Extending the Shelf Life of Coconut Oil for Long-Term Storage

Extending the Shelf Life of Coconut Oil for Long-Term Storage

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Coconut oil is our favorite cooking oil because it’s not just a cooking oil; it’s a cosmetic, a detergent, and has the longest shelf life of cooking oils at 5 years. In an emergency scenario, you’ll be able to benefit from all the uses of coconut oil. Knowing the shelf life of coconut oil and how to properly store it is useful information because you will be able to continue to benefit from it for years to come.

Unrefined coconut oil has the longest shelf life of cooking oils and fats at 5 years when properly stored. Refined coconut oil has a shorter shelf of 2 years. We almost always suggest going with unrefined, or virgin, coconut oil because it is healthier and has a longer shelf life. The main reason to choose refined coconut oil over unrefined is when you want a cooking oil with a higher smoke point. To learn more about coconut oil, read on.

Coconuts on a Tree

What is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of a coconut. It is saturated fat, meaning it is solid at room temperature and has a high smoke point compared to other fats. Coconut oil has been used for thousands of years, but it has only become popular in the West in the last century, as study after study has indicated its health benefits (source).

Types of Coconut Oils

The three main types of coconut oil are unrefined, refined, and partially hydrogenated coconut oil.

  • Unrefined coconut oil: Unrefined coconut oil is made from fresh coconut meat. Depending on the extraction method, the fresh coconut meat may be dried first. If non-dried fresh coconut meat is used, then it will yield both coconut milk and oil, and both will have to be separated. When the coconut oil is extracted using a cold-press method, meaning not dried, it retains more nutrients. Unrefined coconut oil has a smoke point of 350°F, or 176°C, making it great for baking and sauteeing but not so much for deep frying at high temperatures.
  • Refined coconut oil: Refined coconut oil is made from dried coconut meat. It is heated at high temperatures, pressed, and filtered to remove impurities in the oil. However, much of the nutritional value is lost in the process. Occasionally, chemicals are added to the dried coconut meat to help with the extraction process. Refined coconut oil has a smoke point of 400°F or 204°C, although it will retain less of the coconut flavor.
  • Partially-Hydrogenated coconut oil: Trans fat is added to the coconut oil in order to extend its shelf life and maintain its solid texture at room temperature. This oil should be avoided given the known negative health effects of trans fats (source).

Coconut Meat

Shelf Life of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a saturated fat, meaning that it is more stable compared to other fats and a solid at room temperature. When stored properly, unrefined coconut oil lasts 5 years in storage. Refined coconut oil has a shelf life of 2 years. Although the shelf life of refined coconut oil is much shorter than unrefined coconut oil, it still ranks high among other cooking oils. For comparison, avocado oil has a shelf life of about 14 months, and virgin olive oil also has a shelf life of 2 years.

However, it is important to mention that a 5-year shelf life is not guaranteed. In order to have it reach that point, you have to make sure you store your coconut oil properly. Fortunately, this is simple, as your goal should be to reduce exposure to air, heat, and direct sunlight. In doing so, you can ensure your coconut oil can reach its maximum shelf life.

Refined Coconut OilUnrefined Coconut Oil
Pantry2 years2+ years
Fridge2 Years5 Years
Freezer2 Years5 Years

Jar of coconut oil

How to Store Coconut Oil?

When it comes to storing coconut oil, your goal is to protect it from environmental aggressors like heat, sunlight, and oxygen. Simply eliminating exposure to these three factors will ensure your coconut oil can reach its maximum shelf life.

We suggest storing your coconut oil in a fridge or pantry since these locations will limit exposure to direct sunlight and heat. If you live in a hotter climate, we suggest storing the coconut oil in the fridge because, after 80°F, your coconut oil will be at risk of going rancid because of heat exposure.

Additionally, you should aim to store your coconut oil in a tin container or dark glass jar as they are more effective for long-term storage. Tin and dark glass containers keep the oil cooler, and tin has the added benefit of preventing light from entering the container. We advise against plastic containers as they are known to have microplastics leak into the oil over time. The effects of microplastics in our food are still being studied, but it is believed to have negative effects on our long-term health (source).

Storing coconut oil is slightly more complicated than storing other cooking oils. This is because when storing unrefined coconut oil from 60°F to 78°F, it will go from being a solid to a liquid coconut oil. Fortunately, the quality and nutritional value will remain the same, but it will affect how you use it for cooking and other applications. For consistency purposes, we suggest keeping it in a fridge.

Related Article: How to Store Cooking Oils for the Long-Term

Can Coconut Oil be Frozen?

Yes, coconut oil can be frozen and kept in a freezer for up to 5 years. Storing coconut oil in a freezer is a secure way to store the oil and ensure you can use it when you need it. If you decide to store it in a freezer, make sure the oil is kept in a freezer-safe container and stored properly to ensure it can reach its maximum shelf life.

