Gluten-free coconut macaroons with unsweetened shredded coconut that are naturally dairy-free. These golden cookies are soft and chewy on the inside with a crisp caramelized shell. Serve them as is, or dipped in chocolate.
This post is brought to you by Bob’s Red Mill, a long-term partner of Snixy Kitchen
Not all bakeries have a yummy gluten-free treat in their pastry display, but when they do, you better believe I order it. There used to be a little French pastry shop nearby that made coconut macaroon cookies, which they made gluten-free and which I always stopped in for when passing by. They sadly closed up shop a couple of years ago, and now I find myself craving gluten-free coconut macaroons.
What's the Difference between a macaron and a macaroon?
Let's get all confusion out of the way (even google results for "macaroon" is confused!).
What you see here are macaroons, which are craggy cookies made of shredded coconut with egg whites and sugar - and sometimes flour. In this case, almond flour. Coconut macaroons are often dipped in or drizzled with chocolate.
Macarons, on the other hand, are (often colorful) meringue cookies sandwiched up with some kind of filling (fruit, ganache, cream, etc). The meringue is made with almond flour, sugar, and egg whites and requires quite a bit of precision to get the classic foot with the crisp shell. If that's what you're looking for, I partnered with Bob's Red Mill a few years ago to share a fool-proof matcha macaron recipe. You can leave the matcha out for plain macarons.
The best gluten-free coconut macaroon cookies
When made well, coconut macaroons have a crisp caramelized golden brown shell that gives way to a fluffy, moist, and chewy center. The coconut is neither stringy nor dry, but rather tender and nearly melts in your mouth with each bite.
These gluten-free coconut macaroons are my fourth recipe made this year in partnership with Bob’s Red Mill - my preferred gluten-free flour brand that I use for developing and testing all my recipes. Here’s a list of all the recipes I’ve made in collaboration with Bob’s Red Mill over the years. In addition to almond flour, for this post, I'm featuring one of my other go-to Bob's Red Mill products beyond flour - unsweetened shredded coconut.
Coconut macaroons with unsweetened coconut
I avoided coconut macaroons for years because I thought I despised shredded coconut. All stemming back to the year my mom dyed sweetened shredded coconut green to use as grass decoration on my birthday cake.
I still stand by that aversion though - the texture of sweetened shredded coconut is gross. In my opinion, it's stringy and hard to chew. Not to mention tied to childhood cake trauma.
It wasn't until I discovered Bob's Red Mill's unsweetened shredded coconut that I changed my tune, falling in love with shredded coconut. Unsweetened shredded coconut, that is. It's become a staple in my baking pantry. The coconut flavor is strong, the texture is fine and not at all stringy or chewy, but instead seems to melt when you eat it.
As an added bonus, with unsweetened coconut, you can control the sweetener and texture of your baked goods to your liking.
Most recipes for coconut macaroons call for sweetened coconut combined with condensed milk. To make a childhood-trauma-free coconut macaroon, I took my beloved Bob's Red Mill unsweetened coconut and granulated sugar and tested multiple methods to get that same soft texture of a classic macaroon. And in my opinion, the texture of the soft chewy center is even better made this way.
Many coconut macaroons are naturally gluten-free, but not all. If you're ordering from a bakery, be sure to check whether they add flour to the cookie mixture.
I love the subtle sweetness of almond flour, so to help with stability and add some moisture to the crumb, I use a couple of tablespoons of almond flour. The baked-up morsels do not taste like almonds, rather get just a hint of the sweet nuttiness.
To make a nut-free version, sub out the almond flour for 1 tablespoon gluten-free oat flour.
Coconut macaroons without condensed milk
Many coconut macaroons recipes call for sweetened condensed milk. I don't keep condensed milk on hand and I wanted to create coconut macaroons with pantry staples. Condensed milk, I would guess, helps moisten the coconut, evenly spreading the sweetness throughout the bite.
To get the same effect with granulated sugar, I melt the sugar with 1½ tablespoons of water before mixing it into the shredded coconut. Massage it well into the coconut to coat each shred with melted sugar.
