Desiccated Coconut - How to Make Desiccated Coconut from Scratch
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Desiccated Coconut

Desiccated coconut is fresh coconut that has been shredded or flaked and dried. It is typically unsweetened, but the term is sometimes also used to refer to the less dry sweetened flake coconut as well. Most people buy desiccated coconut at the store, but you can make it from scratch!

Cutting open a coconut to make desiccated coconut

How to Make Desiccated Coconut

How to Open a Coconut

The first – and possibly hardest – part of making desiccated coconut is opening the coconut.

The easiest way to open the coconut is to poke a hole into one of three eyes of the coconut. I tried many methods for poking the hole, but I found that the best one was using a hammer and a meticulously cleaned screwdriver, as shown here.

Using a hammer and a screwdriver to open a coconut

Draining the Coconut

The next step is to drain the coconut water out of the coconut. The coconut water does not come rushing out. You may need to give the coconut a good shake. You may also need to poke open one or two of the other eyes. If you plan to make sweetened coconut, be sure to save and filter the coconut water.

The amount of coconut water in each coconut will vary greatly. I’ve seen as little as 1/4 cup and as much as 1 1/4 cups. It doesn’t matter how much yours has; this recipe for desiccated coconut will still work.

Draining a coconut into a glass

Getting the Coconut Meat Out of a Coconut

Take the coconut outside and throw it on some concrete. You may want to try screaming while you do it. It’s quite the stress reliever and far better than tossing around your fine china! The coconut should break open and you can collect any pieces that may have flown about.

A cracked open coconut on concrete

Use a dinner knife to separate the coconut’s inner shell from the hard outer shell. It would be best if you had an old one that you don’t care about so you don’t risk bending and damaging your nice knife. This is one of the tougher parts of the process. It takes some strength.

Cutting open a coconut to make desiccated coconut

Peel the soft inner shell off the of the coconut meat. You can use a vegetable peeler to do this.

Peeling a coconut with a vegetable peeler Prepping the Coconut Meat

You typically see desiccated coconut shredded. You can do this using fine side of a box grater.

If you want to save time and don’t care as much about the coconut being super thin, you can simply chop or grate the coconut in a food processor.

A small coconut might yield about two cups of chopped coconut, while a larger one could have four cups.

coconut in the food processor

Drying the Coconut

If you plan to make dry desiccated coconut, the next step is to lay to the coconut out on a cookie sheet and bake at 250 F until it feels brittle. This should take just 5-10 minutes – check on it regularly.

Desiccated coconut should last stored in an airtight container at room temperature for months.

How to Make Sweetened Coconut

To make more moist sweetened coconut (like Baker’s Angle Flake Coconut):

  • Do all of the steps above except drying the coconut.
  • Put the shredded/chopped coconut in a saucepan on medium heat with the coconut water (however much you had), and 1/3 the amount of sugar as coconut: if you have two cups of coconut, use 2/3 C of sugar.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil (this takes 10-15 minutes) and then turn the temperature to low.
  • Let it simmer uncovered for about an hour. The liquid should turn into a syrup.
  • Strain the coconut in a sieve. You can use the coconut syrup over pancakes, ice cream, in drinks, or just eat it by the spoonful.

Straining syrup from coconut

  • Lay the coconut out in a thin layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat to dry overnight. In the morning, the coconut will be dry and ready to eat.

Completed sweetened coconut

Homemade sweetened coconut will not be white. The store-bought version often uses a whitening agent to get it such a nice white color.

Because it is so moist, if you aren’t using it right away, you should refrigerate it. It should last for a few weeks in the refrigerator.

Recipes Using Desiccated Coconut

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Cutting open a coconut to make desiccated coconut
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Desiccated Coconut

Desiccated coconut is fresh coconut that has been shredded or flaked and dried. It is typically unsweetened, but the term is sometimes also used to refer to the less dry sweetened flake coconut as well.

