Artisanal foods aren’t just for hipsters anymore. (JG Photo/Petty Elliott)

Rediscovering Homemade Coconut Oil, Just Like Your Grandma Used to Make

JANUARY 12, 2015

I treasure childhood memories in Manado, North Sulawesi, watching my grandmother making coconut oil. In those days it was something quite normal.

Today it seems a challenge not just to produce but also to find such a product. Instead, modern retail shelves in any big Indonesian city are packed with displays of palm oil or imported corn, olive or canola oils.

The winds of change blew strongly during the 1970s as the corn and soy oil industries worked hard to promote their products — and subsequently King Palm, as Indonesia has become a world leader in palm-based oils. 

In my grandmother’s day, the healthy properties of coconut oil were applied to both hair and skin. I remember she used it effectively for body massage, as a delightful shampoo, and of course for cooking. 

Today, coconut oil is recognized for more than skin care and hair products but also contributing to stress relief, weight loss, boosting of the immune system, as a metabolic regulator and a helper for teeth and bone strength.

Coconut oil contains lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, which can contribute toward preventing heart problems. Coconut oil also helps the absorption of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

So it is pleasing to see coconut oil making something of a comeback in the US and Europe. Cooks, chefs and vegetarians are rediscovering its use, and I know of several top chefs in Bali who have rediscovered its appeal as artisanal produce. 

This week’s recipe is a mixed salad with roasted red pepper, coconut oil and lime dressing. 

To make a salad dressing, there are simple rule to follow. Salad dressings are all about sweet, sour, a touch of spicy from mustard, chilies or black pepper. Learn the ratio of sweet and sour that you like best. The sour taste comes from usually red or white wine vinegar, balsamic or citrus, which are lemon, lime or yuzu (Japanese lemon).

Season the salad dressing with salt carefully. The salt will enhance the flavor. I hope you enjoy this rediscovery as much as I do.

This mixed salad with roasted pepper, avocado and coconut oil, lime dressing is very simple to make. 

You can add grilled chicken breast, fish or simply tofu and tempe. You can prepare the roasted paprika and pumpkin one day before.

Serves eight.


For the salad: 2 yellow and 2 red paprikas; 200g pumpkin, peeled and cubed; 100g romaine lettuce, washed dried with kitchen towel and torn up into pieces; 2 large avocados, peeled, de-stoned and cut into strips; 30g shaved Parmesan cheese (optional); 2 tablespoons coconut oil, salt and black pepper to taste.

For the dressing: 100ml coconut oil; 3-4 tablespoons lime juice, 2 teaspoons dijon mustard; 2-3 tablespoons runny honey, salt and black pepper to season.


1.Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C.

2.Placed the pumpkin cubes in a small roasting tray. Season with salt and black pepper and drizzle with 2 tablespoons coconut oil. Put in the oven and cook for around 25-30 minutes or until soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

3.In the same time, place all the paprika on a small roasting pan and put in the oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the skin turn blackened. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

4.Peel the skin and seed from the paprika, which are very easy to do. Break one paprika into 8 pieces.

5.At this stage, you can keep the pumpkin and the paprika in the refrigerators if you want to make the salad the following day.

6.When you are ready to make the salad, make the dressing.

7.Simply put all the ingredients into a jar, season with salt and black pepper. Put the lid on and shake it for around 10 seconds. Your salad dressing is ready. Taste the seasoning and wait for another 10 minutes to taste again. Add more salt or honey if necessary.

To serve: 

Mix all the ingredients into a salad bowl, season with three-quarters of the dressing. Mix well and serve with extra salad dressing on the side.