Why You Want to Use Coconut Oil (and Chocolate Fudge!)

Ever since I learned about the health benefits of organic coconut oil back when I was in nutrition school, I’ve loved using it in my recipes. And you know that a healthy food has hit the mainstream when Dr. Oz goes around touting its health-enhancing qualities, too!

Coconut oil,  while mostly made of saturated fats, is a medium-chain fatty acid, which means it’s metabolized differently from other saturated fats in the body. As a result, it spares the cardiovascular system any of the usual ill-effects of other saturated fats like those from meats, eggs or dairy products. In fact, coconut oil is actually a boon to your heart health—it can help lower “bad” cholesterol levels, improve heart health, boost thyroid function, and even strengthen the immune system.  Recently, some have even reported that eating coconut oil can help reverse Alzheimer’s disease. Not bad for a delicious, versatile, vegetable-based fat!

When it comes to cooking and baking, I love that coconut oil is naturally solid at room temperature, so it makes a great nondairy substitute for butter. If you buy unrefined oil, it will impart a subtle coconut flavor, perfect for baked goods.

Another benefit of coconut oil is precisely the fact that it is a saturated fat instead of a mono- or poly-unsaturated one like olive, sunflower, safflower, canola or most other vegetable-based cooking oils. Saturated fats are able to withstand high heat without damage to the oil’s molecular structure, which means they won’t lose their health benefits through cooking the way other oils do.  If you cook at high heat with sunflower oil, for instance, it becomes damaged and generates free radicals that can, in turn, damage your health. This problem doesn’t occur with coconut oil, even when cooking at high heat.

And let’s not forget the non-food uses, too: organic coconut oil makes an excellent eye makeup remover, skin moisturizer, all-natural baby lotion, and base for myriad homemade healthcare items (like hand cream, deodorant. . . and so much more.). And the bonus is that you’ll smell delicious!

If you’ve never cooked with coconut oil, start small: use it to sauté onions for a stir-fry, or swap out some oil or butter in a baked good. Here is one of my all-time favorite coconut oil recipes for Black Bean Fudge.

Chocolate Fudge

This fudge is everything a fudge should be: smooth, creamy, chocolatey and dense.  If you’re not accustomed to stevia with chocolate (some people find it bitter), use semisweet chips or a semisweet chocolate bar instead of the unsweetened chocolate, and add more coconut sugar in place of the stevia.

  • 1 ounce (30 g) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped, optional
  • 1-3/4 cups (420 ml) cooked, drained and rinsed black beans (canned beans work best for this recipe, as they’re softer)
  • 3 Tbsp (45 ml) coconut oil, soft at room temperature (if it’s really solid, melt it before using)
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) natural smooth almond butter
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) carob powder
  • 1/2 cup (70 g)  unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) coconut sugar or 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp (1-2.5 ml) plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to taste
  • pinch fine sea salt
  • more agave nectar or nondairy milk, only if needed
  1. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and set aside.
  2. Place chocolate, if using, in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until crumbly (there should be no large pieces visible).  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Without washing the processor bowl, add remaining ingredients to the processor and blend until very smooth.  Mixture will be thick.  If the fudge is too thick, add a little more agave nectar or nondairy milk, one tablespoon (15 ml) at a time, until it attains more of a fudgelike texture (not that it won’t firm up very much in the refrigerator, though, so you don’t want it too thin). Sprinkle with the reserved chocolate and pulse until combined.  (If the fudge is too thick to combine the chocolate this way, turn the mixture into a bowl and stir it in by hand).
  4. Transfer fudge mixture to the loaf pan and press down to compress it and push out any air bubbles.  Allow to set in the refrigerator for an hour, then cover the top with more plastic and refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or up to overnight.  Slice into squares. Store in refrigerator up to 5 days.  May be frozen (defrost overnight in the refrigerator–attempting to defrost this in the microwave will melt the oil and result in a liquid mess!).

And more coconut oil recipes to try:

Apple Pie with Gluten-Free Crust

Chickpea Pot Pie

Salted Chocolate Chunk No-Bake Cookies

Curry Cashew Butter

Vegan and Gluten-Free Cheesecake with Blueberry Compote

Baked Apple Hazelnut Wedges

Gingery Eggplant and Edamame Stew

Homemade Chocolate

Have you used coconut oil? What’s your favorite use for it?

Ricki Heller is the blogger behind Diet, Dessert and Dogs and the author of Sweet Freedom: Desserts You’ll Love without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar , recommended by Ellen DeGeneres on her website.  Ricki’s second book, with 100 dessert recipes that are free of gluten, eggs, dairy and refined sweeteners, is due out in Fall of 2013. She lives near Toronto with her husband and two dogs. Find Ricki on Facebook, twitter, and Pinterest, too!

37 Responses to Why You Want to Use Coconut Oil (and Chocolate Fudge!)

  • Maggie Savage says:

    Yummy Ricki! As you know, I adore coconut oil. I can’t imagine life without it! I’m pinning this fudge for a future chocolate weak moment :)

    [Reply]

    Ricki Reply:

    Thanks, Maggie! And you don’t have to wait for a weak moment–there’s nothing naughty in this fudge!! :D

    [Reply]

  • Kim says:

    I, too, love coconut oil. We keep at least two jars in the house at all times. One for cooking and one for lathering into dry skin. With you fudge recipe, I have one more way to love coconut oil. Thanks, Ricki!

