All Things Coconut
Coconut Products and Coconut-Flavored Baking Ingredients
Coconut Ingredients for Baking and Cooking
There’s nothing that invokes the feeling of summer quite like the distinctive taste of coconut. This delicious tropical fruit offers a unique flavor that is rich and sweet, with a subtle nutty undertone. Coconut is one of the culinary world’s most popular ingredients and is used for both sweet and savory dishes in many different cuisines. On the sweet side, coconut is a main ingredient in any number of different desserts, from traditional Coconut Cake to updated twists like Toasted Coconut S’Mores. Long used in savory dishes like curries and flavored rice, this delicious flavoring is a staple ingredient around the world for both meat-based and vegetarian dishes. Coconut is also a favorite flavor in alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, from creamy, tropical Piña Coladas to protein drinks and smoothies.
The variety of uses for coconut ingredients and coconut flavors is rivaled only by the fruit’s many forms. Once the hard hairy shell is removed, the interior of a coconut consists of coconut water and the rich, moist flesh of the fruit itself. The fruit can be eaten raw or dried, as flakes, shredded, ground into powder, or in chunks. The raw or dried fruit can be pressed and refined into oil. Coconut can be baked, boiled, toasted, roasted, used as anything from a main ingredient to an elegant edible decoration. On the flavoring side, coconut extracts and flavors can be made from natural coconut flavors and extractives (for ”pure coconut extracts”), natural flavors, or artificial ingredients specifically formulated to duplicate the taste of real coconut. Coconut flavoring can taste like coconut and nothing but coconut, or be a part of more complex flavor profiles, as in our Coconut Macaroon Flavor Extract, which combines a toasty, coconutty taste with hints of sweet cake.
What flavors pair well with coconut?
- Fruits: Coconut goes very well with other fruits, and not just tropical ones like banana, papaya, pineapple, mango, and orange. This flavor is great for adding a rich sweetness to berries (particularly strawberry and blackberry), helping to create more complex flavor profiles.
- Sweet Flavors: Coconut and chocolate, do we need to say more? In addition to that delicious combination, coconut’s tropical taste is even just as delectable when combines with classic flavorings like caramel and vanilla. Pair it with honey to add depth to the sweetness. And coconut cream pie’s irresistible taste is a demonstration of how well coconut pairs with sweet creams.
- Savory Spices: Coconut is an integral element of many Curries and Curry-based dishes. This is because the sweetness of coconut blends well with strong spices. Cinnamon and other warm spices like nutmeg and allspice offer a deep balance to sweet coconut. Pepper, hotter spices, and chile flavors such as cayenne and ginger also blend well with the tropical taste and help accentuate the nutty notes. Coconut balances a wide range of herbs, from sweet, tangy mint to bright turmeric and earthy garlic.
- Vegetables: Coconut’s distinctive flavor makes it perfect for vegetarian and plant-based dishes. It provides a sweet balance to tangy or acidic tastes such as garlic, onion, and tomato. It can brighten and add a sweet note to earthy vegetables like potatoes, squashes, and carrots.
- Proteins: The tropical taste of coconut complements a wide variety of proteins. It goes well with both light meats like chicken, and fish as well as heavier proteins like beef and pork. The popularity of Coconut Shrimp is a testament to how well coconut pairs with shellfish. On the vegetarian side, this tropical flavor helps add flavor in tofu and other plant-based protein dishes.
Coconut as a flavoring element is incredibly versatile because the taste goes well with so many different flavors, spices, and proteins. While many people think of it first as a dessert ingredient, it is an important component in savory dishes worldwide. The sweet, tropical flavor of coconut features in a wide variety of international cuisines - Indian, South African, Caribbean, Thai, to name only a few.
What are the Different Types of Coconut Flavors and Flavoring?
Coconut extract vs coconut flavor
There is a wide debate over what constitutes “real” or “pure” coconut extract, but it is generally agreed that only those extracts that use extractives or flavors from actual coconuts qualify. The taste of coconut can also be duplicated using natural flavor compounds from sources other than coconut, and those products are usually called “natural coconut flavor.” When coconut flavoring is created using solely synthetic or artificial compounds, it is generally called “artificial coconut flavor.”
Coconut emulsion vs extract
The best coconut extract for baking depends, in some ways, on the heat used in the application. Extracts contain food grade alcohol, which “bakes off” or evaporates when exposed to high temperatures, leaving behind only the flavor of the extract itself. Emulsions, on the other hand, are water-based formulations that will provide the same level of final flavor no matter what the level of heat. Coconut extract and coconut emulsion are both great choices for adding flavor in high-heat applications such as baking, sautéing, and stir-frying. For low or no-heat applications, some people prefer to use emulsions to limit the amount of alcohol.
Coconut extract vs coconut milk
Is coconut extract the same as coconut milk? The answer is no, although coconut milk is technically “extracted” from the grated flesh of fresh coconuts by applying pressure and straining the resulting liquid. Coconut extract adds flavor to recipes and dishes while coconut milk adds liquid and creamy texture as well as flavoring.
Coconut extract vs coconut oil
Like coconut milk, coconut oil (or coconut butter as it is sometimes called), is made by applying pressure to fresh or dried coconut meat. To make oil, the milk is separated from its fat components by mechanical means. Coconut oil can be made in several different ways, and the varying processes impact final taste and shelf life differently. Products labeled “refined” are pressed using heat as well as pressure, where “cold pressed” (or Virgin) oil is not subjected to as much heat. Cold pressing produces coconut oils or coconut butters that are lighter in color, require less removal of impurities during the manufacturing process, and generally taste more coconutty than expeller-pressed, refined oil. Cold-pressed coconut oil offers superior heat stability and a high smoke point (350°F, making it great for baking and sautéing, as well as improving viscosity, texture, and mouth-feel when making candy or chocolates.
Sweetened vs unsweetened coconut
Coconut flakes and shredded coconut are sold as either sweetened or unsweetened. Sweetened coconut is processed by adding sugar and preservative agents to flaked or shredded coconut meat. This creates a shelf-stable ingredient with beautiful pure white color and moist texture that is ideal for incorporating into cakes, macaroons and other cookies, desserts, and dishes such as coconut rice. It is ideal for toasting for use as a delicious edible decoration as well.
Unsweetened coconut, like our desiccated coconut, consists of grated shreds or shaved coconut flakes that have had almost all the liquid content removed. This drying process allows the resulting product to offer a long shelf life without the addition of preservatives. Unsweetened coconut is ideal for use in savory recipes, as it adds texture and rich coconut taste without overly sweetening the final dish.
Is Coconut a Healthy Snack?
Coconut is a delicious, versatile cooking ingredient that is naturally rich in healthy fats that are easy to digest, high in fiber, minerals, and protein. Because the coconut is actually the fruit of the palm tree and not a tree nut, this ingredient is nut-allergy friendly. The sweet, tropical taste of coconut and the many different forms it takes make it perfect for snacking alone, incorporated into trail mix, granola, or other snacking mixes, and as a delicious addition to foods like yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, or ice cream.