Coffee, butter and MCT oil: that’s the classic Bulletproof coffee recipe. You have the coffee and you have the butter but most people don’t have MCT oil lying around their kitchen unless they are already a health nut– so what to do? Out of pure laziness I’ve been making a variation of Bulletproof coffee without MCT oil for years and have lived to tell about it.
Flavor-wise you’re not missing much: MCT oil has virtually no taste but if it makes you feel better you can add a little extra butter to keep the consistency the same. Nutritionally, the MCT oil does add something and anecdotally I’ve found it to give me a little extra kick. However, coffee plus butter together gets you 90% of the way there. Add in some coconut oil too and now you’re 95% of the way. Think of the MCT oil as the extra tweak for serious biohackers that want to optimize their performance to the very last ounce.
MCT oil substitutes for Bulletproof coffee
A good substitute for MCT oil should be neutral tasting (or even better: completely flavorless) and have a high MCT content. Dairy products like butter and milk are a good source of MCT’s at around 8-12% MCT oil by composition but butter is already included in the bulletproof recipe. We need something different, preferably with a much higher MCT composition.
Slight coconut flavor
Earthy and nutty
Some Vitamin E
Some Vitamin E
Fat makeup (per tbsp)
Saturated fat : 11.2g
Unsaturated fat: 1.3g
Saturated fat: 7g
Calories (per tbsp)
Coconut is the closest ingredient to an MCT oil supplemental. Its composition is 55% MCT oil. In fact, a lot of MCT oil is derived from coconut oil.
Palm kernel oil
Coconut oil gets all of the attention but palm oil is also surprisingly high in MCT’s. According to Healthline, palm oil is 54% MCT– about the same as coconut oil.
Palm oil does however have a questionable and unfortunate impact on ecosystems where palm trees naturally grow. Unlike coconut oil which is usually made from farmed coconuts, palm oil sometimes comes from wild trees. There are many sad videos of orangoutangs clinging to a tree as its felled. There’re methods of palm oil production that don’t involve deforestation but I haven’t done the research necessary to recommend any brands.
I prefer coconut oil for environmental reasons and because I already carry it in my kitchen for myriad other uses.
Making the substitution
No substitute will carry as much MCT’s per fluid ounce as pure MCT oil (by definition). You can either match the MCT content of the original Bulletproof recipe by putting double the amount of your substitute as recommended for MCT oil or match the flavor profile by using the same amount as the original recipe. Doubling the recipe could overpower the butter flavor and make the drink taste off but it’s more likely to give the same smooth stimulant effect of classic Bulletproof.
Substitute measurements for an 8 ounce cup of coffee
Closest Ingredient match: 2 tsp. to 4 tbsp
Closest flavor match: 1 tsp. to 2 tbsp
Why is MCT oil in Bulletproof coffee?
The claim from Bulletproof is that MCT oil, specifically the Brain Octane MCT oil they sell, is four times more effective than coconut oil at raising ketone levels. Higher ketone levels means less glucose is burned for energy. Energy all day without the crash– thats the claim at least.
I’ve drank Bulletproof coffee with MCT oil, with coconut oil and without either. All of them made me feel pretty much the same. I can’t say I’ve done a randomized controlled trial but I’d be surprised if in a blind test I could really tell them apart by how I felt throughout the day. So if you really can’t get your hands on MCT oil for whatever reason there’s no need to worry. You can enjoy a simplified version of the famous drink without missing out on much.