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Credit: Sara Tane

What do homemade chicken stock, garlic sautéed in butter, roasted tomato confit, and a warm batch of chocolate chip cookies all have in common? If you answered: They all make your entire home smell better than any candle or aroma diffuser ever could—so cozy and welcoming, you just may never leave again… you’re correct. However, none of these mouthwatering dishes come even close to the scent of toasted coconut flakes (I’m talking about the raw, ideally-unsweetened flakes here, not the super sugary shreds that you’re going to find in the baking aisle next to the chocolate chips). It never ceases to amaze me how much a quick bout of heat can turn a handful of raw coconut shavings (not tasty in the slightest) into a roasty, delightfully golden-brown masterpiece. You don’t have to add any other ingredients. It’s! A! Miracle! Do yourself (and your kitchen) this favor, and make a batch today.

How To Toast ‘Em

Toasting a batch of coconut flakes is quite literally one of the easiest things to do, however it’s just as easy to completely ruin. The trick? Do not walk away from your coconut while it’s cooking. Even if you promise to set a timer and that you’ll never ever forget, my sincere advice is that you do not abandon the toasting situation at any point. Don’t worry—it all happens quickly, so it’s not going to be a huge timesuck on your day. You can use unsweetened or sweetened flakes, just understand that if you’re using sweetened flakes, the toasting will happen faster as the sugar helps to move the process along.

There are three different ways to toast coconut flakes. You can either spread out the flakes across a sheet pan and let them go in an oven set to 325°. Depending on how much coconut is on the tray, this should take between 4-8 minutes. See? Quick! Stir the tray around once or twice for an even, consistent toast. Another great option if you’re not toasting a large amount of coconut is that you can spread flakes across a small cookie sheet and send it into the toaster oven. Keep a watchful eye!

If you don’t want to get an oven going, you can also toast your coconut on the stovetop. If you have a cast-iron, use it, but if not, any skillet or heavy-bottomed pot will do. Simply spread the coconut in an even layer in your pan and gently toast over medium heat. The same rule applies here—do not walk away from the stovetop for any reason. Now is not the time to put your multitasking skills to the test. All it takes is an extra 30 seconds of unintended cooking to turn these warm, irresistibly nutty flakes into bitter, charred bits of sadness. You don’t want that and neither do your fragile nostrils. It’s only going to take about 5 minutes of attentive stirring, so hang tight. Once they’re done, store them in an airtight container or zip-top bag.

What To Do With ‘Em

Okay, you’re the proud new owner of a heavy hand of toasted flakes, so now what? So many options! You can start by being the snacking champion that you are and throw back a handful straight up. Crunnnnnnnch. These aromatic beauties are also fantastic atop a warm serving of oats, a bowl of Greek yogurt, a heaping pile of waffles or pancakes, or a piece of toast smeared with nut butter and fruit. Cinnamon and honey are both wonderful additions to any of those suggestions. Making a smoothie or an acai bowl? You better go ahead and give the final product a sprinkle of toasted coconut. If you’ve got a batch of granola that needs a little extra crunch, go ahead and mix these in.

What’s that? You like cookies? And brownies? Great, these happen to taste like heaven in just about every kind; chocolate chip, oatmeal, double chocolate, blondies—you name it, and it’s probably going to work just fine. And while we’re on the topic of sweets, you might as well make a key lime pie solely so that you can top it with a generous serving of whipped cream and all the toasted coconut that you own.

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Bet you didn’t realize that these crunchy bits of glory can also be used in savory applications? Taking advice from cookbook author Alison Roman, you can stir them into a gremolata and spoon that over a tray of roasted veggies, a skillet of crispy chicken thighs, or a piece of fish. Fancy! Additionally, you can bulk up a bowl of tender greens with these crisp babies. Eating salad has never been so fun—you’re welcome. Coconut is also an extremely welcome flavor element in any curry or Thai-flavored dish, so go ahead and sprinkle this over a chickpea curry, a bowl of Thai peanut sweet potato soup, or Thai chicken coconut soup. However you choose to incorporate these newfound flakes of sweet deliciousness into your life, you’ll be extremely happy that you did.

By Sara Tane and Sara Tane