The Retro Mom

Bringing your grandmother's comfort food out of her recipe box and into your gluten-free kitchen

Such Good Coconut Macaroons Gilligan Would Be Jealous


Coconut is everywhere. Coconut everything. Every mainstream-media-anything is touting the benefits of coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut water.

Gilligan would be so happy! Science will probly figure out that the only way that the castaways survived on the island was because they consumed so much coconut that it strengthened every fiber in their bodies.

The good news about this surge of coconut goodness into your neighborhood market is that you now have an alternative to that flaked, overly sweetened super-moist and chunky coconut sitting next to the chocolate chips. It doesn’t even taste like coconut. I think that long ago it was made from coconut and sugar, but today? It’s made from this: Coconut, Sugar, Water, Propylene Glycol (Preserves Freshness), Salt, Sodium Metabisulfite (Retains Coconut Whiteness). I’m not going to get all preachy about food additives, preservatives, propylene glycol and sulfites. But you may want to ask yourself – why is all this needed in simple grated coconut? If you are making cookies, chances are you will be adding even more sugar in with the coconut and/or some sweetened condensed milk. Do your body and family a favor, buy coconut that is unsweetened and natural. I used Bob’s Red Mill Coconut. No preservatives needed.

(jumps down from soapbox)



OK, so I wanted to do something with coconut and lo and behold – coconut macaroons sounded perfect! No, not macarons – those delightful little French sandwiches of yummy goodness that I havn’t been able to master yet…….but coconutty macaroons – little cookies of naturally gluten-free goodness. And event the store-brands have gluten in them it seems. Now, up until yesterday my experience with macaroons had involved a can of sweetened, condensed milk, eggs and coconut. But, we are dairy-free in this house so I had to look in my books for a recipe that was invented before that can of yumminess had been produced. And each recipe that I found was alarming!

Eep! Recipe after recipe said the same thing – cook your egg whites and coconut before baking them. What!?! I had never heard of such a thing. I kept looking through vintage cookbooks hoping for an easier way – one that made sense to my modern brain and tastebuds. Cooking egg whites and then baking them? It seems in my quest to be as true to these cherished recipes as I want to be, I would need to follow the directions precisely and then have no one to blame but the now defunct publishers when I pulled out a bunch of ruined cookies from the oven. I could sue! OK, maybe not. But I was curious and confused. Why had I not heard of this method before? Could it actually work?

With a sigh, I pulled out my eggs, Kitchenaid mixer and double-boiler.

And I dutifully whipped the egg whites, added the sugar, coconut and tapioca starch and then heated the water…….I cooked and waited. Then I dropped splurbs of the mixture on a baking sheet and baked. I impatiently looked about a million times to monitor the progress of these foreign cookies and cautiously took them out of the oven.

They worked!


Not only did they work, they worked. Tossing the hot little cookies from hand to hand I managed to inhale several before stopping to take pictures. Honestly, I was shocked! They tasted like the macaroons of my childhood from delis and bakeries. I can’t describe it, but once you have one you will realize how those store-bought ones really don’t taste as good as handmade. And your gluten-eating friends will find it hard to believe that there is no flour in these cookies! Now, I did add some chocolate chips in for the ones going to Artoo – he needs chocolate in all cookies but sugar cookies. That’s just how he works. And the chocolate chips were good, but not necessary. If you love coconut, like I do, you will swoon over this macaroon!

The recipe is from The Illustrated Good Housekeeping Encyclopedic Cookbook, book 3, published in 1965. Wow, that’s a mouthful.


Santa Claus seems to like them! I hope you will too!

Coconut Macaroons 

I used all of the ingredients above except for the cornstarch – I used tapioca starch instead. I followed the directions as written. And they made exactly 2 1/2 dozen. How many recipes can you say are spot on for output these days?

*Helpful Hints from Heloise:

1. Whip eggs until stiff but not dry?? Really? Translation – until they start to hold their shape, and don’t fall back down into the mixing bowl. Do not beat any further. Add sugar and beat briefly to combine thoroughly.


2. Fold? Stir in the other ingredients with a light touch – you don’t want to beat in the coconut, etc – lightly, lightly, stir by lifting your mixture up from the bottom and “folding” it over the top of the mixture.

3. Double boiler? Every kitchen needs a double-boiler. If you don’t have one, I’m sure there are many makeshift ways to MacGyver one on the internet. I absolve myself of any responsibility for any injuries you sustain from trying said Macgyvering. Be safe. Just buy or borrow a double-boiler.


4. Delicate brown? Barely brown.

All in all, this was a very, very good recipe – brief, easy to make and so tasty! And I will say this – after 2 days out on the counter, they are STILL tasty and have even improved!!

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