Course Condiments
Cuisine American
Keyword desiccated coconut
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 13.28kcal
Author Stef

Ingredients

  • 1 coconut

Instructions

  • Poke a hole into one of three eyes of the coconut by hammering a meticulously cleaned screwdriver into the hole.
  • Drain the coconut water out of the coconut. The coconut water does not come rushing out. You may need to give the coconut a good shake. You may also need to poke open one or two of the other eyes. If you plan to make sweetened coconut, be sure to save the filtered coconut water.
  • To break open the coconut, take it outside and throw it on some concrete. Collect all of the pieces.
  • Use an old dinner knife that you don't care about to separate the coconut's inner shell from the hard outer shell.
  • Use a vegetable peeler to peel the soft inner shell off the of the coconut meat. You can use a vegetable peeler to do this.
  • Shred the coconut meat using fine side of a box grater or (if thin flakes aren't important to you) chop the coconut in a food processor. If your food processor has a grating blade, that will also work well to shred the coconut meat.
  • Put the shredded coconut on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat and bake at 250 F until it feels brittle. This should take5-10 minutes - check on it regularly. (Skip this step if you prefer the more moist sweetened coconut and follow the instructions in the notes.)

Notes

Desiccated coconut should last at room temperature in an airtight container for months.
A small coconut may yield about 2 cups of desiccated coconut, while a large one could give you four or more cups.
To make more moist sweetened coconut (like Baker's Angle Flake Coconut):
  • Put the shredded/chopped coconut in a saucepan on medium heat with the coconut water (however much you had), and 1/3 the amount of sugar as coconut: if you have two cups of coconut, use 2/3 C of sugar.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil (takes 10-15 minutes) and then turn the temperature to low.
  • Let it simmer uncovered for about an hour. The liquid should turn into a syrup.
    Strain the coconut in a sieve. You can use the coconut syrup over pancakes, ice cream, in drinks, or just eat it by the spoonful.
  • Lay the coconut out on a parchment or silicone-mat lined cookie sheet to dry overnight. In the morning, the coconut will be dry and ready to go.
Homemade sweetened coconut will not be white. The store-bought version often uses a whitening agent to get it such a nice white color. Because it is so moist, if you aren't using it right away, you should refrigerate it. It should last for a few weeks in the refrigerator. 

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Desiccated Coconut
Amount Per Serving
Calories 13.28 Calories from Fat 11
% Daily Value*
Fat 1.26g2%
Saturated Fat 1.11g6%
Sodium 0.75mg0%
Potassium 13.35mg0%
Carbohydrates 0.57g0%
Fiber 0.34g1%
Sugar 0.23g0%
Protein 0.13g0%
Vitamin C 0.12mg0%
Iron 0.09mg1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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29 comments on “Desiccated Coconut”

  1. Rachelsays:

    We open our coconuts a little differently… can’t toss it on the floor to crack it with 3 dogs around! I like the idea of sweetening it yourself.

  2. Pinkysays:

    So often we become so accustom to getting our ingredients from plastic bags, that we forget that once upon a time people made things like this themselves. And that really it’s not that challenging.
    Thanks for the tutorial, I’m always excited to find more natural alternatives, and I can’t believe it never occurred to me before that they must do something to the coconut to make it so downy white.

  3. Cakespysays:

    It does sound like a process, but as a coconut lovah I think it sounds worth it!

  4. This reminds me of my parents kitchen back home in India! All recipes always features fresh coconut meat and there were plenty of coconuts around. We would bang the coconut once on a hard surface just to crack it and let the water out. Then a few more bangs would open the coconut into two halves. Thanks for the detailed pictures, theyre great!

  5. You’re so right! My mum uses only fresh coconut milk for her nasi lemak rice and curries! And she squeeze out the juice herself from freshly shredded coconut!

  6. Yees! That’s how we do it here in Malaysia!

  7. Stefsays:

    Rachel – I could see how it could be problematic with the 3 dogs!

