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.
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
- Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and set aside.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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:
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!