Coconut Macaroons For Passover

Lior Lev Sercarz of La Boîte in NYC uses halvah to improve these classic cookies

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Back in the day when finding gluten-free cakes and cookies—especially ones that actually tasted good—was nearly impossible, the options for Passover desserts were severely limited: citrus slice-shaped fruit gels, Barton's Almond Kisses and macaroons being the typical options.

The perfect Passover treat, coconut macaroons don't contain flour, which is forbidden during the eight-day holiday. The cookies originated in 16th-century Italy, where they were originally made with ground almonds, sugar and egg whites. In the late 1800s, a Philadelphia flour miller had the idea to import shredded coconut, which a fellow American baker then used to create the coconut macaroon for Passover. Soon, the fluffier and more shelf-stable coconut version was popularized by Jewish food companies like Streit's and Manischewitz during the holiday. And though nearly every family in the United States will have a tin or two of coconut macaroons in their homes come Passover, very few people will actually enjoy eating them. Many Jews force the little cloying and oddly textured cookies down in the name of tradition.

But homemade macaroons, whether almond or coconut, are an entirely different story. And when you put a flavorful twist on them, suddenly, they become more than just edible—they becomes delicious.

So we ask spice master Lior Lev Sercarz, owner and founder of New York spice sourcing and blending company La Boîte (favored by chefs like Eric Ripert and Daniel Boulud), how to improve these mounds. His solution? Change the flavor profile entirely. Highlighting the classic Middle Eastern flavor of tahini with the addition of warm spices like ginger and cardamom, Sercarz creates the macaroon of the future: the halvaroon (see the recipe).

"While I didn't grow up eating halvaroons, the flavors of halvah and tahini are really personal to my childhood in Israel," Sercarz, who was born and raised in Israel before completing his culinary training in France, says.

In his recipe, tahini works as a binding agent without adding additional sugar, while halvah adds a more complex sweetness. The coconut is still there, but it's heightened by spices that add warmth, tang and zest. All together, these ingredients combine to create spicy, nutty and chewy cookies that blend Middle Eastern flavors with traditional Passover textures. (Bonus: They're super easy to make.)

"I love this recipe, because it makes baking feel approachable and manageable," Sercarz adds. "And it will still taste delicious, even if you don't whip the egg whites perfectly."

Devorah Lev-Tov is a contributing writer for Tasting Table who travels the globe—and traverses NYC block by block—in search of her next amazing meal. See her latest adventures on her Instagram at @devoltv.