Healthy Coconut Macaroons – With LOTS of Mix in and Topping Options

Here is another recipe that is perfect for Valentine’s Day.  Wrap them up in a heart shaped box and give them to the ones you love!

The words healthy and coconut macaroon are rarely seen together.  Traditional macaroons are made with sweetened shredded coconut, sweetened condensed milk, egg whites and vanilla extract.  While some of the ingredients are great, the sweetened condensed milk takes the traditional macaroon from healthy to not so healthy instantly.  Sweetened condensed milk is basically boiled down whole milk and contains about 45% sugar.  If you have ever looked at the nutritional value of sweetened condensed milk you will be amazed by the numbers.

Sweetened condensed milk is used in a lot of dessert recipes.  I understand its purpose and why it is used.  It is a great ingredient binder, adds a level of unwavering creaminess and provides that unmistakable sweet note.  Trying to get around making a coconut macaroon without the sweetened condensed is tricky.  I did a vast amount of research to find different ways to make a healthier version of sweetened condensed milk.  While some were good, I wanted to see if the rest of the coconut macaroon ingredients could just stand on their own without the need for such a thick binder.  For my healthy coconut macaroon recipe I have eliminated the sweetened condensed milk all together and have replaced it with a small amount of almond (or coconut milk).  I also added a touch of honey to ensure the coconut had the sticky and sweet quality of a traditional macaroon.

Traditional macaroon recipes call for shredded coconut which is a great ingredient, however, majority of the time the recipes call for sweetened shredded coconut.  The pre-packaged sweetened shredded coconut available at most grocery stores are loaded with sugar.  Furthermore, the ingredients include Propylene Glycol, which helps to preserve freshness and Sodium Metabisulfite, which is used to retain the whiteness of the coconut.  I try to limit my consumption of sugar and preservative type ingredients, so the pre-packaged sweetened shredded coconut was really not working for me.

For my coconut macaroon recipe I wanted to find an acceptable sweetened shredded coconut replacement.  At some (if not most) grocery stores you will find unsweetened shredded coconut.  Traditionally unsweetened shredded coconut contains only coconut, but be sure to check the ingredients just in case.  I figured I could sweeten the shredded coconut on my own, thus creating my own sweetened shredded coconut.  For my coconut macaroon recipe, I use pure Stevia extract to sweeten the coconut.  Some do not like the taste of Stevia so I have included instructions on how to use cane or coconut sugar as a sweetener alternative.

The last two ingredients used in a traditional coconut macaroon recipe are egg whites and vanilla extract.  These ingredients are considered healthy so I kept them in my coconut macaroon recipe.  If you are vegan and follow a strict vegan diet, than the egg white part would need to be replaced with an egg white substitute.  From my research, I have found that flax seeds work the best as an egg white substitute.    To make flax seed egg white substitute, combine 1 tablespoon of milled flax seed with 3 tablespoons of water (for each egg white you need). Mix it well and let the mixture sit for 1 to 2 minutes.

 My healthy coconut macaroon recipe creates about 4 bite sized macaroons.  You can double the recipe if you should need more macaroons.  The macaroon recipe can also be varied with different mix ins and/or toppings to create a wide array of unique macaroons.  I have included instructions on how to create the various macaroons at the bottom of this recipe page.

Healthy Coconut Macaroons

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut 

1/8 teaspoon pure Stevia extract (or 1/4 cup cane sugar)

1 tablespoon honey

1 egg white

A dash of salt

1.5 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup almond or coconut milk (unsweetened vanilla works very well)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a medium sized bowl combine all ingredients and mix well.  Form ingredients into tight tablespoon sized balls (some of the milk may squeeze out and that is okay, you want a tight ball).  Place the balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Flatten the balls slightly.  Bake in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the coconut is slightly brown (keep a close eye on them).  Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.  

Coconut Macaroon Mix In Variations

The above coconut macaroon recipe listed is for a basic coconut macaroon.  The recipe can be altered to create a WIDE array of coconut macaroon variations.  

Chocolate Coconut Macaroon: One of my favorite variations is the chocolate coconut macaroon.  For a chocolate coconut macaroon, add 1/2 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe and cook the same as a basic coconut macaroon.

Orange Coconut Macaroon:  Orange is a refreshing pairing for coconut.  For an orange flavored coconut macaroon, replace the almond extract in the above recipe with orange extract.  Cook the same as the basic coconut macaroon recipe above.  

Mocha Coconut Macaroon:  For all those coffee addicts out there, this coconut macaroon alternative is sure to please.  For a mocha flavored coconut macaroon, replace the almond extract in the above recipe with 1 tablespoon of coffee granules.

White Chocolate and Cranberry (or cherry) Macaroon:  Looking for something different to serve at Thanksgiving time?  Try this fall spin on the basic coconut macaroon.  Add 1/4 cup dried cranberries (or dried cherries) to the coconut mixture before baking.  Once the macaroons have cooled slightly drizzle the tops with melted white chocolate.  

Raspberry Coconut Macaroon:  When fresh raspberries are in season, I try to use them in as many recipes as I can.  For a raspberry coconut macaroon simply add 1/4 cup of fresh, mashed raspberries to the coconut mix before baking.

