These easy, from-scratch coconut cookies are a coconut lover's dream! Soft and chewy on the inside and golden brown and caramelized on the outside, these Coconut Macaroons always impress. Made with simple ingredients, including coconut, egg whites, sugar and vanilla (but NO condensed milk), they are the perfect make-ahead dessert for any occasion!
I fell in love with these coconut cookies after a trip to a now-closed bakery in Minneapolis.
I've always been a coconut lover, but after one bite of award-winning pastry chef Michelle Gayer's Coconut Macaroons, I became an evangelist for her coconut macaroon recipe. Instead of using sweetened condensed milk or pre-sweetened coconut (which often results in heavy, dense cookies), Michelle uses finely shredded, unsweetened coconut and just a smidge of cream cheese to gives these homemade coconut cookies a light and airy texture while still keeping them irresistibly chewy on the inside and caramelized and crispy on the outside.
Pure macaroon heaven.
Why you'll love this recipe
➤ They are delicious! Coconut macaroons are chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside with a rich coconut flavor.
➤ They are easy to make. Coconut macaroons only require a few simple ingredients and a few minutes of baking time.
➤ They are versatile. Coconut macaroons can be enjoyed plain, dipped in chocolate, or even flavored with other ingredients like pistachios or almonds.
➤ They are gluten-free. Coconut macaroons are naturally gluten-free, making them a great option for people with gluten allergies or sensitivities.
Simple ingredients give these cookies the best flavor.
A few ingredient notes:
Coconut: Unsweetened, desiccated coconut is the one of the secret ingredients to making these coconut macaroons so irresistible. Unlike the fluffy bags of sweeteend coconut you most often see in the baking aisle, dessicated coconut is coconut flesh that has been finely shredded and dried. It's a common ingredient in baking and cooking and is used to add a tropical flavor and texture to a variety of dishes. Desiccated coconut is available in both sweetened and unsweetened varieties but you only want to use the unsweetened version for these macaroons. You can find dessicated coconut in the baking aisle, the bulk section or readily available online.
Vanilla bean: Nothing beats the pure, intense vanilla flavor you get from a real vanilla bean, so it's definitely worth the splurge for these special cookies. You can substitute 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract in a pinch, but if you shop for vanilla beans online or at Costco, they are much more affordable than at the grocery store.
Egg whites: You'll need about 1.5 tablespoons of egg whites for this recipe. I like the convenience of pasteurized egg whites that you can buy in a carton at the store, but you can also use regular egg whites.
Corn syrup: Always use light corn syrup for these macaroons as dark corn syrup will impact their color and flavor.
Cream cheese: Since you use so little cream cheese, opt for the full-fat version for best flavor.
Place the coconut in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
Add sugar, water, corn syrup and salt to a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
Pour sugar mixture over coconut. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat coconut and sugar syrup together on medium speed for about 5 minutes to allow the syrup to gently cool and infuse the dried coconut.
Add cream cheese, egg whites and vanilla bean seeds to the coconut mixture. Beat on medium for another 5 minutes. This extended mixing time thoroughly aerates the egg whites in the batter, keeping the cookies from being too dense.
Tightly cover the batter and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop level portions of batter onto cookie sheets. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on pans.
Both macarons and macaroons are made with some similar ingredients, including egg whites, sugar and vanilla, but they are very different cookies. Macarons are a meringue-based French sandwich cookie with buttercream, jam or ganache filling. They are often tinted with food coloring to indicate their flavors. Macaroons are a mounded cookie and most commonly use coconut as a primary ingredient, which results in cookies that are larger, denser and chewier than macarons.
If you plan to eat them within a few days, you can leave them loosely covered on the counter. You can also store them tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to one week, but they will start to loose some of their crispy exteriors after a few days in the fridge.
This coconut macaroon recipe does not use flour, so it's safe to serve your gluten-free or gluten-intolerant friends.
Tips for making the BEST coconut macaroons
✔︎ This inexpensive kitchen scale makes baking up perfect coconut macaroons a snap. Using a scale to measure my dry ingredients has made a world of difference in the consistency of my baked goods. Definitely recommend!
✔︎ Use the right coconut: unsweetened finely shredded coconut. Sweetened coconut will make your macaroons too dense and too sweet.