Signs of Rancid Coconut Oil

If your coconut oil has gone rancid, it’s better to dispose of it immediately than expose your family to it. Although rancid oils do not cause immediate health problems, frequent consumption of them can release free radicals into the body, which destabilize cells and can cause serious health problems later on (source). Fortunately, there is a simple three-step process to determine if your cooking oils have gone rancid. The signs to look for are:

  1. Discoloration: The first and most obvious sign of rancid coconut oil is discoloration. Rancid coconut oil will have an off-white color and even appear to be yellow. Oils rarely grow mold (only when food fragments are in the oil), so you should be mindful of discoloration as the first sign of spoilage.
  2. Aroma: The second step to check for rancidity is the aroma. Rancid cooking oils will have a soapy odor to them. You will know immediately by the smell of the coconut oil if it has gone bad.
  3. Taste: If you are still unsure after conducting an odor test, tasting the oil is the quickest way to confirm if it is rancid. Rancid oils will have a bitter or sour taste, tasting nothing like their intended flavor. You’ll want to conduct this test before cooking with the oil because it can ruin a home cook disk.

By simply relying on your sense of sight, smell and taste, you will be able to tell if a cooking oil is still safe to eat. This three-step process applies to all cooking oils and fats.

How to Dispose of Coconut Oil

There is a common misconception that it is okay to dispose of coconut oil by pouring it down the drain. However, this is not the case, and doing so, can damage your drainage pipes. Coconut oil, like other cooking oils, can clog your pipes, preventing solids and liquids from going down. When this happens, a bad odor will emit from your pipes, and you’ll have to make an expensive call to a plumber to sort through the issue.

Fortunately, there are alternative ways to dispose of coconut oil that are environmentally friendly and can be a creative use of your time. Some ideas for you are:

  • Do-it-Yourself (DIY) Candles
  • DIY Coconut Soap
  • Add to the bird feeder
  • Add to dog food
  • Add to compost
  • Pour into a ziplock bag, and place it in the trash

Related Article: How to Dispose of Cooking Oils – Environmentally

Coconut oil and coconuts

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

The health benefits of coconut oil have been studied for decades, and it is widely agreed to be one of the healthier oils, right up there with olive oil. This is due to the fact that coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). Most of the health benefits are attributed to the MCT and not the coconut itself. It is believed that MCTs are easily absorbed by the body and quickly turn into energy for us to use. It has also been found that people who include lots of coconuts in their native diet in places like the Philippines, India, and Polynesia have significantly lower rates of cardiovascular diseases. However, it is important to note that consuming coconut oil is known to increase both good and bad cholesterol levels. So those who have high cholesterol may want to speak with a professional before consuming it (source).

Typically, unrefined cooking oils and fats are more nutritious and flavorful, so we recommend consuming those for the greatest health benefits. A good metric for how nutritious a food is by the flavor. The more flavorful it is, the more nutrient-dense the food is.

Coconut oil is a better option than highly processed, complex fats such as canola oil and most vegetable oils. These fats are often made from GMO ingredients and processed in a way that strips the nutritional benefits of these fats.

Nutritional Facts of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is comprised primarily of saturated fats, and it is 100% medium-chain glycerides, meaning it is easy for the body to absorb coconut oil since it is not a complex fat. The nutritional facts of coconut oil are as follows:

Nutrient1 TBSP

coconut oil for skin and hair

Other uses for Coconut Oil

If you are storing organic coconut oil for cooking, you should consider its alternative uses. Coconut oil is popular for all types of uses. Some ideas are:

  • Skin Moisturizer
  • Candles
  • Soaps
  • Hair Mask
  • Shine furniture
  • Lubricant on metal objects
  • Toothpaste
  • Lip Balm
  • Deodorant

Part of the reason we really like coconut oil is that it is so versatile and can be used for so many applications.

Alternatives to coconut oil

Alternatives to Coconut Oil

To us, coconut oil is the all-around superior cooking oil, so finding a comparable option wasn’t easy. We considered the smoke point, cooking uses, shelf life, and health benefits and decided on extra virgin olive oil and beef tallow.

We went with Extra virgin olive oil because it is packed with flavor and nutrients and is a natural, healthy fat. It has a smoke point of 374°F, making it a good option for frying, baking, and sauteeing foods. Additionally, extra virgin olive oil is anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants (source). It has a much shorter shelf life of 2 years, but it is comparable to the other categories.

Beef tallow, the fat rendered from a cow, is also a saturated fat. This means it’s solid at room temperature, like coconut oil. Unrefined beef tallow has a high smoke point of 420°F. Beef tallow also provides numerous health benefits and is known to reduce inflammation, good for the nervous system, and protect your body from free radicals (source). The main downside of beef tallow is its shelf life of 18 months.

Related Article: How to store Beef Tallow Long Term

Storing Coconut Oil

Final Thoughts

Unrefined coconut oil has a long shelf life of 5 years, and refined coconut oil can be stored for up to 24 months. However, in order to ensure it stays fresh, it must be protected from exposure to heat, air, and direct sunlight. Fortunately, this can be done easily, and we suggest storing coconut oil in a tin container or dark glass jar, which would protect the oil from heat and direct sunlight. It can be stored in a pantry, fridge, or freezer, but we would suggest a fridge as it can be used and applied quickly. In a pantry, it may turn to liquid if the temperature exceeds 78°F, and when it’s frozen, you have to wait until it warms up to apply it.

Unrefined coconut oil is the best cooking oil for long-term storage because it’s not only healthy, it has a shelf life of 5 years. 5 years is longer than any other cooking oil shelf life.

Related Article: Best Cooking Fats for Long-Term Storage

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