Crushed Nut Coconut Macaroon:  Most nut varieties can be used within the basic coconut macaroon recipe.  Nuts that work the best are pecan, almond and cashew.  To add nuts to your coconut macaroon, simply crush 1/4 cup of raw nuts to the coconut mixture before baking.   

Chocolate Chip Coconut Macaroon:  Tiny chocolate morsels are available at most grocery stores.  They are the perfect size for adding to these bite sized coconut macaroons.  To add chocolate morsels to the basic coconut macaroon, simply add 1 tablespoon of morsels (more if you want) to the above recipe before baking.  

Mint Coconut Macaroon:  Mint is widely used in desserts so adding it to the coconut macaroon seems to be only fitting.  For a mint flavored coconut macaroon, replace the almond extract in the above recipe with 1 teaspoon of mint extract.  

Confetti Coconut Macaroon:  Confetti is always fun for birthdays, New Year’s or any party setting.  To give your coconut macaroon a festive feel, add 1 tablespoon of rainbow sprinkles to the mixture before baking.   

Vanilla-Chai Coconut Macaroon: To experience a spicy, worldly flavor add vanilla-chai to the basic coconut macaroon recipe.  For a vanilla-Chai flavored coconut macaroon, replace the almond extract in the above recipe with 1 teaspoon of vanilla-chai blend.  A vanilla-chai blend can easily be made by mixing the following ingredients together: 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander and a dash of ground white pepper.

Coconut Macaroon Topping Variations

Coconut macaroons hold up very well to being topped with a WIDE array of sweet or savory toppings.  

Chocolate and Almond Topped Coconut Macaroon (think Almond Joy):  After the above basic coconut macaroon has cooled slightly, top the macaroon with melted chocolate.  You can top the macaroon using melted milk or dark chocolate.  Before the chocolate cools place a raw almond on top of the macaroon.  

Lemon Curd Topped Coconut Macaroon:  Lemon brightens any dish and topping it on a coconut macaroon is no exception.  Lemon curd can be purchased pre-made in the grocery store, or it can be easily made from scratch.   To make a homemade lemon curd simply mix together 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 tablespoon corn starch, 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/8 teaspoon pure Stevia extract (or 3 tablespoons cane sugar or honey), 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a medium saucepan.  Over medium heat, constantly whisk together the ingredients until the mixture thickens and bubbles form on top.  Cool the curd before use or store in the refrigerator.   

Chocolate Topped or Dipped Coconut Macaroon:  The coconut macaroon can be drizzled with milk or dark chocolate.  The bottoms of the coconut macaroon can also be dipped into a bowl of melted milk or dark chocolate.   The easiest way to make a chocolate drizzle or dip is to purchase the chocolate of your choice in morsel form at the grocery store.  Place the morsels in a microwave safe bowl, and melt the chocolate in the microwave for a couple seconds.  Continuously take the chocolate out of the microwave, stir the chocolate and return it to the microwave to heat up again for a couple more seconds.  After a couple minutes of heating and stirring the morsels will become a chocolate sauce.   

Cherry Topped Coconut Macaroon:  Cherries can bring a bright, fruit flavor to a basic coconut macaroon.  Jarred cherries come in a variety of types at the grocery store.  Since I am not a fan of preservatives, coloring’s and sugar I tend to prefer the jarred cherries that are offered at healthier grocery stores like Whole Foods and Chamberlains.  Check the ingredients before purchasing jarred cherries to ensure they fit your diet preferences.  One cherry works well atop a single coconut macaroon.  

Preserve Topped Coconut Macaroon:  Fruit preserves are offered in a variety of flavors.  One of my favorite fruit preserve toppings for a coconut macaroon is apricot.   No or low sugar apricot preserve can be found at most (if not all) of the healthy grocery stores.  Some major grocery store chains also carry no or low sugar preserves.  

Pineapple Sauced Topped Coconut Macaroon:  If you are a fan of adult beverages you know that pineapple and coconut go hand in hand.  A pineapple sauce is an amazing topping for a basic coconut macaroon.  Pineapple sauce can be purchased, pre-made, in a jar at most grocery stores.  Unfortunately these sauces typically contain a lot of sugar and preservatives.  A homemade pineapple sauce is really easy and quick to make.  Simply add about a cup of finely chopped fresh or frozen pineapple and 1/3 cup water to a medium saucepan.  Heat mixture to a boil and stir constantly until the mixture becomes a sauce.  You can add pure Stevia extract or sugar if you want to elevate the sweetness of the sauce.  

Salted Caramel Topped Coconut Macaroon:  One of the biggest trends in desserts is mixing salty and sweet.  Adding a salt and caramel drizzle to the top of a coconut macaroon makes it a trendsetting winner.  Pre-made caramel sauce is available at most grocery stores.  Be careful when purchasing pre-made caramel sauce though, most contain corn syrup and lots of emulsifiers.  For a healthy alternative, you can easily make caramel sauce at home.  Simply mix 1/8 teaspoon pure Stevia extract (or 3 tablespoons cane sugar), 1/4 cup coconut sugar, 1 tablespoon coconut oil, 1/2 cup coconut cream and a pinch of sea salt.  Heat coconut sugar, Stevia (or cane sugar) and coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Heat mixture until it comes to a boil and browns slightly.  Add cream and salt to the sugar mixture and constantly stir until a sauce forms.  Cool sauce slightly before using.   Drizzle caramel sauce over the coconut macaroon and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  

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