Nata de coco, also known as coconut gel, is a sweet and chewy jelly-like substance made from fermented coconut water. Originally from the Philippines, it has become a popular ingredient in desserts and drinks worldwide.
What does nata de coco taste like?
Nata de coco is chewy and not sweet in its raw form. You'll notice its mild and slightly acidic flavor. However, it is typically flavored and sweetened with sugar or fruit juice, making it a delicious addition to desserts and beverages.
Is nata de coco healthy?
Nata de coco is a low-calorie food primarily made of water. One cup of nata de coco (118 grams) contains 109 calories, 1 gram of protein, and 7 grams of carbohydrates.
Although not a significant source of nutrients, it is considered a healthier option because it contains dietary fiber which keeps you full and aids in digestion. It also contains probiotics, which can promote gut health .
However, nata de coco is often sweetened and packed in sugary syrup, so it's best to consume it in moderation. Check the ingredients list to ensure it meets your dietary needs.
How is nata de coco made?
Nata de coco is produced through fermentation with bacterial cultures, transforming the coconut water into a pale white, almost see-through substance with a unique texture. The process typically involves the following steps:
- Coconut water is harvested and filtered to remove impurities.
- A bacterial culture, like acetobacter xylinum, is added to coconut water to begin fermentation.
- The mixture is fermented for several days, converting the natural or added sugars in the coconut water into a gel-like substance.
- Excess liquid and any remaining impurities are removed from the mixture.
- The resulting gel is cut into cubes or other shapes.
- The cubes are rinsed with water to remove any residual bacteria.
- Nata de coco is stored in a liquid solution to keep it moist and preserve its texture or cooked with sugar or other fruit juices.
Where to buy and how to store
Nata de coco is available in Asian or international grocery stores. It comes in jars, cooked and sweetened, and soaked in syrup to keep it moist and preserve its texture. You can find it in plain or flavored varieties, such as pandan, mango, or lychee. Raw and unsweetened nata de coco is also available in Philippine supermarkets, sold by weight.
Store unopened nata de coco in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Once opened, refrigerate in its original packaging and cover tightly. Consume within 2 weeks and use a clean utensil to avoid contamination.
Freezing is not recommended, as it can alter texture and taste. As always, check the expiration date for freshness.
Nata de coco in Filipino cuisine
Nata de coco is a delicious treat on its own and a popular ingredient in desserts and beverages. Here are some examples:
- Buko Salad: A mixed fruit salad dessert that includes young coconut, nata de coco, and a variety of fruits (or fruit cocktail) with a sweet and creamy sauce.
- Fruit Salad: A mixed fruit salad dessert that includes fruit cocktail or a variety of fruits, nata de coco with a sweet and creamy sauce.
- Mango Sago: A dessert of mangoes and sago pearls with a creamy sauce, sometimes including nata de coco.
- Buko Pandan Salad: A dessert made with young coconut, pandan-infused agar-agar, and sago pearls in a creamy sauce.
- Halo-Halo: Shaved ice dessert with ube jam (ube halaya), sweetened beans, sweetened fruits (jackfruit, macapuno, mangoes, or bananas), gulaman (agar-agar), and sago pearls. It is topped with pinipig (pounded young rice), ice cream, leche flan, and doused with evaporated milk.
- Samalamig or Palamig: A collective term for sweet beverages sold by street vendors in the Philippines. These are iced drinks made with fruit juices and other ingredients like gulaman (agar-agar), sago or tapioca pearls, nata de coco, coconut strips, or bits of fruit.
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