A Vegan Coquito: Less Sugar, All the Flavor
- December 2021
- By Naihomy Jerez
- Recipe from Puerto Rico
The words “healthy,” “vegan” and ”coquito” don’t tend to live in the same sentence, but our coquito-loving crew at Familia Kitchen decided to do something about it.
Coquito, of course, is Puerto Rico’s legendary, coconut-y take on egg nog. We love this traditional holiday drink—demasiado, if we are being honest—but we don’t love the thousands of calories in every batch of this chilled classic we crave every December.
So we asked our favorite Latina food flipper Naihomy Jerez to see if she could give it one of her famous Healthy & Delicioso makeovers. Naihomy is the founder of her own wellness consultancy, which helps women lose weight without dieting and keep all the sabor, by making nutritious tweaks to favorite dishes.
Is such a thing even possible for super-sugary, crazy-creamy coquito? Sure is, said Naihomy. That’s her specialty: taking rich family recipes that reflect her Latinx heritage and making them over into Healthy & Delicioso dishes we can say yes to, guilt-free.
Thanks to a childhood spent in both New York and the D.R., Naihomy grew up loving criollo cooking. But several years ago, when she found herself in a dressing room after having two kids and not loving what she saw in the mirror, she decided it was time to change her eating habits. She wanted to cook more healthily, but she didn’t want to say adios to her family’s favorite Dominican recipes. Possible? Turns out: yes.
She worked at it, approaching eating in a new way, without sacrificing flavor. Naihomy set out to reimagine comida Latina dish by dish. She switched white rice with brown, replaced processed sugar with natural sweeteners like dates, and ditched dairy for cashew butter. She lost 50 pounds and, many years later, has kept them off.
How Naihomy Flipped This Coquito to Vegan
Naihomy was excited to give one of her go-to holiday concoctions a Healthy & Delicioso makeover. ”I do enjoy a little coquito,” she says. “It’s the drink that marks the start of the holiday season and family gatherings. Usually any home you visit will have their special version of coquito to offer their guests. I love to have some as dessert!”
Naihomy went into her kitchen and pulled out her blender, determined to find a way to veganize it, keep all the authentic sabores and lose the dairy, unnecessary additives and sugar. After a week or two of ingredient tinkering, she is proud to present this ”lighter, chemical- and additive-free and fiber-filled coquito.”
Here’s how Naihomy did it:
• ”For starters, I decided to make this coquito vegan and swap out all of the dairy milk. Coquito is shared with many during the holidays and I wanted my version to be inclusive of those who are lactose intolerant and vegan.”
• ”In choosing coconut milk substitutes, I swapped out the original coconut cream for full-fat coconut milk. The crema de coco has emulsifiers and additives that can harm our health. Using organic full-fat coconut milk eliminates those ingredients.”
• ”I was also careful to choose a condensed coconut milk (a substitute for the condensed milk) that was carrageenan free, since this ingredient can really disturb gut health. Condensed coconut milk may be an ingredient that is not easily found everywhere locally, but it can be ordered online.”
• ”Finally, I chose to sweeten this coquito with unsweetened shredded coconut flakes, coconut sugar and dates instead of sugar. Blending shredded coconut and dates into the drink adds nutrients and fiber to help lessen sugar spikes for those who are managing diabetes or have a family history of diabetes. It also aids with digestion.”
Gracias, Naihomy. Your rethink of this holiday drink is a gift to us all.
Herself, too, it turns out. ”I think this coquito is a great addition to the Healthy & Delicioso way of life,” says Naihomy, ”Because it’s keeping our tradition alive without compromising our health. It is a clean and lighter version for all to enjoy (you can even make it alcohol-free, and guests can choose if and how much to rum add).
“So often, we think that it’s all or nothing,” when it comes to how we eat and drink, says Naihomy. “I want to remind everyone that we CAN keep our traditions around food and drink alive and thriving—AND take care of our wellbeing with just a little education and mindfulness.”
We’ll raise our glass to that. Feliz coquito a todos!
For more of Naihomy’s delicious flips on traditional dishes, check out her healthy takes on arepitas de yuca, arroz con pollo, Dominican moro de guandules and this light margarita drink.
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