Coconut, fruit of the “tree of life,” is a super food. Although coconut trees grow only in tropical and subtropical regions, this tasty treat has reached every corner of the globe. Coconut is sold in many forms, from fresh coconuts to pressed coconut oil to shredded coconut, and it tastes delicious in both sweet and savory dishes.
Coconut was introduced to North America in the early 1800s and was very popular in baking and cooking products until the 1950s, when doctors blamed coconuts as a cause of high cholesterol. Thankfully, coconut products have experienced a resurgence in the new millennium, populating vending machines, health-food stores, and baking aisles. New studies show what common coconut consumers have long known intuitively: Consuming coconuts can help lower heart disease and cholesterol, reduce the effects of stress, and improve heart, brain, and gastrointestinal health. Overall, coconut has a host of health-boosting capabilities.
The recipes on the following page demonstrate the treatment and variations of coconuts. From North America, we have featured Coconut Ice Cream, an easy-to-assemble homemade ice cream that does not require an ice-cream maker or raw eggs. Beijinhos de Coco are small Brazilian candies that are easy to make and perfect for gatherings. Chicken Bhuna is a curry dish from Bengali that comes together quickly and smells divine. And finally, our variation of Coconut Mango Pudding comes from China—making it a simple and elegant dessert to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
Chicken Bhuna (Bengali Chicken Curry)
- 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken, diced in 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 yellow onions, finely diced
- 2 tbsp. fresh minced ginger
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 c. julienned carrots
- 1 tbsp. dried chili
- 1 c. yogurt
- 2 tbsp. soybean oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 can (15 oz.) of coconut milk
- 1 1/2 c. water
- Combine everything, except coconut milk and water and marinate for 30 minutes to 2 hours in the refrigerator.
- In a pot, simmer the marinated chicken in the water.
- When water evaporates, add coconut milk and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
- Serve over hot rice.
Adapted from Bioversity International
Beijinhos de Coco (Brazilian Coconut Kisses)
- 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tbsp. butter, plus more for bowl
- 1 c. sweetened coconut flakes, plus more for decorating
- Heat milk and butter over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the milk has reduced and thickened to the consistency of caramel sauce, about 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat; stir in the coconut flakes; allow to cool.
- Pour into a buttered bowl and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
- With buttered or oiled hands, roll the chilled confection into tablespoon-sized balls, and roll in coconut flakes.
Adapted From Brazil to You
Coconut Ice Cream (North America)
- 1 can (15 oz.) full-fat coconut milk
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream
- 2 tsp. coconut extract
- 1/4 c. sweetened coconut flakes (optional)
- Pour the heaving whipping cream into a freezer-safe bowl with a lid. Beat with a mixer on high until stiff peaks form. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl, except the coconut flakes, and combine on low speed until fully incorporated. Top with coconut flakes (optional) and put the lid on.
- Freeze the bowl for at least four hours or overnight.
- Serve frozen, topped with coconut flakes.
Used with permission from Vanessa from Our Thrifty Ideas
Coconut Mango Pudding (China)
A. Pudding Ingredients
- 1 can (15 oz.) mangos in light syrup
- 1 can (15 oz.) whole coconut milk
- 1/2 c. caster sugar
- 5 tsp. gelatin, prepared according to package instructions
- In a blender, puree the mango with light syrup. Add the coconut milk and sugar. Blend well.
- Add prepared gelatin to the mixture. Blend for 5 seconds more.
- Pour the mixture into individual dishes. Cover, chill at least 1 hour, until set.
B. Orange Syrup Ingredients
- 1/4 c. golden syrup
- 1/4 c. freshly squeezed orange juice
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan.
- Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, stirring often.
- Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature.
- Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
To assemble, pour a tablespoon or two of the syrup over each pudding. Feel free to decorate with fresh fruits. Serve chilled.
Adapted from Ching’s Fast Food, The Food Network