No Coconut? No Problem!

affiliate links
I may receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you purchase an item mentioned in this post. Thank you for supporting my blog! See my full disclosure here.

I admit, I pouted when I was told to eliminate coconut from my already paleo AIP diet. But I soon found out I am not alone. It’s funny how others with similar stories seem to come out of the woodwork once you are more aware…

No Coconut? No Problem! | Enjoying this Journey...

Hindsight

If you were to ask me back then if coconut affected me negatively, I’d likely shrug and say that I feel fine. Because I did, generally speaking. Just as long as I didn’t go overboard with it. Looking back, I remember feeling bloated many times after eating coconut flakes. I remember other not so pleasant GI symptoms when I was on a “berries and coconut whipped cream” kick.

Why is coconut so bad?

Well, it isn’t for many people. However, there are still reasons to keep its consumption moderate and not have coconut be a cornerstone of one’s diet…

  • Phytic acid – Phytic acid has antinutrient properties that stifle certain digestive enzymes, which can increase our gut permeability. [*] Phytic acid also binds to to minerals {such as potassium, zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium}, forming phytate, and making the minerals not absorbed by the gut. [1]
  • Inulin fiber – a FODMAP {fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, and monosaccharides and polyols} has the ability to significantly alter the gut microbiome. Your body is less able to digest the carbohydrates, causing unabsorbed sugars entering the large intestine and supporting an overgrowth of bacteria, sometimes even leading to SIBO {small intestine bacterial overgrowth}. [2]

This could be why some of us react poorly with coconut. The Paleo Approach recommends that coconut flakes, butter, and shredded coconut only be consumed in small quantities {two to four tablespoons at most}, while the highest-fiber coconut products, which includes coconut flour and coconut sugar, should be consumed “only rarely and in small quantities” {one to two tablespoons at most}. While most of the fiber is stripped from coconut milk, there is still a concern with phytic acid and FODMAP. Not to mention any emulsifiers that may be in the store-bought coconut milk. Coconut oil is simply the pure fat from the coconut and doesn’t contain inulin fiber or phytic acid. [3]

Cookbooks

Often times I see people in the Facebook support groups looking for recommendations for AIP cookbooks that are “coconut-free friendly”. There are many already, people just don’t realize it. I recently checked with some of the AIP cookbook authors (and will continue to update this list in the future).

  • Nourish – About 90% of the recipes in Nourish are coconut-free, including some recipes with suggested substitutions.
  • Simple French Paleo – Simple French Paleo is about 85% coconut-free (recipes using coconut products mainly are in the desserts and sauces section).
  • The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook – over 70% of the recipes in The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook are easy to make coconut-free by swapping out the oil and avoiding the “overtly-coconut recipes”.
  • The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook – Only 5 of the 30 recipes in The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook call for coconut products.
  • There is an entire section in the back of the 85 Amazing AIP Breakfasts marked coconut-free and offers suggested substitutions.
  • There is an entire section in the back of The Paleo AIP Instant Pot Cookbook marked coconut-free and offers suggested substitutions.
  • The 28 Days of Low-FODMAP AIP e-cookbook by Christina Feindel is 100% coconut-free with the exception of oil, in which case you can sub any fat of choice.
Substitutions

Let me assure you life goes on, quite deliciously, without coconut. I know it can feel defeating navigating recipes when so many AIP recipes use coconut. Here are some substitution ideas for you. Many of these aren’t exactly mainstream, you’ll have to roll up your sleeves and experiment a bit with your recipes.

Flours

If you’re hoping to find the magical universal code to substitute coconut flour, I don’t have it. Coconut flour is crazy absorbent, therefore it requires a good amount of liquid and/or eggs when used in baking. BUT here are some flours you can consider adding to your AIP pantry and look for recipes specifically using them. If the recipe you’re using only calls for a small amount of coconut flour, experiment by adding a different flour little by little until you reach the desired consistency/result.

