Coconut butter is a great dairy substitute for those who are lactose-intolerant. No doubt you’re very familiar with coconut oil. But do you know about the benefits of coconut butter and what you can use it for? Not to mention some recipes that call for it? Discover more about coconut oil’s lesser-known cousin….
If you were asked to describe what coconut butter smells like, tastes like and its mouthfeel, could you do it like a pro? Could you also without hesitation list even a few ways it’s best to use it?
Without doubt, you could do all the above for regular butter. Same also goes for peanut butter. But if you’re like most people, you probably don’t have that much experience using coconut butter (CB).
This despite the fact that coconut oil (CO) has been one of the trendiest foods for the last several years. (CO shows no signs of getting removed from elite superfood status any time soon. This, despite health warnings from mainstream doctors about its effects on cholesterol levels.)
Let’s learn more about CB….
What is Coconut Butter?
You can think of it as the peanut butter of the tropics. In the Indian subcontinent and in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, it’s quite popular. You may also come across it by the name, Coconut Cream Concentrate.
It’s made by taking the white, meaty flesh from inside the nut and pureeing it (or grinding it) down into a spread.
Unlike the regular dairy version, which can be used to cook eggs and other dishes, most often CB is used as a spread. But it has other uses as we’ll get to shortly….
Just like the oil, the consistency of CB depends on the ambient temperature. When it’s temperate or cold, it will be semi- to completely solid. But when it’s hotter, the texture is quite smooth and mouthwateringly creamy.
Usually, it comes in a jar. You don’t have to refrigerate it. That is, unless it’s so hot in your place you want the CB to harden.
What does it taste like?
No surprise here: coconuts. Actually, the flavor is even more intense than CO. Some manufacturers of CB add other ingredients to it to diversify the taste. For example, you can find it blended with lemongrass or garlic.
If you can’t get enough coconuts, you’ll love it. If your love affair with the tropical fruit isn’t so steamy, you may not love it.
Coconut Oil vs Coconut Butter
When you’re making a sandwich, what would you put on your bread: peanut butter or peanut oil? And which of the two would you use for an Asian stir-fry dish?
Get the analogy? It’s the same with CO vs CB….
CO is made by cold-pressing from the meat (flesh). Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is that CO is 100% fat.
CB, on the other hand also contains some fiber (a respectable 2 grams per tablespoon). It also contains some minerals such as iron, magnesium and potassium.
The reason why there are more nutrients besides dietary fat is the flesh of the fruit isn’t extracted until only the oil is left.
Coconut Butter Nutrition
According to PrecisionNutrition, two tablespoons of coconut butter contain the following:
- 210 calories
- 2 grams of protein
- 8 grams of carbs
- 2 grams of sugar
- 5 grams of fiber
- 18 grams of fat
Due to the fact that there are 5 grams of fiber, a 2-tablespoon serving contains only 3 net grams of carbs. That’s great news if you’re on a ketogenic or low-carb diet. Or, if you’re just looking to cut down on your dairy intake.
Plus more good news on the nutrition front….
Coconut sugar scores about half of what white table sugar does on the glycemic index (GI). The former has a GI of 35, while the latter scores 65.
CB also contains the same dietary fat profile as CO. And that means it’s high in saturated fat: 10 grams per tablespoon.
Mainstream health organizations such as the American Heart Association suggest limiting intake of saturated fats. However, not all health experts believe saturated fat is dangerous.
Some health experts even believe that lauric acid, a type of saturated fat found in coconut butter, offers health benefits. Lauric acid is an MCT, or medium-chain triglyceride.
One of the benefits of MCT oil is that it converts quickly into energy; it doesn’t get stored instantly as fat. That means if you need a quick supply of energy for exercising and want to keep the carbs down, eating a spoonful of CB may be just what the functional medicine doctor ordered.
CB may be better than conventional dairy for toddlers or other people who have trouble breaking down dietary fats.
Dangers of Coconut Butter
However, do you have a history of heart disease in your family? Or a genetic predisposition to plaque buildup in the arteries? If so, you may want to limit CB.
This is because a study from India reveals that adding up to 20 percent coconut oil in the diet for one to two weeks increased cholesterol levels. While HDL cholesterol (the so-called ‘good’ kind) can increase, so, too can LDL cholesterol levels.
The Indian study finds that LDL levels indeed go up with the consumption of saturated fat from coconut oil. (Remember, CB contains the same fat profile as CO).
Also problematic is the study concludes triglycerides (fat in the blood) increases with the intake. Researchers point out that India has among the highest heart disease rates in the world.
While MCT is most likely the healthiest type of saturated fat, you’d be hard-pressed to find many conventional cardiologists or dieticians who consider it a health food.
While the fruit seems to be good for you topically, as is in the case of coconut body butter, few doctors consider it good in large doses for internal consumption.
How Do You Use Coconut Butter?
So you have a devil-may-care attitude when it comes to what you eat. You’re not concerned too much about your cholesterol. Bring on the CB!
You’ll most likely first use it as a spread.
When you’re cooking, use the oil instead of butter. But when it comes to topping off gluten free breakfast favorites, slather on a tablespoon of CB.
You can also top healthy veggies such as asparagus and broccoli with it for some extra fats. And, of course, you can add it to America’s favorite veggie: potatoes (or sweet potatoes).
Like the idea of drinking butter coffee for breakfast? Then add a tablespoon of the dairy-free version to your cup of coffee. Or add it to your morning smoothie.
You can also use it in baking recipes, such as for making pie crusts.
What Does It Look Like When You Buy It?
Usually, it will come in a glass jar. Like CO, CB appears off-white, greyish in color. And like organic almond butter, it will most likely appear oily on the top. This is because the oil separates from the rest of the fleshy fruit (the meat).
If the texture is too hard when you bring home the bottle, you can place the jar in a bowl of hot water.
If you’re making toast in the morning and you want to spread some CB on it but the CB is too hard, here’s what you can do. Simply hold the jar of CB a couple inches over the toaster (or in front if it’s a toaster oven). The top layer of the CB jar will melt.
Like coconut oil, there’s no need to refrigerate coconut butter. But if you see that the oil has separated, do the same thing you’d do with almond butter: stir with a knife.
What’s the Best Kind?
Look for a kind that comes from extra virgin coconuts. It should also be made from whole coconut flesh. It should not be processed under heat. Heat kills some of the nutrients. Look for brands that source the fruit from sustainable farms.
Do you use coconut butter? Leave a comment.