I've tested this recipe without melting the sugar and it works, however, the texture is a bit denser, with the bottom half of the macaroon having more moisture from sugar when compared to this version. In essence, the sugar didn't evenly disperse among the coconut. However, if you're pressed for time, you can absolutely skip melting the sugar. Leave out the water and just mix the sugar and vanilla with the coconut and almond flour.
Letting coconut macaroons rest
Because this recipe uses unsweetened shredded coconut that is dried, letting the mixture rest will allow the coconut to soak up the moisture. This will give the baked cookie the best texture - tender and moist throughout, with a crisp caramelized shell.
If you're pressed for time, you may skip the rest period and bake them off immediately. I've tested without resting and found the mixture a bit more difficult to drop into mounds and the baked texture a little less chewy on the inside. You may also have to add another minute or so to the bake time.
Chocolate coconut macaroons
While I love these gluten-free coconut macaroons just as they are right out of the oven, when dipped in chocolate, they taste just like all the best parts of a Samoas® cookie.
Last week when I woke Ira (3) up from his nap, I asked him (from bed) if he wanted a cupcake. Taking his chances, he groggily replied, "how about a cookie?" His wager paid off; I had another test batch of these coconut macaroons on the cooling rack. Recognizing the cookies from the last batch, he chose one small macaroon over a cupcake. After taking a bite, he wailed, "BUT WHERE'S THE CHOCOLATE?!"
So I'm not saying you have to make chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons, but if you skip the chocolate, you might have to hear about it from your disappointed toddler.
You can also drizzle the chocolate over the top in stripes (or haphazardly) if that's more your style. I'm sure no toddlers would complain.
How to make coconut macaroons
- Combine the unsweetened shredded coconut, almond flour, and salt in a bowl.
- Heat the granulated sugar, water, and vanilla extract over low heat in a small saucepan until the sugar melts completely. Cook for 30 more seconds.
- Pour melted sugar into the shredded coconut, and mix well until evenly coated.
- Whip the egg whites in a small bowl until very frothy, but not peaked. Fold the egg whites into the coconut until completely combined.
- Let the cookie mixture rest for 30-60 minutes.
- Scoop 1 tablespoon packed mounds of the mixture onto a baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes.
- Let cool for 5 minutes on the pan then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Melt the chocolate then dip the bottom of the cooled macaroons in the melted chocolate and let cool to set.
Easy coconut macaroon recipe adaptations
- Whipping the egg whites substitution: Whipping the egg whites until frothy makes the center of the macaroon fluffier and lighter in contrast to the crisp shell. I've also tested this recipe without whipping the egg whites and it works, just slightly denser in comparison. If you're pressed for time, skip whipping the egg whites. just give them a light whisk with a fork and mix them into the shredded coconut and almond flour.
- Chocolate drizzle: If you want to save time or want a different look, you can drizzle the chocolate over the top of the macaroons instead of dipping each one. Then top with sprinkles while the chocolate is still wet if you want!
- Matcha: As a matcha lover, I'm not above throwing a teaspoon of matcha into all my baked recipes. Matcha pairs well with coconut, almond flour, and chocolate - add just 2 teaspoons of matcha powder to the coconut and almond flour for matcha macaroons.
- Strawberry, Mango, or Raspberry: Make strawberry, mango, or raspberry coconut macaroons by mixing ¼ cup ground and sifted freeze-dried strawberries, mangoes, or raspberries into the coconut and almond flour.
Dairy-free coconut macaroons
You're in luck! Made without sweetened condensed milk, this gluten-free coconut macaroons recipe is also naturally dairy-free. Made with just a few pantry ingredients, these coconut macaroon cookies are the perfect allergen-friendly dessert to bake for a potluck or cookie gift platter. Sub out the nut flour for gluten-free oat flour and you've got all your bases covered!
Tips for Making Gluten-Free Coconut Macaroons
- Use a light baking sheet: Coconut macaroons are best when baked until the shell is golden brown. A light baking sheet will prevent the bottoms of your macaroons from brown too quickly.
