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Palm Oil vs. Coconut Oil: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 7, 2023
Palm oil, derived from the fruit of oil palms, is rich in saturated fats and vitamin E, while coconut oil, extracted from coconut meat, is high in lauric acid and has a distinct flavor.

Key Differences

Palm oil is obtained from the fruit of the oil palm tree, primarily composed of saturated and unsaturated fats. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is extracted from the meat of coconuts and is notably high in saturated fats, particularly lauric acid.
The production of palm oil is a major industry in tropical regions, with significant environmental impacts due to deforestation. Coconut oil production is less widespread and often considered more sustainable, though it can also have environmental concerns.
In terms of health, palm oil contains a balance of unsaturated and saturated fats and is a good source of vitamin E. Coconut oil is predominantly saturated fat, which has been linked to heart health concerns, but also lauric acid, known for its antimicrobial properties.
Palm oil is widely used in processed foods, cosmetics, and as a cooking oil due to its high smoke point. Coconut oil, with its unique flavor and aroma, is popular in cooking, especially in tropical cuisines, and in beauty products.
The controversy around palm oil often revolves around its environmental impact and health implications due to high saturated fat content. Coconut oil, while also high in saturated fats, is often marketed as a healthier alternative, though this is subject to debate among nutritionists.

Comparison Chart


Fruit of the oil palm tree
Meat of coconuts

Main Fatty Acids

Palmitic and oleic acids
Lauric acid

Environmental Impact

High due to deforestation
Lower, but varies by region


Processed foods, cosmetics, cooking oil
Cooking, tropical cuisines, beauty products

Health Implications

Controversial due to saturated fats
Debated, known for antimicrobial properties

Palm Oil and Coconut Oil Definitions

Palm Oil

Palm oil is a major ingredient in many processed foods and cosmetics.
Check the label; you'll often find palm oil in your favorite snacks.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has a distinct taste and aroma, making it a favorite in culinary applications.
The aroma of coconut oil is unmistakable in freshly baked cookies.

Palm Oil

Palm oil cultivation is a significant driver of deforestation in tropical regions.
Environmentalists are concerned about the impact of palm oil plantations on rainforests.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a tropical oil derived from the meat of coconuts.
Coconut oil adds a unique flavor to many Southeast Asian dishes.

Palm Oil

Palm oil is a versatile oil, used both in food and non-food industries.
From soaps to snacks, palm oil's versatility is evident in numerous products.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides and lauric acid.
Many people use coconut oil in their diet for its supposed health benefits.

Palm Oil

Palm oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the fruit of oil palm trees.
Many margarines and baked goods contain palm oil for its creamy texture.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is commonly used in beauty and skincare products.
Coconut oil is a popular choice for natural hair and skin care.

Palm Oil

Palm oil is known for its high content of saturated fats.
Palm oil is often used in frying due to its high smoke point.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil solidifies at room temperature and melts upon heating.
Coconut oil is often solid in the jar but melts quickly in the pan.

Palm Oil

Uncommon spelling of palm oil


Is coconut oil sustainable?

It can be, but sustainability varies depending on the source.

What is palm oil?

It's a vegetable oil derived from the fruit of oil palms.

Is palm oil environmentally friendly?

Its production is often linked to deforestation, making it controversial.

Can palm oil be used in cosmetics?

Yes, it's a common ingredient in many beauty products.

What is coconut oil?

Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the meat of coconuts.

Is coconut oil healthy?

It's debated; while high in saturated fats, it also contains beneficial compounds.

What dishes commonly use palm oil?

It's often used in African, Brazilian, and Southeast Asian cuisine.

What cuisines commonly use coconut oil?

Primarily tropical cuisines, like those in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.

Are palm oil and coconut oil interchangeable in cooking?

Not always, as they have different flavors and smoke points.

What is the flavor profile of coconut oil?

It has a sweet, nutty flavor distinctive to coconut.

Is coconut oil good for skin and hair?

Yes, it's popular in natural beauty routines.

What are the health implications of consuming palm oil?

Palm oil's high saturated fat content is a health concern for some.

What is the smoke point of palm oil?

It has a high smoke point, suitable for frying and baking.

Does palm oil have a distinct taste?

It has a neutral taste, making it versatile in cooking.

What is the smoke point of coconut oil?

It varies, but unrefined coconut oil has a lower smoke point.

How should coconut oil be stored?

Similarly, in a cool, dark place, and it can solidify at room temperature.

Are there ethical concerns with palm oil production?

Yes, including deforestation and labor practices.

Can coconut oil be used in vegan cooking?

Absolutely, it's a popular plant-based fat option.

How should palm oil be stored?

In a cool, dark place to maintain its quality.

Are palm oil and coconut oil vegan?

Yes, both are plant-based and suitable for vegan diets.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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