How to Make Virgin Coconut Oil With Milyn and Peter Christopher

peterchristopher's picture

Here is the basic process we use to make virgin coconut oil at home.  Try it!!  There are also some pictures.  For the full description, follow along with the pictures.

Summary of How to Make Virgin Coconut Oil At Home

Step I: Make Coconut Milk

Step II: Ferment overnight (the separation occurs naturally during fermentation).

Step III: Use your VCO coconut oil!

Detailed Explanations With Pictures of Making Your Own Homemade Virgin Coconut Oil 

This is a page by Peter and Milyn Christopher of how we make virgin homemade coconut oil in the Philippines and in Costa Rica.

(Before Step 1) Collect Coconuts

climb coconutIf you are fortunate enough to have coconut trees in your yard, the first thing is of course to climb the tree, as my wife Milyn demonstrates here.

The coconut she is carrying down is actually a young coconut.  For making coconut oil, use only old coconuts (brown) - when they are about to fall off the tree, or just after they have fallen down.


collecting coconuts in Costa RicaIf you don't have any coconut trees, let's hope you live near a beach where it is legal to collect coconuts.  When we lived in Uvita, Costa Rica we had to resort to collecting the coconuts on the beach.  But we enjoyed our time at the beach, so we can't complain! Can't process your own coconut oil in Vermont, no coconuts!

On the way home, we had to put the sack of coconuts on the motorcycle.coconuts in sack on motorcycle

I rode it by myself around the mud patch, but on the main road, my wife and baby also rode along with me and the sack of coconuts.



Make Coconut Milk

When you are ready with the coconuts, you need to open them up.  You can take off the husk following Milyn's example, if you want. milyn open coconut with machete 2 milyn open coconut with machete 3


milyn open coconut 5milyn open coconut 6



peter open coconut Or you can simply open the coconut with the shell still on.  Depends on your preference.  In any case, afterwards you need to remove the coconut meat - a screwdriver works well for us.  If any coconut smells bad, do not use it.  Just throw it out.

Peter loves using the machete.



prepare the coconut for blending by cutting into small piecesThe next step is to blend the coconut.  If you don't have a very strong blender, get one!  If that's not a possibility, you'll have to figure out some way to shred the coconut.  We have a 600W blender, and as long as the pieces are of reasonable size, with sufficient water in the blender (about 3 cups of water for 2 cups of coconut pieces) it has no problems.

Then you blend!

blend coconut



The next step is to straing the coconut milk. Use something strong and clean - a freshly washed T-shirt or pillowcase works fine.  You should also squeeze out as much milk as you can.  With the coconut powder flakes, just give them to your animals.strain coconut milkstrain coconut milk 1


fermented coconut milk

Now that you have finished making the coconut milk, you must leave it 24-48 hours to ferment. You'll need to leave it in an enclosed container. We have used stainless steel, and we've also used plastic buckets. Occasionally the oil does not separate properly (I think because the correct yeast is not present in sufficient quantity). But usually after just 1-2 days the oil will be near the top, thanks to the action of natural yeasts that hang out near coconut plants.



coconut oil separates naturallyAt this point, you can pour it into a more convenient (narrower) container to get the oil off the top. Here we have poured it into a 1.5 gallon clear jug so you can see it.  After a few hours, the oil will separate naturally.  If it doesn't (sometimes if it is under 75 degrees) you can warm it up just ever so gently for 10 minutes and it will promptly separate.warm coconut oil to separate it


coconut oil in refrigeratorThe final step is to put the coconut oil in a separate container. We have done this successfully in two ways: with a small hose, siphoning it out; and cooling it in the refrigerator. You can also try to pour it, but it doesn't usually work very well in my experience.  After just a few hours in the refrigerator, you can cut the bottle and slice out the coconut oil.  

