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Cocada [Coconut Candy]

A traditional Brazilian dessert. Recipes vary, but all do not do without the two basic ingredients: grated coconut and sugar.

Cocada [Coconut Candy]

Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 13/12/2016

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - N/I

From the island of Cape Verde, the coconut tree (cocos nucifera L.) was introduced to Brazil by the Portuguese in the 16th century. However, it appears that this plant is originally from India but was brought by navigators and cultivated on African soil. Today, the coconut palm is grown in almost all tropical countries, and its major producers are the Philippines, Indonesia and India itself.

The coconut tree has adapted very well to seafronts and has been gracing Brazilian beaches for centuries, even serving as the postcard of the Northeast. This species of palm can reach up to thirty metres in height. However, there are varieties of dwarf coconut trees – introduced in 1921 – that do not exceed three metres. Regarding plantations, it is worth mentioning that the country cultivates around fifty thousand hectares of dwarf coconut trees. The largest producers are the states of Espírito Santo (about fourteen thousand hectares), followed by Bahia (twelve thousand hectares) and Ceará (five thousand hectares). Due to the large demand for coconut water, São Paulo state has replaced some of it traditional coffee and orange crops with dwarf coconut plantations in recent years.

The coconut shell is relatively thin and smooth. Underneath it is a thick fibrous cap that envelops a very hard layer, inside which there is a juicy, white-coloured part. The green coconut contains plenty of water inside and the white layer is soft and undeveloped. In contrast, as the coconut matures, the fleshy part becomes thicker and more consistent and the amount of water decreases.

Coconuts contain proteins, fats, mineral salts – potassium, sodium, phosphorus and chlorine – carbohydrates and vitamins A, B1, B2, B5 and C. Its healing effects are due mainly to its magnesium content, which humans need to maintain muscle tension. One hundred grams of ripe coconut amounts to two hundred and sixty-six calories. The consumption of mature coconut is not recommended for people who have a high blood cholesterol level.

Besides being exotic, green coconut water is delicious, refreshing, nourishing and therapeutic, having a physical and chemical composition similar to that of saline, and with numerous benefits: it moisturises and softens the skin, reduces fever, works as food supplement, fights constipation and reduces nausea. Being rich in potassium, it acts also as a diuretic and is recommended in cases of diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration. One hundred grams of coconut water contains twenty-two calories.

One of the most used by-products of ripened coconut is coconut milk. To make it, simply remove the white layer, add a little water, mix it together in a blender and then strain the mixture. The resulting liquid is coconut milk.

In Brazil, coconut milk has been combined with corn, flour and corn starch, cassava gum, beans, fish, sauces, cakes, pies, puddings, custards and porridges. In the traditional St John’s dishes, the coconut is strong in recipes for canjica [corn cream with sugar and coconut milk], corn pudding, mungunzá [corn stew with sugar, milk and coconut milk], tapioca, couscous and cakes. In Holy Week celebrations, it is also always present in the preparation of fish, amaranth, rice and beans.

Extracted industrially from white coconut pulp is also an oil used for cooking, for the manufacture of butter or margarine and in the cosmetics industry. In addition to these products, the coconut tree provides leaves to cover house roofs and fibre for the manufacture of ropes, mats, nets, brooms, brushes and handicrafts, such as baskets, mats and hats. The fibrous layer of the fruit is used in the automotive industry in seat upholstery. Utensils and ornaments are made from the hard shell or endocarp.

Alcohol can be manufactured from the fermented sap of the coconut palm. Nothing is wasted from the coconut tree. Plant arrangements, furniture and sculptures are made from its trunk. The sap that comes from its stems can be drank directly, like a type of soda, or transformed into alcohol or even vinegar and sugar. Its roots are used for products that strengthen gums, anti-toxins, anti-diarrhoea and anti-gonorrhea medicines; and from the sprout comes the heart of palm. Also fishing nets and lines, cordage, bags and paintbrushes are made from this tree. This palm is widely used also as an ornamental plant to beautify homes, parks and gardens.

Added to sugar, the white of the coconut has enriched Brazilian cuisine. One of the delicacies of this resulting mixture is cocada [coconut candy], a traditional Brazilian dessert. Recipes vary, but all do not do without the two basic ingredients: grated coconut and sugar. Soft cocada, on the other hand, is made with the pulp of unripe green coconuts. Below are some recipes for cocada.

Ingredients: 1 grated coconut, 1 cup water, 1 kg sugar. Preparation: Grate the coconut, make a syrup with the sugar, combine grated coconut and heat. When the syrup is stringy, remove from the heat and stir with a wooden spoon. Then, pour the sweet onto a stone board or slab, cut into squares or diamonds and, when cold, place in the sun to dry.

