This recipe was an accident.
When I set out to create a healthy version of classic coconut macaroons a few months ago, I wanted to make them without the sweetened condensed milk found in many traditional recipes. An idea quickly popped into my head.
“What about honey? It’s sweet and also has a thicker consistency, kind of like sweetened condensed milk…”
Twenty minutes later, a mixing bowl and ingredients sat on my counter as I portioned little mounds of coconut onto a baking sheet with a small cookie scoop. After shaping them into perfect hemispheres with my fingers, I slid the pan into the oven, set a timer, and crossed my fingers.
When it rang, I froze.
Although pale and fluffy before baking, those beautiful macaroons had already turned a rich golden color… And they still weren’t done. They needed another 13 minutes in the oven for the insides to bake all the way through, pushing their color even farther down the spectrum, almost all the way to gingerbread brown.
When I finally transferred them to a wire cooling rack, my heart sank. Like a sore thumb, their deep sepia hue stood out in stark contrast to the classic bright white color I had envisioned.
“Nobody will want to eat a coconut macaroon that looks like burnt caramel,” I thought to myself. “Ugh. Back to the drawing board…”
Still, once the dishes sat drying in the sink and the cookies had fully cooled, I gave in, reached for one, took a bite…
And immediately laughed, twirled, and cheered, startling my sleeping dog in the process.
They tasted like Samoas – my favorite Girl Scout cookies!
Although I’d still like to create a true copycat version someday, complete with a crunchy vanilla cookie base and buttery caramel too, in the meantime, this “happy accident” of a recipe for healthy homemade “Samoa” cookies – aka honey coconut macaroons! – totally satisfies my Girl Scout cookie cravings. It’s simple to make with just five ingredients (plus chocolate for dipping!), and unlike Girl Scout cookies that are only sold a few weeks of the year, you can make and enjoy these homemade cookies all year round!
QUICK OVERVIEW – HEALTHY HOMEMADE “SAMOA” COOKIES (HONEY COCONUT MACAROONS)
Difficulty: Mainly easy, including for many beginner bakers.
Taste: Lots of warm toasted coconut flavor paired with an almost buttery, caramel-like taste from the honey and finished with rich dark chocolate. They’re not quite as sweet as Girl Scout Samoas (also called Caramel deLites!) – but in a good way. (Sort of like “grown up” Samoas!)
Texture: Light, moist, and soft interiors of chewy coconut, with hints of crisp toasted coconut on the outsides.
Note: These are coconut macaroons – not to be confused with French macarons! Although they’re spelled similarly, they’re quite different. The latter are elegant sandwich cookies made with whipped egg whites and almond flour that are often filled with jam, ganache, nutella, or other fun spreads. French macarons are more finicky to make, especially compared to this simple macaroon recipe I’m about to share with you!
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE HEALTHY HOMEMADE “SAMOA” COOKIES (HONEY COCONUT MACAROONS)
Let’s go over what you’ll need to make these homemade Samoa-like cookies! Like I previously mentioned, you only need a few ingredients, and I bet you have most of them in your kitchen already.
Shredded unsweetened coconut. You can’t make macaroons (or Samoas!) without the coconut! Unlike the sweetened version that contains sugar and other ingredients, shredded unsweetened coconut only contains one thing… Coconut!
Shredded coconut is different than flaked coconut (also called “coconut flakes”). The flaked version is thicker and drier – and that creates a problem with macaroons. It prevents the cookies from holding together, which is very frustrating when you’re trying to shape them. (Trust me. I may know from personal experience.)
Hint: If you were to compare these two to grated cheese, flaked coconut would be the result of using the standard holes of a box grater, while shredded coconut would be what you’d get by using the smaller holes.
Both of these are different than desiccated coconut. This third type is closer in size and shape to shredded coconut, but it’s drier and more brittle, which impacts the texture of your cookies.
So in a (coco)nut shell? Try to find shredded unsweetened coconut because that’s what works best in these Samoa macaroons!
Egg white. This binds the coconut with other ingredients, gives your cookies structure, and helps hold everything together. Just like in most classic macaroon recipes, you only need the white, not the yolk!
Honey. This is the sweetener you’ll need for your coconut macaroons. It caramelizes while your cookies bake, which gives these cookies a magical taste almost exactly like the buttery caramel of Samoa Girl Scout cookies.
