Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). It has various applications in food, medicine, and industry. Because of its high saturated fat content it is slow to oxidize and, thus, resistant to rancidification, lasting up to two years without spoiling.
Coconut oil can be extracted through "dry" or "wet" processing. Dry processing requires the meat to be extracted from the shell and dried using fire, sunlight, or kilns to create copra. The copra is pressed or dissolved with solvents, producing the coconut oil and a high-protein, high-fiber mash.
The all-wet process uses raw coconut rather than dried copra, and the protein in the coconut creates an emulsion of oil and water. The more problematic step is breaking up the emulsion to recover the oil. This used to be done by prolonged boiling, but this produces a discolored oil and is not economical; modern techniques use centrifuges and pre-treatments including cold, heat, acids, salts, enzymes, electrolysis, shock waves, or some combination of them.
Coconut oil is commonly used in cooking, especially for frying and is a common flavor in many South Asian curries. It has been used for cooking (in tropical parts of the world) for thousands of years. In recent years, virgin coconut oil (VCO) has become increasingly popular in health and natural food circles and with vegans.
Coconut oil has been tested for use as a feedstock for biodiesel to be used as a diesel engine fuel. In this manner, it can be applied to power generators and transport using diesel engines. Coconut oil has been tested for use as an engine lubricant and as a transformer oil.
Coconut oil can be used as a skin moisturizer, helping with dry skin and reduces protein loss when used in hair. Coconut oil is an important base ingredient for the manufacture of soap. Soap made with coconut oil tends to be hard, although it retains more water than those made with other oils and therefore increases manufacturer yields. It is more soluble in hard water and salt water than other soaps allowing it to lather more easily. A basic coconut oil soap is clear when melted and a bright white when hardened.
Acids derived from coconut oil can be used as herbicides. Coconut oil (and derivatives, such as coconut fatty acid) are used as raw materials in the manufacture of surfactants such as cocamidopropyl betaine, cocamide MEA, and cocamide DEA.