Raw, Virgin, Unrefined, Organic, Expeller pressed Coconut Oil – Which is Best?

February 25, 2009 · 42 comments

Hopefully this will be helpful in understanding the various terms you see associated with coconut oil, but if you just want to know where to buy quality coconut oil, visit this organic virgin coconut oil post.

In some forums I belong to, I’ve read about the confusion and misinformation when trying to figure out the various words used to describe coconut oil: raw, unrefined, refined, expeller pressed, virgin, blah, blah, blah, and now I have a headache!

photo by Koshyk

I think I’ve figured it out, but if I messed up, please set me straight!

  • Organic means that the coconuts are from areas that don’t use chemicals.
  • From what I can pull together, “extra virgin” and “virgin” are the same – there are no industry standards to gauge this with. They both have to do with how many times the coconut meal (or coconut “meat”) was pressed to get the oil out. One time is called “extra virgin“, “virgin or “first pressed”. Another source said that “extra virgin” means the least amount of pressure (and therefore less heat) that is used, and “virgin” means more heat, more friction, but higher yields. I think the fact that most (all?) coconut oil comes from other countries muddies things up – we can have certain U.S. standards, or standardized terms, but it may mean different things depending on the country it comes from.
  • Raw“, “unrefined” and “refined” all have to do with how much heat is used to process the coconut oil. All coconut oils use some heat, because otherwise certain components won’t be removed that give an off taste. (And many sites noted that even in transport, the oil will be heated quite a bit.) Thankfully coconut oil isn’t harmed by heat, which is why it is a good oil to cook with. (As with all oils, it does have a smoking point that you don’t want to go over, though.) But the higher the heat, the more it is “processed”, and the less nutritional benefits you’ll receive when using it to cook with or on your skin (I love the coconut creams, lotions, etc. at this post, just scroll down.)
  • Expeller pressed or mechanical pressed means no chemicals were used to remove the oil, but it was done “physically”, with a machine. The oil can be just expeller pressed, OR cold expeller pressed, which is tied in with the last point as far as the heat involved in processing. (Do you see why all this is so confusing?!)
  • Refined, bleached, deodorized – this is the kind of coconut oil you can use if you don’t want a coconut taste or smell. It is still beneficial to us, but no where near as much as the unrefined. (I use it for recipes that a coconut flavor won’t “work” in.) Here is the best deals I found on the refined organic coconut oil. This is NOT “virgin coconut oil“.


If I missed anything or you have anything else to add to this information, please do so!

***Read more about coconut oil!

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    { 41 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 JoAnne February 25, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Hmm … Any thoughts on Garden of Life Extra Virgin Coconut Oil or Jarrow Formulas EV Coconut Oil? Those are the two brands carried by my local health food store.


    2 Kelly February 25, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I’ve order the Gold tradition version at Tropical Traditions, especially when they have specials (2 -36oz jars for 35$) and it tasted fine. They have a variety of types, but this is the only version I’ve tried since it has been on sale so much. Also, any tips on palm oil ordering? Thanks for your great blog!


    3 Kelly February 25, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    JoAnne, I know Garden of Life is a good company, but I haven’t called to ask specific questions about that one or the Jarrow Formulas one – are their prices better than the ones I have listed? Usually it’s much more costly at the health food store.

    Kelly, sorry, I don’t have scoop on palm oil, maybe someone else does…?


    4 Julie February 25, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    I LOVE my Nutiva coconut oil, I am about to buy the 5 gallon tub! Anyhow, I wanted to say I had the same thoughts on the Tropical Traditions brand. I did not like it at all. The other brand I buy when it is on sale for 45% off at the Health Food Store is Garden of Life.


    5 Sheila February 25, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    I have tried Coconut Supreme (tasty but expensive), Mountain Rose (good, inexpensive, but I had some go “off” once), Nutiva (a bit cloying and pricey in my HFS) and I really like Blue Breeze from Green Pastures (the fermented cod liver oil folks). Very yummy, stays fresh, and great price (plus I like supporting Dave W. & family).
    For deep frying I have been known to use Louanna brand (an RBD oil) and have used Spectrum organic refined (not tasty, but the neutral flavor makes it good for cooking with no hint of coconut.


    6 Sheila February 25, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    BTW, a great way to get more VCO in you a’ la Eat Fat Lose Fat is in Stash brand Lemon Ginger tea – i like to brew the tea and add a Tbs of coconut oil, raw honey or coconut sugar (delish, available at oriental food markets) and raw milk or cream. YUMMMM!


    7 Kelly February 26, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Hmmm, maybe that tea could help me drink less coffee…


    8 Carissa February 27, 2009 at 9:51 am

    I’ve been using Dr. Ben Kim’s coconut oil:


    I use it mainly to cook eggs, and I can’t taste coconut at all!


    9 Christine March 3, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Julie, I’m curious what you didn’t like about the Traditions oil? I’ve tried 3 or 4 brands of virgin unrefined organic CO now, and they are all identical to me…..but it would be nice to know what to look for if there is something wrong? Can coconut oil go bad or rancid?