However, one quick thing to note… Honey is already amber in color, so when it caramelizes, it turns much darker in color – especially compared to the lighter color of caramelized granulated sugar. We’ll cover this in more detail soon (see the “Don’t panic!” header below!), but just keep in mind that a deep, dark golden brown color is actually a good thing for these cookies!
Vanilla. Vanilla extract enhances the buttery notes of the caramelized honey to give these coconut cookies a taste almost exactly like that iconic buttery, caramel flavor of Samoa Girl Scout cookies.
Salt. Just a pinch! It balances the sweetness and richness of the honey, and it brings out the toasted coconut flavors too.
Dark chocolate. Yes, I know… Samoa Girl Scout cookies are made with milk chocolate, not dark. But I’m still sticking with dark chocolate for a few reasons.
First, it does a better job at balancing out the sweetness of the honey. Second, it has a thinner, more liquidy consistency when melted, and that makes it much easier to evenly coat the bottoms of your cookies, as well as drizzle on top of them. And third… I like dark chocolate better. 😉
However, not all dark chocolate is created equal! The best chocolate to use in this homemade “Samoas” recipe is at least 70% dark chocolate – but higher is fine too. (If I’m making these for myself and not to share, I’ll use anywhere from 85-95%!)
The higher the percentage, the thinner the consistency when melted – and the easier it is to work with.
My favorites are Ghirardelli (72%) and Lindt (70%). They taste deliciously rich and melt like a dream! Other brands, like Hershey’s special dark or Cadbury dark chocolate, are much lower in percentage. They’re closer to 45% dark chocolate, and they’re thick and goopy when melted, which makes it harder (and more frustrating!) to drizzle and dip.
Note: Do not use chocolate chips. They typically contain a stabilizer, which prevents them from melting properly.
HOW TO MAKE HEALTHY HOMEMADE “SAMOA” COOKIES (HONEY COCONUT MACAROONS)
Now that you have your ingredients, let’s go over how to make the best homemade Samoa-like cookies. This recipe is fairly simple and straightforward, but I still have some tips for you!
Blitz the coconut. Before using it, add your shredded coconut to a blender or food processor, and pulse it a few times. Just a few – you don’t want to turn it into fine crumbs or powder! The goal is to break up those longer and larger coconut strands and make them smaller. This helps your cookies hold together better, and it also gives them a better soft and chewy texture inside.
Shape. To make these honey coconut macaroons, I used a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop. The one I have doesn’t seem to be sold in stores anymore, but this one is very similar. I filled it not quite all the way to the brim and then gently pressed the coconut into it with this mini spatula (the back of a spoon would also work!) before pressing the mixture out onto the baking sheet.
Note: I rarely use a cookie scoop to make cookies… Except for coconut macaroons. This handy tool makes portioning out the cookie “dough” much easier, especially since the mixture is pretty sticky!
Once you’ve dolloped the coconut mixture onto your baking sheet, the little mounds can look a little misshapen and often need a little extra love (especially if your cookie scoop’s wiper drags and creates a big divot in the center!). To turn any lopsided mounds into gorgeous, perfectly round hemispheres, moisten your fingers with a little water to prevent the coconut from sticking to them, and gently press the mixture into place.
Bake – but don’t panic! These macaroons take a while to finish baking. That long time in the oven will cause the tops turn a deep golden color, and it’ll make the bottoms look really dark brown, almost the same shade as gingerbread or dark chocolate. But remember what we talked about with the honey above? How it’s normal for honey to turn a much darker color? So…
Don’t panic! The darker-than-normal colors are a sign that the honey is caramelizing correctly – and a sign that your macaroons will have the same Samoa-like flavor as those irresistible Girl Scout treats. 😉
HOW TO DIP AND DRIZZLE HEALTHY HOMEMADE “SAMOA” COOKIES (HONEY COCONUT MACAROONS)
Once your honey coconut macaroons have cooled completely to room temperature, it’s time to coat their bottoms and drizzle their tops with melted chocolate to make them look like the Girl Scouts’ Samoa cookies. In addition to the advice about the best chocolate to use (remember, we covered that above!), I have a few more tips for you!
Keep your melted chocolate warm while you dip. This makes it easier to get a nice, even coating, and it also gives the chocolate a prettier appearance. (If your chocolate starts to cool and you need to reheat it, the finished chocolate coating often ends up with freckles or speckles!)