Then you're all ready to use your virgin coconut oil.  Try it with popcorn, any type of cooking, or use it for salad, or any other time you want to use oil.  Enjoy your coconut oil in Costa Rica, Philippines, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Thailand, or wherever you may be!


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San José guy who makes VCO


I read your comment and I thought, "I think I might be the guy  he's looking for." My main problem right now is that I do not have the means to produce the bulk quantities I imagine you're looking for...



Great VCO info

Hi, this is fantasic information presented here. I am from Barbados and work with commmunity based groups on a number of sustainable projects. In St. Lucia, I am working with a small hand soap making co op. thank you for sharing.

me too!

Hi Lisa,

I am also looking for a local source for coconut oil in San Jose.  I travel to the Caribbean coast a lot so I could transport some to the city if we can find someone who is processing it.

Perhaps we should try to process some ourselves...



oil press

For those who want to try making pressed (instead of fermented) unrefined coconut oil, you might want to get one of these hand-presses, made in the Netherlands: 

cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil

Hi -  I am living in San Jose and am looking to find a homemade cold pressed, unrefined coconut oil to buy in bulk.   I've heard there are people on the Carribean side that do this---but I dont know exactly where or who... Any ideas?   [moderator addition: please look for followup in another post about buying coconut oil in costa rica and panama]


How to Separate Coconut Oil

Hi Lawrita,

Glad to hear that the page is helpful.  There are many ways to do the final step of separating the oil.  The one that works best for you will depend on the amount of coconut milk you have, and your available containers.  My recommendation for your first time is to make about 1 gallon of coconut milk (about 10 medium-large coconuts) and to immediately pour it into a 1.5 gallon clear container after you strain it.  This way, you can see visually as your coconut oil separates.  You'll see that it is separating (you'll observe tiny bits of oil going up and other things going down) after about 12-24 hours.  When it appears the separation has stopped after 24-48 hours, you can siphon off the oil or put it in the fridge to harden it.

After you have got the hang of the process, you can make larger batches like 5 or more gallons in stainless steel pots or plastic and just siphon off the oil.  Feel free to post some more comments and photos of your process, and we'll do our best to help.


making vco


Your web page makes a very interesting ready and is the answer to my quest.

I am a bit lost here, is it after 24- 48 hrs that the coconut milk is further poured into a bottle for the oil to separate? 


"...I think that once you

"...I think that once you have trained yourself wih sniffing a few oil bottles that have been sitting on the counter for a few months, you'll be able to recognize rancid oil..."
- I agree...


Good point

I think you're right that coconut oil by reputation goes rancid more slowly than other oils. (Probably especially if it is made with fresh, high quality coconuts and stored in a sealed container with no air.)

But I'm not sure I agree with your suggestion about oils being masters of deception.  I think that once you have trained yourself wih sniffing a few oil bottles that have been sitting on the counter for a few months, you'll be able to recognize rancid oil.  It smells nasty, and if you try to taste it, it tastes bitter and stings the throat.  (I've tried a tiny bit of ransid canola and olive oil; so far, never tried rancid coconut oil, to my knowledge.)


"...coconut oil becomes

"...coconut oil becomes rancid when exposed to oxygen at room temperature..."
- Yes, even the highly stable, highly saturated (92%) coconut oil gets rancid BUT much much longer than most other oils out there, particularly POLYUNSATURATED oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, etc.

Oils are "masters of deception." You can't tell the difference between a rancid oil and a good one. They all pretty much look alike. You can eat spoiled vegetable oil and not realize it. Keep in mind that all vegetable oils should be sealed in airtight, opaque containers and stored in the refrigerator for maximum shelf life.

Virgin coconut oil (VCO), because of its 92% saturation, is so stable that it can stay fresh for at least 2 years even WITHOUT refrigeration. Here in the Philippines, especially in the provinces, it's common for homemade VCO to last at least 3 years. There's even reports of Absolutely No Heat (ANH) virgin coconut oil lasting for about 10 years or more.

Take care.

