Although usually indecisive, I almost immediately replied. “Macarons! The French ones.” After a brief pause, I continued. “I don’t actually like coconut very much.”
“Really?” Liren looked surprised on the video recording of our call.
It’s true. Unless it’s a really subtle flavor (like coconut oil), in curry (where strong spices mask the coconut milk taste), toasted to bring out its caramel notes (which I absolutely love!), or Samoas (my favorite Girl Scout cookies!)…
Then I generally avoid coconut. Like the plague.
However, Liren’s shocked reply still planted a seed in my mind. It had been years since I had last eaten a coconut macaroon… If not more than a decade. (Did I mention how much I strongly dislike coconut?)
Maybe it was time to give them — and coconut — another chance.
So after months of testing and tweaking and testing again, and a few moments of questioning my sanity…
I finally perfected the recipe for these Ultimate Healthy Coconut Macaroons. They’re light and sweet on the inside with that caramel-like toasted coconut flavor that I love so much on the outside. They’re also really simple to make with just 5 ingredients!
And after my final two batches, I laughed… I actually enjoyed those ones so much that I scribbled down in my recipe testing notebook “LOVED! Would actually make and eat again!”
So thank you, Liren, for asking that question and changing my mind about coconut macaroons! 😉
QUICK OVERVIEW — THE ULTIMATE HEALTHY COCONUT MACAROONS
Difficulty: Pretty easy, including for many beginner bakers.
Taste: Sweet and coconutty, with hints of caramel-like flavor from the toasted coconut on the outsides.
Texture: Light, fluffy, and soft on the inside with a crisp and slightly crunchy exterior.
WHAT ARE MACAROONS?
In a nutshell… Macaroons are flourless cookies. Many people believe they originated in Italy, possibly as early as the 8th or 9th century. The original versions supposedly were made from ground almonds or almond paste, but recipes switched to using coconut around the late 1800s because coconut didn’t spoil as readily and likely was easier to ship.
And because it’s easy to confuse the two since their names are so similar…
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MACAROONS AND MACARONS?
Macaroons and macarons are not the same thing! They share some similarities, including that they’re both made with egg whites and naturally gluten free.
However, French macarons (just one o!) are very light and delicate sandwich cookies made with whipped egg whites almond flour, and they often have some type of ganache, jam, or frosting as their filling.
Coconut macaroons (with two o’s!) are made from shredded coconut instead of almond flour. They’re not as airy as French macarons, but they’re also much easier to make and not nearly as finicky!
And the latter variety is the type we’re making today!
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE HEALTHY COCONUT MACAROONS
Let’s talk about the ingredients you need to make healthy macaroons! Like I briefly mentioned, there are just 5 of them. I bet you have almost all of them in your kitchen already!
Egg white. This is the glue that holds the cookies together, and it can act like a bit of a leavning agent too. To give macaroons their bright white color, you’ll just use the egg white — and skip the yolk!
Hint: Unlike many traditional cookie recipes, macaroons don’t include any leavening agents (aka baking powder or baking soda!), so many people enjoy them during Passover.
Vanilla. I found that adding vanilla to coconut macaroons gave them a better, slightly richer flavor.
Salt. Just a pinch! It balances out the sweetness.
Coconut. To make these ultimate healthy macaroons, you’ll need shredded unsweetened coconut. It looks very similar to shredded sweetened coconut, but it only has one ingredient… Coconut! (Shredded sweetened coconut also contains sugar and other ingredients that help the sugar stick to the coconut.)
Shredded coconut is not the same thing as flaked coconut — and that’s really important!
Flaked coconut (also called coconut flakes!) is much thicker and stiffer compared to shredded coconut. If you were comparing these two to grated cheese, flaked coconut would be the result of using the standard sized holes of a box grater, whereas shredded coconut would be the result of using the smallest holes.
This difference in size and texture greatly impacts the way your macaroons turn out. If you tried substituting flaked coconut (the thick and stiff stuff!), your macaroons would be much harder to shape, wouldn’t hold together as well, and can fall apart after baking. (Trust me… That batch resulted in tears and a lot of frustration!)
Tip: If you can only find unsweetened coconut flakes, then you can blitz them in a food processor or blender to make them smaller. Your macaroons won’t have quite the same light and fluffy texture, but they’ll be much closer — and the coconut mixture will be much easier to work with!
Note: Desiccated coconut is often about the same size as shredded coconut, but it’s much drier and more brittle. It’ll be a bit harder to work with than shredded coconut — but still much easier than flaked coconut!
The moral of the story? For the easiest macaroons and best results, use shredded unsweetened coconut!
Sweetener. I tried a few different sweeteners while testing this recipe. In the beginning, I used honey. Although I loved the flavor, it added too much liquid, and the macaroons turned out really moist without any crispness on the outside. They also looked incredibly dark in color… Almost chocolate brown!
Since many people think of macaroons as light in color (if not totally white!) with crisp exteriors, I scrapped the honey and liquid sweetener idea and turned to granulated white-colored sweeteners instead.
I tried monk fruit sweetener with a cup-for-cup sweetness equivalent to granulated sugar next. The macaroons turned out beautifully! They had gorgeous white-colored insides that were light and fluffy, and the coconut on the outsides turned out crisp, lightly toasted, and golden brown. I thought they were perfect — and so did the majority of my taste testers!
Hint: Lakanto’s classic sweetener is the monk fruit sweetener I use the most!
