I often get asked where to buy ingredients for my recipes, and what some of the more unusual things are, so here’s a look at some of the staple items I keep in my kitchen cupboards for making raw desserts.
This page is a continual work in progress, and is currently under construction. I will add to it and update it when I find new ingredients. Photos of specific branded products are ones I use myself, and love!**
Coconut Merchant have loads of fantastic, interesting articles, tips, and information about coconuts and their uses and benefits on their website. Check it out!
Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of matured coconuts, and is an excellent source of medium-chain fatty acids.
Coconut oil is an absolute must-have in your kitchen, and in your bathroom and make-up bag too! It makes an excellent moisturiser, hair-care product, and even toothpaste too!
I love using it in desserts because it is solid at room temperature (in the UK at least!), so gives my desserts structure and creaminess as it melts in your mouth.
I use Coconut Merchant’s raw, extra-virgin cold-pressed coconut oil.
So a question I get asked a lot is, what is coconut butter and how does it differ from coconut oil? Coconut oil is made from pressing the oil from dried coconut flesh, whilst coconut butter is made from pureed raw coconut flesh. It still contains coconut oil, but it also includes fibre from the flesh (each tablespoon has about 2 grams of fibre!).
I love to use coconut butter in place of coconut oil when I want a softer centre in cheesecakes, pies and mousses because it is much softer and creamier than coconut oil.
I use Coconut Merchant’s raw, extra-virgin cold-pressed coconut butter.
Coconut sugar is a natural sugar produced from the sap of the flower buds of the coconut palm. It has a subtly sweet, vaguely caramel taste, and can be used instead of refined sugars as a sweetener in coffee, tea, cooking, and baking where you’d use granulated sugar, and adds the perfect amount of sweetness. It’s absolutely delicious in raw chocolate too!
I use Coconut Merchant’s organic coconut sugar.
Coconut Syrup (or nectar)
Coconut syrup is made from the nectar of coconut palm flowers, which blossom on the coconut palm tree. Farmers tap the nectar in a way similar to that of maple syrup production: it is then collected in bamboo containers and placed under controlled evaporation until they reach the consistency of syrup.
It has consistency of molasses and a toffee-like taste, with a slightly tangy sweetness. It’s great for pouring on pancakes, porridge, ice-cream, yoghurt and waffles, and works well in baking too!
To make coconut milk, white coconut meat is grated before being soaked in hot water, causing the coconut cream to rise to the top. After this, the remaining liquid is squeezed through a cheesecloth to extract the milk. It is high in fat, and if you get the full-fat version, it will solidify into a lovely, thick cream when left in the fridge overnight. I always keep a can or two in the fridge just in case!
It’s excellent for adding to curries, making vegan whipped cream and adding to desserts to make them creamy or moussey. If you’re feeling a bit naughty, it’s lush in a smoothie too! And did I mention it makes the best raw ice-cream ever?!
I feel I need to add coconut milk from a carton to differentiate and avoid confusion betweens the types of coconut milk I ask you to use in my recipes. Generally, unless I specify otherwise, when I say use coconut cream I mean the creamy canned stuff, and if a recipe calls for coconut milk, I mean the stuff you get in a carton. However, the stuff you get in a carton is essentially just coconut flesh and water blended together with a bunch of other random unnecessary stuff thrown in, so I’d suggest making your own!
Coconut flour is aade from the flesh of coconuts themselves, and is a natural by-product from making cold-pressed oil. When the oil is pressed from coconuts, the coconut meat leftover can then be dried and ground, producing a fine powder suitable for baking, and adding as a thickener in sauces. It is low-carb and naturally gluten free, and is easy to digest and packed with healthy fats and proteins.
The flavour of the coconut flour in cooking and baking is subtle and can take on other flavours that it’s being cooked with. However, coconut flour is very dry and absorbent, so it requires a much higher liquid ratio than most flours. Check out Coconut Merchant’s tips on how to bake with it!
I use Coconut Merchant’s raw, cold-press, organic coconut flour.
I also use coconut syrup and coconut sugar, as listed above!
If you’re no stranger to my blog, you’ll know I use maple syrup as the sweetener in pretty much all my desserts. But why do I always opt for this when it’s not even technically raw at all?