    I once received a gallon of Mountain Rose without a date on it, and I emailed about it. I was told that there is not an expiration date on oils. (I suppose I should know that anyway, lol)


    10 Gwen March 4, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Hi Kelly,
    My sister ordered the Soapers Choice Unrefined Organic Coconut Oil. She was not impressed. It arrived in a yellow jug with a small spout, and had to be heated (it was solid) and poured off into another container for use. Hassle. And it has a plasticy taste after that. She just sat it in a sinkful of warm water, so the plasticy taste was probably there before she melted it down.
    We’re going to stick with nutiva for now. The cheaper just didn’t work well for us.


    11 Gwen March 4, 2009 at 8:59 am

    P.S. I have read that extra virgin is supposed to refer to the oil from the first pressing. It can be repressed after that (virgin) and then heated and pressed again, which is when you start getting into the refining/heating process.

    Don’t know if that is always followed, or 100% accurate, but that’s what my research showed.


    12 Kelly March 4, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Carissa, that must be a refined CO if you couldn’t taste any coconut flavor at all. I use that kind for some things, but I use the full flavored virgin CO for as much as I can since there are more nutritional benefits.

    Gwen, it’s not abnormal for the oil to be hard (it hardens at lower temps), but I’ve heard others say that the Soaper’s Choice tastes like plastic, too.


    13 Lee March 9, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Kelly, I use Spectrum Essentials Organic Unrefined Coconut Oil (100% expeller pressed). Just to clarify, since its “unrefined”, does that mean its the same as “virgin”?

    Looking forward to and appreciating your response.


    14 Kelly March 10, 2009 at 12:40 am

    Hi Lee,

    Remember “virgin” has to do with how many times it was pressed to get the oil out.

    “Unrefined” has to do with the heat that was used in processing. If I were you, I’d contact the company and ask them at what heat they process their unrefined oil.



    15 Rebecca K March 31, 2009 at 11:58 am

    I’m considering ordering the Blue Breeze Extra virgin, organic coconut oil from Green Pastures when I order my fermented cod liver oil. I called today and asked what temp it was processed at, and Dave W said at 90 degrees “less than the coconuts probably got on the trees!” he said. Do you have any reasons why you don’t support that type of coconut oil? Thanks! Rebecca


    16 Rebecca K March 31, 2009 at 11:59 am

    OH, BTW, have you learned anything about ordering Palm Oil? I’m interested in trying that especially for my baking…


    17 Kelly April 1, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Hi Rebecca,

    Sorry, I haven’t looked into palm oil yet, except for once I ordered some “red palm oil” and it had a really bad flavor and smell, but I probably just got a bad batch or bad brand or something.

    The Green Pastures coconut oil sounds good to me, but I think it was more expensive than the other brands that I like, so I have the less expensive ones listed on my best deals page.



    18 Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship April 25, 2009 at 12:45 am

    I’ve been pleased with my c. oil from Soaper’s Choice – for $27 for about 3.5 quarts, plus only $12 shipping for 5 big jugs worth (split with friends). I talked to two people at the company about the processing: it is organic, virgin, cold-pressed, dried at no higher than 116 degrees, filtered and packed. In retrospect I should have clarified what “filtered” means. I think the flavor is nice, and it’s easy to get out of the bottle just by sitting in in dishwater before doing the dishes and pouring into glass jars. So far it works great in oatmeal, and as the solid fat in biscuits and tortillas! Just thought I’d chime in, since this is such a hot topic and so difficult to figure out!

    Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship


    19 Joy May 11, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    EVCO is one of the best unknown SECRETS to weight loss. It has been used for centuries and I am glad to hear when other are taking advantage of its’ benefits.


    20 Lauren May 15, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    I’ve also found some great prices on these types of oils over at http://www.cibariasoapsupply.com


    21 Laura Epstein August 25, 2009 at 3:26 am

    I just bought Organic Coconut Oil by jarrow’s. I want to use it as a moisturizer. If it isn’t labeled “extra virgin” does that mean it is lacking the important nutrients that coconut oil is said to have?



    22 KitchenKop August 25, 2009 at 9:06 am

    Laura, you could call the company and ask them what heat it is processed at.


    23 Lisa Imerman December 4, 2009 at 10:20 am

    I have used Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut oil for years and love it. I currently get the Gold Label by the Gallon from my CSA. I also like the one by Green Pastures and I also use their coconut ghee. I have expeller pressed (deodorized) coconut oil from Tropical Traditions but I think it has a chemically taste and don’t care for it. I did once try the Red Palm Oil from TT and also didn’t like it and several other people I know tried it too and didn’t like it, I think we just don’t like red palm oil as it is a strong flavor.