Ingredients: 1 kg sugar, 400g grated coconut, 10 egg yolks, 3 glasses coconut milk, 5 teaspoons vanilla (optional). Preparation: Mix everything together and put in the microwave on high power for thirteen minutes. Place spoonfuls of the coconut candy onto aluminum foil and let cool.

Ingredients: 1 can condensed milk, 2 cans sugar, 1 freshly grated coconut (or 1 packet dry grated coconut). Preparation: Put all the ingredients into a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Then pour onto a greased stone board and level the mixture until desired thickness. Let cool, cut into squares or diamonds and serve.

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive olive oil, 1½ cups coconut (grated), 1 box (395 g) condensed milk, 1 cup sugar. Preparation:put all ingredients in a pan, mix well and bring to high heat. Once thickened slightly, lower the heat and cook for three minutes, or until a consistent cream. Remove from heat and mix well with a spoon for about two minutes or until it begins to thicken. Pour quickly onto a stone surface or greased baking sheet, and cut into small pieces. Let cool and serve.
If you prefer a dark coconut candy, toast the coconut in the oven or a skillet, stirring constantly, and do not over-toast because it can become bitter.

Ingredients: 1½ kg grated coconut, 1½ kg sugar, 1 L water, 4 cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks. Preparation: put the sugar into a pan and heat, stirring constantly until it slightly burns. Add water and let it form a thick syrup. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring until ready.

Ingredients: 350g raw carrots (grated), 100g grated coconut, 1½ cups sugar, cloves and cinnamon to taste. Preparation: Mix the carrot, coconut, sugar, cloves and cinnamon, and cook on high power in a lidded microwave-safe dish for five minutes. Remove the lid and microwave again on high for another ten minutes. Remove the container from the microwave and stir the mixture. This type of cocada also serves as a filling for cakes and pies.

Ingredients: 1 kg fresh grated coconut, 250 mL water, 500g refined sugar, 1 tsp corn syrup (or runny honey), one can condensed milk (395g), 100g walnuts. Preparation: combine water, sugar and corn syrup in a saucepan and heat until caramel consistency. Then add the coconut and let the water evaporate. Add walnuts and condensed milk and stir for five minutes. Pour onto a greased board and cut into squares.

Ingredients: 1 coconut, 1 brick of rapadura [jaggery], 1 tsp butter, 1 tbsp tapioca flour. Preparation: place the jaggery with a little water in a pan and bring to boil. When sugar dissolves completely, lower heat and add grated coconut without mixing with a spoon. From time to time, shake the pan by the handle so that the mixture does not burn. When thickened, add butter and manioc flour (dissolved in 1 cup of water). Stir lightly to ensure the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan. When the bottom of the pan begins to appear, the coconut candy is ready. The ideal consistency is that of taffy.

Ingredients: 7½ kg sugar, 2 coconuts, 1½ kg sweet potato. Preparation: peel and mash sweet potatoes. In a pan, mix sugar, grated coconut and sweet potato. Heat until ready.
Finally, a poem on this delicious popular food is transcribed below.

(Antonio Vieira)

Ai, meu Deus!
Se eu pudesse, eu abria um buraco,
metia os pés dentro, criava raiz,
virava coqueiro, trepava em mim mesmo,
colhia meus cocos, meus frutos feliz,
ralava eles todos, com cravo e açúcar,
e punha num tacho, pra fazer cocada,
depois convidava, morenas e louras,
mulatas e negras, pra dar uma provada,
depois satisfeito, de tanta dentada,
na boca de todas, eu me derretia,
e, aí, novamente, eu abria um buraco,
metia os pés dentro, com toda alegria,
virava coqueiro, trepava em mim mesmo,
colhia meus cocos, fazia tachada,
com cravo e açúcar, ficava roxinho,
ficava doidinho, pra ser mais cocada.

Oh my God!
If I could, I would dig a hole,
put my feet inside, create root,
become a coconut tree, climb myself,
pick my coconuts, my happy fruit,
grate them all, with cloves and sugar,
and put it in a saucepan to make cocada,
then invite, brunettes and blondes,
mulattos and black women, to have a taste,
then satisfied, from so many bites,
in all their mouths, I’d melt,
and, there again, I’d dig a hole,
put my feet inside, happily,
become a coconut tree, climb myself,
pick my coconuts, make taffy,
with cloves and sugar, become purple,
go crazy, to be more cocada.

Recife, 22 January 2008.
Translated by Peter Leamy, September 2016.

sources consulted

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how to quote this text

Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Cocada. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: dia mês ano. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.