Maple syrup is about as natural as a sweetener can get as the making of maple syrup involves a very long process of cooking down the sap collected from maple trees. Whilst this means it’s not exactly ‘pure’, it’s extracted directly from a plant source and contains thiamine, manganese, and zinc that can actually help control blood sugar levels and fight off cancerous cells, and is effective at giving your immune system a boost and fighting inflammation. Not to mention it has the most heavenly flavour of any sweetener, and I think it always gives the most gorgeous flavour to a dessert! I could drink this stuff by the bottle!
But why use maple syrup instead of agave syrup?
Believe it or not, agave syrup is actually more harmful to your body than high-fructose corn syrup, and is not natural or raw in any form, even though it is often claimed to be on packaging. Agave contains more fructose than our bodies can handle (a ridiculous 70-90%!), which can damage your metabolism, concentration and short-term memory. Maple syrup has a more natural, balanced amount of fructose and glucose, which makes the absorption of the sugar much more manageable.
When purchasing maple syrup, make sure you go for Grade A. I use Pure Maple’s Grade A ‘Robust’ maple syrup.
Rapadura sugar is an unrefined cane sugar that has a strong natural caramel taste of sugar can. It has a fine-grained texture and can be used in place of white sugar, but has a grainy texture rather than a crystallised one because it is not as heavily processed. Rapadura sugar is slightly richer in some nutrients than white sugar is, but like any sugar, it should still be consumed in moderation.
I love using it in baking, and although I do prefer to use coconut sugar! Sometimes I opt for rapadura when I want my dessert to have a slightly paler appearance, as coconut sugar tends to add a dark brown tinge.
Date syrup is basically as natural and unrefined as sweeteners can get, as it’s simply just dates, blended into syrupy, caramel-like goodness. It tastes exactly as you’d imagine it to taste, but has a really striking almost orange colour.
If you love dates as much as me, then get some date syrup and add it to your porridge and ice-cream. It can also be used in place of maple syrup if you want a truly natural pud. I personally prefer to use maple syrup in baked goods and in raw desserts because I prefer the flavour, but it’s just a matter of taste!
It’s not secret I am OBSESSED with cacao, like seriously obsessed. Chocolate in it’s raw form is a truly wonderful thing! Here’s why…
Cacao contains flavonoids, antioxidant compounds which are said to protect against cell damage caused by free-radicals. The flavonoids found in cacao are called flavonols and research has found that they are especially beneficial regarding blood flow as they help to lower blood pressure, promote normal blood clotting function and – as part of a healthy diet and exercise routine – have been said to decrease the risk of heart disease. It’s also great if you help you to avoid anaemia (which is super important if you’re female, or eating a plant-based diet). Treating yourself to a bit of raw chocolate is also beneficial because it encourages the production of endorphins and contains serotonin, which acts as a natural (mild) anti-depressant, leaving you feeling happier. Although, we already knew that, right?!
Have you ever wondered why we love chocolate so much, and can’t get enough of it?
Humans have been consuming chocolate for both medicine and pleasure for hundreds of years, and there’s a surprising reason why we love this stuff so much. Recent studies suggest that chocolate contains a number of chemicals that act on the brain, including anandamide – a compound that works a lot like marijuana! In fact, there was a time when chocolate was blamed for certain things that went wrong in society, such as hysteria amongst women (surely we’re less likely to be hysterical with chocolate, right?!).
Cacao powder is made by grinding up the dried cacao beans, and then extracting the oil in a cold-pressing process. It differs from cocoa powder as the beans are not roasted beforehand, and no sugar is added. It is an excellent replacements, and gives a superbly rich chocolate flavour to bakes, desserts and drinks.
Cacao Butter is the edible fat extracted from the raw cacao bean, and is an essential ingredient in raw chocolate. It’s great when added to a raw cheesecake to give it a bit of a firmer texture, and a lovely chocolatey aroma.
Cacao nibs are pieces of the cacao bean after it has been crushed and roasted. They’re great for sprinkling on ice-creams, desserts and porridge, and make excellent chocolate chip replacements too when you want some texture and a chocolate taste!
