Refined vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil on Keto

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Written by Brenda Peralta, Registered Dietitian and medically reviewed by Jennifer Olejarz

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Coconut oil is one of the most popular foods on a ketogenic diet. Its medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) can help increase your ketone production, leading to fat-burning mode. 

Its versatility also allows you to use it in different keto products. Whether it is for cooking or adding to your baked goods, it is an excellent way to help you reach your total fat intake. 

However, you might have heard there is a difference between refined vs. unrefined. Which one is better for keto? 

Let’s talk about the difference between these two and if you can include them on a ketogenic diet.


Refined coconut oil

This type of oil undergoes some processing. Once you get the oil from the meat, it goes through a process called bleaching that helps remove any bacteria. 

It has a neutral scent or flavor and a high smoke point set at 400-450°F (200-230°C). 

Even though it has more processing, it doesn’t affect the quality and quantity of the nutrients and MCT content. 


Unrefined coconut oil

Sometimes called virgin coconut oil, it’s when you have the oil in its unprocessed form. You obtain it by pressing the meat from a coconut until you get the oil. 

There are two methods to obtain it: dry or wet. The wet method usually retains more nutrients compared to the dry one. 

It has an intense coconut flavor and is solid at room temperature. It has a lower smoke point set at 350°F (177°C). 


Refined vs. unrefined coconut oil nutrition

Is there a nutritional difference between them? In the following table, you can compare the nutritional content of one tablespoon (14 g). They are based on the information from the Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database (USDA).

Nutrients Refined (1 tbsp) Unrefined (1 tbsp)
Energy 120 kcal 120 kcal
Fat 14 g 14 g
Protein 0 g 0 g
Net carbs 0 g 0 g
Total carbs 0 g 0 g
Fiber 0 g 0 g

As you can see, they have identical nutritional values. There is no difference in the amount of fat or calories each one has. They are both high in fat with no carb content, making them an excellent option for those on a ketogenic diet. 

So, what are the differences between them?


Differences between refined vs. unrefined coconut oil for keto

There are several differences. Here is a list of them.



The first one is how you obtain it. The refined kind needs to go through processing, while the unrefined type is in its purest form. 


Smell and flavor

Unrefined coconut oil has a very intense flavor and taste. It tastes like coconut. On the other hand, due to its processing, the refined version has a neutral taste and smell. 


Smoking point

Unrefined coconut oil has a lower smoking point. It can burn easier at lower temperatures than refined, which has a higher smoking point. In the end, the refined option can withstand more heat. 


When to use refined and unrefined coconut oil on keto

Since they have identical nutritional values, you might wonder when it’s best to use each one. Here are some cases that can help you determine which is better to use. 



If you are looking to stir fry or saute (meaning you will use high temperatures), it’s better to use the refined version. 

If you want to use the unrefined version, ensure you are cooking at low temperatures and for a short time. For example, if you want to coat your vegetables with the delicious flavor it has.


Refined can withstand higher heat, and it won’t affect the taste of your cooking goods. If you prefer the unrefined version’s flavor, you can use it for baked goods since they won’t reach very high temperatures. 

In the end, it comes down to the flavor. 


Salad Dressing

If you are not cooking, you can use either. It depends if you want your meal to have a coconut flavor. If you prefer a tasteless option, then go with the refined version. 


Which one is better for the keto diet?

Both are good to include in a keto diet. They are sources of fat that can help you achieve your daily fat intake

However, coconut oil is high in saturated fat, so it is best to consume in moderation.

One advantage that they both have is their MCT content. MCT can help increase your ketone production, it can help increase your fullness levels, and slightly help you burn a little more fat. 

While you have a high fat intake on a keto diet, it is very easy to have overconsumption of oil. That is why it is always important to measure the portion size and keep track of your intake. 

Remember that to lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit (eating fewer calories than your body needs). 


The bottom line

Even though they have similar nutritional profiles, when to use them and your preference can dictate which one to choose. For baking or cooking at high heat, it’s better to use refined. Also, if you don’t like an intense coconut flavor, this is a better option. 

On the other hand, if you like the coconut flavor and are not going to cook at very high temperatures, then unrefined is the best. 

In any case, they are both great options of fats to include in a ketogenic diet.