    Pinky – Yeah, I was shocked by that fact too!

    Cakespy – Yes, it was definitely worth it!

    Veggie – Glad you like the pictures! I want to have dinner at your parents house. :)

    Mrs. E – I want to eat with your mom too!

    Family – Cool!

  8. candmsays:

    You can also crack the nut of a coconut with a couple of swift rapping on the edge of the counter or the back of the chair. If you finesse just right, the nut will split in half. Just don’t bang too hard or the water goes everywhere (I learned the hard way).

  9. Sorinasays:

    Hi I am new to your blog and I just wanted to say how much I’m loving it

  10. K.says:

    Stef, you never fail to amaze and impress me. I never even considered how coconut becomes bakers coconut. However, now I may have to give your methods a try. I LOVE coconut (I’ll even ‘fess up to eating it straight out of the bag!)

  11. Stefsays:

    Candm – Hmm… seems safer to do it outdoors.

    Sorina – Thanks so much for saying so!

    K. – You should try it. It’s so yummy!

  12. This is a wonderful post Stef. I suppose, sometimes we just take these things for granted. I have opened many a coconut in my day and yes, your method worked for me, as well.

    The stress relief may just be the icing on the coconut cake!

    Thanks for sharing. BTW that roundup of Thanksgiving cupcakes looks delightful. Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. Stefsays:

    Louise – Thanks! Happy T-Day to you as well!

  14. Anonymoussays:

    (Kathi in Indy)
    Yay for fresh coconut!!

    I hated coconut when I was little, mostly having been exposed to the dry, fiber-y coconut from a bag. When I was in New Zealand, on a cultural tour, one of the guides lopped open a coconut IN HER HAND with a machete. I was so stunned, I figured I couldn’t refuse trying a bite. Fresh coconut out of the shell tastes much MUCH better than any bagged stuff. Coconut haters should try this, just once, just to be sure.

    I may have to try this recipe, if there’s any coconut left after I’m done having fun with the machete ;-)

  15. Jeansays:

    We always used a hammer to crack the coconut. Works great – Doesn’t the coconut dry out leaving it out on the counter all night. Can no longer find Baker’s canned coconut. It never was in a liquid as one person stated. The one I always bought in the can was much more moist than the bagged coconut. When is the best time of the year to get a good fresh coconut.

    • Kesssays:

      both Walmart.com and Amazon.com sell Baker’s Angel Flake coconut in the bag. Personally, I haven’t seen the Baker’s Coconut in a can in more than 20yrs. If you were to make sure own baker’s coconut and want it to stay moist, I would Vac-U-Save it either in their bags or my favorite, a canning jar.
      Yes, the bagged coconut had a lot more moisture 40 yrs ago. Could be they were required to change the dehydration process OR we just get older, dried-out coconut now since most production is no longer done in HI.

  16. Stefsays:

    Jean – It’s OK for it to dry out. It’s supposed to be dry. Not sure when the best time of the year is to get a fresh coconut – I imagine that it would depend on where you live.

  17. Wilenesays:

    TY so much for your tips on coconuts, im SO going to start making my own but i alway keep bags of coconut on hand do you think if i made this it would freeze well dont want to go through all the trouble and not get to keep it awhile

  18. joycesays:

    or you can have it shredded when you buy it. most, if not all, of the places that sell coconuts in our area offer free shredding when you buy. they save the coconut water for you when they open it. then they cut it in half (using some super ninja moves) and grind the hollow halves into this machine that shreds the coconut into very fine shreds.

    when we get home, we squeeze the heck out of it (it’s a stress reliever too). the liquid that comes out is coconut milk. if we need a little more milk, we soak the coconut in a little water and squeeze again.

    so there you go. one coconut and you get coconut water, coconut milk, and dessicated all in one. :D

    i prefer this versus the super dry ones in plastic bags. those taste like wood chippings.

  19. Stefsays:

    Joyce – Where do you live? I’ve never heard of anyone doing that near me. That would be fantastic!

