When I was a kid my mom would make chocolate coconut cake for special occasions, and ever since I've been hooked on coconut's sweet, nutty flavor. It's obviously great in desserts like cake and macaroons, but coconut can be used for so much more than that, from Thai curries to tropical cocktails. Whether you're in the mood for a decadent triple coconut cake, mussels steamed in curry, or a piña colada made without any artificial flavorings, you're sure to find something in our collection of 16 of our favorite coconut recipes.
Real-Deal Khao Soi Gai
Few cuisines make better use of coconut than that of Thailand. Coconut milk is a vital ingredient in a variety of curries, including the iconic noodle soup khao soi. The soup base is made with coconut milk and curry paste, which we prepare from scratch with chili, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, lime zest, turmeric, ginger, cilantro stalks, coriander seed, cardamom, and more.
Steamed Mussels With Thai-Style Coconut-Curry Broth
Beyond the fact that it's super easy, we love steamed mussels because of how well the mollusks take to whatever flavors you throw at them. Here we look to central Thailand, cooking the mussels in a fragrant coconut curry broth. If you don't shake the coconut milk before opening there should be a layer of coconut cream on top that is perfect for sautéing aromatics like garlic and shallots.
Thai-Style Cod à la Nage With Coconut Milk, Lime, and Lemongrass
This recipe gives a Thai twist to another French dish—cod à la nage—with lemongrass, ginger, fresh chilies, and fish sauce. A traditional à la nage preparation will typically call for poaching the fish in wine, fish stock, or water, but we keep the Thai theme going by using coconut milk (which you can cut with water if you want to make the dish a little lighter).
Vegan Peanut, Sweet Potato, and Kale Soup With Coconut
This recipe, inspired by West African groundnut stew, is made with crushed peanuts, sweet potato, and kale. We thicken the soup with coconut milk, which is a traditional addition. Less traditional are Thai flavors like garlic, ginger, and chilies, but the coconut lets the African and Asian flavors mesh wonderfully.
Thai Red Coconut Curry Popcorn
If you're bored of buttered popcorn, we have lots of other flavors for you to try. For this Thai-inspired variation we toss the popcorn with a powder made of coconut, chili powder, lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, garlic, and ginger. The chili packs some serious heat, so we add in a little muscovado sugar for balance.
Coconut Curry Dipping Sauce
This dipping sauce starts with coconut milk and red curry paste, which we enhance with sweet honey, salty soy sauce, aromatic ginger, tart lime juice, and umami-rich fish sauce. Coming together in just five minutes, this sauce is a natural partner for frozen dumplings if you want an easy dinner.
Warm Kale and Curried Chicken Salad With Toasted Coconut and Dried Cherries
There are a variety of ways to tenderize kale for a salad—here we opt to wilt the greens with the braising liquid used to cook curried chicken thighs. We shred the chicken, mix it with the kale, then top with coconut flakes and dried cherries for sweetness and textural contrast.
Triple Coconut Cake
If you're going to make the ultimate coconut cake, using the star ingredient just one or two ways isn't going to cut it. We put coconut into all three components of this cake: the frosting is made with coconut oil, the ganache is made with coconut milk, and the cake itself uses both of those ingredients and coconut flour.
Thai Coconut Sticky Rice With Mango (Khao Niao Mamuang)
There's more to Thai food and coconut than curry—coconut milk is also the key ingredient in one of the classic desserts. You make it by soaking Thai sticky rice in coconut milk that has been sweetened with sugar and seasoned with salt, then serving the steamed rice with fragrant Ataúlfo mangoes and a thick coconut milk sauce.
The Best Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons
These macaroons get their chewy interior, crispy exterior, and intensely coconut-y flavor from dried, unsweetened coconut that we toast in the microwave. Our recipe gives you two choices for sweetening—condensed milk is the most traditional option, but if you don't mind the macaroons having an unconventional brown color then dulce de leche is even better.
Vegan Coconut, Lime, and Rum Ice Cream
Packed with fat and protein, coconut milk and cream make for wonderfully rich vegan ice cream. Some of our recipes attempt to cover up the coconut with more traditional ice cream flavorings like mint chip, but this one embraces the tropical coconut by adding lime and dark rum.
Tropical Pineapple, Mango, and Coconut Fools
These summery fools are made with whipped cream thickened with Greek yogurt and flavored with pineapple compote and sweetened shredded coconut, which we layer with fresh mango. I like the elegance of constructing the fools in individual glasses, but you can also make a family-style fool in a trifle dish.
The Puerto Rican punch coquito is usually made with plenty of booze, but here we take the same flavors and make them into a breakfast-friendly smoothie. We keep the ingredient list short—just bananas, coconut milk, maple syrup, and nutmeg. Be sure to use coconut milk from a carton because it doesn't separate when chilled like canned coconut milk.
Ultra-Tropical Piña Colada
There's almost a certain charm to the tanning oil taste of a mediocre piña colada, but we can do better. That means replacing the Coco Lopez with coconut cream, which we blend with ripe fresh pineapple, rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. Freezing all of the ingredients before blending lets you cut down on the ice so that the drink is less diluted.
Peachy Rum and Coconut Frozen Blended Cocktail
This cocktail sticks with the rum and coconut cream, but also adds ripe (or even overripe) peaches. To keep the drink from being too sweet we blend in Angostura bitters and serve with a float of dark rum. Like with our piña colada, we freeze the ingredients before blending.
Amaretto Joy Milkshake
This grownup take on an Almond Joy replicates the flavor of the candy bar with chocolate ice cream, toasted coconut flakes and almonds, and coconut cream. A splash of amaretto liqueur reinforces the nuttiness of the coconut without making the shake too boozy.