We evaluate the Community ocean Vertical Mixing project version of the K‐profile parameterization (KPP) for modeling upper ocean turbulent mixing. For this purpose, one‐dimensional KPP simulations are compared across a suite of oceanographically relevant regimes against horizontally averaged large eddy simulations (LESs). We find the standard configuration of KPP consistent with LES across many forcing regimes, supporting its physical basis. Our evaluation also motivates recommendations for KPP best practices within ocean circulation models and identifies areas where further research is warranted. The original treatment of KPP recommends the matching of interior diffusivities and their gradients to the KPP‐predicted values computed in the ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL). However, we find that difficulties in representing derivatives of rapidly changing diffusivities near the base of the OSBL can lead to loss of simulation fidelity. To mitigate this difficulty, we propose and evaluate two computationally simpler approaches: (1) match to the internal predicted diffusivity alone and (2) set the KPP diffusivity to 0 at the OSBL base. We find the KPP entrainment buoyancy flux to be sensitive to vertical grid resolution and details of how to diagnose the KPP boundary layer depth. We modify the KPP turbulent shear velocity parameterization to reduce resolution dependence. Additionally, an examination of LES vertical turbulent scalar flux budgets shows that the KPP‐parameterized nonlocal tracer flux is incomplete due to the assumption that it solely redistributes the surface tracer flux. This result motivates further studies of the nonlocal flux parameterization.