  20. qutinssays:

    It’s kind of funny that I stumbled on this post. I just cracked open my coconut for making breakfast tomorrow. Well, in India, at my home we used an iron cleaver to break it open. Here, I just use the back of my cleaver and give it a few good bangs and it cracks. I do use a coconut scraper that you can sit on to scrape my coconut, just out of habit, lol! Luckily, I found the scraper at the local Thai store :)
    Your recipes looks great. I love the recipe for the Latik :) Great blog, btw!

  21. joycesays:

    oops i forgot to mention where i live. don’t be disappointed though…

    i live in the philippines. there’s coconut EVERYWHERE!

  22. Karensays:

    If you use the back of a heavy clever and whack around the circumference of the coconut it opens easy and right in your hand. (Check YouTube videos) Have a bowl with wire strainer in it handy so you can catch all the yummy water once you’ve cracked into the nut. No smashing on the concrete or and thing like that. However you might want to put down a sturdy cutting board that can take all the dents and dings it might get when you whack the rest halves into smaller pieces to the get the meat out. I did some damage to my good, handmade, 35 yr old walnut cutting board this way. Liv and learn as they say. The cutting board is sandable to no loss there really.

  23. LA MEJOR MANERA DE ROMPER ESTE TIPO DE COCO, ES PRIMERO CON UN PUNZON ABRIR LOS 3 OJITOS QUE TRAE EN UNOS DE LOS EXTREMOS Y EXTRAER TODA EL AGUA…. DEPUES COLOCAR EL COCO SOBRE UNA HORNILLA Y QUE SE VAYA QUEMANDO POR FUERA, HAY QUE IR GIRANDO EL COCO POR TODOS SUS LADOS SOBRE LA HORNILLA, LLEGA UN MOMENTO EN QUE LA CONCHA DURA EXTERNA SE ABRE SOLA, SUENA COMO UN GOLPE SECO…. YA PUEDE RETIRAR EL COCO DE LA HORNILLA, AGARRAR EL COCO CON UN GUANTE Y DARLE NO MUY FUERTE CONTRA EL PISO O MESON SI ES DE MATERIAL RESISTENTE Y SE TERMINA DE ABRIR…. EN OPORTUNIDADES HASTE LA CARNE DE ADENTRO SE DESPEGA CON FACILIDAD….. ES SUPER FACIL

  24. Anonymoussays:

    Just a bit of information on cracking coconut. Put it in the freezer, whole, overnight. In the morning it will be cracked and the milk can be saved by draining into a container as it defrosts. It is much easier to remove the coconut from the shell when done this way.

  25. Anonymoussays:

    I have a recipe for s fab Almond Bavarian that I always used the moist canned coconut in. Now what? Do I have to cook the fresh coconut meat or can I use it straight from the shell then shredded? The Bavarian looks so beautiful in its white, pristine form. Thanks so much. What is this world coming to when all the great food stuffs are becoming harder and harder to procure? This Christmas, plum pudding!

  26. Valeriesays:

    I did shred mine so I could play with my Christmas present, a Ninja. Made the job of shredding a breeze. It’s now on the stove. Sweetened with coconut sugar so my coconut will be a pretty shade of brown.
    As for the cracking of the coconut, found some really easy instructions on You Tube, go figure. Easiest clean up was the fact that the coconut, after it was drained of its water, was wrapped in a towel for its ceremonial cracking.

    Thanks for the instruction. I look forward to using this in many items.

  27. Amandasays:

    i am intrigued by this recipe. i am really in love with anything that is do it yourself in the kitchen. sounds great. def something i am going to try. i am wondering if it would work in a food dehydrator too. this would allow it to be stored in an airtight container without refrigeration. may have to try it. anyone have any thoughts on this?

  28. Loved your post and detailed description! My mom after cracking the coconut open heats it on the stove for a few seconds the shell side out and voila the coconut slides out!

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