Coconut Ladoo – Dried Coconut, Coconut Palm Sugar, Coconut Milk, Coconut Oil and the Queen of Spices, Cardamom
Coconut Ladoo consistently make the list of India’s Top Ten Sweets. The first known coconut ladoo date back at least 3-4000 years. These early versions were packed for travelers and warriors as a symbol of good luck for their expeditions. Today coconut ladoo and many other ladoo varieties are served at both festive and religious events throughout India.
I discovered Coconut Ladoo while searching for a dessert for my upcoming A Taste of India Cooking Class. Of the many recipes for ladoo, I was so pleased to find a healthier recipe for them from Richa Hingle. Adjusting for my taste, I’ve used organic coconut palm sugar and reduced the amount of sweetener by half.
Coconut palm sugar
Even with less sweetener, the rich, deep caramel color and flavor of coconut palm sugar comes through without overpowering the distinctive aromatic and floral goodness of the Queen of spices, cardamom. For the strongest cardamom flavor, use the side of a knife to tap on the green cardamom pod to slightly split it. Then use your fingers to remove the seeds.
Although ladoo used to be made from unrefined jaggery, these days refined white sugar is much more common, providing sweetness and little else flavor wise. In contrast, unrefined organic coconut palm sugar makes a great choice of sweetener, creating well-balanced Coconut Ladoo.
As an aside, coconut palm sugar is condensed from the sweet nectar of the flower of the tropical coconut palm tree. To assuage concerns about environmental issues, Wholesome! writes that “unlike the production of palm oil (made from the Elaeisguineensis) which has received a negative image for causing damage to the natural environment through deforestation and habitat loss for endangered species, Organic Coconut Palm Sugar is produced on small, sustainable, cooperative owned farms.” Nice.
Unsweetened shredded coconut
Use dried unsweetened, medium shredded coconut for the Coconut Ladoo. And then give the coconut a quick spin in a blender or a bit longer spin in a food processor to break it up. I prefer using a high-speed blender, where the process takes just a few seconds. Use the pulse button in either case. Plus, take a moment to release any coconut sticking to the bottom of the blender or food processor between pulses. Here’s a before and after photo.
Thank you, Richa Hingle, for sharing this vegan recipe which I have lightly adapted.
Indian sweets tend to be very sweet. Thus, I’ve substituted coconut palm sugar and reduced the amount of sweetener by half. This allows both the rich flavor of coconut palm sugar and also the distinctive, aromatic and floral tastiness of cardamom to shine. Vegan and gluten-free.
For the strongest cardamom flavor, remove the seeds yourself from green cardamom pods.
Hint: Do set up your work station for forming and rolling your Coconut Ladoo in advance. This way you can quickly make the ladoo while the filling is warm and pliable.
Makes 24 1-tablespoon Coconut Ladoo Printer-Friendly Recipe
Total time 20 minutes
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (7 ½ ounces) unsweetened shredded coconut
½ slightly rounded teaspoon cardamom seeds from green cardamom pods
⅓ cup canned, full-fat coconut milk
2 teaspoons coconut oil
⅓ cup coconut palm sugar
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
- Use the pulse button of either a food processor or a blender to break up the coconut. The blender will make finer, more powdery coconut than the food processor. By using the pulse button in short spurts and moving the coconut off the bottom you will avoid making coconut butter.
- Remove the cardamom seeds from the cardamom pods. Use an electric spice grinder or mortar and pestle to fine to medium grind the seeds. Mix the ground cardamom seeds with the coconut. Separate out 1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons of this mixture for making the Coconut Ladoo. Transfer the remaining coconut mixture onto a plate for rolling the individual balls.
- Set up your work station with a small kitchen scoop, the plate of coconut for rolling the ladoo, and a pan for the finished ladoo,
- Place the coconut milk and coconut oil in a 9 – 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil has melted, stir in the coconut palm sugar and salt. Use a silicone spatula to combine them. Once this mixture begins to boil, stir continuously bringing the edges into the middle. Let it boil for about 80 seconds until the mixture begins to form a thread when drizzled from your spatula.
- Turn off the heat and immediately stir in the coconut/cardamom mixture.
- When well incorporated, remove the pan from the heat. Begin forming tablespoon-size balls. Either roll the warm mixture in your hands, or, my preference, scoop balls using a number 70 or a number 100 small kitchen scoop.
- Serve Coconut Ladoo while still warm or at room temperature. Once they have cooled, they can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5-7 days. They also freeze well.