✔︎ Room temperature egg whites and cream cheese incorporate more easily than the versions that are chilled straight from the fridge.
✔︎ Never scraped the inside of a vanilla bean before? It's easier than you think! Cut the bean in half lengthwise and gently flatten it. Use the edge of a butter or other dull knife to scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean pod. Tightly wrap the remaining half of the vanilla bean in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container for another use.
✔︎ Let the batter rest. This allows the coconut to absorb the egg whites and sugar syrup, making the batter easier to handle and helping the macaroons hold their shape while baking.
✔︎ Bake the macaroons on a parchment-lined baking sheet so they don't stick to the pan.
✔︎ Use a cookie scoop so that all cookies are the a similar size and shape, which is important for even baking.
✔︎ Let the macaroons cool completely on the pan. If you try to remove them before they are fully cooled, they may stick to the pan and not release cleanly.
✔︎ Store loosely covered for up to 3 days. You can also place in an airtight container, but the cookies will lose some of their crisp exteriors after a day or two.
Substitutions & Shortcuts
✘ Buy egg whites and use leftovers in cocktail recipes like this easy and refreshing Vodka Sour.
✘ If you use whole eggs and have leftover yolks, use them in these to-die-for Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes.
✘ Don't have a vanilla bean? Swap in 1.5 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract instead.
✘ Make the macaroon batter up to twelve hours ahead of time. Keep refrigerated until ready to bake.
✘ Dip the bottoms of your macaroons in chocolate or thinly drizzled melted chocolate over the tops of the cookies for an added layer of flavor.
More coconut recipes
A coconut lover can never have too many coconut recipes.
Check our archives for even more easy dessert recipes.
Did you make this recipe? We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please rate the recipe and leave a comment below. Your feedback helps us and your fellow readers!
Coconut Macaroons (without condensed milk)
- 3⅓ cups unsweetened dessicated coconut (about 285 grams)
- ⅔ cup water
- 2 cups sugar (about 396 grams)
- ¼ cup light corn syrup
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1½ egg whites (about 3 tablespoons)
- ½ ounce cream cheese room temperature
- ½ vanilla bean cut in half lengthwise and seeds scraped out
- Place coconut in a large mixing bowl. Add water, sugar, corn syrup and salt to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat and pour hot liquid over coconut in the mixing bowl. Use a hand or stand mixer to mix on medium speed until cool, about 5 minutes.3⅓ cups unsweetened dessicated coconut, ⅔ cup water, 2 cups sugar, ¼ cup light corn syrup, ½ teaspoon salt
- Add egg whites, cream cheese and vanilla bean seeds to the mixing bowl and mix for 5 more minutes. Cover the bowl and refrigerate batter for at least 30 minutes.1½ egg whites, ½ ounce cream cheese, ½ vanilla bean
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Portion level scoops of dough onto prepared baking sheets. (I used a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop.) You should get about 15 cookies per pan. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool on the pan.
- Do not use sweetened coconut in this recipe as your cookies will be too dense and sweet.
- Room temperature egg whites and cream cheese incorporate more easily than the versions that are chilled straight from the fridge.
Never scraped the inside of a vanilla bean before? It's easier than you think! Cut the bean in half lengthwise and gently flatten it. Use the edge of a butter or other dull knife to scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean pod. Tightly wrap the remaining half of the vanilla bean in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container for another use.
Don't have a vanilla bean? Swap in 1.5 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract instead.
- Using an inexpensive kitchen scale to measure my dry ingredients has made a world of difference in the consistency of my baked goods. Definitely recommend.
- Let the batter rest. This allows the coconut to absorb the egg whites and sugar syrup, making the batter easier to handle and helping the macaroons hold their shape while baking
- Bake the macaroons on a parchment-lined baking sheet so they don't stick to the pan.
- Use a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop so that all cookies are the a similar size and shape, which is important for even baking.
Let the macaroons cool completely before you store them. If you try to remove them before they are fully cooled, they may stick to the pan and not release cleanly. Store loosely covered for up to 3 days. You can also place in an airtight container, but the cookies will lose their crisp exterior after a day or two.
- You can also dip the bottoms of the macaroons in melted chocolate or drizzle it on top of the cookies for extra decadence.
Nutrition info not guaranteed to be accurate.
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