Gluten Free Macaroons with Coconut, Brown Butter & Almond

These wildly flavorful gluten free macaroons get a major boost from vanilla bean brown butter and almond paste. With crisp, golden shells and chewy middles redolent with almond, vanilla and coconut, these are the very best coconut macaroons you’ll ever taste. 

Gluten Free Macaroons with Coconut, Brown Butter & Almond

If we Jews are famous for anything (besides gefilte fish and wearing funny hats) it is our frugality and the joy we take in self-punishment (which is often the same thing). Despite being a bad Jew, this might explain my persistence at continuing to make coconut macaroons, a cookie that I just don’t like.

Or at least, I didn’t until I found this recipe.

Shredded Coconut for Gluten Free Macaroons with Coconut, Brown Butter & Almond

What are macaroons and what are macaroons made of?

Coconut macaroons (not to be confused with macarons – see below) are a cookie commonly made from shredded coconut, sugar, and egg whites. They’re inexpensive and easy to make, and they’re a great way to use up extra egg whites leftover from making egg yolk-based custards such as crème brûlée and ice cream.

But coconut macaroons are a polarizing cookie because many people have a hard time with shredded coconut, myself included. Furthermore, I always found macaroons to be very one-note – overly sweet and pretty bland. The only coconut macaroons I didn’t loathe were those smothered in dark chocolate.

For this reason, I used to consider macaroons to be a sort of punishment dessert. An atonement for my sins of making (and eating) too much ice cream. An unfortunate vehicle for chocolate. In short, a shonde of a cookie. But that all changed when I found this recipe.

Jewish Macaroons aka Passover Macaroons

Because macaroons are usually free of grains and leavening, they’re kosher for Passover and often associated with the holiday. While many coconut macaroon recipes are dairy-free to boot, these get a pour of brown butter. So if you’re strictly kosher, be sure to serve these alongside a vegetarian meal.

brown butter for Gluten Free Macaroons with Coconut, Brown Butter & Almond

Macaroons vs. Macarons

Jewish coconut macaroons differ from French macarons, although both are thought to hail from Italy dating back to the 8th or 9th century. The word “macaroon” comes from the Italian word ammaccare which means “to crush” and referred to the ground almonds usually present in both recipes.

Coconut macaroons are the bites of shredded coconut goodness described above. French Macarons also start with an egg white base but contain almond flour instead of coconut. When baked, they’re filled with ganache or buttercream. While French macarons are notoriously difficult to get right at home, coconut macaroons are a snap to make. And these easy coconut macaroons are more delicious than most.

Ingredients for Gluten Free Macaroons with Coconut, Brown Butter & Almond

Brown Butter & Almond Macaroons: Macaroons for Macaroon Haters

When I found this coconut macaroon recipe, my outlook on macaroons changed. The recipe comes from a stunning book called The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle, by Kate Zuckerman. Kate put a lot of love into her desserts at the renowned (now closed) New York restaurant, and she translates them into precise recipes for the home cook while geeking out on food science. (My other favorite way to use up egg whites, the be-brown-buttered financier, comes from this same book.)

Here, Kate balances the punishmentiness of macaroons with a base of fragrant almond paste and a pour of golden, vanilla bean-infused brown butter which creates macaroons that aren’t just good, they’re a downright mitzvah.

How to bake macaroons

Vanilla Bean Brown Butter + Almond Paste = Macaroon Magic

Brown butter has the bacon-like (yet kosher) ability to make anything taste better. Here, along with nutty almond paste, it adds richness and moisture to these gluten free macaroons that other macaroons can only dream of. The brown butter adds burnt caramel undertones, the vanilla bean tastes complex and floral, and the almond paste adds nutty richness. One macaroon taster described them as tasting like toasted marshmallows.

How to Bake Macaroons

Most macaroons start with a meringue base made by whipping egg whites with sugar, then folding in shredded coconut. But these coconut macaroons employ a simpler mixing method. The almond paste gets beaten with the sugar and one egg white until smooth. The remaining whites are stirred in Once you’ve mixed the batter, chill it for an hour or up to a couple of days to firm. Place mounds of chilled batter on a lined baking sheet and bake until golden,

The cookies bake up with a crisp, golden shell which gives way to a chewy middle, permeated by the delicate flavors of almond, vanilla and coconut. They don’t even need to be dipped in chocolate, they are that good.

