Thursday, 14 August 2014 | 30 comments

5-ingredient lemon honey macaroons

Nicole Spiridakis‘s Flourless arrived on my doorstep at just the right time.

I am one of the lucky souls with whom gluten agrees wholeheartedly, and that is just fine with me, because some of my favorite foods (bread! made from wheat flour!) are glutenous.

Increasingly, I find myself surrounded by friends who cannot or don’t want to eat gluten for one reason or another. I have a lot to say about gluten-free diets, in a pedantic, know-it-all-y, I-work-in-public-health sort of way, which we could talk about another time, if, you know, you’re into pedantry. But whatever the reason someone avoids gluten, I do for them what I do for my vegetarian or paleo or whatever-diet-you-adhere-to friends: I cook for them.

Accommodating people’s chosen diets feels natural and bizarrely satisfying for me, and most people who come to dinner at my house for the first time will get a phone call asking if they have any dietary restrictions (or even dislikes! I’m a glutton for punishment). I don’t want anything to stand between you and enjoying food and company and conversation, and if you’re concerned about gluten in your food, some part of you is ignoring all that good stuff. The challenge of crafting something that I would like to eat, out of items I normally keep in the kitchen, that fits your low-FODMAP or South Beach Diet is…fun.

This is what Nicole’s book Flourless is all about: baked goods that are “naturally” gluten-free. In other words, foods that weren’t adjusted to be gluten-free with special flour mixes or gums: rather, they just happen to be so. The recipes are something you would eat even if you, like cantankerous old me, won’t touch (and would certainly never attempt to make) vegan-gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, because I really like butter and wheat in my chocolate chip cookies, thankyouverymuch.

A note about the author Nicole: I have never met her. (In fact, we seem pretty bent on inhabiting opposite geographic spheres—Nicole is based on the West Coast and in North Africa; I’m more likely to be found on the East Coast and in sub-Saharan Africa.) She has read this site pretty much since its inception and occasionally stops by to leave a kind comment. I read, for a long time, her (sadly discontinued) contributions to NPR’s Kitchen Window series, including this one, in which Spiridakis tells the story that plants the unique seeds of her outlook on the world of gluten-free desserts.

My friend Sara recently had a baby and I wanted to bring them a meal, but also a treat for making it through three and a half weeks of infanthood—but her Meal Train website specified that she wanted dairy-free and gluten-free foods only. I considered copping out and just bringing some nice dark chocolate, but got home to find that Flourless had arrived.

There’s a lot in this cookbook I would like to make (bourbon arborio rice pudding, anyone?) but these macaroons caught my eye for their simplicity: they only have five ingredients. Six if you dip (or awkwardly drizzle, in my case) bittersweet chocolate on top. They come together quickly in one bowl, are out of the oven in 15 minutes, and are unusual—the lemon/coconut/honey combo is really lovely. But don’t take my word for it: my new mama friend texted me a picture the day after I dropped off the treats—-of the last cookie left on the plate.

You can purchase the book, which, FYI, includes weight measures as well as standard U.S. baking measures and is beautiful to boot, here,
read Nicole’s blog here,
and get a few more of Nicole’s “naturally” gluten-free recipes (salted caramel pots de creme, tra la) on that same Kitchen Window column I mentioned, here.

[Full disclosure: Chronicle sent me a copy of this book for free. I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever reviewed a free copy of a book here…it just happened to be in the right place at the right time.]

