Coconut water is gaining a lot of attention lately as a highly nutritious, low-fat drink. Not to be confused with coconut milk, coconut water is a thin, pale liquid found in the center of the coconut. Coconut milk, by contrast, is derived from the meat of the coconut. Younger coconuts contain more water than more mature nuts, because the water is absorbed into the meat as the coconut matures.
Coconut water contains numerous nutrients and has a mild, sweet flavor. In fact, coconut water is so rich in potassium and electrolytes that many people have begun to use it in place of conventional exercise drinks and to prevent dehydration. In addition to being a tasty, nutritious drink it can also be used in cooking. Below are four ways to use coconut water in your cooking, adding both flavor and nutritional value to ordinary dishes.
1. Use Coconut Water to Cook Rice
Combine coconut water with plain water—roughly twice as much coconut water as water—and cook rice with the mixture. Or, for the more adventurous, cook the rice in pure coconut water. The result is rice with a sweet, nutty flavor that makes a great complement to Thai or other Asian dishes. Additional herbs such as lemongrass also make a flavorful addition.
2. Use Coconut Water in a Smoothie
Any kind of smoothie can benefit from the sweet flavor and added nutritional benefits of coconut water. For coconut purists, though, a smoothie made with coconut water and the soft, immature meat within the young coconut provides a special treat. To make a coconut-only smoothie, use a young coconut that still has a good deal of water and very soft meat inside. (The soft meat inside a young coconut is called water coconut, not to be confused with coconut water.) This soft meat can be easily spooned out of the coconut shell. Drain the coconut water from the coconut, add the soft meat and blend. For other flavors, add coconut water to a strawberry or pineapple smoothie.
3. Add Coconut Water to Soups or Marinades
Most coconut-based soups use coconut milk, a much creamier, higher fat option than coconut water. Try modifying recipes to use coconut water instead of coconut milk, or add coconut water to a standard soup recipe, preferably one with a naturally light flavor. Marinades can also be enhanced with coconut milk. Try a marinade of coconut water and Asian spices on chicken or beef.
4. Substitute Coconut Water in Dessert Recipes
Light, tropical cakes or other baked goods should respond well to a dose of coconut water. Use instead of regular milk or water in a white cake or a pineapple cake. Also try using coconut water, alone or combined with coconut milk, in ice cream recipes for a nutty, tropical treat.
As with any cooking ventures, experimentation can produce delicious results you might never have thought of. With coconut water freely available, particularly in health food stores and natural grocers, there's never been a better time to find out what coconut water can do for your favorite recipe.