  • Tigernut flour – Tigernut flour is made from tigernuts {a tiny tuber, not a nut} and has a naturally sweet flavor {similar to almond flour} and its texture reminds me of a bit of cornmeal.
    {Example: Tigernut Raisin Cookies use tigernut flour and lard for a taste and texture that is reminiscent to oatmeal cookies}
  • Cassava flour – Cassava flour seems to be the darling flour for those on the AIP, especially those who are avoiding coconut! It’s a great sub for wheat flour in most recipes 1:1. This flour is different than tapioca starch and cannot be used interchangeably in recipes. Like with most flours, it should be consumed in moderation and kept to an occasional thing.
  • Sweet potato flour – Sweet potato flour is a great flour substitution as well. Sarah Ballantyne has a recipe for making your own flour in The Paleo Approach Cookbook {page 121}. You can also purchase it online.
  • Water chestnut flour, plantain flour, pumpkin flour – each of these recipes are outlined in The Paleo Approach Cookbook as well on page 121. Water chestnut flour is also available online.
    {Example: Beyond the Bite has a great coconut-free cookie recipe using water chestnut flour; try using carob powder instead of cacao powder and omit the chocolate chips}
  • Cricket flour – Yes, really. Crickets are a great source of protein, and this flour is said to have a nice, nutty flavor.
  • Anti-Grain flours – Apple, Squash, and Sweet Potato flours are now available from Anti-Grain Foods.

Tigernut Milk | Enjoying this Journey...

Milk
  • Tigernut Milk {horchata de chufa} – Tigernut milk is super easy to make! It is also subtly sweet on its own, so it works well in treats. I’ve also used tigernut milk in savory recipes, like Kat’s Pumpkin Clam Chowder. Yes, really. In my mind, you won’t know if it will work until you try. It’s always worth a shot!

Tigernut Caramel Apples | Enjoying this Journey...

Crunch factor
  • So far I’ve had great success with tigernut “meal”. That’s what I call the leftover ground tigernuts after making Tigernut Milk. I then dry it all out in the oven and use them to add a bit of crunch to recipes. No waste!
    Examples: Apple Crisp and Tigernut Caramel Apples

Praise the lard | Enjoying this Journey...

Fats

While coconut oil is void of the phytic acid and inulin fiber, some still people don’t use it due to allergies and sensitivities. Here are some fantastic fats to consider.

  • Savory {roasting, pan frying, sauteing}: Lard, tallow, duck fat, rendered bacon fat, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil.
  • Sweet {baking, caramelizing}: Lard {yes, praise the lard even with treats}, extra virgin olive oil, even avocado {oil and the fruit itself – an example: Provincial Paleo has delicious Soft & Chewy Molasses Cookies that use avocado, along with tigernut flour}.
  • A note on palm oil and shortening: Since coconut is in the palm family, I’d recommend simply consulting with your doctor about using these if you have an intolerance/allergy to coconut.

I think that about covers it! As more coconut-free AIP options become available, I’ll be sure to update this post. Ultimately, I hope I’ve inspired you to experiment in the kitchen and try new things!

See more coconut-free aip foodstuffs on this board!

Follow Enjoying this Journey’s board Coconut-Free AIP on Pinterest.

health disclaimer

disclosure

*. [Page 107 in The Paleo Approach]
1. [Page 81 in The Paleo Approach]
2. [Page 229 in The Paleo Approach]
3. [Page 229 in The Paleo Approach]

No Coconut? No Problem! | Enjoying this Journey...
I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment! I do my best to reply to each one, so be sure to check back. ♥ If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to make sure you don't miss a post.

  22 comments for “No Coconut? No Problem!

  1. Linda
    December 6, 2014 at 11:01pm

    Great post! I’m trying the aip diet after hearing about how it can help with neuropathy and gut problems. Although I never had a coconut problem, I actually started to develop sensitivity to all nuts and most coconut products. I thought I might have a coconut intolerance but so far my experience shows I have the worse reactions only with coconut milk and coconut flour. I can consume coconut aminos… Coconut fat only in limited quanties. It’s very strange. It’s definitely not an allergy if I don’t have problems with coconut aminos. Any thoughts why or how this occurred?

