Alice Medrich's New Classic Coconut Macaroons

March 23, 2012

Every week, FOOD52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: Macaroons go punk rock.

coconut macaroons

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- Kristen

We can be anything we want to be, if we have learned anything from macaroons.

Murkily defined, they can be made from almond or coconut (or both) and take many forms: the haute French prom queen macaron, the ragged Italian brutti ma buoni, or the sweetly decadent American coconut ball we know and love.

coconut chips

Even the coconut ones show shifts in personality -- from the tinned version people either recall fondly or ultimately reject; to 2-ingredient home cook recipes (sweetened coconut + condensed milk); to glossy, crackling pyramids from the likes of David Lebovitz. All are proud macaroons; all have their strengths.

alice medrich  chewy gooey crispy crunchy

So we may as well keep riffing. Alice Medrich, chocolatier and author of scads of baking cookbooks, is famously a little wild with her desserts. She often veers away from traditional cakes and cookies in the most thrilling way, adding white pepper to her marble cake, and buckwheat to her butter cookies -- making both not just more interesting, but simply better. Such is the reward for her risk-taking; and the incentive for us to follow in her offroad macaroon adventures.


What seems in part to define macaroons is what they (usually) lack: flour. Which makes them perfect for Passover observers and gluten avoiders -- and just about everyone else too.

Medrich's macaroons do fall in line here by abstaining from flour, relying on little more than coconut for heft, and that magical brew of egg whites and sugar to hold it all together. There's also a bit of salt and a bit more vanilla, but deep down this recipe is a vehicle for eating piles of coconut.

coconut macaroons

And this is where Medrich gets experimental. She developed this recipe not with the standard bag of sweetened, angel flake coconut in mind, but those wide, sloping unsweetened shavings, often called coconut chips and sold at health food stores nowadays. (We've talked about these before.)

They're an incredible ingredient, as welcome in granola as in the thing I call trail mix (a.k.a. a bowlful of chocolate chips and pecans, a dried cherry or two, and, most importantly, this coconut). It richly deserves to have a cookie designed around it. (Medrich found the recipe also works wonderfully even with the angel flake coconut, in case you can't get your hands on some of the nice stuff.)

coconut macaroons

To make that cookie, all you do is mix up five ingredients in a bowl over some simmering water, then set the bowl aside for 30 minutes "to absorb the goop," as Medrich says. Then you simply heap it attractively onto your parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until the tiny wings of coconut toast up crisp and brown, while the inside layers stay soft and discrete.

new classic coconut macaroons

Amanda said they looked armadillo-like in their defenses, but the toasty spires are easy enough to breach, if we are to gauge by how quickly all our test batches were torn through.

Naturally, Medrich offers two even more exotic upgrades: 1) Instead of painting a little chocolate shoe on the bottom of each macaroon, why not jam a piece of chocolate in each still-hot cookie and watch it melt? 2) For that matter, why not lace it with lime zest and shower it with cinnamon? Who are we to say that's not a macaroon?

coconut chocolate macaroons

Alice Medrich's New Classic Coconut Macaroons

Adapted very slightly from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich (Artisan, 2010)

Makes about 22 cookies

4 large egg whites
3 1/2 cups unsweetened dried flaked, not shredded, coconut (also known as coconut chips) or 3 cups sweetened, dried shredded coconut
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Slightly rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt

See a slideshow and the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].



Photos by James Ransom


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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Marcia Greenberg
    Marcia Greenberg
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    Stefani Pollack
  • Foodelf
  • thecrabbycook
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Marcia G. February 27, 2023
Do you think I could use a sugar substitute- the ones that measure one to one, like Truvia? Thanks
icuqt3.14 April 14, 2013
Ah-mazing!!! Just whipped these up for dessert after a Reuben contest between the real deal meat and the tempeh version...perfect sweet! Happened on the flakes at the health food great when crisped up! Gonna try them next with almond extract...
Stefani P. March 17, 2013
I just made these and added a touch of candied ginger - came out fab!
Foodelf April 3, 2012
I made the macaroons last night, stored them in a tin and brought them into the office today for my (GF) boss's birthday. They were a huge hit and practically got a standing ovation. The ones with chocolate were snapped up faster than you could say Polly wants a cracker!

