You gotta love the underdog story of coconut oil. People used to shun it as an artery-clogging enemy of good health, but these days, seems like every paleo, vegan, and gluten-free cookbook author is celebrating this creamy tropical fat. It doesn't clog your arteries, they say--it's actually heart healthy! It doesn't make you gain weight--on the contrary, it speeds up the metabolism!

Looking to try it out? Look for one that's labeled virgin--like olive oil, virgin coconut oil is less processed and more flavorful. Already have a jar in your pantry? Good news is, you don't need to master a whole new way of cooking to get more coconut oil into your diet. These easy ideas will make the foods you already love that much more delicious (and maybe even healthier).

1. Saute hearty greens in coconut oil



A good rule of thumb: If you're cooking greens with garlic, onion, ginger, and/or spices, it'll taste great stir-fried with coconut oil instead of the vegetable oil or olive oil you normally use. Bonus: coconut oil has a high smoke point, it's especially good for stir-frying.

2. Spread it on toast, waffles, or pancakes

Waffles with Syrup and Butter

Stack of waffles with maple syrup and butter. (iStock)

Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, but melts deliciously when spread over freshly made toast, pancakes, or waffles. That sweet coconut flavor is especially good with cinnamon-raisin toast, pumpkin waffles, and chocolate-chip pancakes. You can even melt coconut oil and use it in batter instead of oil or melted butter, too.

3. Use it to cook grains

Quinoa and Amaranth

Quinoa and Amaranth - a bowl of cooked quinoa and amaranth. Contains red, white and black quinoa. (iStock)

Lots of simply cooked grain recipes start by quickly sauteing the grain (rice, quinoa, farro, etc) in a bit of oil before adding the liquid and simmering. Use coconut oil to saute that grain, and they'll be infused with the delicious taste of coconut. For even more coconut flavor, you can use coconut milk as half of the cooking liquid, or just drizzle the cooked grains with a bit more melted coconut oil.

See more unique ways to use coconut oil in your everyday cooking.

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