I consider this zesty dessert to be a sort of small culinary experiment that answers the question: how can I upgrade the flavor of a macaroon without sacrificing its iconic texture?
What if I wanted to make something similar to our classic recipe, but with a few extra quirks?
Could I bake a cookie with a bright combination of flavors, with no gluten, that still has a crisp crust and a soft interior?
Oh, it’s possible. Very possible.
Instead of using all-purpose flour and just shredded coconut for my dry ingredients, I completely eliminated the wheat flour, reduced the original quantity of shredded coconut, and added one cup of finely ground blanched almond flour.
The crunchy exterior is very similar to our classic recipe, with those much-anticipated crispy bits of lightly toasted coconut shreds, rebelliously poking out from the otherwise perfectly domed cookie shape.
But it’s the subtle difference in the interior texture that you’ll really enjoy! Because almonds have a high level of fat and moisture, each bite is delightfully chewier and softer than what you’ll find in the classic recipe.
And with a dash of almond extract and the juice and zest from a lemon, the flavors offer both depth and vibrancy that you wouldn’t expect in this style of cookie.
With any experiment, the subject needs to be (taste) tested! While I was complacent eating them all by myself, I knew I needed just a few more opinions.
After bringing in a container of them to work the morning after I baked, and whispering to a few select coworkers about the cookies on my desk in the back hallway, it only took a few minutes before I started receiving rave reviews.
Project Gluten-Free Lemon Almond Coconut Macaroon = a wild success!Print
Gluten-free lemon almond coconut macaroons are tasty morsels with a crisp crust, soft interior, and bright flavor.
- 1/2 cup egg whites (from 4 large eggs)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1 cup blanched fine almond flour
- Zest from one lemon
- Juice from 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, salt, and honey. Over low heat on the stovetop, whisk continually until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is just warmed, but not hot, about 5 minutes.
- Add the shredded coconut and almond flour. Using a sturdy spoon, stir the mixture over low heat for a few more minutes until it cooks enough to form a very thick batter, and a thin film sticks on the bottom of the pan. Do not overcook.
- Remove from the heat. Mix in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and almond extract. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.
- While the mixture is cooling, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Form the dough into small, 1-inch balls in your hands or with a small ice cream or cookie scoop, squeezing the dough gently to press it together. Space them evenly on the baking sheet, 6 across and 5 down.
- Bake until the crust is a light golden color, about 18-20 minutes.
- Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Stovetop/Baking
- Cuisine: Dessert
Keywords: gluten-free, coconut, macaroon, lemon, almond flour
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep
Prep and measure all of the ingredients. Zest the lemon, slice it in half, and squeeze one half of the lemon for the juice. Save the other half for another use.
For the shredded coconut, you can use larger flakes or finely ground shreds. The larger flakes will make a chunkier cookie with a more dry texture. The smaller shreds (like what I used in the version pictured here) will be more uniform, with a smoother, more moist texture.
Step 2 – Make and Warm Egg Mixture
You don’t want to risk scrambling the eggs. You just need them to be slightly warmed so the mixture gets a little looser, which will help to evenly and quickly incorporate the dry ingredients into the liquid ingredients.
Step 3 – Make the Batter
Add the coconut shreds and almond flour. Switch to a sturdy spoon, and continue to stir the mixture over medium heat for a few minutes, until it cooks just enough to form a very thick batter. It’ll look and feel like a thick oatmeal, and a thin film will start to develop on the bottom of the pan.
Remove the pan from the heat. Add the lemon zest and juice, and the almond extract. Transfer the mixture to a bowl to cool to room temperature. It will start to thicken as it cools.
Make ahead: The dough can be refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen for about two months. Bring it to room temperature when you’re ready to shape and bake.
Step 4 – Shape
Form the dough into about 1-inch balls with your hands, squeezing the dough gently. If you want the finished cookies have a very smooth look, dampen your hands before shaping.
For more even rounds, use a small ice cream or cookie scoop. Place them on one of the prepared baking sheets, evenly spaced.
They won’t spread, so you can place them pretty close to each other, leaving about 1/2 inch of space between each one. This recipe yields 30 cookies about the size of a heaping tablespoon – to fit them all on one baking sheet, position the mounds in rows, 6 across and 5 down.
Step 5 – Bake and Cool
Bake until the crust on each cookie is lightly golden and some of the shreds are toasted, about 18-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on the baking sheet.
Once they’ve cooled, serve and enjoy!
Leftovers will keep for up to seven days in an airtight container at room temperature.
A Zesty Personality for Your Sweets
Adding bright lemon juice and zest and almond extract brings a fun surprise of vibrant flavors to the classic macaroon recipe.
While dipping or drizzling the cookies in chocolate is rich and indulgent, I love the lightness and brightness of fresh citrus ingredients for a different twist!
Consider pairing other citrus fruit varieties with different extracts and flavorings to invigorate your recipe every time you decide to bake a new batch.
For some other ideas, substitute an equal amount of orange juice and zest for the lemon with vanilla extract subbed in for the almond, or lime juice and zest with a tablespoon of finely chopped candied ginger.
All of these combinations will go perfectly with these alternative almond flour sweets.
No gluten? No problem! We have so many more delicious gluten-free cookies for you to nibble on. Try these next:
What do you think of my updated recipe that’s made using almond flour? How do you like to use almond flour in your gluten-free baking? I’d love to know! Leave me a message in the comment section below.
Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on December 14, 2012. Last updated on March 2, 2020.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is a full-time cheesemonger and specialty foods buyer living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.