There's no doubt about it. I'm a coconut lover. It's one of my favorite foods, not just because of the flavor but because it is soooo versatile! Coconut is sold in just about any form you can think of and can be used SO many different ways.
Here's a fun fact. A coconut is not actually a nut at all! It's a fruit in the same class as dates, peaches, apricots, plums, nectarines and cherries called a drupe. Now, try and casually slip that into a conversation and you'll look super smart. You're welcome. And now I present to you... some of my favorite ways to enjoy this tasty drupe:
Young coconut is exactly what it sounds like... A younger, less mature version of the brown coconuts seen in grocery stores. Most are shipped directly from Thailand, where they typically grow. You can find these babies in Asian grocery stores, Mexican grocery stores and on the rare occasion, even Walmart.
The green part is typically shaved off, leaving a weird cylindrical/cone shaped husk. Let me tell you, it is truly an art-form opening these things. Unlike mature coconuts, the meat inside is soft, custard-like and very delicate in flavor. Young coconuts are also filled with sweet, refreshing water — which brings me to my next favorite way to enjoy them...
COCONUT WATER/JUICECoconut water or juice is the liquid inside young coconuts. Vita Coco is one of the most popular, mainstream brands of this product, but my personal FAVORITE brand is Amy & Brian Natural Coconut Juice. Coconut water tastes amazing, is extremely hydrating and is full of nutrients and electrolytes (the stuff we lose when we sweat). So essentially, it's like an all-natural Gatorade.
I love to drink it ice cold, with a straw! (And a little umbrella if I'm feeling fancy.)
COCONUT MILKCoconut milk is the flesh and water from the fruit blended together. It is a creamy, light-tasting liquid that can be used in coffee (which is what I use it for), smoothies, curries or even enjoyed by itself. My go-to brand is Thai Kitchen because I can easily find it in the grocery store.
COCONUT OILCoconut oil is just... Magical! The end product is pressed or extracted from the coconut flesh just like olive oil, avocado oil and many other fruit oils. I always have a huge jar of it on hand because of its many uses... It can be used — of course — for frying, cooking and baking but it's also great for soft, supple skin and healthy hair. The best kind to get is an organic, cold pressed, extra virgin variety.
This is a product that people usually haven't heard of before, but it's one of my favorites. Coconut flour is the pulverized, de-fatted version of the fruit's flesh. What's left from this process is a powdery yellow flour that can be used to bread things or to make baked-goods! It is an excellent choice when making tasty gluten free desserts (or pancakes... my favorite use for it!) This flour has a lot of fiber in it, so it requires much more liquid when baking. Aside from being delicious, the fiber in it makes it super-filling! My favorite brand of coconut flour is Bob's Red Mill (pictured above).
What, they can make wraps out of coconut?! Yes, yes they can. And you can put anything you want in them! They actually hold up quite well. Make a savory wrap with some meat, veggies and condiments or make a sweet concoction with some fruit. You can even cook with them, making your own personalized dumplings, spring roll, tortillas, burritos and more. Get inspired from the recipe videos on the Paleo Wraps website!
COCONUT BUTTERCoconut butter is the sweet, sweet marriage of coconut flesh and oil. It can be used in smoothies, sauces, spreads, in baking or even enjoyed by itself. I could literally eat a whole jar of this stuff with a spoon and no regrets (well, maybe some regrets...) The brand I bought was Nutiva Organic Coconut Manna, but you can make your own with just coconut flakes and a food processor.
DESSICATED COCONUTSimilar to shredded coconut flakes, dessicated coconut is a lighter, finer grind of the stuff. It makes for an excellent breading on pan fried or baked chicken, fish and other meats (coconut shrimp, anyone?) Using it as a breading really adds a nice sweet and crunchy texture to your dish!
And because I love package design...
Here's Some Awesome Coconut-Themed Package Design
What's your favorite type of coconut product?