Since I know not everyone can find monk fruit sweetener, I also tried using regular granulated sugar. That batch turned out moister and chewier on the inside, and the outsides browned much more quickly. They still tasted just as delicious as the monk fruit version; it was mainly the texture that was different. (A few of my taste testers preferred that moist and dense texture, but everyone else loved the lightness of the monk fruit batches!)
If you look at the photos below, the monk fruit version is on the left, and the granulated sugar version is on the right. Both sets of macaroons were same size and baked for the same exact amount of time (23 minutes). Crazy how one small substitution can make such a big difference!
No sweetened condensed milk? These ultimate healthy macaroons are made without sweetened condensed milk. Since some of my family members and friends have issues with dairy, I wanted to make them dairy free so those people could enjoy them too!
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST HEALTHY COCONUT MACAROONS
Now that we’ve covered the ingredients you need (and some of the nerdy science and recipe testing things too!), let’s talk about how to make the best healthy coconut macaroons!
One bowl. To make this recipe as easy as possible, I developed it so that you’d only need one bowl. Quick, simple, and fewer dishes to wash — those things always make me one happy girl!
Use a cookie scoop. Because the macaroon mixture is fairly wet and the coconut sticks to your hands, use a small 1-tablespoon cookie scoop to shape the cookies. It looks like the one I own may not be sold in stores anymore, but this cookie scoop is similar and the same size!
Tip: I like to firmly press the coconut mixture into the cookie scoop with my favorite mini spatula before inverting the cookie scoop and releasing the mixture onto the baking sheet. Although it takes a little extra time and effort, I’ve found this helps the coconut stick together better!
Gently reshape. Sometimes the cookie scoop “wiper” drags on the coconut and creates a divot in the mound, so after scooping all of the mixture out onto the cookie sheet, I reshape them into more even, round, hemisphere-like shapes prior to baking. Since the coconut mixture does stick to your skin, moisten your fingers with water before gently shaping each mound!
Bake. These macaroons take at least 20 minutes to bake. At that point, the outsides will be firm, and the coconut on the tops will have started to turn a little golden and toasty. How much longer you bake them is up to you! I love lots of caramel-like toasted coconut flavor, so I generally leave mine in the oven longer.
Dip in melted chocolate. This is entirely optional… But highly recommended! Once your coconut macaroons have fully cooled, you can dip them in melted chocolate or drizzle their tops with melted chocolate — or both!
All of my taste testers and I agreed that the chocolate-dipped bottom enhanced the rich flavor of these healthy coconut macaroons. It’s also simple to do!
Tip: Use high quality bars of dark chocolate to do this! Most chocolate chips contain stabilizers and other ingredients that prevent them from melting into as smooth of a consistency as chocolate bars. Ghirardelli and Lindt are two of my favorites for this, and Ghirardelli also has some amazing chocolate morsels that work really well for melting and dipping too!
Another Tip: I like to keep my melted chocolate warm by placing the bowl on top of my metal panini press (I cover that in more detail here!), which makes dipping easier and gives the chocolate a shinier and more even appearance (without any spots or speckles!).
FAQS ABOUT HEALTHY COCONUT MACAROONS
Are these coconut macaroons gluten free? Dairy free?
Yes! These coconut macaroons are naturally gluten free. Because they’re made without sweetened condensed milk, they’re also dairy free.
Are these coconut macaroons sugar free? Paleo? Keto? Low carb?
Yes again — to all! If you use the monk fruit option, then your coconut macaroons are sugar free, paleo, keto, and low carb.
Can I use unsweetened coconut flakes to make macaroons?
I don’t recommend it. Flaked coconut is thicker and drier, so it negatively impacts the texture of your coconut macaroons and makes the mixture harder to work with. However, if that’s the only kind of unsweetened coconut you can find, then see the Notes section of the recipe. There, I’ve shared how to substitute unsweetened coconut flakes. (Just remember the texture will be a bit different!)
Can I substitute shredded sweetened coconut?
I haven’t tried, but I think that should work. If you end up trying it, would you leave me a comment on this blog post? I’d love to hear how that turns out!
How should I store coconut macaroons? How long do they last?
Store your coconut macaroons in an airtight container. If stored like that at room temperature, they should last at least 5 days, if not longer. If you store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator, they’ll last at least 8 days.
Can I mail coconut macaroons? To friends and family, for example, for Christmas or the holidays?
You’re so sweet and thoughtful — yes! These coconut macaroons ship quite well. I’ve covered the best way to mail cookies here. As long as you add enough padding to your package, they should arrive safe and sound — and completely intact!
Ready to bake? And when you make your own, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your healthy coconut macaroons!
The Ultimate Healthy Coconut Macaroons
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white until it just barely starts to turn frothy. Whisk in the vanilla and salt. Thoroughly stir in the monk fruit sweetener and water. Stir in the coconut until thoroughly and evenly coated.
- Using a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop, drop rounded mounds of the coconut mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. (See Notes!) After forming all of the cookies with the cookie scoop, dip your fingers into water (to help prevent the coconut mixture from sticking to your skin), and gently reshape each mound into a more evenly rounded hemisphere.
- Bake at 325°F for 21-26 minutes, or until the outsides are firm and the coconut is as golden and toasted as you prefer. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Gingerbread Cookies
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Sugar Cookies
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Biscotti
♡ Healthy Flourless Peppermint Mocha Brownie Bites
♡ Healthy Flourless Triple Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
♡ Healthy Dark Chocolate Peppermint Truffles
♡ Healthy Flourless Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
♡ The Easiest Ever Caramel Sauce (keto & paleo!)
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy cookie recipes!