    • December 7, 2014 at 8:49am

      Thank you, Linda! I’m glad you found this post helpful. As far as your intolerance concerns, depending on your symptoms it may just be a simple intolerance. Likely temporary, there are many who find those reactions diminish after sticking to the AIP. In my case, it is a combination of an IgG class reaction for coconut as well as GI distress when I ate coconut. I have a half full bottle of coconut aminos in my fridge, I haven’t touched since I got my IgG results, just for fear of causing more harm than it’s worth. 🙁

      Sarah Ballantyne writes thoroughly about why one reacts so harshly to a food they used to eat all the time in The Paleo Approach. If you haven’t grabbed a copy I definitely recommend it. I consider TPA my autoimmunity reference book. 😉 Some factors are genetics, digestion, and leaky gut:

      “Immune tolerance to a food antigen is lost when digestion is disrupted, the intestinal barrier is disrupted, or there are not enough regulatory T cells to quell the immune response.” ~ page 337

      Have a pow-wow with your doctor and in the mean time don’t eat any food you’re reacting to. I hope that helps! Be well.
      Erin recently posted…QuotablesMy Profile

  2. Jessica
    January 13, 2015 at 1:08pm

    Oh, YAY! I developed an allergy to all coconut products last spring 🙁 Was diagnosed with second autoimmune in December. I been pouting and feeling sorry for myself because AIP would be so much “easier” if I could have coconut. Thank you, so much, for these suggestions!

    • January 13, 2015 at 2:48pm

      Boo to the allergy, Jessica! That is such a frustrating and hard adjustment to make, especially on top of the AIP, I feel you!! I hope you find that life goes on quite deliciously without coconut. Wishing you great success on your healing journey. ♥

  3. Victoria
    February 25, 2015 at 7:54pm

    Thank you for this post! I am fairly new to AIP but have been in the process of tweaking my diet for a while now to treat my Auto-immune disease. I know I have a intolerance to sugar, but lately since I have adopted AIP I have been having more reactions to food, and Im wondering if its the coconut, pork, or the sweetners I have been using (honey, dates, etc.) In the process of SIBO & micronutrient testing, but Im wondering will these point to whether I need to lay off the coconut or is there another test/ process that could help me crack this case?
    Thanks a Bunch!!!!

    • March 1, 2015 at 12:27pm

      Hi, Victoria! Regarding SIBO, The Paleo PI has tons of great info that I recommend reading. Including this interview with Angie Alt on what to expect when treating SIBO.

      In my experience I noticed some GI distress when I had coconut milk, flakes, etc. Since it also showed on my IgG test {this was after a year of AIP already} I eliminated coconut and those pesky GI symptoms stopped. If your SIBO tests are negative {though it is my understanding SIBO tests can sometimes result in false negatives} you may try 86ing coconut and see how your body does. I hope that helps! 🙂

  4. Christina
    August 25, 2015 at 12:45pm

    Hi Erin,

    I was wondering if you have found a good substitute to Coconut butter/creamed coconut. There is a recipe for a dessert that I desperately would like to try, but I do not know what would be a good substitute.

    Also, I am so thankful that I found your blog and your Pinterest pages 🙂 I am new to AIP, but not to the coconut allergy. When I started looking for recipe ideas and everything had coconut, I was more than a little discouraged. Your blog was the highlight of my day when I found it 🙂

    Thank you!
    Christina

    • August 26, 2015 at 6:48am

      I’ve heard of people making tigernut butter, but I have not yet made it. I imagine it would taste like a subtle almond butter {as I find tigernut milk tastes similar to almond milk, at least how I remember it}. That might be worth a shot, although it may only work in the recipes that use coconut butter as a sub for nut butter {not using coconut butter for, say a frosting/icing base}.

    • August 26, 2015 at 6:49am

      And I’m so glad you happened to find me 🙂 Wishing you improvements in your health and continued highlights! ♥

  5. Rita
    September 5, 2015 at 9:27am

    I was wondering what others use as a substitute for shredded coconut. I’ve also discovered that I cannot tolerate any coconut products. Thank you in advance.

