What is Palm-Kernel Oil?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Palm-kernel oil is an oil which is extracted from the seeds of the oil palm, a tree native to Africa and widely cultivated in Africa and parts of Asia. The fruit which surrounds the seed can also be pressed for oil. Depending on where one lives, it may be easy or difficult to obtain pure palm-kernel oil, but products which contain this oil are often abundantly available.

Palm-kernel oil is extracted from the seeds of the oil palm, a tree native to Africa.
Palm-kernel oil is extracted from the seeds of the oil palm, a tree native to Africa.

This oil is not terribly healthy. It is extremely high in saturated fats, and low in essential fatty acids, making it a poor addition to the diet. Straight palm oil extracted from the fruit around the seed is actually healthier, but palm kernel oil is cheap and readily available in many regions, making it an attractive alternative to the healthier and often more expensive palm oil.

Many types of palm trees grow naturally in rain forests or areas that typically have tropical or subtropical climates.
Many types of palm trees grow naturally in rain forests or areas that typically have tropical or subtropical climates.

Like other oils which are very high in saturated fat, palm-kernel oil is typically solid at room temperature, and it can withstand very high heat. In parts of Africa and Asia, it is a commonly used cooking oil, and it can also be used in cosmetics. Many cosmetics manufacturers utilize this oil as an inexpensive substitute for things like coconut oil and shea butter. While it certainly gets the job done, it has less cosmetic benefits than more expensive ingredients, and some people find that it adds a somewhat greasy texture.

There are a number of ways to extract palm-kernel oil from the seeds, ranging from traditional methods which involve roasting the seeds, cracking them, and grinding them to extract the oil to more modernized methods which are designed to extract every possible drop of oil from the seeds. Several manufacturers also use a fractional distillation process to separate the oil into various components which can be sold individually, maximizing their profit.

Palm-kernel oil also comes with environmental issues. In some regions of the world, native rainforests have been cleared to make way for the cultivation of oil palms, thanks to rising demand for palm oil. In addition to being used in cooking and personal care items, this oil can also be distilled into biofuel, and because of its low expense, many biofuel manufacturers have turned to palm oil and palm-kernel oil. Clearing of rainforests for oil palm plantations has obvious environmental effects, and in some regions, the cost of palm-kernel and palm oil has climbed so high, thanks to the demand, that people cannot afford these oils for cooking.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I am seriously beginning to believe that the two worst oils for consumption are actually the better ones. It would be great if those with qualifications posted them along with the comments to help sort the sheep from the goats. --phil


Palm kernel is popular in certain areas. For me peanut, soybean and hydraulic oil are better.


I think the demand for all palm oils is ludicrous. I mean yeah, I'm hearing lots of people saying that palm kernel oil is better than palm oil because of health issues and what not, but in the long run, it's just as bad environmentally because animals are losing there habitats and all for the growing of all palm oil (except maybe red palm oil), in researching that.

I really do not like people who don't care about the world and do lots of bad stuff and kill off animals and stuff just to grow something and the wildlife have done nothing wrong its so cruel and I'm willing to put a stop to it. I have been for so long now but it's not easy. but hey that's life.

I've signed over 10 petitions now and emailed some companies and heard back from none of them. Being broad when it comes to listing ingredients is bad, too. I mean, when they list it as vegetable oil, you don't know what vegetable oil it is. There are lots and lots of different vegetable oils and they are not all bad. I think companies should list exactly what type of oil they are using in their products. They won't like it, but if people are not happy about palm oil petitions online or wherever, they need to be more specific in their ingredient list.

For example, Cadbury had a major fall down when people found out they were using palm oil and lost lots of money. That's what I think all companies who use palm oil should go through because it's a massive wake up call for them and they want money so they will have to change what they put in their products. Thanks for reading. I know its a lot to take in, but hey, I just care for the environment.


it's not only a healthy food, but we use it to cure common illnesses as colds. like i just used it to massage my kids' bodies, feet and sides.


Regarding the destruction of natural forests, do you guys seriously think the production of peanut oil, cotton seed oil, soybean oil, sunflower seed oil and all those "good" oils don't have any adverse effect on the nature?

How come when the developed nations clear their forests to plant stuff, it's okay?

How come when it comes to the developing nations that's not okay?


I can't help but disagree with the article on the healthiness/unhealthiness of palm oils and coconut oils.

Look, these traditional oils were the standard for thousands upon thousands of years, in fact these are spoken of highly in Ayurveda and other traditional medicines. And note that heart diseases were unheard of in the ancient world when these oils were in wide use.

It's only now with soya, sunflower and other 'modern' oils that obesity, cancer, heart diseases have skyrocketed! So please stop the disinformation about palm and coconut oils. They really are some of the best gifts to us from nature!


Extra virgin palm kernel and coconut oil are both healthy oils (if not hydrogenated of course) along with extra virgin olive oil (this one is highly monounsaturated unlike the first ones which are saturated by 90 percent).

Palm kernel and coconut oil contains both lauric acid (it's present in breast milk), a substance which improves: metabolism (it helps you to lose weight), immune system, cholesterol ratio, etc. and has many more benefits for our health.

Both ones have MCT (medium chain triglycerides); fatty acids whose chains are shorter than the ones contained in others monounsaturated or polyunsaturated oils (long chain triglycerides). The body uses these shorter fatty acids for direct energy (it's not stored).


The production of palm oil requires the clearing of rainforest habitats. At the current rate of clearing Orangutans will be extinct in the wild by 2023 (according to the WWF).


Get rid of coconut and palm kernel oil. Folks are dying because of the hydrogenated oil. Causing diabetes, and heart problems all over the us. Get rid of it.


You go on about these insufficient benefits of palm oil. However, what do you think of the destruction of all our important rainforests that reside in Brazil and Africa?

Destroying our environment is not the solution to our future. Often oil palm plantations result in barren lands because its cultivation only lasts a mere few years.

There are other ways to improve the economy, and I strongly feel that ruining our environment for the selfishness of others is wrong. T.S.


palm kernel oil extracts thc wonderfully. the only thing better (that is edible) is coconut oil.


Palm oil and coconut oils are the best oils around and saturated fats are the healthiest ftas for thousands of years.

Its the vilification of these oils by cruel corporations to sell soya oil that has led to the bad name to these utterly nutritious oils.

Whole civilisations in africa have lived on palm and half of asia lived on coconut at a time when heart diseases were extra-planetary.

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