Gluten Free Macaroons

This macaroon recipe originally called for a small amount of all-purpose flour. While not all macaroons contain flour, here the flour absorbs extra moisture in the dough, helping the cookies bake up thick and chewy. I swapped in almond flour to make these naturally gluten-free and kosher for passover too. I also decreased the sugar a bit to make them just the right level of sweet for my taste (from 1 cup to 3/4 cup).

Gluten Free Coconut Macaroons with Brown Butter & Almond Paste

The Best Gluten Free Macaroons

These gluten free macaroons bake up with crispy, craggy outsides and chewy centers redolent with the flavors of brown butter, vanilla, coconut, and a good hit of salt to contrast the sweetness. They are macaroon perfection (a term which I would have previously considered oxymoronic). Make these macaroons. Because dessert should not be punishment. Not even during passover.

Gluten Free Macaroons with Coconut, Brown Butter & Almond

Looking for more passover-ish recipes? Try these:

Looking for ways to use up your leftover egg yolks? Try one of my many ice cream recipes!

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Gluten Free Coconut Macaroons with Brown Butter & Almond

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These macaroons are a real gluten-free treat!
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Chilling time: 1 hour
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 28 one-inch cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
  • 6 tablespoons butter (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup fresh and soft almond paste (2 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (6 ounces)
  • 4 egg whites (about 4 ounces/1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut (8 3/4 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons almond flour (or potato starch, rice flour, or all-purpose flour)

Instructions

  • Combine the vanilla pod and scrapings with the butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until the butter turns golden with brown flecks and smells nutty, 5 minutes or so. The butter will foam up when it's nearly done, so watch it carefully at this point. When the butter has browned, pour it into a heatproof measuring cup to stop the cooking. Remove the vanilla pod (you can wash and dry it and stick it in a jar with alcohol and more vanilla beans to make vanilla extracand set aside.
  • Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almond paste with the sugar and 1 egg white on medium speed until smooth. Add the remaining 3 egg whites, salt and coconut, beating until combined, then add the flour and beat until incorporated. Turn the mixer to low and, with the motor running, drizzle in the brown butter, mixing until the dough is homogenous.
  • Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and give the dough a stir with a sturdy spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Chill the dough 1 hour. (Alternately, cover and chill for up to 2 days.)
  • Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350º. Stack a rimmed baking sheet atop another rimmed baking sheet (this will prevent the bottoms of the cookies from burning, as they are wont to dand line the top one with parchment paper.
  • Scoop the chilled dough into 1" balls (I like to use a #40 spring-loaded ice cream scooand place them 1" apart. Bake the cookies until they're golden all over, 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through to ensure even baking.
  • Remove the cookies to a cooling rack and let cool completely before storing in an airtight container at room temperature. These macaroons are best they day they are baked, but will keep for up to a few days.

Notes

Adapted slightly from The Sweet Life, Desserts from Chanterelle.
These are kosher for passover, though sticklers will want to wait 2 hours before or after eating meat as they do contain dairy.
This dough needs to chill for an hour prior to baking, so plan accordingly.
If you don't have a vanilla bean, you can add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract with the egg whites instead; almond-lovers may wish to add 1/4 teaspoon or so of almond extract.
All ounce measurements are by weight.
If you're looking for a way to use up the extra egg yolks, I have plenty of ice cream recipes in the archives; personal favorites include Irish Coffee, Cacao Nib and Chocolate Mint Chip.
Nutritional values are based on one of twenty eight macaroons.

Nutrition

Calories: 123kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 53mg | Potassium: 67mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 75IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 0.4mg
Making this? I'd love to see!Tag your snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet!

Gluten Free Coconut Macaroons with Brown Butter & Almond

Adapted slightly from The Sweet Life, Desserts from Chanterelle

These are kosher for passover, though sticklers will want to wait 2 hours before or after eating meat as they do contain dairy. This dough needs to chill for an hour prior to baking, so plan accordingly. If you don’t have a vanilla bean, you can add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract with the egg whites instead; almond-lovers may wish to add 1/4 teaspoon or so of almond extract. All ounce measurements are by weight. If you’re looking for a way to use up the extra egg yolks, I have plenty of ice cream recipes in the archives; personal favorites include Irish Coffee, Cacao Nib and Chocolate Mint Chip.