I use a panini press to keep my melted chocolate warm. Mine isn’t sold anymore, but this one is similar. It has a metal top that turns hot when it’s plugged in, so I lay a folded washcloth on top and put my bowl of melted chocolate on top of that. It works like a charm!
Tip: An electric pancake griddle would also work!
Go slow. A thick dark chocolate layer can sometimes overpower the cookies’ caramel-like flavor. Aim for just a thin layer on the bottom, and let the excess fully drip off before placing the dipped cookie back on the baking sheet. I just barely nestle the bottom of the cookie into the melted chocolate, and I hold the dipped cookie sideways, almost vertically, over the bowl for at least 20-30 seconds as the extra chocolate drips off. Patience is key!
Once you’re done dipping, transfer the leftover melted chocolate to a zip-topped bag, and…
Cut a very small hole from one corner that zip-topped bag. Teensy. Tiny. Much, much smaller than you think. Also, use a “Goldilocks” approach to squeeze out the melted chocolate: not too firm, not too light, but just right. Start with the bag a little to the side of the macaroon (not directly over it!), and wave it back and forth as you squeeze the bag. That’s how I got such thin lines of chocolate drizzle on top of my homemade Samoa-like macaroons!
Put them in the refrigerator when you’re done. This just helps the chocolate harden faster. In other words… You get to eat your homemade “Samoa” cookies that much sooner!
FAQS ABOUT HEALTHY HOMEMADE “SAMOA” COOKIES (HONEY COCONUT MACAROONS)
Are these healthy “Samoa” macaroon cookies gluten free, dairy free, clean eating, or paleo?
Yes – to all of the above! Because they’re made entirely with shredded coconut, these honey-sweetened cookies are also flourless.
I can’t find shredded unsweetened coconut. What can I substitute?
To keep your cookies clean eating friendly, you can use unsweetened flaked coconut, as long as you do a good job pulsing it in a blender or food processor or blender first. (Because it’s thicker, this is really important. If you don’t, your macaroons won’t hold together very well!) If that’s not a big concern, then shredded sweetened coconut is a great alternative.
Can I substitute something else for the honey?
I haven’t tried any other sweeteners, so I can’t vouch for the results and how they’ll impact the taste, texture, or appearance. If you do end up trying something else, I’d love to hear how your cookies turn out!
What’s the best chocolate for dipping?
Bars of dark chocolate are the best. I recommend at least 70% dark chocolate – see the “dark chocolate” header in the ingredients section above for more information!
How did you get such a thin chocolate drizzle on top?
Patience, a gentle touch, and a zip-topped bag. See the “dip and drizzle” section above for more information! 😉
How should I store these healthy homemade “Samoa” cookies? And how long do they last?
Store your macaroons in an airtight container. If stored at room temperature, they should last for at least a few days, if not closer to a week. You can also store them in the refrigerator to make them last longer!
Ready to make your own? 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 “Samoa” cookies!
Healthy Homemade "Samoa" Cookies (Honey Coconut Macaroons)
- Add the coconut to a blender or food processor, and pulse a few times until the longest and largest strands are ¼ to ⅛ of their original size.
- 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 honey. 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 27-30 minutes, or until the tops are firm and a dark golden color. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once the cookies have cooled completely, line a baking sheet with wax paper or parchment paper.
- Place the dark chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds. Stir for 1 minute. Continue to heat for 10-second intervals, stirring for 1 minute between each, until the chocolate has completely melted. (I highly recommend keeping it warm while you dip your macaroons. See Notes below!)
- Working with one macaroon at a time, carefully dip it in the melted chocolate, and let the excess drip off by very gently shaking it above the bowl. Place the dipped macaroon back onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining melted chocolate and macaroons.
- Once all macaroons have been coated, transfer the remaining melted chocolate to a zip-topped bag. Cut off a tiny piece from one corner, and drizzle the chocolate over the tops of the macaroons. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes (or the freezer for 5-10 minutes) or until the chocolate has hardened.
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You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Homemade Thin Mints
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Coconut Macaroons
♡ Healthy Samoa Cookie Scones
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♡ Healthy Dark Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
♡ Healthy Caramel Sauce (2 Ingredients!)
♡ Healthy Chocolate Caramel Seven Layer Bars
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy cookie recipes!