Difference between Palm Kernel Oil and Palm Oil

I had mentioned on facebook that I was going to introduce Palm Kernel Oil and Cocoa Butter for sale and someone asked me what the difference between Palm Oil and Palm Kernel Oil (PKO) was.  I gave her a short answer, but would like to post a longer one here. By the way, PKO is also known as mmanu aki in Igbo. I don't know the name in any other Nigerian language. If you do, please leave it in the comment section.

Update: Thanks to the readers that contributed names of PKO in their local language.

Yoruba: Adin Ekuro

Efik: Mmayanya (sp?)

The palm fruit that we all know and love looks like this:


When extracting palm oil at home for preparing Banga soup, the palm fruit is boiled and the orangey-red palm oil extracted from the soft fleshy part (also known as the Mesocarp). This is about the same method used in preparing palm oil commercially. (I should know, my maternal grandmother had a local commercial palm oil press :) ).

Palm Oil is used for cooking, soap making and food manufacturing. Let me spend a minute on the food manufacturing - Refined (bleached) palm oil is used in Baked goods, Instant noodles, Baby formula, Cake mixes, Breakfast bars, Potato chips, Crackers and other snacks. Vegetable Glycerin which we love so much for our hair and skin also sometimes comes from Palm Oil. 

Once the oil from the Mesocarp is extracted, we are left with a black hard kernel. As children we would take these kernels to a set of stones set up for the purpose of kernel cracking. You place the kernel on a stone, hit it with a smaller stone and Voila! you reveal the nut inside. They look like this:


As children, we would eat these on its own or with roasted breadfruit (aki na ukwa). Gosh, I loved my childhood! My dad used to take these nuts to school as a snack when he was in Primary school.

It is from these kernels that one gets Palm Kernel Oil. It is not an viscous, orangey-red oil like Palm Oil is. Rather it is a dark-ish, nutty smelling oil.

The women of my village use Palm Kernel Oil for their hair, skin and also in making soap. Palm Kernel Oil is used commercially by a lot of soap makers and cosmetic manufacturers.

You shouldn't use Palm Oil on your hair. The oil to use is Palm Kernel Oil

I will do a post soon on the benefits of Palm Kernel Oil.

To finish, here is an excellent video by Akua Wood (one of my favourite people on the web) of Sheabutter cottage on which of the two oils to use for hair/skin. Which Palm for hair? (Please click on the link as I find it difficult to insert videos...)


Uses: American Palm Oil 

49 thoughts on “Difference between Palm Kernel Oil and Palm Oil

  1. African Naturalista

    Thanks for the brief education.
    I worked with a client that manufactures soap, I kept smelling the nutty oil and felt it was coconut oil. They told me it was PKO. This article now sheds more light on why it smelt nutty

  2. Sheyi

    Hiya, i was just wondering if you will be able to post the palm oil and cocoa butter to the UK? And if you will also be doing Shea butter? Thx!

  3. Blessing Adedokun

    I Am surprised @ all these yoruba translators but PKO is adin ekuro,not adinagbon which is coconut oil.(oil is adin in yoruba,and palm kernel is ekuro while coconut is agbon)coconut oil is more comonly found among yorubas than PKO.bcos pko is more stressful to make and takes in much kernels to produce little when compared wt coconut oil.Moreso,many people dont know how useful pko is,thanks to Natural nigerian….i must add dt posting ds responce was not easy,dnt mind if u culd something to that

    1. curious kinks

      Yes, Adin Agbon is Coconut oil, and adin ekuro is palm oil. I can’t believe an oil as white as glycerin can come from Palm Oil! I enjoyed eating palm kernel fruits as a child. Hmmm YUM!

  4. Natural Girl

    Chei, you have brought back memories of eating aki in the Village. Looking forward to adding this oil to my Oil Arsenal..

  5. Nat

    “you shouldn’t use Palm Oil on your hair. The oil to use is Palm Kernel Oil” ? I’m not so sure about that o…Minasek has great hair and she uses palmoil on her hair (for deep conditioning).

    1. Natural Nigerian

      Post author

      I just saw that post. And she was using red oil too. Palm Oil will be rich in Lauric acid as well but it is not an oil you can leave in your hair. Obviously, it has to be used in a mix that will be washed off.

  6. Naija hair can grow

    Love the article but as with many of the natural products you talk about on your blog, I am absolutely clueless as to where to buy PKO in Lagos. Is it in the market? Which market if so? Pls help I’d love to join the natural product band wagon :)

  7. nkyiyke

    Good Job Natural Nigerian. Love your write up. You kept talking about the contents,significance and the importance of PKO, Coconut oil and all but nothing was said about the preparation of any.

    I would like to know how one can extract these oils locally as in from my own very kitchen or maybe as a guy…..you don’t know?

    I have been trying to get these information from the internet but i am not getting the real thing.

    Would be glad if you can give me detailed information as you did above.

  8. Oshobukola

    Good one. Thanks for d write up. I will like to know if it is possible to produce palm kernel oil in my kitchen. And is there also a difference between bleached palm oil and normal Palm kernel oil as used in soap production?

    1. Natural Nigerian

      Post author

      Thanks! It is not impossible to produce Palm Kernel oil in your kitchen if you have the tool for pressing out the oil from the palm nuts.

      There is a fundamental difference. Palm Oil – Bleached or not is made from the flesh of the palm kernel fruit. Palm Kernel Oil is from the nut inside.

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  10. Mne

    Morning. I need ACV 32oz, hemp seed oil, castor oil(homehealth or heritage-perfect) I saw the prices at the Ahia. Lagos delivery rate is 500. For 3 items 1500, if I read right. I also wonder if the prices at the Ahia are the current.I have a relation in Lagos, who can take delivery for me.

  11. Stephenie

    thanks for the teaching on difference btw PO and PKO. apart from hair, ARE there any other uses of palm kernel oil extract. How can the oil be extracted from the seed.?

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  13. meg

    l make palm kernel oil at home. It has various health benefits like easing of chest pain,general body massage ,smoothening of skin,etc.


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