Coconuts are one of the most useful, versatile and no-waste foods around. It’s possible to use almost every part of this tropical fruit and not only are coconuts delicious, but they are good for us too! We can use coconuts in every part of our cooking including sweet and savory recipes, cooked and raw dishes, and beverages as well. There is coconut flour, coconut sugar, coconut milk, coconut butter, coconut oil, and the meat of the coconut itself. There are a million coconut products – ok, maybe not a million but there are a lot. Let’s look at all the ways to use the wonder that is the coconut.
1. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk and cream are some of my favorite ingredients in the world. I use them both for cooking as well as baking. I even made sour cream out of coconut milk. It’s easy to learn to make your own coconut milk at home. Check out How to Make Your Own Coconut Milk and Coconut Yogurt, How to Make Homemade Coconut Milk and How to Make Homemade Unsweetened Coconut Milk.
Coconut milk and cream is thick, light and delicious. You can use coconut milk to make whipped cream and desserts as well as the creamiest and most luxurious soups and stews. The coconut milk you drink is different than the coconut milk in the can. Canned coconut milk, which is prepared from coconut meat is way too thick and creamy to drink, but it’s perfect for making whipped cream, puddings, and creamy soups.
Take a look at 15 Tasty Ways to Use Coconut Milk in Your Dairy-Free Recipes and then try this Spiced Whipped Coconut Cream, Key Lime Coconut Cheesecake Cups, Creamy Coconut Mango Pops, and Homemade Twinkies with Coconut Whipped Cream Filling. Savory recipes with coconut milk include this Broccoli and Coconut Soup, Mild Coconut Carrot Soup With Shiitake, Cilantro and Spring Onion, Vegan Creamy Ginger-Coconut Kale Zucchini Spaghetti, and Coconut Gouda Cheese.
2. Coconut Water
Coconut water was all the rage for a while. It’s naturally refreshing, healthier than sugar-filled drinks and contains easily digested carbs in the form of sugar and electrolytes. Coconut water comes from the center of the coconut; it is not the same as the water left over in a can of coconut milk. Coconut water contains a lot of potassium without a lot of sodium, and some athletes prefer it over sports drinks. For more information, read Why is Coconut Water Better Than Sports Drinks and Coconut Water vs. Plain Water: What’s Better for Athletes?
So what can we do with coconut water besides drink it? We can use it in place of water in recipes, or we can make coconut kefir, a fermented beverage made from kefir grains that have significant health benefits. Usually, kefir is made with dairy but coconut water is a better alternative. To learn more including how to make it, read Why You Should Try Coconut Kefir, The Wonder Elixir.
3. Coconut Flour
Coconut flour is made from dried coconut meat. The oil and water are pressed out of the coconut meat, leaving only the fiber that is ground into flour. Coconut flour is a good option for those who want a gluten-free, grain-free, high-fiber flour. The taste is slightly sweet and of course, coconut-y. In savory cooking, you can use coconut flour as a binder like in these Smoky Black Bean and Hemp Seed Burgers and this Hearty Eggplant Burger. It can also be used as a breading as in this Sesame Cabbage Salad With Coconut Crusted Tofu and this Pistachio Crusted Tofu With a Prickly Pear Sauce.
More and more people are choosing to bake with coconut flour. It is important to know that you cannot just substitute coconut flour for other flours at a 1:1 ratio. Generally, you want to substitute 1/4 to 1/3 cup coconut flour for each cup of grain-based flour. Baked goods will also need an extra boost to rise so recipes will need extra baking powder, baking soda and/or egg replacers. Since coconut flour is so absorbent, recipes will also require extra liquid. You can get more tips on using coconut flour in Everything to Know about Coconut Flour: The Grain-Free Superfood.
Baking recipes using coconut flour include this Super Easy Lemon Cake, Hazelnut and Chocolate Chunk Spelt Cookies, Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cupcakes, and these 7 Ingredient Lemon Coconut Squares.
4. Coconut Butter
Coconut butter is made from the meat and oil of fresh coconuts. It’s a great alternative for those who want or need to avoid vegan butters made from soy or nuts. Organic raw coconut butter is rich and slightly sweet. Check out these Tips for Baking with Coconut Butter. You can even learn to make your own – see How to Make Coconut Butter the Easy Way. Use your coconut butter to make this Raspberry Dream Pie or a creamy sauce for these Pancrêpes.
Once you learn how to make it, you’ll save money, and you can get creative with it, making all kinds of different flavors like this Blueberry-Vanilla Coconut Butter. The blueberries turn the butter into a fruity, melt-in-your-mouth treat with just a whisper of vanilla. It’s like coconut heaven.
5. Coconut Oil
By now, everyone knows how healthy and delicious coconut oil is. There are amazing health benefits including strengthening the immune system. Check out the 10 Amazing Health Benefits of Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is also as useful in other rooms of the house as it is in the kitchen. Take a look at these 8 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do with Coconut Oil. Coconut oil boosts energy levels, raises good cholesterol, and balances blood sugar.
In cooking and baking, coconut oil can be used in place of any oil or butter listed in a recipe. It has a high smoke point so you can use it for frying and cooking at high temperatures. You can even use coconut oil to make your own vegan butter.
Try using coconut oil to make sweets like this No-Bake Peanut Butter Cheesecake, Raspberry Cornmeal Muffins, Creamy Pecan Butter, and Triple Chocolate Party Cupcakes. Then go savory with this Super Quick Thai Curry, Savory Pancake Stack with Pine Nut Cream, and Stuffed Portobello Mushroom with Tofu and Garlic Pepper Quinoa.
6. Coconut Sugar
Many of us are looking for more ways to cut out refined, white sugar, but we still want to add some sweetness to our desserts. Coconut sugar is an unrefined sugar that is made from sap taken from the flower buds of the coconut palm. Coconut sugar, a.k.a. coconut palm sugar (not the same as palm sugar), has a low glycemic index, so it helps maintain blood sugar levels without that crash we usually expect from sugar. It contains iron, zinc, magnesium and B vitamins. Coconut sugar doesn’t taste the same as white sugar. In fact, it tastes a bit more like brown sugar. Use it the same way you would any other sugar.
Recipes using coconut sugar include Soft Coconut Breakfast Cookies, Choco Choco Muffins, Churros With Coconut Sugar and Chilli Chocolate Sauce and Vegan Pineapple Honey.
7. Coconut Meat, Shreds, and Flakes
Now that we have used so many parts of the coconut let’s not forget the actual coconut meat itself. Read about The Other White Meat and Why You Should Eat Coconut for Strong Muscles and More. Unsweetened coconut shreds and flakes can add a natural sweetness and chewy texture to your desserts and savory dishes. They can be used raw, dried or toasted.
Recipes you definitely want to try, include Raw Matcha Coconut Cream Pie, Lemon Coconut Bars, Coconut Matcha Energy Bars, Raspberry and Coconut Glazed Doughnuts, Choctastic Coconut and Almond Cake, Raw Coconut Pie, and Toasted Coconut Cream Bars.
Wow! How extraordinary are coconuts! They give us water, oil, butter, cream, milk, sugar and meat. Add to its versatility the fact that coconut is so healthy and delicious, and it just may be the world’s perfect food.
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Lead image source: 7 Ingredient Lemon Coconut Squares