Cooking tips

6 methods for cooking with coconut

Toast it, bread it, whip it or bake it! This versatile ingredient can take on any dish in the kitchen, sweet, spicy or savoury.

Dipping lamingtons into chocolate and coconut

One of the best things about cooking with coconut is it’s versatility. It can balance sweet, savoury, spicy, salty — you name it, coconut can handle it. Here are a few ways of cooking with it, whatever its form.

1. Toast it.
While fresh shards of coconut are delicious to enjoy raw, fresh coconuts aren’t widely available in the Canadian climate, so we rely mostly on processed, shredded coconut. A great solution to using this processed variety is to toast it. It helps bring it back to life — giving it a fresher, crispier, slightly chewy texture. Baking coconut also brings out its natural oils, making it toasty and delicious.

There are two ways to toast coconut:

The first is to spread shredded coconut on a baking sheet and bake in the centre of the oven at 375F, stirring every two minutes for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Immediately transfer the toasted coconut to a plate to halt it from toasting further in the hot pan. The second way to toast coconut is on the stove top. This method is often preferred, as you can watch it turn golden and immediately remove it from the heat once it’s toasted to your liking. For this method, preheat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add coconut and heat, stirring often until coconut is golden brown. Remove from heat and scrape onto a plate. Store toasted coconut at room temperature in an unsealed container for up to one week.

2. Bread it.
Instead of panko or bread crumbs, try coconut! It’s a great complement to shrimp — and can handle being baked or fried.

3. Sauce it.
There are tons of sauces you can make with coconut milk — but one thing is for certain: coconut and curry are friends. In fact, it acts as the base in most Thai curries, giving it a rich, creamy consistency while tempering the spice levels. But not all sauces need to be cooked — coconut milk is also the key ingredient to the creamy sauce in our coconut-curry tofu pita pockets.

Related: How to cook and bake with coconut oil

4. Spoon it.
As a flavourful garnish, it’s perfect for topping off puddings, soups and more. Our chia and coconut pudding is a quick, easy and no-cook way of enjoying the wonderful flavours of coconut, but if you prefer a hot bowl of soup to warm up with, go to our chicken mulligatawny soup where the coconut milk wonderfully mellows the curry paste and saffron.

5. Freeze it.
The silky, creamy texture of full-fat coconut milk makes it an excellent candidate for freezing. Try it in our coconut ice-cream (bonus: it’s dairy-free), or as a substitute to the yogurt in our strawberry vanilla yogurt pops (use 1 cup coconut milk and 1 tsp vanilla).

6. Whip it.
Beat coconut milk for an amazing alternative to regular whipped cream. It’s a vegan, dairy-free alternative that doesn’t feel like a substitution at all. Kitchen tip: You can also use coconut milk to make a dairy-free variation of our sweetened condensed milk.

Kitchen tip: Coconut can be bought sweetened or unsweetened — but if you purchase sweetened coconut, remember that it will add a significant boost of sweetness to whatever you are preparing.

10 ways to use coconut milk, unsweetened and sweetened coconut:

Originally published 2012, updated January 2016.

Get Chatelaine in your inbox!

Our very best stories, recipes, style and shopping tips, horoscopes and special offers. Delivered every weekday morning.