Coconut Reigns Supreme as the International Fruit of Spring

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Coconut is a food staple in Africa and the Caribbean. Either the water, milk or it’s flesh is cooked in everything from candies to greens, beans, peas, and fish. Enslaved people brought their knowledge of breaking down and preparing coconut with them to America. They introduced the coconut cake to southern cuisine.

As spring arrives, we think about traditional holidays and observances across cultures and religions. For many, coconut is a featured ingredient when celebrating these special observances with food. The diversity of this fruit has universal appeal.

The tradition of coconut cake for the family’s Easter meal began in the southern United States but is now a tradition throughout the country. Did you know that in the Christian faith the coconut represents the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Falling from the highest point of the tree, the coconut symbolizes Jesus’ descent from God the Father.

For those of the Islamic faith, breastfeeding mothers drink coconut water while fasting during Ramadan. Coconut water provides the mothers with electrolytes of potassium, sodium, and manganese. Coconut water also increases mother’s milk supply.

Those of the Jewish faith eat foods prepared with coconut during the “Pesach” or Passover. A traditional favorite is coconut macaroons. The Italian Jewish community originally made macaroons from ground nuts, such as pistachios and almonds. A Philadelphia flour miller, Franklin Baker, discovered that shredding the coconut and drying it made it shelf stable and more affordable. His invention began the process of shipping coconut worldwide.

In the Dominican Republic the “Pasqua” which means Easter, is a time for “habichuelas con dulce”, which is a drink made from coconut milk, pureed red kidney or pinto beans, pureed white sweet potatoes, evaporated milk, raisins, cinnamon sticks, vanilla, cloves, and sugar and served hot.

Coconut is a food that plays an important role in spring cultural and religious observances. However you celebrate spring, make coconut a part of your culinary creations!

Enjoy this recipe for Coconut Macaroons by Jenn Segal

Coconut Macaroons

By Jenn Segal

Soft and chewy on the inside, crisp and golden on the outside — these are the perfect coconut macaroons.

Servings: 26 macaroons

Prep Time: 20 Minutes

Cook Time: 25 Minutes

Total Time: 45 Minutes


  • 1 14-oz bag sweetened flaked coconut
  • ⅞ cup sweetened condensed milk (see note below on measurement)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2large eggs whites
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, best quality, chopped (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Set two oven racks near the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the coconut, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form. Use a large rubber spatula to fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.
  4. Using a mini ice cream scoop or two spoons, form heaping tablespoons of the mixture into mounds on the prepared baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back, until the tops and edges are golden. Let cool on the pans for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. If dipping the macaroons in chocolate, melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl at medium power, stopping and stirring at 30 second intervals, until just smooth and creamy. (Alternatively, melt the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water.) Dip the bottoms of the macaroons in the chocolate, letting any excess drip back into the bowl, and return to the lined baking sheets. Place the macaroons in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to allow the chocolate to set. The cookies keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for about a week.
  6. Note: There is a lot of variability in coconut depending on the brand you purchase. For the best results, I recommend Baker’s Angel Flake (see package in the first picture on this page).
  7. Note: ⅞ cup = ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons
  8. Note: Make sure to use parchment paper (NOT wax paper) on the baking sheets. The macaroons will stick to wax paper.
  9. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The macaroons can be frozen for up to 3 months. (If you plan to dip them in chocolate, wait until you thaw them to do that.) Let them cool completely and store in an airtight container separating layers with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Before serving, remove the cookies from the container and let them come to room temperature.