- Use a small cookie scoop: Scoop the macaroon mounds with a small cookie scoop. I like the crispy craggy edges, so I go back with my clean fingers to rough up the edges very slightly. A medium cookie scoop also works well if you prefer slightly larger macaroons.
- Be sure to let the edges brown: When the macaroons brown, the coconut toasts, and the sugar caramelizes into the most delicious shell.
- Take care not to overbake: If you overbake macaroons, you'll notice the inside starts to dry out. As with all cookies, I recommend baking off a test cookie to calibrate to your specific oven.
How to store coconut macaroons
Coconut macaroons keep really well. Store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. Alternatively, you can freeze them in a sealed freezer bag or container. Defrost completely on the counter before eating.
- 1½ cups + 1 tablespoon (160g) Bob's Red Mill unsweetened shredded coconut
- 2 tablespoons Bob's Red Mill super-fine blanched almond flour
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1½ tablespoons water
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 egg whites, room temperature
- 2½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a light baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the unsweetened shredded coconut, almond flour, and salt. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, heat the granulated sugar, water, and pure vanilla extract over low heat, mixing occasionally, until the sugar melts completely. Cook for 30 more seconds. Remove from heat and pour the melted sugar over the shredded coconut, using a rubber spatula to remove all the sugar from the pan. Mix well with a rubber spatula, until evenly combined. Note: after mixing with a rubber spatula until it cools a bit, I found it easiest to then massage the coconut with clean hands until completely combined. (See note below about not cooking the sugar).
- Meanwhile, whip the egg whites in a small bowl until very frothy, but not peaked yet. Fold the egg whites into the coconut until completely combined. (See note below about not whipping the egg whites).
- Let the mixture rest for 30-60 minutes so the coconut can soak up the moisture.
- Using a mini cookie scooper or spoons, scoop 1 tablespoon packed mounds of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them 1-inch apart.
- Working in batches, one sheet at a time, bake on the middle rack for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the cookies are golden brown on the outside.
- Let cool for 5 minutes on the pan then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- If dipping in chocolate, melt ¾ of the chopped chocolate in a small microwave-safe bowl, heating for 45 seconds, followed by 15-30-second intervals, stirring after each, until the chocolate is just melted. Stir in the remaining chocolate and mix until completely melted (note: if you have a few stubborn chunks of chocolate after this step, you can heat it once again for 15-30 seconds).
- Dip the bottom of the cooled macaroons in the melted chocolate about ⅛-inch up the side, then place it back on the parchment paper while the chocolate sets. Note: you can speed this up by popping the baking sheet in the fridge for a few minutes if you're impatient and want to eat them right away.
- Store cookies in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to a week.
Melting the Sugar: I've tested this recipe without melting the sugar and it works, however, the texture is a bit denser, with the bottom half of the macaroon having more moisture from sugar when compared to this version. If you're pressed for time, skip melting the sugar. Leave out the water and just mix the sugar and vanilla with the coconut and almond flour.
Whipping the Egg Whites: Whipping the egg whites until frothy makes the center of the macaroon fluffier and lighter in contrast to the crisp shell. I've also tested this recipe without whipping the egg whites and it works, just slightly denser in comparison. If you're pressed for time, skip whipping the egg whites. just give them a light whisk with a fork and mix them into the shredded coconut and almond flour.
Resting: Because this recipe uses unsweetened shredded coconut, letting the mixture rest will allow the coconut to soak up the moisture. This will give the baked cookie the best texture - tender and moist throughout, with a crisp caramelized shell. I've also tested without resting and it also works, but the mixture is a bit more difficult to drop into mounds and the baked texture is just a little less chewy on the inside. If you're pressed for time, skip the rest period and bake them off immediately. You may find you have to add another minute or so to the bake time.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 29Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 19mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 1g
This nutritional information has been automatically calculated, and as such, may be incomplete or inaccurate. Please reference the specific ingredients you use for the most accurate nutritional information.