Coconut is a favorite food among many these days, despite it being from the tropics, it’s as original to the American diet now as the standard potato is (well, almost). With the rise of dairy allergies over the last decade (or the increasing awareness that it’s a poor choice for the body and the environment), alternative products like coconut, almonds, and various other nuts and seeds have all become more popular than ever. Most of us grew up loving coconut in the form of the sweetened, shredded variety from the grocery store. Perhaps used as an adornment on cakes or an ingredient in cookies, most none of us knew the coconut we love today.
Now we have an abundance of coconut water, butter, oil, milk, creams, spreads, and finally, unsweetened, raw shredded coconut (a personal favorite here). Coconut shreds are most definitely not just for cakes and pies or cookies, no matter how delicious and appreciated those options are. They’re also a great food “hack” to make your foods sweeter by nature, and more nutritious.
Why Use Coconut Shreds in Your Recipes?
Coconut shreds do many things for the texture and taste of recipes, but they also help keep you full a longer time as well. Coconut shreds offer a lighter texture but are still filled with healthy fiber and fats that may boost metabolism and improve digestion, unlike concentrated oils and creams. They even have a little protein too! Coconut shreds contain the natural fiber and protein content of whole coconut meat, plus natural enzymes and vitamins that the oil doesn’t due to being more refined and not a whole food. Coconut oil and butter make amazing cooking ingredients, but raw coconut shreds and even raw coconut flour, are best for keeping you fuller longer and are less likely to cause weight gain due to their higher fiber content.
Tip: Choose medium-shredded coconut for the best texture and flavor, though macaroon-style or thick coconut flakes may work in a pinch. Here are some ideas to keep you full, energized, and happy at the same time! Coconut is a true mood-boosting food, so let’s get onto some food ideas to keep you full and satisfied, shall we?
Cream Into Porridge
This trick is a favorite I like to use in oatmeal but you could use it with any grain, either raw or cooked. All you do is stir in 2-3 tablespoons of raw coconut shreds (medium-shredded texture is good here), either right as the oats or other grains finish cooking, or once you plate them into your bowl. You can stir them in when warm or use the shreds in soaked overnight oatmeal or quinoa as well. If using in overnight soaked grain porridge, just add them in the night before and give them a quick blend with a stick blender or handheld mixer in the morning. This thickens them up and gives them such a filling, creamy texture that’s incredible!
Stir Into Rice
Making dinner and want something extra fancy done easy? Just add a tablespoon or two of coconut shreds to your rice while cooking, or 1/4-1/3 cup for a larger batch. Adding coconut to rice gives it a natural sweetness and an instant ethnic flair. It pairs especially well with short grain brown rice, wild rice, and forbidden rice (black rice) due to the natural sweetness and nuttiness these rices contain. Avoid white rice since its practically void of all nutrients and heavily processed.
Use as a Flour Alternative
This trick is overlooked but one of the best for reducing the refined carbs in your diet and improving the filling texture, along with increasing the fiber of your recipes. Just use the same amount of coconut shreds that you would of normal flour. It will be heavier and you’ll definitely need to use another ingredient, such as whole rolled oats or even oat bran, along with the coconut shreds to act as your “flour”. You could also use quinoa flakes, coconut flour, or almond flour as other options if avoiding wheat and typical grain-based flours. Coconut is so high in fiber that it will absorb liquids just as well as flour, so long as you use an egg replacer. Ground chia seeds and water work especially well here, as does finely ground flax seed and water. Use 3 tablespoons water per tablespoon of ground seeds as your “egg”. Here are some coconut recipes to try it out in!
You can use this trick in cookies, cakes, pies, pie crusts, or even cupcakes and brownies. It’s the perfect way to reduce the glycemic index of your food while also improving the taste and texture too.
