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Coconuts: what’s hot and what’s not?

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Article by Charles Coshow, SizzlingPots Contributor
Designed, edited & illustrated by
Aug 02, 2017

Copyright Visualomics LLC . You’re welcome to share this, but please link to this original article.

Coconuts have been around for a long, long time. Despite the name, a coconut isn’t a nut – it’s a drupe or stone fruit. What we eat is actually the meat inside the “pit” of the fruit of the coconut palm. From tropical climates, coconut has spread into many world cuisines. But for most of us, outside of macaroons, magic bar cookies, or coconut cream pie, we don’t see a lot of coconut. And there are so many types of coconut for use in cooking than that ubiquitous bag of white flakes! That being said, there are also some coconut-based items that are misunderstood or misrepresented.

So how are you to know what is a must-try, and what is better avoided? Fortunately for you, we’ve taken care of that! Enjoy this list of the top ten coconut food items and decide which you should try… or skip.

1. Shredded coconut – what probably came to your mind first when we first said “coconut”

We’ve all seen bags of this in the baking aisle at any grocery store. We use it in macaroons and magic bar cookies. And it’s fine for what it is. But we’ve been getting one of the poorest of the coconut products. And worse, we get it loaded with extra sugar.

But there’s a healthier option..always check the labels when buying. There are brands available that shred or flake the coconut without adding anything else, and you’ll get more of the real flavor. Plus, it isn’t as bad for your blood sugar.

2. Raw coconut – down to basics

This is the actual meat of the coconut, but not processed or sweetened in any way. But watch out, it’s difficult to get into it, unless you know how to crack open a coconut.

This is very popular in Asian and Latin American countries. It’s often served in a cup with fruits such as pineapple and mango, then topped with lime juice and chile. Unlike the flaked coconut most of us are familiar with, raw coconut meat has more of a delicate, nutty flavor. Experience an old favorite in a brand-new way!

3. Coconut water – refreshing but beware of the hype!

Coconut water (literally the water found inside the coconut) has become incredibly popular in recent years as a refreshing rehydration option. Claims of out-performing sports drinks and providing needed vitamins and minerals had this item rocketing off the shelf in stores.

True, it does rehydrate you, but while there is potassium in coconut water, it is not a significant source. It does out-perform sports drinks in two areas – less sugar, and less sodium. Some companies have already had to settle lawsuits regarding unsubstantiated claims about coconut water. So if you like it, enjoy it. It’s really refreshing.

4. Coconut oil – cooking alternative from the plant kingdom

Coconut oil has become very popular in recent years. Some use it for hygiene or medicinal purposes. But for vegans (or those seeking to avoid dairy) it is a great alternative for use in cooking and baking.

One tablespoon of coconut oil has 14 g of fat, of which 12 g are saturated. Recent popular stories on social media suggest that many thought coconut oil was healthy, and express surprise that coconut oil is high in fat. That fact has been known for decades! Basically, every health safety group in the Western hemisphere recommends using coconut oil very moderately. So use this product to make a stir fry or a vegan dessert treat, but above all use it in moderation.

And some people say it’s great for keeping your hair healthy and vibrant. Just rub a little occasionally into your scalp and wash it off with shampoo

5. Coconut butter – the secret to the richest, creamiest curries

Coconut butter is made from both the meat and oil of the coconut. Blended until creamy-smooth, you can then use it just like butter.

You can also add a few tablespoons to an Indian or Thai curry. It adds the coconut flavor while also making a thicker, creamier sauce. And you can make this yourself! Buy unsweetened flaked coconut (full fat) and put it in a blender or food processor, then mix for 5-10 minutes. That’s it! The fat in the coconut will cream, leaving you with a decadent, dairy-free spread. Try some on banana bread!

6. Coconut cream – the stuff dreams are made of

Coconut cream and coconut milk are related products. Both are produced by soaking or simmering the raw meat of the coconut in water and then straining the resulting liquid. Coconut cream involves using four to five times the amount of coconut in the same amount of water as coconut milk, giving you a much richer end product..

Coconut cream is most often used in making desserts, usually in Southeast Asian cuisine. Some sticky rice mixed with coconut cream is a popular after-dinner treat. But it can also be added to curries to make the resulting sauce creamier. Keep an eye on the labels when buying – some vendors sweeten it with added sugar. It doesn’t need it!

7. Coconut milk – a staple of Southeast Asian cuisine

If you’ve eaten a Thai curry, you’ve enjoyed coconut milk before. As mentioned above, coconut milk is made from combining equal parts raw coconut meat with water and simmering. After straining out the coconut, the result looks like milk. It has been used like milk in Asia to add to tea and in baking. Westerners are catching on as the popularity of non-dairy alternatives has risen. Again, check the package when buying to make sure there isn’t any added sugar.

8. Coconut flour – treat the caveman in you

We’ve mentioned coconut cream and milk. During the process of making them, the “milked” meat is strained out. Dry that out and grind it up fine and you have coconut flour, which has been used in Southeast Asian cuisine and is growing in popularity in America. Coconut flour is low-fat (most of the fat went into the cream or milk) and high in fiber.

One tablespoon of coconut flour can contain 1.4 g of carbohydrates, 1 g of which will be fiber. So for people looking for gluten-free and low-carb baked goods, coconut flour is a great choice.

9. Coconut sugar – the sweet sweetener

Coconut sugar isn’t made from coconuts at all. The blossom of the coconut palm tree is cut and the sap from it collected. That is then cooked down into a powder that looks like light brown sugar.

It’s sweet, but it also has dietary fiber that can slow sugar absorption in the body, making it a low glycemic index sweetener, which is better for you. Just be careful what you’re buying, as many Asian cultures refer to coconut sugar as palm sugar, even though palm sugar is collected from a different type of palm tree.

10. Desiccated coconut – magic coconut dust

When coconut meat is shredded and dried (seriously dried, like in an oven), it can be ground up into desiccated coconut powder. It’s sweet, and the drying process lightly cooks the sugars in the coconut, giving it a light caramel flavor. Sprinkle this on a bowl of berries and nuts for a Paleo treat, or add it to your favorite baked goods.

As you can see, the rest of the world has been enjoying a lot of coconut products for decades that have only recently become readily available in the US. You can now find coconut milk in any grocery store. Every product mentioned in this article can be purchased online. And if you’re fortunate enough to live in a town with an Asian market, you should be able to buy most of these items.

It’s odd to think that something as simple as a coconut could produce so many different products, and that many of them are waiting to be tried. Look this list over and pick an item to expand your horizons. Before long you’ll be trying them all!

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