Radishes with Vegan Coconut Butter

So…the original recipe for the Vegan Coconut Butter is titled “coconut margarine.” I don’t want to call it that because the word conjures up bad images of the toast of my childhood. This ain’t even close to margarine. It melts on your tongue–just like dairy butter, only with an ever-so-slight coconut flavor.

I can’t remember exactly how I came across this recipe. I think I was at the gym watching New Scandinavian Cooking (my favorite cooking show) on a Saturday morning last year. That must be it.  Yes, it’s coming back to me now.  I came home all excited to try it out.  My husband was a little skeptical.

A little while later my husband and I were flying to Oahu to spend a few days with Aunt Robin and enjoy some warm, humid breezes and tropical fruit.  I brought the recipe with me just in case we wanted to make it to have with seafood while we were there.  On Easter Sunday I made the coconut butter and we slathered our lobster tails (10 for $20 at the Waianae Farmer’s Market) with it and then our eyes rolled back into our heads and we proclaimed it the best thing ever.

I didn’t have turmeric on hand in Hawaii, so I omitted it. And maybe if you don’t like the ultra-yellowness of this butter, you should leave it out too. I kicked it up by adding some stronger flavors–garlic, lots of ginger, and fresh herbs from my garden. I’m seeing all sorts of possibilities and spice options here. Cumin comes to mind. Curry powder would be out-of-this-world amazing.

Besides seafood and fresh radishes, I’m thinking a spoon is all you need to enjoy this stuff. No, but seriously, it’s so good. I have the rest of it in my fridge waiting to be stirred into soups, dolloped on top of roasted veggies, slathered on gluten-free bread. Or back to the spoon.

These are the pretty little radishes I got in my CSA bag last week. They were so crunchy and sweet. Not the least bit peppery like radishes so often can be. The tops are going through my juicer. Waste not, want not! As always, if this isn’t your thing, or if you’re not doing non-dairy cooking, then use unsalted butter. Radishes and butter–you must try it if you haven’t. ‘Tis the season for radishes.

This coconut butter is an emulsion. All emulsions (mayonnaise, vinaigrettes, egg buttercream frostings, etc.) can be a little tricky. Mustard works here as an emulsifier as well as a flavor component. If you don’t like mustard, you can use another emulsifier, such as an egg yolk or lecithin. The emulsion is created with the fat (coconut oil and canola oil), the liquid (coconut milk), and the acid (lemon juice).

If it clumps up on you too quickly, just rewarm it in a warm water bath or for a few seconds in the microwave. Coconut oil turns solid almost instantly at the right temperature, so as soon as it starts to thicken in the ice bath, take it off and keep whisking until it comes together. It’s also good as a liquid dip, so don’t fret if it doesn’t get thick and creamy like you want it to. (It will get thick.  I’ve never not had it thicken for me.  But you can use it either way.)

Radishes with Vegan Coconut Butter
adapted from Andreas Viestad

A few bunches organic radishes, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 cup canola or other flavorless oil (safflower, grapeseed, etc.)
1/2 cup organic extra virgin coconut oil, melted (place jar in hot water)
1/2 cup full-fat or light coconut milk
juice of 1/2 lemon, about 1 Tbsp.
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. turmeric (optional)
1 garlic clove, minced or grated
1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch sugar, to taste (optional, but balances out the acidity)
sea salt, to taste, plus more for a small bowl to serve with radishes
finely chopped fresh herbs–parsley, cilantro, chives, green onion tops


In a glass bowl, whisk together canola oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, lemon juice, mustard, and turmeric, if using. Add the garlic, ginger, cayenne, sugar and salt. Whisk well. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste. Place the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice water. Whisk constantly and quickly until the mixture comes together and starts to thicken. Remove from the ice bath and continue whisking until very thick, like butter. Add the fresh herbs and whisk well. Transfer to serving bowls. Alternatively, remove only some of the coconut butter and add the herbs, reserving the remaining butter to serve plain. Serve with the sliced radishes and a small bowl of sea salt. Makes about 3/4 cup coconut butter.

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