; coconut oil has crept into kitchen pantries globally.  

Coconut Oil Production

After harvesting the coconuts, workers remove the fresh white flesh and press it in its wet state to produce coconut or virgin coconut oil.

Some of the flesh goes through a dehydration process. The dry coconut flesh is called copra. Essentially, coconut oil is made from both wet flesh and copra.  

However, the wet flesh method produces a virgin oil, which is higher nutritional with a coconutty flavor. 

In comparison, pressing copra produces a refined and flavorless oil with most of the nutritional value intact.  

Don’t worry; there is good news about refined coconut oil.  

It is an excellent choice for those who do not enjoy a coconut flavor and can still reap the health benefits absent in other frequently used vegetable oils, such as canola or corn oil.  

Palm Oil vs Coconut Oil: Nutritional Content and Health Benefits

Here is a comparison table displaying the nutritional content, potential health benefits, and risks.

Palm OilCoconut Oil
Nutrients and MineralsRich in antioxidants, in particular, Vitamin ENutrients and minerals:Vitamin ELauric acidMyristic acidPalmitic acidPlant sterolsMedium chain triglycerides (MCT’s)
Nutritional content per 1 tablespoon (15ml)Calories:  120Protein: 0gTotal Fat: 14gCarbohydrates: 0gCalories:  125Protein: 0gTotal Fat:  14gCarbohydrates: 0g
Fat Facts50% saturated 40% monounsaturated 10% polyunsaturated83% saturated6% monounsaturated2% polyunsaturated
Potential Health BenefitsCan promote better brain and heart healthIncreases vitamin absorptionCan assist with weight lossContribute to healthy hair and skinCan improve brain function
Potential Health RisksCan increase cholesterol levelsLinked to Atherosclerosis – hardening and narrowing of the arteries.Can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke

Of course, consulting a medical professional is essential to ensure consuming palm oil or coconut oil suits your diet and health requirements.

Moreover, ongoing studies on palm oil and coconut oil continue to reveal nutritional and health aspects.

If you want to learn, have a look at the following:

Now that we have explored the fundamental factors. 

Let’s shed some light on the environmental elements for you to consider.

Understanding the Environment Impact of These Oils

The palm oil and coconut oil industry is in high demand. 

In particular, palm oil is used in several food consumable products.  Some of these items include chocolate, instant noodles, ice cream, margarine, cookies, and even packaged bread.

Despite the ongoing efforts from actively involved individuals and companies, concerns about deforestation and habitat loss among environmentalists are high.

In other words, it is advantageous to seek out sustainable options. To help you along, check these varieties out.

We all love eating delicious and nutritious food. Thus, knowing where our food comes from brings value to your meal and our planet. It’s a win-win!

Want to learn more about the environmental impact? Have a look below:

Pro Tip:  look for the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) label. The RSPO is a globally recognized ecolabel, assuring consumers of a reputable and environmentally sustainable product.  

Ok, let’s unveil the culinary applications!

Best Culinary Uses for Palm Oil and Coconut Oil

Here is a table showcasing the best culinary uses.

Palm OilCoconut Oil
Flavor profile: savory, smoky, and earthy.  Some have described the taste to be similar to carrot or pumpkinFlavor profile: Virgin:  tropical coconut flavorRefined:  neutral 
Smoke point: Both unrefined and refined:Approximately 450 degrees FahrenheitSmoke point: Unrefined:  350 degrees FahrenheitRefined:  400 degrees Fahrenheit
Best uses: red meat, white meat, fish, vegetables, baked goods, vegan and vegetarian diets, keto and paleo dietsShallow fryingDeep fryingSauteingSalad dressingsGrilling RoastingBaked goods Best uses: red meat, white meat, fish, vegetables, baked goods, vegan and vegetarian diets, keto and paleo dietsShallow fryingDeep fryingSauteingSalad dressingsGrillingRoastingBaked goods

As you can see, both offer extreme versatility. It all comes down to flavor and health preferences.  

Remember, palm and coconut oil solidify at room temperature (in a moderate climate) due to the high saturated fat content. For this reason, these oils make excellent shortening substitutes.  


Final Thoughts on the Oil Twins

So, is palm oil the same as coconut oil?   Certainly, a “twin” aspect is apparent with their extreme versatility in the culinary world, and both being high in saturated fat – a healthier way to go.

We highly doubt any kitchen panty is without palm oil or coconut oil. Out of the two, which one do you prefer?  We would love to hear from you!

Let’s Vote!

  • Palm Oil (voting box)
  • Coconut Oil (voting box)

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