As I’ve gotten more into Paleo and trying different recipes, I find many call for a coconut product of some sort, which is fine. But what stumps me, is its frequently some type of coconut product I’ve never heard of and don’t even know where to buy!

I’m assuming I’m not the only person that’s been recently overwhelmed and amazed by the variety of coconut food products on the market these days, so I thought I’d go through some of them and try to make heads or tails sense of it all.

Perhaps in a future post, I can get Dr. Alex to share some of the reasons coconut products have become so popular and what makes them so healthy.  In the meantime, here’s what I’ve read about coconut: stress relief; cholesterol stabilization; weight loss; beneficial to immune, digestive, and metabolic systems; good for kidneys, heart disease, high blood pressure, bone and dental health; while avoiding complications in diabetes, HIV, and cancer.  Sounds like a panacea, which I’m not sure I can believe, but perhaps explains the proliferation of coconut products.

Coconut Drinks

Coconut waterTaste Nirvana is by far the best one I’ve found: creamy, butter-flavored coconut goodness. It’s like the heaven of Thailand brought to the comfort of your cozy kitchen.  Yum!

Coconut milk (canned) – Typically used for cooking curries and other Oriental food, its is pretty much a mainstay in any Paleo creamy recipe.

Coconut milk (boxed) – Sold as a dairy and soy alternative, these are whole coconut milk watered-down then re-thickened with emulsifiers such as guar-guar or carageenan. Finally, they’re loaded with preservatives so they keep in your fridge for 7-10 days even after opening. Due to the emulsifiers and preservatives, “whole foodies” tend to prefer canned coconut milk over this variety, but this consistency more approximates tradition milk (for those trying to make the switch.

Coconut Fats

Coconut oil – Straightforward, its just oil.  Coconut oil can be heated to about 350*F before it begins to smoke and oxidize turning into a more dangerous fat, so be cautious when cooking with it over high heat.

Coconut butter – Frankly, I don’t even know what this is, or how it differentiates itself from coconut cream or manna.

Coconut for Baking

Coconut flour – Dried and finely milled, it is called for as a substitute for flour in a number of Paleo or grain-free recipes.  Don’t substitute for almond flour!

Coconut flakes (shredded, sweetened and unsweetened) – Endless uses here: sprinkle on top of curry for an added sweetness and texture, roll desserts or other date balls in, add to smoothies for a little chewiness, use in baking or toast and sprinkle on top of desserts.  Easy to find. Available everywhere, but be careful of additives to preservatives the color.

Coconut creme – Is this the same as coconut manna?

Coconut manna – Again, I’m not really sure if or how this is different from coconut creme or butter.

Coconut Sweeteners

Coconut (palm) sugar – Yes! Now here is a winner. I first heard about this in Bali as a low-glycemic sweetener and wondered why they didn’t have it in the States.  Well now they do! But, this would need further exploration as I’m not sure if the glycemic index of coconut sugar is different than that of coconut palm sugar.  I do know, though, from personal experience that its scarily easy to overdo it and increase carb cravings with “gula” (palm sugar).

Coconut Crystals – Presumably the raw or brown sugar version of coconut sugar.

Coconut nectar – Similar to maple syrup, raw honey, or agave nectar: liquid sweetener made from coconut.

Dairy-Alternative Coconuts

Coconut ice cream – Essentially it is ice cream where the dairy is replaced with coconut milk to make a dairy-free, soy alternative frozen dessert. “So” Brand seems to be the most widely-distributed.

Coconut yogurt – While I find the coconut ice cream to be delicious, though at times deficient in flavor and body, I was unimpressed with coconut yogurt and I find it terribly overpriced.

Coconuts, Oh my!

Coconut candy – These are usually made with refined sugar or corn syrup and have very little coconut in them. More like coconut-flavored sugar candy.  Best avoided.  There are even Limited Edition Coconut M&Ms <<face palm>>.

Coconut snacks – There have been a number of times I’ve grabbed a package of these and thought, wouldn’t this be a nice snack?! Then I read the ingredients and the first(!) ingredient was a sweetener (don’t remember if it was corn syrup, cane sugar, or regular sugar), so I put them back disappointed.

Coconut chips – Same situation as the snacks with added sugar and preservatives: be careful.

Coconut aminos – ?? I have no idea… like soy sauce?

Coconut spread – Is it like coconut butter?

Coconut Jam – I can only imagine the additives and emulsifiers to get this to happen.

With coconut in pretty much every category, you’d never need to eat regular flour, milk, sugar, butter, yogurt, or ice cream again!

Look at all the coconut stuff I have in my kitchen!

Look at all the coconut stuff I have in my kitchen!

What coconut products do you have in yours?

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