Thanks for a great recipe which was also fun to to make.
thecrabbycook March 25, 2012
Gotta make the macaroons for my potluck seder....I think they'd prefer brownies, but I am a coconut freak. THey will have to deal with it!
mache March 25, 2012
I Love your site! Your receipes are so yummy. I want to know where do you buy coconut shards.
Can you use supermarket shredded coconut sweetened or unsweetened
pianogirl March 25, 2012
I have actually purchased them from the bakery at my local supermarket (Publix). It was less expensive than buying the bagged kind off the shelf.
lksugarman March 25, 2012
Nice adaptation of the classic Baker's coconut macaroon recipe, minus the flour and substituting vanilla extract for almond extract. Will have to make these as macaroons are a family favorite.

I have to object to the editor's "riff" about macaroons and macarons. It is just plain inaccurate. Seriously, isn't the job of an editor to ensure accuracy? They are distinctly different. One is a cookie, the other a confection. One requires much more skill. The other is basically a dump-and-mix. Here's a great article that offers a clear and definitive description and comparison of each. (
Genius R. March 26, 2012
lksugarman, yes, American coconut macaroons and French macarons are quite different (that is the point I was trying to make), but they are from the same extended family. 'Macaroon' is actually the correct English translation of the French word 'macaron' -- just look in Larousse Gastronomique. More importantly though, this would have been a fun, enlightening conversation to have here, but personal attacks have a funny way of shutting that down.
Kristen M. March 26, 2012
(Just to be clear -- this comment was from me. The editor.)
Charlene V. February 27, 2023
Well stated, Kristin!
smd1227 March 25, 2012
Holy macaroon, Batman, these are TO DIE FOR. DO NOT avoid the little piece of chocolate melted on the top. It puts the cookies right over the edge. Got Milk?!?!?
ellie March 25, 2012
Question: I always have the same question about recipes such as this one. If one cannot find the flaked coconut and uses the bagged sweetened instead, is the sugar eliminated?
Kristen M. March 25, 2012
No, the sugar amount actually stays the same even if you use the sweetened kind. I asked her about this and she said to trust her -- it just works! I tried both and the sweetened version just has a different texture, fluffier and more snowball-like, but they're also very good.
ellie March 25, 2012
Wow, interesting, and not the response I expected! Thanks so much.
tbrozman March 24, 2012
I remember munching on these scones at CBGB's in the late 70's. Those were classic times. Rock on, Kristen!
gt9 March 24, 2012
I just made these...and just recommendation is MAKE THESE NOW!!! they are divine. I put a piece of Dove Milk Chocolate on each after someone one said "to die for". Found flake coconut in the grocery store.
amysarah March 23, 2012
Coconut is my kryptonite. Love the idea of using coconut shards and vanilla is essential in coconut macaroons. I usually drizzle melted dark chocolate over them Jackson Pollack-style, but a whole chunk might be nice. Will try this soon, in between batches of Merrill's addictive Coconut Jumbles (which also benefit from the addition of a little vanilla, btw.)
cupcakemuffin March 23, 2012
These cookies look amazing! I make macaroons for a gathering at church each month since they're naturally gluten free (yet gf and non-gf folks alike adore them), and it would be fun to try a different recipe this coming month! I'll have to give these a shot, they look so yummy and gorgeous! :)
Jocelyn G. March 23, 2012
She has a similar recipe in Bittersweet, and I've been making them since the book came out. Always a huge hit. (They're the Coconut Saras in Bittersweet.) Uses whipped ganache to fill a depression in the macaroons. Highly recommend.
drbabs March 23, 2012
This could be a macaroon that I could actually like. Thanks, Kristen!
mrslarkin March 23, 2012
beautiful! almost looks like shards of filo or crazy-thin slices of almonds.
Lindini March 25, 2012
glad you brought that up 'cause I was just thinking how marvelous sliced almonds also would be incorporated in this cookie! yum, yum with the chocolate on top, what more could a foodie desire?