    [Reply]

    Ricki Reply:

    @Kim, Glad to hear it! It’s a fave of mine. :)

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Kim, My pleasure! I also use it on my skin–a great moisturizer. :)

    [Reply]

    Sondra Weidman Reply:

    @Ricki Heller, I use it as my deodorant too!

    [Reply]

  • jane says:

    What is the best kind to get?? Heard lots about coconut oil, but not sure where to get it or what kind??

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @jane, Not sure why my reply didn’t show up here–see below. :)

    [Reply]

  • Alisa says:

    I don’t need convincing, I love coconut oil! That fudge looks amazing – just pinned it. Thanks for including my recipe!

    [Reply]

    Ricki Reply:

    @Alisa, Thanks! And my pleasure–your cookies look amazing!!

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Alisa, My pleasure, Alisa! I love it, too. :)

    [Reply]

  • I’m so glad that you are dispelling those “myths” on coconut oil being bad for folks because it’s saturated fat. As you’ve shared, there’s more to that story. Coconut oil is fabulous stuff! I bet your yummy fudge will help convince people of its merits, Ricki. ;-)

    Shirley

    [Reply]

    Ricki Reply:

    @Shirley @ gfe, Thanks! Definitely more to the story! And I hope you’re right about this fudge–it is so worth trying. :)

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Shirley @ gfe, Thanks, Shirley! Definitely more to the story. :)

    [Reply]

  • Ricki says:

    Jane, I like Omega Nutrition, Nutiva and Tropical Traditions–all are really good. I know lots of people who like Artisana as well. All are organic and taste great. :)

    [Reply]

    jane Reply:

    @Ricki,
    Where can I purchase any of these?

    [Reply]

    jane Reply:

    @jane,
    sorry just saw the places,thanks!

    [Reply]

  • Ricki says:

    Ooops, forgot to say that you can get it at any health food store, Whole Foods, or even order via iHerb or amazon! :)

    [Reply]

  • Alta says:

    I think I could fall face-first into that fudge, Ricki!

    [Reply]

    Ricki Reply:

    @Alta, Ha ha! I’m sure I’ve done just that at some point!! ;-)

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Alta, I’m pretty sure I have done! ;)

    [Reply]

  • ooo, that fudge looks AMAZING!!! I love that you combined cocoa and carob, I love doing that, too :) gives a richness, and smooths out the sweetness, I find. Definitely going to try this out!! And thanks for including my homemade chocolate recipe :)

    [Reply]

    Ricki Reply:

    @Heather Nauta, YOUR recipe looks amazing, too, Heather! And glad you like that carob-cocoa one-two punch. :)

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Heather Nauta, I like the one-two punch of carob/cocoa, too. And your chocolate looks incredible!

    [Reply]

  • If there is one ingredient I can’t imagine life without, it would be coconut oil! :)

    [Reply]

    Ricki Reply:

    @Hallie @ Daily Bites, Ha ha! I know what you mean! :)

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Hallie @ Daily Bites, Me, neither, Hallie! Love the stuff.

    [Reply]

  • What a creative fudge recipe, Ricki! It looks SO decadent! I love coconut oil for cake frostings, stabilizes well and far less processed than vegan margarines – and for goodies like scones. And, I’ve also used it on my babe’s bum… from multi-bun puposes. ;) Wonderful article!!

    [Reply]

    Ricki Reply:

    @Dreena Burton, Thanks, Dreena! I love it, too. :)

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Dreena Burton, It does taste decadent to me, Dreena! And I agree–coconut oil is da bomb! :D

    [Reply]

  • lara says:

    looks wonderful

    May I ask your stance on soaking beans to reduce antinutrients as per weston prices teachings. I noticed in this recipe you talk about using a tin of beans. these would not be soaked would they?

    Thanks so much. Cant wait to try

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @lara, Lara, I do agree that it’s best to soak beans if you can and have the time. I will use canned beans in a pinch for cooking, and in those cases I rinse them VERY well to remove some of the oligosaccharides and sodium. For this recipe, though, I found that canned beans work better simply because the manufacturers are able to cook them in such a way that they become much softer than the ones I cook at home, and so they blend better into the fudge (with no trace of the skin texture). I’m not worried about eating canned beans once in a while, and I’d rather eat canned beans than none at all.

    If you’re able to cook your beans until they are buttery soft (or if you don’t mind a bit of bean skin in your fudge!), then by all means, use home-cooked ones. :)

    [Reply]

  • Sondra Weidman says:

    Love this recipe! I used ‘B’ Maple Syrup and Added Coconut Cream. I love Wilderness Family and Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil. My cholesterol is always good, but my HDL was low too. After eating Coconut Oil for the past two years it has gone up 30 points!! No change to the low LDL. (I am 52)

    [Reply]

    Ricki Reply:

    @Sondra Weidman, So glad you enjoyed it! That sounds like a great ingredient combination, too. And congrats on the numbers! :)

    [Reply]

  • Sondra Weidman says:

    I use it as my deodorant too!

    [Reply]

  • Wow, this fudge recipe sounds amazing! Can’t wait to try it. I’ve started using coconut oil in many of my recipes with fantastic – and delicious- results. Still difficult for me to completely let go of the beliefs from a couple decades ago when coconut “anything” was considered forbidden! What have we missed out on, right? Thanks for sharing:D

    [Reply]

    Ricki Reply:

    @Connie Veilleux, It’s amazing what happens when we go back to the traditional ways of eating foods, isn’t it? I mean, who knew–? ;-)

    [Reply]

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