Coconut-Lemon Macaroons

Nearly exactly the version from Nicole Spiridakis’s book, Flourless, with permission from the author
Makes 24 cookies

You’ll need

  1. 2 egg whites
  2. Grated zest from 1 lemon, best if unsprayed/organic
  3. 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. / 130 g honey
  4. 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  5. 2 1/2 cups / 180 grams shredded, unsweetened coconut (I had coconut flakes, which make for a looser cookie but still work)
  6. Optional: Bittersweet chocolate chips


  1. Position the rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees F / 150 degrees C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites for about 30 seconds to lighten them up a bit. Whisk in the lemon zest, honey, and vanilla. Add the shredded coconut and stir well to combine. (Note from Sarah: You really do need to stir this very well to coat all of the coconut.)
  3. Scoop out 1 tablespoon portions of the coconut mixture. Using your hands, squeeze to compress the mixture and roll each portion into a small ball. (From Sarah: I actually preferred to scoop out the mixture, press it into the tablespoon with my hand, and then thwack it onto the parchment-lined baking sheet so that a little tablespoon mound came out.) Place them on the prepared baking sheet about 1 inch/2.5 cm apart.
  4. Bake until the bottoms and edges of the cookies are just starting to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on the baking sheet. When fully cooled, peel the cookies from the paper before serving. (If using, drizzle or dip into melted bittersweet chocolate and allow to cool again.)
  5. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Tagged , , ,

§ 30 responses to 5-ingredient lemon honey macaroons

  • Coconut, lemon, and honey sounds like a delicious combo and yet one I haven’t tried before either. I love macaroons and look forward to making these. I appreciate your take here on the gluten-free trend.

  • Margit Van Schaick

    Oh, I love this idea!
    Pure goodness, without all the substitutions , lacks and adds that don’t quite taste the way I like. For me, too, this recipe comes at a good time. I was trying to come up with an idea about what to bake, to tell my friend that I hope her immense sadness at Robin Williams’ death will lift, and hopefully soon.

  • These look and sound delicious. Thanks for showcasing “Flourless” – I’m going to go hunt down a copy for myself!

  • Marcia

    Your point about asking your guests about dietary restrictions is a very considerate one. I’m allergic to shellfish and very intolerant of cilantro, and it’s been awkward on more than one occasion to show up at a dinner party to find the main dish is filled with one or both and there’s little else to offer. That’s influenced my own entertaining– like you, I want each of my guests to feel like they are a part of the group and to enjoy a meal that’s of equal caliber with everyone else’s. It may mean making a second main dish, maybe a couple more side dishes, but I’ve found that isn’t hard or time-consuming. And I’ve never heard anyone complain about having choices!

  • I love this approach to cooking for people with restrictions, finding things that they can naturally have, as opposed to trying to de-gluten or de-dairy or de-whatever them. I think, so often, we forget all the natural good stuff out there, focusing instead on “substitutions”. Rock on!

  • I know why cooking for people with “special needs” is such a treat. It’s because I get to pretend I’m a super hero in the kitchen. I imagine myself swirling and sifting around various obstacles. It’s an added bit of fun. Also, I went through a gluten free phase myself 10 years ago, so I know that you are right about it becoming a distraction at the table. Anyway, I’m hoping this fad will pass. Even if it does, this looks like a worthy recipe… I wonder about making them with maple syrup in the coming months.

  • Yea, the spectrum of specialty diets is suddenly very wide and widely popular. I love recipes like this though, that don’t try to make the gluten free equivalent of vegetarian ribs. Thank for the tip (and the links!).

  • Elle

    Your attitude is stellar and one that I hope is catching, because like many many others, my body no longer tolerates gluten/wheat. My minimal understanding is that it’s to do with the newer hybridized wheat grown with modified proteins that are undigestable for a large portion of the population, causing inflammation, etc. That said, have you seen this excellent talk by Dan Barber of Stone Hill Barns on Wheat? So good…:

    Dan Barber at MAD2: The Taste of Wheat:

    PS: I support whatever my friends wish to eat as well – if wheat and etc works for them, I’m happy they’re enjoying!

  • Margit Van Schaick

    Sarah, I made the cookies today, and to my taste, they are way too sweet. Great idea, but I would consider tinkering with the basic concept. Maybe I’ll try reducing the honey, cutting it with maple syrup (which another commenter mentioned) and/or adding butter, as well. I’m not complaining, just reporting.

