This past week I received a free sample of Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil to try. I read on Twitter and food blogs about how to cook with coconut oil and how to substitute it in recipes.
How to use it in recipes?
At first glance virgin coconut oil is very peculiar. I was confused when I opened the delivery box and discovered that the oil was solid, similar in appearance to shortening. This is because virgin coconut oil solidifies at a relatively low temperature, 75F. Therefore, coconut oil can be used as both a substitute for shortening and for oil. Also, from what I've read virgin coconut oil is high in antioxidants and is a good alternative to butter and other oils (more details on coconut oil can be found here).
I like the flavor that coconut oil provides as a substitute because it has a fragrant coconut smell. To substitute for shortening or butter, simply use it at room temperature (assuming you don't live in a hot climate). If you want to use it in pie or cookie doughs, I recommend using half coconut oil and half butter/shortening in the recipe (thanks @JulesGlutenFree for the tip!). Example: If a cookie asks for 1/2 cup butter, substitute with 1/4 cup solid coconut oil and 1/4 cup butter.
Coconut oil is also a great substitute for oil when frying or grilling, but only if you want a slight coconut taste to it. Don't use more than a tablespoon of coconut oil as a greasing agent, as it infuses a surprising amount of coconut flavor into your food.
Virgin coconut oil is a great oil to add to your pantry as another oil to use in your everyday cooking and baking. It is high in antioxidants and is rather flexible to use as either a shortening or an oil. However, I'd only use it in recipes that are either tropical in nature or recipes that would benefit from the sweet accent of coconut. Otherwise you'll get an overwhelming sense of coconut where you wouldn't expect it.
If you want to try virgin coconut oil, use this link while purchasing it to receive a complimentary copy of a Virgin Coconut Oil book. When purchasing, choose "Referred by a friend" and enter the code 7574415 and the book will be added to your order for free.