Coconut Oil vs. Butter: Which Is Better on Keto?

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Written by Brenda Peralta, Registered Dietitian and medically reviewed by Abby Courtenay

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On a ketogenic diet, 70-80% of your calories come from fat. This means you need to pay close attention to which types of fat you will include. While there are a number of different kinds you can consider, two of the top choices often used are coconut oil and butter. 

So, when it comes to the battle of fats, which one is the winner? Even though they are both saturated fats, they have several differences. 

In this article, you will learn the difference between these fats to decide which is the best to include in your daily meals. 


What is coconut oil?

You obtain it by pressing the fresh meat of the coconut until you get a liquid. This is often referred to as the virgin type. 

On the other hand, if you use dried coconut and then press it, this is often referred to as refined. Refining also includes additional processes like degumming, neutralizing, bleaching, and deodorizing. However, this terminology is not regulated in the coconut industry (unlike olive oil). 

If you see a product with the terminology “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated,” it was tampered with to extend its shelf life. In this case, it will contain trans fat, which increases the risk of heart disease. It’s best to avoid this type of oil to avoid heart complications. 


What is butter?

Butter is created when you churn cream. While it is commonly made from cow’s milk, you can also find butter made from other animals’ milk, like goat. 

Once the churning process is complete, you are left with the fat. This is then compressed and made into blocks to package. You can find versions that are salted, unsalted, or with added herbs and spices to increase its flavor. 


Coconut oil vs. butter nutrition

To determine which is better for keto, let’s compare the nutritional information for both products given by the US Department of Agriculture National (USDA) Nutrient Database.

Nutrients Coconut oil (1 tbsp) Butter (1 tbsp)
Energy 104 kcal 102 kcal
Fat 11.5 g 11.5 g
Protein 0 g 0 g
Net carbs 0 g 0 g
Total carbs 0 g 0 g
Fiber 0 g 0 g

Both are carb-free, which makes them an excellent option for people following a ketogenic diet. 

The calories between these fats are very similar. There is only a 2 kcal difference, which is not significant. They have the same fat content (11.5 g per one tablespoon), with butter having 0.1 g more protein. 

In terms of saturated fat in butter vs. coconut oil, coconut has 2.3 grams more saturated fat per tablespoon (9.6 g vs. 7.2 g). 


Differences between coconut oil and butter

Since they have similar nutritional values, you can use coconut oil instead of butter and vice versa. To get the most out of them, you can even combine them. 

Some studies show that substituting coconut oil for butter is better when it comes to cardiovascular risk factors. However, unsaturated fats are best, so olive oil is even better than these two.

Even though they are similar in macronutrients, these products have different flavors and textures. The oil from coconuts has a silkier texture and a coconutty flavor, while butter has a creamier texture and flavor. 


When to use them

You can swap one for the other in any preparation of your choice. However, there are specific moments where you want to have one over the other. 

If you want to add fat to your morning coffee, coconut oil might be better if you like its flavor.

However, if you want to spread something over your morning keto toast, it is better to go with butter due to its easy spreadability and flavor. 

For baking, you can use either one. Keep in mind that using a substitute could affect the texture of certain recipes. 


Which one is better for the keto diet? 

They are both a great addition to a ketogenic diet. They don’t have any carbs, have almost identical calorie content, and have the same fat content. 

However, they should only be used in moderation. Although coconut oil contains slightly less, both are high in saturated fat, which raises blood cholesterol.

Butter is higher in cholesterol, while coconut oil doesn’t have any cholesterol since it comes from a plant. This makes it a better option for people looking to decrease their risk of heart disease. 

Aim to have more of your fats coming from plant sources (like nuts or seeds) and only a small percentage from saturated fats.

Variety is always crucial for a healthy diet. This means sometimes choosing butter and other times using oil from coconuts, avocados, olives, or flaxseeds. The more variety you have, the more nutrients you get in your diet. 


The bottom line

Fats are the primary energy source in a ketogenic diet. The type of fat you choose can aid in your process or have adverse health outcomes (like adding too many saturated fatsl). 

Both of these fats are good options to use in moderation for a ketogenic diet since they don’t have any carbs and are high in fat, but do contain saturated fat. Coconut oil may be a better choice since it affects cholesterol less than butter does.