  • I hear ya about gluten. I couldn’t live without pasta (unless, I guess, I had to) but my husband has a severe dairy allergy so these sweet cookies fit that bill too! Thanks for sharing!

  • I was a vegetarian for many years and I’m very supportive when there is a health issue or serious commitment to vegetarianism or veganism I must admit I’m a bit worn out and intolerant of the plethora of new and fashionable diets that seem to be ever increasing. Maybe I’m just older and grumpier than you are.

  • Casting vote for pedantry! Would be lovely to hear your (public-health-influenced) perspective on the rise of GF. Coming from a traditional foods & nutrition background, myself, I think it’s a tiny shame to exclude a whole genus of nourishing food due to lack of education on variety (our standard North American hybridized wheat vs., say, durum semolina) & preparation (sprouting, fermentation, etc.).

    That said, those macaroons look divine!

  • kelli

    oh those gluten free people
    why has this dietary restriction become an identity?
    not, I eat no gluten, but I am gluten free
    it’s frightening that people are jumping on this bandwagon without even knowing what they are trying to avoid
    I had a customer ask me if my vegetables were gluten free
    I am waiting for the other shoe to drop
    what health issues will arrive from all these people eating these overly processed and high sugar and carb gluten free foods
    I am of the opinion the processing and additives are the problem, not the gluten, in most cases
    another customer told me she was avoiding gluten because she did not want to catch celiac disease
    people, educate yourself
    nourish yourself
    eat only quality food that you can pronounce
    preferably local and organic
    sorry to go on but as you can see I am angry at this diet

  • I just made these (with maple syrup instead of honey) and ate three in a row while standing in the kitchen. Who needs plates or tables or chair when you have coconut-lemon macaroons that are faster to make than even pasta? Thank you for this recipe.

  • It’s nice to see a book that is gluten free, without trying to rework recipes. But also, it’s still sold under a gluten free concept — because it sells.
    I too am not gluten free — I eat it all, and with an Italian wife, we really like our gluten! I sometimes think that all of the bloggers, writers and people going gluten free is just out of boredom with food. It gives a reason to change. So much food is gluten free/vegetarian/vegan even — the marketing is killing us! Just eat! Just enjoy what you eat! Don’t worry so much!

    Brave recipe though! Looks delicious!

  • This is so amazing! I live on a tight budget so the fewer the ingredients, the better. I can’t wait to make this for a party (where, yes, most people there are gluten-free). Thank you so much for sharing this!

  • Amy

    Several years ago I went to a talk and signing by vegan food writer Sarah Kramer. I asked her if it ever felt patronizing to a vegan to have a non-vegan interested in that way of cooking. She emphatically said that for her, no, because it meant that people are interested not only in trying new things to eat but also in learning how to cook for the people they love.

    Can’t wait to check out this book (literally, I’m a fan of my local library).

  • Nicole B.

    I love that this has only a few ingredients and sounds super simple (and delicious)! Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  • Just the kind of simple recipe I love.

  • Thankfully, I’m not gluten intolerant. I have the luxury of, and make the choice to, bake my own naturally leavened bread, although enjoying it in moderation is by choice. I love the combination of coconut, honey and lemon, and particularly enjoy intense singular flavors. I’m anxious to try the recipe!

  • alex

    OooOoo I loved these. I used pretty finely shredded coconut and made rather small balls which held up without burning despite my parchmentless baking sheet.

    I used maybe 3TBS of Agave (no maple syrup on hand) which helped lighten up the texture and heft of the honey sweetness.

    These didn’t last more then 25 minutes before my partner in crime wolfed them down. He and I were pleased with these and some coffee :)

    Thank you!

  • Zoe

    Made this last week! Didn’t require a lot of ingredients and so much healthier than the macaroons I used to make. My sister and I brought it to a party and the guys could not stop eating it.

    Thank you so much for an amazing recipe. I even posted it on my blog, hope the photos did it some justice. Will be making it again soon!

Leave a Reply

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

What's this?

You are currently reading 5-ingredient lemon honey macaroons at The Yellow House.