Coconut Lover’s recipes

May 12, 2008 at 1:22 p.m. ET

When you think of coconut, do you consistently think of sweets like Almond Joys or coconut cream pies? Did you know that coconut is equally - if not even more - delicious in savory dishes, from salad dressings to satisfying entrees? If you love coconut, you can incorporate coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut water and, of course, coconut meat into many mouthwatering meals. Best yet, despite being high in fat, coconut is considered a super food, especially coconut oil. Here are some delectable savory coconut recipes.

According to Bruce Fife, N.D., author of the Coconut Lover's Cookbook, the coconut is a nut that, unlike other nuts and seeds, is a source of several healthy food products: coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut water and coconut meat. All of which can be used in savory dishes as well as desserts. Here is some info on coconut and three dynamite savory dishes for you to enjoy.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is being hailed as one of the healthiest oils you can consume. Though coconut is high in saturated fat, research indicates that the length of the saturated fatty acids are the reason coconut oil is unlike the saturated fat in animals products that is maligned as being unhealthy. Medium-chained fatty acids: Coconut oil contains medium-length chain fatty acids, or medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). These medium chain fatty acids are different from the longer chain fatty acids, which are typically stored in the body as fat. MCTs are quickly burned in the body for energy and are believed to boost metabolism. Nutraceutical properties: In addition to being helpful in weight loss, MCTs also contain lauric acid and are akin to the fats in mother's milk. According to, modern research suggests that the MCTs, monoglycerides, and abundance of lauric acid found primarily in coconut oil and mother's milk are nutraceutical in effect, from antimicrobial and antibacterial properties to effectiveness in lowering cholesterol and risk of heart disease. Coconut oil is also included in anti-inflammatory diets, to help conditions such as allergies, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer's. Take note that when cooking with coconut oil, though it is a stable oil at moderate temperatures, it is not as effective as other oils in keeping foods from sticking to cookware. Fife suggests that if you are going to use coconut oil to sauté food, blend it with another type of oil, such as olive oil, to ensure your foods don't stick. However, if you are going to use coconut oil in uncooked dishes, such as dressings, you don't need to blend it, unless desired. You can find coconut oil in health food stores, supermarkets, or order through the Shopping Channel.

Here is Fife's recipe for a delicious Sesame Seed Dressing.

Sesame Seed Dressing

Makes about 1 1/4 cups Ingredients:
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons tamari sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt Directions:
1. Put coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and sauté sesame seeds and almonds until light brown. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Stir in remaining ingredients. 2. As the dressing sits, the oil will separate to the top and the sesame and almonds will sink to the bottom. Stir just before using. Spoon this dressing over steamed vegetables, green salads, or use as a dipping sauce for skewered fish or poultry.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is not the liquid in the center of a whole coconut. Coconut milk is actually made from extracting the juice from the coconut meat. Coconut milk is creamy and tastes nutty. When buying coconut milk, do not confuse it with coconut cream, which is a tasty sweetened beverage often used in desserts. Canned coconut milk is unsweetened and can be used in both sweet and savory recipes. Lite coconut milk is simply coconut milk that has been watered down to reduce the total fat content. Here is a succulent garlicky curry dish from The Fitness Kitchen by Shelly Sinton, MS

Curry Salmon and Greens

Makes about 6 cups Ingredients:
1 pound boneless, skinless salmon fillet, cubed
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced gingerroot
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons fish sauce or soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce or more to taste
2 tomatoes, diced
1 pound Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves steamed until soft, chopped Directions:
1. Season salmon with salt and pepper and set aside. In a large nonstick pan, heat oil over medium heat and sauté onion until soft. Add jalapeno, garlic and ginger and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. 2. Add coconut milk, lime juice, fish or soy sauce, brown sugar and hot sauce. Bring to a simmer but do not boil. Add salmon and tomatoes and bring back to a simmer. Add greens and simmer until salmon is cooked through. Serve warm.

Coconut Meat

You can buy a whole coconut at the grocery store, break it open and enjoy the fresh meat (and mix the coconut water into your smoothies or soups) or you can buy ready-to-eat coconut meat. Dried coconut is typically the preferred form of coconut used in recipes and dried is usually the form of coconut sold. Freeze-dried is another ready-to-eat form and can be substituted for dried coconut. It tends to be naturally sweeter than dried coconut so you may need to adjust ingredients to taste. Coconut can be bought shredded, grated and flaked as well as sweetened and unsweetened. Opt for unsweetened and add your own natural sweeteners to taste. Coconut meat is composed mostly of non-digestible fiber, making it a perfect food for low-carb diets as well as people looking to deliciously increase the amount of fiber in their diets. Add some flavorful fiber to your diet with this Coconut Chicken recipe (one of my favorite).

Coconut Chicken

Serves 4 Ingredients:
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Generous pinch of cayenne
Generous pinch of sugar
2 eggs
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Combine coconut, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, cayenne and sugar in a wide-shallow bowl. In a second bowl, whisk eggs until well-beaten. 2. Dip chicken breasts in egg then coconut mixture. Use your fingers to coat all sides of the chicken breasts with coconut mixture, then place on baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and coating is lightly browned. And if you are craving some sweet coconut recipes, try these:

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Coconut Mango Whip Warm Chocolate Coconut Cake