Carob is a rich, fragrant, powder made from ground carob that is wonderful for improving digestion, lowering cholesterol and is high in anti-oxidants. It is also a great natural source of calcium, which is brilliant for maintaining healthy teeth and bones on a vegan diet. It is a good substitute for cacao powder for pregnant women or people with heart conditions as it does not contain caffeine.
It has a complex flavour, and turns a lovely dark black colour when added to coconut oil, just look at this cheesecake!
Raspberries offer a whole host of amazing health benefits, and are one of the most powerful superfoods around as they contain high levels of phytochemicals, making their antioxidant strength second to none.
I use raw raspberry powder all the time to add colour and flavour to desserts, as in my raspberry ruffle bars, as it’s a fab natural food colouring. It also looks great sprinkled on top of desserts for a finishing touch, and swirled into yoghurts and smoothies.
Lucuma was originally called “Gold of the Incans”, and has been consumed by the Peruvians since 200 AD. It’s packed with an abundance of antioxidants, fibre, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and has strong anti-viral and anti-bacterial proterties, which make it perfect for supporting a healthy immune system. Not only this, it’s another great, natural source of calcium to keep your bones and teeth strong.
It’s great for adding to sweet bakes and smoothies as it has a lovely maple, caramel-like taste, whilst also aiding blood sugar levels to prevent cravings and sugar spikes.
Incan legend tells us that Maca was used by its warriors to provide them with strength and power before battle, as it works to support the adrenal glands and the thyroid, directly lowering levels of stress, helping the body in adapting to stressful surroundings and situations.
It also gives you heaps of energy, but contains no caffeine, so is awesome to adding to your morning or mid-afternoon smoothies for a quick pick-me-up! It has a slightly malty taste, a bit like Malteasers, with a hint of butterscotch.
I use Nutriseed’s raw maca powder.
This blue-green algae sis one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, and is agreat source of protein, with a protein content of 50-70%. Not only this, it has been shown to support the liver, aid in digestion, reduce allergies and even protect against heart disease.
Spirulina is great for adding to green smoothies, juices and even nicecream, but be warned, it tastes like a fishtank smells, so use it sparingly! I find it easiest to take in capsule form to get the health benefits.
Wheatgrass contains every mineral known to man – that’s quite a lot! And it doesn’t run short on vitamins either, containing vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, I, K, along with various other important antioxidants and amino acids. This gives it a whole host of magical powers, including the ability to support digestion, improve skin complexion, protect against illness and disease (such as cancer), and lower blood pressure.
Wheatgrass tastes amazing in a green smoothie, and has a pleasant grassy taste, and if you are a better gardener than me, it’s really fun to grow at home! I would advise consuming wheatgrass every damn day to make the most of it’s wonderful healing properties!
Acai is host to a potent mix of essential B vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, which means it acts as the perfect work-out buddy. And if you’re after something more than an energy booster, acai has also been shown to strengthen the immune system, protect against wrinkles, and support the body in detoxification – with some believing it can even facilitate weight loss.
I love adding it in purple berry powder form to nicecream and berry smoothies, because it tastes delicious, like a slightly tart red berry. Yummy!
I use Nutriseed’s raw acai powder.
Chlorella is Spirulina’s badass cousin, AKA King of the Detox! Chlorella is pretty unique in its detoxing abilities, as it literally wraps itself around heavy metals such as mercury and lead in order to stop them being absorbed into the body. Not only this, it also support hormone function, lowers blood pressure and packs in twice as much protein as spinach.
If you buy one superfood powder, make it chlorella (but you should also treat yourself to some wheatgrass too!)! I add it to my green smoothie every morning, and it gives me a wicked energy boost!
Spices & Flavourings
Vanilla Bean Paste
Vanilla Bean Powder
Nuts, Drupes & Seeds
Beans, Pulses, & Grains
Chickpeas & Aquafaba
Activated Coconut Charcoal
**Please note, this page contains some affiliate links that allow me to earn a small commission which goes towards helping run this blog to provide you with tasty recipes! I only ever recommend products I actually use myself, so I hope you love them too!
Images © iStock.