    • September 5, 2015 at 5:03pm

      Hi, Rita. I think it would depend on the recipe. If it is to provide some crunch for a topping – chopped/ground tigernuts could work. As far as replacing coconut in a macaroon? I’m afraid I don’t know of an AIP-friendly substitute that would work.

  6. Kat
    December 10, 2015 at 10:16pm

    Started AIP a month ago, just realized my hands get all hot and red after coconut… Very sad. Is coconut something we can try to reintroduce after the gut heals?

    • December 11, 2015 at 1:05pm

      Bummer, Kat! Yes, focus on gut-healing foods and, assuming you’re not allergic, you can try a reintroduction. For some people {myself included} the inulin in the coconut is the problem. Since I first wrote this post and eliminated coconut, I’ve been able to add in *very* occasional use of coconut flesh and milk {like, maybe once a month} and I can use coconut oil without problem.

      • Kat
        December 13, 2015 at 1:42pm

        Ah, thank you, Erin! Yes, it seems coconut oil doesn’t give me problems, but every other form of coconut does. I’ll have to test to see if it’s an allergic reaction or not, and do some research on insulin.

  7. Jeannine
    May 5, 2016 at 5:05pm

    I just stumbled across this after being dx’d with my 5th autoimmune disease! I was determined to start the AIP but I have a severe coconut allergy. I’m so thankful to reading what you have replaced coconut with. Especially coconut milk!

    I’ve already ordered Tiger nuts and tigernut flour.

    Thank you for giving me hope in being able to start the aip.

    • May 6, 2016 at 9:43am

      I’m so glad you found this, Jeannine! I hope you find that the AIP is totally doable without coconut. Reframing “treats” to being fruits and berries, or the occasional tigernut baked good while continuing to focus on the healing lifestyle shifts and nutrient-dense foods, I believe that’s the best way to go! Wishing you good health.

  8. Elizabeth
    August 14, 2016 at 9:10am

    Thanks so much for this. I am on the AIP and just found out that my homemade coconut milk was giving me digestive issues. I was so disappointed until I found your blog. Thank you!

    • August 16, 2016 at 10:09am

      I can commiserate with your disappointment. I hope your coconut-free adjustment goes smoothly and hey, maybe a couple coconut reintroductions are in your future! ♥

  9. Bonnie
    December 31, 2016 at 4:17pm

    Thank you! So glad to see I am not alone in this. I’ve tried AIP but only made it to 21 days because I was so tired. I used coconut a fair bit and have since had my suspicion of sensitivity confirmed. I am about to start again, because there really aren’t many options now, and the cookbooks I’ve looked at rely too heavily on coconut to make it worthwhile buying them. Are you familiar with any cookbooks that would be a good choice? I know I can google recipes but it would be nice to have a reliable source in one place, especially one with menus.

    I appreciate your explanation of why coconut is a problem for some of us. Thanks again for this post!

    • January 1, 2017 at 3:59pm

      Hi, Bonnie! I’m not one to use cookbooks that often, but I know the community e-cookbooks that Eileen (of Phoenix Helix) put together outline the coconut-free recipes (and offer modifications when available). That includes 85 Amazing AIP Breakfasts and The Paleo AIP Instant Pot Cookbook. Another AIP cookbook that comes to mind is Simple French Paleo (about 13 recipes out of 90 call for coconut flour, aminos, and/or milk – most of those being dessert or sauce recipes). I’ll look around for others that have a good amount of recipes without coconut and update this post as needed.

      Plus when substituting a recipe that calls for coconut flour (in baking, for example), it’s so tricky because coconut flour is SO absorbant. If it’s just a tablespoon or two in a recipe I use a different AIP flour and eyeball it/cross my fingers. But generally speaking (because I honestly find AIP baking to be difficult enough as it is), I’ve found it a lot easier starting with AIP recipes that use cassava flour, tigernut flour, or some combination of the two.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge