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.

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 

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