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By Jacqueline Kleis

Go to any supermarket, and coconut is everywhere. From oil to water, flour to milk, yogurt to chips, shampoo and lotions, the nutrient-rich "nut" under the palm tree has truly taken over the global market.

For centuries, those of us living in the seaside areas of Latin America, the Caribbean and beyond know what it's like to just use a machete to cut a coco across the top, make an opening and allow our thirst to be quenched by the coconut water inside its husk. Now you can see folks drinking it from a can or bottle at the gym; it provides natural hydration with no added sugars.

Better yet is to eat the delicate jelly-like meat surrounding the inner shell of a green coconut. It's not surprising that with its rich and creamy taste and its delicate aroma, the coconut has been a backbone flavor for coastal cuisines in Latin America.

Coconut meat is high in fiber — as well as fat — and a little goes a long way.

Here are some simple, sweet and savory recipes using the popular coconut. Coconut milk adds creaminess to the Pumpkin Soup recipe and it is dairy-free.

The Coconut Rice with Cilantro is an example of how easy it is to add some coconut to rice dishes for an aromatic flavor.

For those who love working in the kitchen, we show you how to make coconut milk from scratch.

And with the leftover coconut meal from squeezing the milk, make the “Polvo de Amor” or “Love Powder” recipe. Sprinkle it over your favorite dessert, salad, or dish, and experience why the world has fallen in love with coconut! Disfruten - enjoy.

Coconut Rice with Cilantro

Coconut Rice and Cilantro by Jacqueline KleisSara Lazaro / Jacqueline Kleis


Serves: 6-8

  • 2 cups long grain rice or basmati.
  • 2 oz. coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro


In a fine mesh strainer, rinse the rice with cold water. In a medium sized pan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the diced onions and sauté for a few minutes. Add rice and stir. Add the coconut milk, water, salt. Once it begins to boil, lower the heat, stir with a spoon, and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes until tender. Stir in fresh chopped cilantro before serving.

Fresh Coconut Milk

Cracked coconutAlbert K Howard


Makes 7 cups

  • 2 medium-sized coconuts
  • 6 cups warm tap water (120 F)


  1. Crack open the coconuts by piercing with a screwdriver the dark spots or “eyes” on top of the coconut. Drain the coconut water in a bowl and reserve for other uses. Place the coconut in the oven at 400 F for 15 minutes or until surface cracks. Remove and place on a hard surface and smash it open with a hammer.
  2. Remove the coconut meat from its inner shell using a blunt knife or the back of a large spoon. Grate the coconut and place it in a bowl. Add the warm water and allow it to sit for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Line a mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth or a thin kitchen towel and place it over a bowl. Pour the coconut and water mix and strain the mix. Gather the edges of the cloth and extract all the liquid by twisting the edges together. Use the left over coconut meat for other recipes. Cover and refrigerate coconut milk until ready to use. Keeps well refrigerated for up to seven days.

Polvo de Amor or Love Powder


  • 4 cups unsweetened grated coconut *
  • 1 pound of sugar


  1. Place sugar and grated coconut in a large skillet. Stirring constantly, cook over medium high heat approximately 6-7 minutes or until it reaches a golden color. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. Sprinkle over your favorite dessert or dish. Keep covered in a sealed container. It's best to use grated coconut left over from making fresh coconut milk.

Pumpkin Soup with Coconut

Pumpkin Soup with Coconut by Jacqueline KleisEdgar Bertrán Photgraphy / Jacqueline Kleis


Serves: 6-8

  • 2 ½ lbs. pumpkin or calabaza, peeled and cubed
  • 2 oz. coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup diced celery
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley to garnish


In a large kettle, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and celery and sauté until wilted. Add pumpkin, chicken broth, and grated ginger and simmer until pumpkin is tender. Put the soup mix in a blender and puree until smooth. Return to kettle, add coconut milk, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, decorate with a splash of additional coconut milk and a sprig of parsley.

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