If you’re a coconut fan like myself, then you probably already know all the wondrous health benefits this one food holds. It’s particularly helpful for improving energy levels, digestion, and boosting immunity. You can also use it in many ways in the kitchen since coconut’s unique fats and fiber have special binding properties. For instance, coconut butter and oil remain solid at room temperature, so they’re great to use in place of butter. When melted, they’ll soften up or liquify for easy mixing and blending, and then after your dish cools, they’ll help harden it up so it all sticks together. These fats in coconut can also help your body absorb nutrients from your food, and they do not contribute to high cholesterol like animal-based fats do. Coconut shreds can also be used in energy balls, to make coconut butter, or added to oatmeal for more fiber and texture.
But beyond the health benefits and more well-known ways to use coconut, try some of these other tips you can use with coconut products, whether it be butter, flour, oil or the fresh coconut meat itself. Who needs dairy with coconut by your side?
1. Use the Meat to Make Raw Yogurt
You can use coconut meat from a whole, white young coconut found in the produce section to make your own yogurt (you’ll need to crack it open and scoop out the meat first). For an even easier option, buy raw coconut meat in the freezer section at specialty health food stores. (It’s normally found with the other specialty frozen fruits like acai puree.) If you use raw frozen coconut meat, you’ll need to thaw it to room temperature first. Whether you use raw frozen or fresh meat, they’re both great to make raw coconut yogurt with. Puree the meat it in a blender with the contents of a veg-friendly probiotic capsule for at least 2 minutes to let it warm up a bit without overheating it.
Pour this mixture into a bowl. Cover and wrap with a towel (which incubates it), make sure your oven is completely cool, and place the bowl inside your oven (which will keep air drafts out.) Just don’t turn your oven on! Check the mixture after 24 hours. It should smell like yogurt and be slightly thicker. You can also drain it to make it thicker if you like by using a cheesecloth or nut milk bag. Keep the yogurt in a well-sealed container in your fridge (preferably away from light or wrapped in a towel) and use within a week or two.
If your yogurt doesn’t smell like yogurt after a day, then put it back into the oven (make sure it’s completely cool in there!) for 12 more hours and smell again. You can also make coconut kefir as another option, but you would need kefir grains (the culture) or a coconut water kefir to get it started in place of the probiotic capsules. You can find coconut water kefir in the section with probiotics at specialty health food stores if you wan to go this route. Try your coconut yogurt out in Papaya and Coconut Yogurt Breakfast, or mix it with oats overnight to make raw, soaked oatmeal.
2. Make a Raw Cake
One of my favorite ways to use coconut, is to use the many forms of it to make a raw cake. For instance, ½ cup of raw coconut flour can replace 1 cup of white flour since it’s naturally fibrous and binding, ¼ cup coconut shreds can be added to help aid in binding the mix together even more and give it texture, and you can add 2 tbsp. raw coconut butter (warmed) to help it all meld together. Put this into your blender with 1 cup water or coconut milk, along with any sweeteners of your choice, such as stevia, or even a little raw coconut nectar (a very low glycemic choice). Blend, pour into a small mini loaf pan, top with more coconut shreds or even chopped raw nuts if you like. Let it freeze for 1 hour, and you have a delicious healthy cake you can slice up for an afternoon snack or dessert. You can also use coconut in a delicious raw fruit and coconut cake as another option, or go for raw coconut pie if you’re not feeling cake.
3. Use the Flour to Make Grain-Free Oatmeal
If you’re not a fan of oatmeal, don’t tolerate grains, or you just love coconut, then try making your own grain-free porridge. All you need is ¼ – 1/3 cup coconut flour, 2-3 tbsp. raw coconut shreds, and you can add in ground chia or flax for a nutty flavor and more filling and nutritious meal. Just toss all of these together in a bowl with some cinnamon, ginger, maybe a little cardamom, and add ¼ cup non-dairy milk and enough water to thicken it into a porridge-like consistency. You can also add a sweetener of choice like stevia, coconut nectar, or if you enjoy maple syrup, that would work too. One quarter cup of coconut flour has 9 grams of protein, 12 grams of fiber and is very low-carb, but highly nutritious. It’s a wonderful food for healing the gut due to its anti-microbial properties and gives you more fiber than oats or even most bran cereals per serving. Choose raw and organic coconut flour for a better flavor and quality when possible.
4. Make Cheater’s Coconut Milk
Store-bought coconut milks are very easy and convenient, but most all have additives that can be hard to digest. These include gums (emulsifiers that cause digestive upset), carrageenan, and some even have added sugars from evaporated cane syrup or cane juice (basically white sugar that’s less processed). They’re also highly heated during the pasteurization process, which prevents you from benefiting from most of the nutrients found abundantly in raw coconut.
So, instead, just make your own coconut milk at home using ½ cup raw coconut butter and blending in a high speed blender (or household blender) with 3 cups water for at least 2 full minutes (you want it to run longer so it has time to fully break down). You can also blend in a little sweetener if you need it, such as a soaked date, fig, some stevia, or coconut nectar. I find this version of coconut milk is creamier than making the milk with raw coconut shreds and straining through a nut milk bag. Raw coconut butter is one of the most nutritionally dense foods to keep in your kitchen, so why not use it to make homemade milk in just minutes? So straining needed!
5. To Make Healthy White Chocolate
White chocolate was always one of my favorite foods. It’s basically the fatty part of the cacao bean, known as cacao butter, mixed with sugar and milk. Giving up white chocolate wasn’t terribly hard, but finding a way to enjoy it again without those ingredients was certainly a plus.
To make your own white chocolate at home, all you have to do is blend ½ cup raw coconut butter with ½ cup raw cacao butter and a little sweetener of your choice. You’ll want to warm them a little before blending, and I find a ramekin on a hot coffee plate works great for this to prevent burning. Just put the ramekin on the coffee maker’s plate, turn on the machine, and let the hot plate warm for about 5 minutes until the mixture starts to soften. Once it does, put it in the blender, blend and pour into an ice cube tray. Put this in the freezer to set for 30-45 minutes, remove, and you have your own homemade white chocolate! It will stay hard at room temp, but I like to keep it in the fridge so it stays nice and cold. If you don’t have cacao butter (or don’t want to pay for it since it’s pricey), you can just blend raw coconut butter with a little cacao powder and make it the same way. It will have a little different flavor and color, but will still be raw and incredibly delicious.
For more on using coconut in your home, see our tips for baking with coconut butter, and how to use coconut oil in a natural skin care routine. Let coconut nourish you on as many levels as possible; it’s truly a miraculous food!
Lead Image Source: StirringChange/Flickr
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