Why Coconut Oil Should Be Your New Diet Staple, So Say Hemsley + Hemsley

Healthy food gurus Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley (aka Hemsley + Hemsley) talk us through the benefits of cooking with coconut oil, and share three of their delicious new recipes.

Hemsley Hemsley
Hemsley Hemsley

Healthy food gurus Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley (aka Hemsley + Hemsley) talk us through the benefits of cooking with coconut oil, and share three of their delicious new recipes.

How did you discover your love of coconut oil?

Jasmine: 'I used to raid the bathroom as a kid, looking for my mum's make-up, but she isn't really into cosmetics so I'd only ever find coconut oil. She also had this amazing beauty book full of homemade recipes, like avocado face masks, so I got into natural products that way. Then, years later when I was working as a model, I noticed the photographer on a shoot eating spoonfuls of coconut oil. It seemed like a weird thing to do, so I asked him what he was doing. He explained that coconut oil is amazing for you, and gives you loads of energy. I did a bit of research and realised that coconut oil is a saturated fat, meaning that it's naturally great for cooking. These days, it's our go-to cupboard essential in the kitchen, as well as one of our favourite beauty staples. 

Why is coconut oil so good for cooking?

Jasmine: 'Like all saturated fats, it's heat-stable, and is therefore far better for you than any processed vegetable oil that is manufactured for cooking. Crucially, it's natural, unlike chemically extracted or refined fats. There's this myth that saturated fats are bad for you, but natural fats like coconut oil are great for you and really easily digestible. Fats also make food feel more satisfying, while adding flavour.'

Melissa: 'And adding saturated fats to vegetables like broccoli actually helps you absorb all of the fat-soluble vitamins, meaning that coconut oil allows you to ingest more nutrients from other foods.' 

Give us some tips for using coconut oil in the kitchen?

Jasmine: 'You can go for a strong coconut flavour or you can just use a little bit as a cooking oil. We use coconut oil to sauté vegetables, and it gives just a hint of flavour without being overpowering.'

Melissa: 'Coconut oil also adds a little bit of sweetness to a dish. There are elements of sweet in all cuisine, and lots of people actually add sugar to savoury sauces whenever they contain tomatoes or the ingredients aren't quite ripe enough. Coconut oil can be used in exactly the same way. It's also great for roasting vegetables. If you're not a fan of Brussells sprouts, roast some in coconut oil with plenty of sea salt and, trust us, you'll suddenly love them! There's something about coconut oil that softens the bitter taste of Brassica vegetables, like sprouts and cauliflower. Squash chips, roasted in coconut oil, are another delicious option.' 

We like the idea of using coconut oil as a beauty product, tell us more...

Jasmine: 'It's a great eye-makeup remover, and if you're going to put anything near your eyes you want it to be natural where possible. Everyone knows that oil cleansers have been a big thing in beauty over the last few years, and coconut oil is so much cheaper than loads of products out there, because it really goes a long way. It's also brilliant as a moisturiser, and generally great for the skin because of its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Not forgetting that it's full of Lauric acid, which is found in breast milk, and therefore has protective qualities.' 

Melissa: 'It also makes a great conditioner for your hair. I'll often put it on the ends of my hair and then forget about it while I cook supper or do my laundry, or I'll leave it on overnight as a mask. You only need a small amount, but it really gives you a great moisture boost. Just make sure you wash it out properly afterwards!'

Check out three of Hemsley + Hemsley's delicious coconut oil-based recipes... 

Squash and Ginger Soup with Coriander Lemon Drizzle Serves 4


For the soup: 1 tbs coconut oil 2 medium onions roughly chopped thumb sized piece of ginger 4 garlic cloves 3 celery sticks roughly chopped 1 large butternut squash peeled and roughly chopped 1.4 litres bone broth or water 1 lemon 1 tbs tamari (gluten free soy) sea salt and pepper to taste

To top: 2 handfuls coriander - stems and leaves separated, leaves finely chopped zest of the lemon 1 garlic clove, finely diced 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil sea salt and pepper to taste Steps: 

● Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan with a lid over a low heat and gently fry the onions, garlic, ginger and celery together for 10 minutes until softened, stir occasionally ● Meanwhile peel the squash, half, scoop out the seeds and roughly chop the squash ● Add to the pan then cover with the broth, put the lid on and simmer away until tender, about 20 minutes ● Meanwhile, finely chop the coriander leaves and mix in a small bowl with the lemon zest, garlic and extra virgin olive oil and season to taste ● Blend the soup in batches with lemon juice, tamari and the coriander stems until smooth and taste for seasoning (tamari is salty so you’ll need less salt) ● Serve each bowl of soup with a drizzle of the coriander oil

Mint Choc Pavé Makes 20 pieces


For the chocolate layer: 100g coconut oil, melted over low heat 50g cocoa powder 3 tbs raw honey 1 tsp vanilla ½ tsp mint extract (or to taste) pinch of salt

For the mint layer: 150g coconut oil - room temp (not melted) 3 tbs raw honey ¾ tsp mint extract (or to taste) 1.5 tsp spirulina powder and 1 tsp turmeric (or use a few drops of natural green colouring)


For the chocolate layer: ● Whisk the cocoa powder into the melted coconut oil a little at a time and then whisk in the other ingredients until smooth. ● Use a spatula to smooth it into a small parchment paper lined tray roughly the size of your hand/bit smaller than A5 / approx 17cm x 11cm (we used a glass lunchbox). Place in the fridge to set for 10 minutes.

For the mint layer: ● Use a whisk to blend the ingredients for the mint fudge layer together until smooth. ● Smooth over the chocolate layer and set in the fridge.

Slice into squares and enjoy straight from the fridge.

Beetroot Cinnamon Smoothie Serves 2


For the smoothie: A small handful almonds, soaked 1 ripe banana 1 ripe avocado 1 small raw beetroot, scrubbed but not peeled 1 handful baby spinach 1 tbs coconut oil 1.5 tsp vanilla tiny pinch sea salt 1 tsp cinnamon (or more to taste) Opt: 1tsp raw honey

For the toppings: 2 tsp desiccated coconut 1 tsp raw cacao nibs

Steps: ● Soak the almonds for 8 hours or overnight in double their volume of filtered water. Be sure to discard the soaking water and rinse before using. ● Wash the vegetables well, then chop them to fit your blender. ● Blend everything together with 500ml water until smooth, adding more water if needed our into 2 glasses and top with dessicated coconut and cacao nibs and drink immediately ● Alternatively, pour into a glass jar or stainless steel flask and keep in the fridge for up to 48 hours.

Hemsley + Hemsley have teamed up with Vita Coco for the launch of the brand's new 100% raw, organic and cold-pressed coconut oil, which is available nationwide at Tesco (from £5.99). Check out @vccoconutoiluk for more information. 

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