All coconut oil isn’t the same, and there are some important distinctions between refined and unrefined coconut oil.
“Unrefined (virgin) coconut oil is basically made from pressing coconut meat. Because it hasn’t gone through a lot of processing, you’re still getting a strong coconut flavor and smell, so that means when you’re cooking with it or using it in recipes you’re going to taste it,” says Cording.
Refined coconut oil, on the other hand, goes through much more processing. Typically, the coconut meat is dried and then exposed to heat and (in some cases) chemicals that bleach and deodorize it. The end result is a more neutral-tasting oil that doesn’t have a strong coconut smell or flavor.
Refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point so it can stand up to higher heat cooking, but the processing strips some of the phytonutrients and polyphenols24. (Unrefined coconut oil has a smoke point of about 350 degrees, while refined can go up to 450 degrees.)
Clearly, there are pros and cons to both. Here, you can read up on all the differences between refined and unrefined coconut oil (and which one is better for different purposes).