If you eat gluten free and also avoid milk products, refined sugar, and maybe even honey, agave syrup, or all grains, do you sometimes wonder how can you make tasty, good-for-you baked goods? The solution is simple: coconut!
Coconuts are the fruit of the coconut palm and have an amazing number of food uses. Luckily for people with gluten sensitivity and other food allergies, each of the following coconut products can substitute nicely for common ingredients used in gluten-free baking.
- Coconut flour. Made with fiber from the coconut meat after most of the oil has been extracted, coconut flour can be a real boon for people who eat gluten free. Not only is it naturally gluten free, but it’s also grain free and low carb—and it produces baked goods that are light, fluffy, and moist. However, coconut flour contains more fiber than any other flour, and that means that baking with it is a big departure from standard baking. If you haven’t tried it before, it’s best to look for recipes designed specifically for coconut flour until you’ve become accustomed to it. For an egg-free dessert, mix coconut flour with chopped nuts, coconut oil, and coconut sugar to make a topping for fruit crisps or fruit crumbles. Organic coconut flour is available from Bob’s Red Mill, Let’s Do Organic, and Tropical Traditions.
- Coconut nectar and coconut sugar. Raw coconut nectar, a nutrient-rich sap from coconut blossoms, is a liquid sweetener that can replace honey or agave syrup in recipes. Unrefined coconut sugar, also known as coconut palm sugar, is made from evaporated coconut nectar, and can be used as a replacement for the same amount of sugar in recipes. Author and TV show host Dr. Mehmet Oz lists it as a way to curb a sugar addiction, because coconut sugar doesn’t cause the same blood sugar spikes. Neither coconut nectar nor coconut sugar taste like coconut but instead have a slight caramel-like flavor. Either sweetener is a good substitute for people who are avoiding fructose, honey, agave syrup, or high-fructose sweeteners. Organic varieties of
raw coconut nectar and unrefined coconut sugar are available from Coconut Secret and SweetTree.
- Coconut oil. Extracted from coconut flesh or meat, coconut oil is very heat-stable, which makes it a good dairy-free substitute for butter, lard, or margarine in baking. Coconut oil has numerous health benefits, including antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. It’s also nature’s richest source of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs)—also called medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs—types of fats that are easily digested and quickly burned by the liver for energy. Look for organic, unrefined, extra virgin coconut oil, available from companies such as Artisana or Nutiva.
- Coconut milk. Coconut milk is made by extracting the oil-rich liquid from coconut meat. It makes a good non-dairy replacement for full-fat milk in recipes, or you can use lite coconut milk in place of low-fat milk or non-dairy milk alternatives such as soy milk. Look for organic unsweetened coconut milk from SO Delicious, Native Forest or Thai Kitchen. And remember: When using coconut oil or coconut milk in a recipe, be sure that all ingredients—including eggs—are at room temperature before you start. This will prevent the coconut ingredients from chilling, hardening, and causing lumps in the batter.
Grain-Free Morning Glory Muffins*
Makes 6 Muffins
A great combination of fruit, vegetable, nut, and coconut ingredients, this muffin is a healthy, fiber-rich addition to any breakfast or brunch.
3 Tbs. organic unrefined extra virgin coconut oil, melted
3 large pastured organic eggs
¼ cup organic unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp. gluten-free vanilla extract or vanilla flavor
¼ tsp. unrefined sea salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1½ Tbs. organic unrefined coconut sugar
¼ cup organic coconut flour
½ cup shredded organic carrot
¼ cup organic raisins
¼ cup chopped pecans or chopped walnuts
1 tsp. grated orange zest (optional)
2 Tbs. organic unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 6 muffin cups with coconut oil. Mix together eggs, remaining coconut oil, applesauce, and vanilla. Add in salt, baking soda, cinna-mon, and coconut sugar. Whisk coconut flour into batter until there are no lumps. Fold in shredded carrot, raisins, and nuts.
- Fill muffin cups with batter, and sprinkle with shredded coconut. Bake 20 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack, then refrigerate.
*Recipe reprinted from the Going Against the Grain Group, 2012.
PER SERVING: 194 cal; 5g pro; 13g total fat (8g sat fat); 16g carb; 93mg chol; 150mg sodium; .3g fiber; 10g sugars