Use it To Make Ice Cream
This trick is super easy and way too overlooked. All you do is freeze some non-dairy milk of choice into an ice cube tray (fill up an entire ice cube tray for a couple servings.) In a high speed blender, add 2 cups of the non-dairy milk ice cubes. I suggest using coconut, almond, or soy as the creamiest option. Rice tends to be too thin, but cashew and hemp may work though give off a more noticeable flavor. Once you’ve added the cubes to the blender, add 3/4 cup raw coconut shreds, a teaspoon of vanilla flavoring, and a teaspoon of whatever liquid sweetener you prefer, whether it be stevia, agave, brown rice syrup, coconut syrup, or maple syrup. (A soaked date or fig would work but would give a more fruity flavor.)
Add 1/4 cup your choice non-dairy milk and start churning on low, then progress to high. If you use a Vitamix, you definitely want to use the plunger here to make the ice cream. If you use a Blendtec, use the frozen dessert button and have at it until the timer runs out after about 40 seconds. The Blender Twister Jar also works pretty fabulous here, and the Nutribullet 900 or Rx model will even do a nice job here too. Don’t use a household blender – you may burn the motor. However, a high-powered food processor will do the trick too.
Once pureed into ice cream, scoop into a dish from the blender and enjoy! This form of ice cream is lower in processed ingredients than store bought options and healthier for you than using canned coconut milk. It also tastes better made this way and the higher fiber content helps it thicken up faster, along with adds a more authentic flavor.
Make Homemade Cereal
Different than granola, which has added sugars and oils, homemade cereal is much simpler and healthier. There’s no need to even cut the oven on! If you’re a grain-free eater, you can use a combo of coconut shreds and sliced almonds, chia seeds, buckwheat groats if you eat buckwheat, and even ground flax seed and hemp seeds. Other nuts would be great here, but emphasize seeds over nuts since they’re denser in nutrition. If you enjoy grains just fine, then use a combo of raw oats, coconut shreds, and a tablespoon each of chia, flax, and maybe some sliced almonds, cinnamon, and other spices like ginger and cardamom. Give these a good stir, soak in milk overnight and there you go – homemade cereal in a pinch with no fillers or unnecessary ingredients. The coconut gives this a delicious flavor and adds fiber, protein, and fats to power you through the morning with no sugar whatsoever.
Saute Into Veggies
Coconut shreds are also amazing sauteed into veggies, no oil even needed. Add some veggie broth or water to your pan (about 1/2-1 inch) and let it simmer. When its bubbly, add veggies of choice and get them going until they start to cook through. Once almost done cooking, add 1/4 cup coconut shreds and stir well. This will warm up the coconut and create a really quick, delicious puree, almost sauce-like mix. Try this trick out with sliced carrots, broccoli, onions, garlic, red peppers, sweet potato cubes, or even diced tomatoes. Add it to whatever you like and serve with your choice entree.
Make Dairy-Free Icing
To make a healthier icing without added oils and sugars, simply combine 6 ounces unsweetened non-dairy coconut yogurt and 1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds. Puree in a blender or food processor and spread onto 6-8 cupcakes or one small cake or pie. Icing in an instant!
Smoothies are a fantastic and very simple way to use raw coconut shreds. Use 1/4 cup of the shreds in place of your non-dairy milk and other fat source, add some greens, berries, superfoods of choice, and some water and ice. Blend and you’ll have a rich, naturally flavorful smoothie that powers you up on raw, nutrient-dense energy to start your day!
Don’t Forget the Obvious…
More common ways to use coconut shreds are to make homemade coconut butter (very easy to do), homemade coconut milk, homemade coconut yogurt and kefir, coconut whipped cream, and of course, to use in raw energy bites, desserts, and bars. Try out these other ways and make use of this inexpensive, versatile ingedient. I bet you could even use it to make a Thai-inspired oil-free, dairy-free salad dressing!
Also see Tips for Baking with Coconut Butter for more ideas to use this magical food in your recipes.
How do you use coconut shreds?
Lead Image Source: Lemon Coconut Breakfast Bars