Makes about 28 one-inch cookies

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter
1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh and soft almond paste
3/4 cup (6 ounces) sugar
4 egg whites (about 4 ounces/1/2 cup)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 cups (8 3/4 ounces) shredded unsweetened coconut
2 tablespoons almond flour (or potato starch, rice flour, or all-purpose flour)

Combine the vanilla pod and scrapings with the butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until the butter turns golden with brown flecks and smells nutty, 5 minutes or so. The butter will foam up when it’s nearly done, so watch it carefully at this point. When the butter has browned, pour it into a heatproof measuring cup to stop the cooking. Remove the vanilla pod (you can wash and dry it and stick it in a jar with alcohol and more vanilla beans to make vanilla extract) and set aside.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almond paste with the sugar and 1 egg white on medium speed until smooth. Add the remaining 3 egg whites, salt and coconut, beating until combined, then add the flour and beat until incorporated. Turn the mixer to low and, with the motor running, drizzle in the brown butter, mixing until the dough is homogenous.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and give the dough a stir with a sturdy spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Chill the dough 1 hour. (Alternately, cover and chill for up to 2 days.)

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350º. Stack a rimmed baking sheet atop another rimmed baking sheet (this will prevent the bottoms of the cookies from burning, as they are wont to do) and line the top one with parchment paper.

Scoop the chilled dough into 1″ balls (I like to use a #40 spring-loaded ice cream scoop) and place them 1″ apart. Bake the cookies until they’re golden all over, 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through to ensure even baking.

Remove the cookies to a cooling rack and let cool completely before storing in an airtight container at room temperature. These macaroons are best they day they are baked, but will keep for up to a few days.

Jewish Macaroons aka Passover Macaroons

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8 thoughts on “Gluten Free Macaroons with Coconut, Brown Butter & Almond”

  1. This looks divine! On Pessach I try to avoid any contact (even eye contact) with macaroons – but you have broken the spell. The ingredients and the recipe look way, way above the other kind of macaroon. Thanks!

  2. I actually love Passover because there are macaroons everywhere! These look amazing and I would gobble them up. There's a guy in NYC that makes amazing macaroons (he actually started making them for Passover), called Danny Macaroons. They have amazing flavors like sea salt caramel and red velvet, etc.

  3. They look great…and as a fellow ice cream making maniac (and efforts at trying to increase my egg yolk eating) I am always looking for ways with whites too. I'm really trying to cut back on sugar though; any thoughts on low-sugar, egg white confections? Not that I'm not going to make these…

    1. I have a mind to try making these with coconut sugar, and I think they'd also be good with maple sugar or honey. They're pretty moist, so you could likely take the sweetener down a bunch (though the almond paste also contains sugar, which I wouldn't omit).

      You could probably do a low/unrefined-sugar financier, too. I've seen some cookie and quick bread recipes that say you can substitute 2 egg whites per egg (a banana muffin recipe in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and a GF Alice Medrich cookie recipe). The chocolate pistachio torte I linked to above uses a ton of whites, and it's not very sweet due to all the unsweetened chocolate, so that might be one to play with, too.

      (Other classic egg-white recipes, like meringues, pavlovas, white cake and swiss meringue buttercream, are of course all sugar all the time, which makes it tough for us ice cream makers trying for a modicum of healthy.)

      Please let me know what you come up with! Thanks for reading, and for your sweet comments.

  4. This looks great! I usually make the David Lebovitz macaroons, but will try these next.

    One question: do you really add the sugar and vanilla bean to the butter as it's browning? The recipe says: "Combine the vanilla bean and sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until the butter turns golden with brown flecks and smells nutty, 5 minutes or so."

    I assume that you brown the butter, then add the vanilla bean and sugar and let it steep? Would you add the vanilla seeds at this point as well?

    Thanks!
    Terri

    1. Typo! Thanks for catching that! It should be "combine the vanilla bean and butter…" The sugar gets incorporated with the almond paste in the next step. Changing that now. Thanks! Please let me know how you like them. I've never tried David L's macaroons, but god I love that man!