    24 heather November 5, 2010 at 10:58 am

    It sounds like the coconut oil from Tropical Traditions had gone rancid. Rancid oil won’t hurt you, but it sure stinks (very sour smelling-never tasted rancid oil though). I am a soap maker, and I use the coconut oil from Soaper’s Choice/Columbus foods in all my recipes. I think the different answers on heating temps you got when you called was due to their product list contains 2 different types of coconut oil-refined (the high heat one) and extra virgin organic coconut oil (low heat). I personally use their coconut oil (you can eat or cook with it too) and their organic sustainable palm oil in all my soaps. They are a great company and they mail out your orders really fast. Many soap makers use their oils.


    25 Mary Joe November 5, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I just ordered some from iherb and if you’re a new customer you can receive $5 off any order with ongoing coupon code TAW742 (valid for one person per household)



    26 Jodi January 14, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Quick question. Has anyone ever tried the coconut oil from Radiant Life. I haven’t seen them mention on this strand. I have bought from them before, but they are a little pricey. Any comments.


    27 Lisa March 2, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    Hi there this is going to sound weird i surpose, but i am trying to find a coconut oil that actually smells like coconuts but also natural. I hope someone can help me, i have tried a few companys but when i get the oil it doesnt smell anything like coconuts. Please Help. Thanks


    28 KitchenKop March 2, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    That’s not weird, but I wonder if you’re buying the *refined* version (no taste or smell) instead of the unrefined/virgin coconut oil which normally has a pleasant coconut taste…?

    Have you seen this post? http://kellythekitchenkop.com/coconut-oil” target=”_blank


    29 Heather March 8, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Hi Lisa, I recently ordered coconut oil from Tropical Traditions and it DEFINITELY smells like wonderful coconuts. Right now their gold label organic 16 oz. is on sale BOGO.


    30 Lisa March 2, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    All it says on the back of the lable is Extra Virgin CO is not deodorized which means you recieve only pure unrefined CO. The brand is Puritan’s Pride organic extra virgin coconut oil. I just want one thats a good price that smells like coconut, i love the smell of it.


    31 KitchenKop March 2, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    I’ve never used that brand, but the kinds I use have a really nice smell and flavor. :)


    32 Amber February 11, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Hi, I have the Spectrum Refined Expeller Pressed Organic Coconut Oil (medium high heat). This is the only kind I could find and was wondering if it is beneficial to use for skin care because it tells you on the back you can use it for smooth skin. It is the main reason as to why I purchased it. I used it the other day for my face and it felt a bit better being that my face tends to dry out. Would you know if it will work as well as the unrefined if I used it everyday? Thank you =)


    33 KitchenKop February 11, 2012 at 11:46 am

    The refined would be good for your skin, but the unrefined would be better because all those great nutrients are absorbed through our skin, so I use the unrefined figuring I may as well get the most I can from applying it. You know?


    34 Amber February 11, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    I have done some research and yes it seems that is the case. I just want to know if I will still reap all the same benefits for the skin and ingesting for the body?


    35 KitchenKop February 11, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Just to be sure I’m understanding your question, you’re asking if you get as many benefits through the skin as when you eat it, right?

    If that’s what you’re asking, from everything I’ve heard and read, yes, we do absorb nutrients very well through our skin. I don’t know if there is anything concrete out there, though, that tells us if it’s *just* as much as when we ingest it.

    Just do both, then you’re sure! :)


    36 Terry March 4, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    I was just about to buy some more Nature’s Way EvaGold Coconut Oil (pure extra virgin, unrefined, cold-pressed), when a sales person at the Vitamin Cottage told me to get raw coconut oil instead. What is the difference is “raw” and “unrefined”? Thanks so much for your help on this. Terry


    37 KitchenKop March 4, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Unrefined means minimally processed, raw means that it’s processed at an even lower heat, no higher than 110* I believe, but it’s been a while since I looked into it.

    What you choose will depend on your budget. Raw is much more expensive, and personally, I think the ‘unrefined virgin’ coconut oils are just fine for us since we get other raw foods in our diet.



    38 william cantwell January 10, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Hi my name is bill ; I just bought a bottle of unrefined red palm tree oil . But cant get it out of the bottle because it is so thick.What to do ; is the question ‘ Thank you.


    39 KitchenKop January 10, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Hi Bill,

    I’ve never used unrefined red palm tree oil, but that’s a good sign that it’s hard at room temp, it means it’s saturated, which is good for us. :) (Just like lard, tallow, coconut oil, etc.)

    Just chunk it out with a knife or use a hot ice cream scoop (heat it under hot water).



    40 Dawn July 20, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Hi I just bought Spectrum Expeller Pressed Organic Coconut oil( refined for med high heat). Is this OK to use on my skin? I have been reading a lot about the benefits of coconut oil and want to ensure I have the right stuff.



    41 KitchenKop July 21, 2013 at 11:37 am

    The stuff you bought is best for higher temp cooking when you don’t want a coconut flavor in whatever your recipe is. It won’t hurt to use it on your skin, but I usually use virgin/unrefined coconut oil for that because I love the smell for my skin and since it’s less refined, there are more beneficial nutrients. You can find the stuff I use here: http://amzn.to/13wJF9V

    Hope that helps!


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