Organic Coconut Oil

When it comes to oils—for cooking or for our skin & hair—the options are endless: olive, sunflower, vegetable, among others. But there is one that’s a cut above the rest when we’re talking nutrition, sustainability, and versatility: coconut oil. There’s a lot of information out there about coconut oil and the options can be pretty overwhelming, so we’re giving you the 101 on how to choose the best coconut oil for you, and the importance of organic and Fair Trade options. Let’s do this.

How Is Coconut Oil Made?

Let’s start with how coconut oil is made. Most oils use solvent extraction methods with hexane (a highly hazardous chemical that ultimately changes the flavor) to extract the oil from the plant or seed. Instead, coconut oils are made with cold-pressed or expeller-pressed techniques, which use heat-controlled environments (ideally under 120 degrees) and a mechanical press for the best results. While these techniques yield less oil than the solvent extraction method, you’re left with high quality flavor and nutrition value.

Refined vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil

Generally, oil comes from the dried “meat” of the coconut, otherwise known as “copra”. Sometimes, this copra is refined to produce the oil. When it’s refined and processed at around 400 degrees, bleaching and deodorizing take place to remove its natural scent and flavor. Plus, these refined coconut oils may be partially or fully hydrogenated, which creates trans-fats that increase cholesterol. That’s why we suggested sticking with unrefined or “virgin” coconut oil.

Unrefined oil means it’s been extracted from fresh coconut meat rather than dried, using one of two methods: quick drying with a mechanical press or wet milling, which involves fermenting and separating liquids. Because it’s a quick process, it doesn’t require high heat, additives, or bleaching/deodorizing. Instead, you’re left with a truly authentic coconut flavor. (And is there a real difference between virgin and extra-virgin coconut oil? Not really. Unlike in olive oil, they are virtually the same.)

What To Look For When Buying Coconut Oil

Lastly, let’s talk ethics: coconut olive oil can be organic, fair trade, non-GMO, etc. When you purchase organic coconut oil, you can be sure no pesticides were used, period. Otherwise, pesticides, chemicals, or additives can be involved at any part throughout the process. And why buy non-Fair Trade coconut oil when you can support the fair wages & treatment of the workers on the front lines of production for a similar price point? While Fair Trade certified oils may be harder to find, we already did the hard work for you.

Here are 3 organic and fair trade coconut oils that customers swear by. Whether they’re using it for a deep conditioning hair treatment, making the switch from butter in baked goods, or crafting a lip balm, these oils are multipurpose, long-lasting, and come with the delicious scent of a freshly opened coconut. Cheers to making the sweet, sweet switch.

1. Dr. Bronner’s

Ethics | Organic, fair trade, non-GMO, Vegan Certified
Where to Buy | Online (Thrive Market), Whole Foods
| $16.99 for 14 oz.

Dr. Bronner’s has been in the family business for a long time, creating certified organic and Fair Trade products that support consumers, farmers, and workers worldwide. Their Organic Virgin Coconut Oil is a testament to just that: this naturally processed and GMO-free coconut oil was made with coconuts farmed in Sri Lanka, where workers have safe working conditions and fair compensation. Perfect for cooking, baking, and sautéing, this white kernel coconut oil has a high smoke point (350 degrees) with a rich, nutty flavor that can infuse any dish from vegetables to baked goods. Want Whole Kernel instead, which uses the brown skin between the coconut and the shell? No worries, they offer both. And no matter when you buy, it’s sure to last for ages: it has a long shelf life and can be purchased in bulk. Time to make the switch to coconut oil for good—these benefits are too great to pass up. 

Dr. Bronner’s Coconut Oil Review | “I’ve tried a couple dozen brands of coconut oil over the past few years, and this is my absolute favorite. The smell and taste are much stronger than most. When you open the jar, it feels like you just cracked open a coconut! I use this stuff so much that I’m starting to realize I’ll need to be buying bigger jars soon. It works great as a daily moisturizer, one of the ingredients for my daily body wash, massage oil, a tasty treat for my dog, and I love throwing it in baked goods when I want a nice coconutty flavor and aroma.” – Aubrey P.

2. Thrive Market

Ethics | Organic, fair trade, non-GMO, vegan
Where to Buy | Online (Thrive Market) 
Price |
$7.99 for 15 oz.

Thrive Market is home to a highly curated selection of over 6,000 organic and sustainable products. But when it’s not handpicking items from other brands, it’s making its own. Thrive Market’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil is unrefined, cold-pressed, and made from ethically sourced, sustainably harvested coconuts from the Philippines and Sri Lanka. It’s free from pesticides, preservatives, phthalates, grains, and salt, and is safe for vegan, vegetarian, and paleo diets. The coconuts are also grown using regenerative farming practices that improve soil and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. A multi-purpose staple, you can use it both when cooking food and deep-conditioning your hair. 

Thrive Market Coconut Oil Review | “I buy this for all purpose not just for cooking but for cleaning and moisturizing my face and body …and for oil pulling. You’ll be amazed how much it will whiten your teeth.” – Revena

3. Nutiva

Ethics | Organic, Fair Trade, Non-GMO, Vegan, B-Corp
Where to Buy | Online (Thrive Market), Target
Price | $19.21 for 23 oz. 

Stock up on all of your oil needs with Nutiva’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil. Available in glass jars—yay, sustainability!—Nutiva offers coconut oil in bulk sizes (23 oz.) so you don’t have to make repeat trips to the grocery store. (And using glass jars ultimately is better than the plastic ones anyway, because oftentimes the oil becomes infused with a plastic taste.) Nutiva is a certified B Corp, crafting organic and Fair Trade goods that also give back. Because it’s unrefined, it’s not bleached or deodorized, so that smooth, sweet flavor is perfect for any use: add to your popcorn, make an exfoliating body scrub, or use in chocolate coconut brownies. (Want to balance out the coconut flavor in a more savory dish? Here’s a pro tip: use a pinch of salt!) With 100% less cholesterol than butter, it’s a nutritious, versatile, and downright delicious alternative.

Nutiva’s Coconut Oil Review | “Love love love this coconut oil. I love the size jar, too. It is the perfect size for my kitchen cupboards. It is not too large or heavy and can be grabbed easily from the cupboard. I have had larger size jars and they are cumbersome and awkward. As far as the flavor and texture, this coconut oil is great. It has a mild coconut flavor which you will taste in mild foods, but is easily overwhelmed by spicy foods. I will say, it is NOT covered up by cocoa or cacao flavor, though. I find that if I use it for making a chocolate cake or brownies, you still taste the coconut, although this is not a bad thing. We have even used this for making some homemade skin treatments as well. It works great mixed with other oils for moisturizers and for lip balm. I love it as a general all around coconut oil. My skin loves it too!” – Judith J.