Your Drugstore in a Bottle

Coconut Oil Popcorn

One of our favorite foods is popcorn.  we use about one to two tablespoon of coconut oil for a large pot of popcorn.  In case you don't know how to make popcorn on the stove, here is how: put the oil in the large pot and heat on high for about 30 seconds (if you put one drop of oil in the water, the water drop will boil when it is time for the next step).  Then put the popcorn in (we use about 1/4 cup).  Shake horizontally but do not remove from the heat.  Leave the heat on high.  Keep shaking.  When the popcorn begins to pop, keep shaking.  When the pops stop (1 second between two consecutive pops) turn off the stove.  The oil will already be distributed and the smell and flavor infused in the popcorn.  When you try this the first time with coconut oil you will know why it is one of our favorite foods.  Add some salt if you like salt.  You can also use other oils (mix 50/50 with a less fragrant oil if you are short on fragrant oil).  Enjoy.


storage and rancidity of oils

I just received this question on another forum : I have seen people just heat the whole bottle under warm water until enough liquifies for the immediate use, then keep the rest in a cabinet. Is this okay, or should it be refrigerated between uses?

This was my answer:

Hi Ramona,

As with any oil (especially without preservatives and unpasteurized), coconut oil becomes rancid when exposed to oxygen at room temperature. If you have a sealed bottle with very little air, then it will certainly be a much slower process. But after you have an open bottle, oil becomes rancid more quickly. According to research I have read by Mary Enig and others, rancid oil is carcinogenic (as is burnt oil cooked at too high a temperature).

My wife and I keep our coconut oil in the fridge usually but sometimes we leave it out for a few days and consider it no big deal. But I would definitely not want to leave any opened oil out for more than a week, and certainly not more than a month.

We also buy bulk sunflower oil with no preservatives and keep the large container in the fridge or freezer, and a small container out to use for frying sometimes (sometimes we mix 50/50 with coconut oil also).

If you have never learned to tell the difference between rancid and good oil, you should sometime specifically smell some oil without preservatives that has been out on the counter for 3 months. Compare to a new unopened bottle when you first open it. Rancid oils are ok for coating your tools or bike chain but they are not for human consumption.


benefits of coconut

Here are two more articles on benefits of coconut oil and more benefits of coconut oil.

is coconut oil healthy ?

You might want to take a look at one article I recently noticed: Is Coconut Milk Fattening? Read the article and its links to see some of the facts and myths about oils. If you are a health freak, make sure to dig deep enough to read what Mary Enig said about saturated fat (annoying subscription required) which is linked to by the other article also.

That's a great way of

That's a great way of simplifying things, Peter! It's how my wife makes virgin coconut oil (VCO). Well, let's just say, "a bird's eye-view" of how to make VCO.

Your Drugstore in a Bottle

nice coco butter idea

After reading your idea it took me a few days to try it, but now I have, and I can report - it's fabulous!  I had tried it with just two coconuts yesterday, but today I used a whole sack: stocking up!  I just used my normal coconut milk process with the blender; at the end I also added some salt.  Thanks for the great idea.



'raw coconut butter'

interesting! and it looks as if you have a raw oil, too. although, when i've tried this, it seems to turn rancid quite quickly if not refrigerated.

i'll share a little recipe i use for making 'raw coconut butter' using my centrifugal juicer:
1. make coco milk with a vegetable juicer yielding pure coco milk. my machine yields about 1 cup coco milk from a large coconut.
2. put in fridge/keep cool overnight/8 hours. cream rises to the top.
3. scoop out cream and use 'as-is' or
4. put it in a jar with lid and shake it up (churn)
5. pour off the liquid that separates (is this the whey?) and what remains is raw butter! it tastes like a cool, creamy cloud!
6. optional: you can boil the butter to make oil, but the yield is discouraging - about 1 tablespoon oil per coconut - which is consistent with the yields i witnessed on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua.

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