You may have heard that coconut oil is excellent for baking, but you’re not sure if baking with coconut oil instead of shortening will actually work in your recipes. After all, shortening is solid and coconut oil is—well, not always solid.
The consistency of unrefined coconut oil does fluctuate depending on the temperature of the location, where it is stored. When kept at 76 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, it remains solid. In warmer temperatures, it can melt to become liquid or semi-solid.
Then again, these changes don’t affect the many uses of coconut oil and its quality. In fact, although it doesn’t require refrigeration, it has one of the longest shelf lives among other natural oils. You can substitute coconut oil for any fat, such as butter, vegetable oil, olive oil, or shortening at a 1:1 ratio. If the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon shortening, use 1 tablespoon coconut oil instead.
Best Tips for Baking with Coconut Oil Instead of Shortening
Sometimes texture does matter. Many pastries require those nice flecks of fat marbled throughout the dough in order for the finished products to be flaky and crisp when it’s done. The best way to accomplish that is with cold, solid fat.
So, what do you do if your coconut oil is liquid on the day you want to bake? Hey, you came here for answers, we’ve got them!
Tip #1: Measure 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and place it in the compartment of an ice-cube tray. Fill each compartment and place the tray in the freezer. In about an hour, the oil will be frozen solid. Remove the oil cubes from the tray and place them in a freezer bag. You now have a perfect measurement of coconut oil whenever you need it. Simply remove the amount you want from the freezer and allow it to thaw until it’s the consistency your recipe needs.
Tip #2: What? You forgot to make a batch of frozen oil cubes and you want solid coconut oil now? Measure the amount needed and place it in the refrigerator. In about 5-10 minutes, the coconut oil should be chilled to the same consistency as shortening.
Tip #3: Don’t store your coconut oil in the refrigerator. This might seem like a super-smart way to have solid coconut oil on hand at all times, but what you’ll really have is super-hard oil that you’ll want to try and chop out of the jar with a butter knife. Don’t ask me how I know this. Not only is this method dangerous, but you still have to wait for the oil to soften for the perfect shortening-like consistency.
Tip #4: Never microwave coconut oil to soften or melt it. The important fatty acids and anti-oxidants in coconut oil can’t survive microwave cooking so you will essentially be killing the nutrition and health benefits you love coconut oil for in the first place.
Tip #5: Always use a high-quality unrefined organic extra virgin coconut oil. Refined oils may be processed with bleach and other chemicals that can affect how the oil tastes and behaves in your favorite recipes.