What to Do With a Whole Coconut

If you’ve ever seen a whole coconut at the grocery store and felt intimidated, this post is for you. Coconut products are supremely delicious and great for our health. A multitude of fantastic ingredients come from one fruit, so why not go straight to the source? Let’s talk about what to do with a whole coconut and how you can use it in your kitchen.

Delicious Ingredients From Coconut

  • Coconut milk
  • Coconut oil
  • Coconut meat
  • Coconut water
  • Coconut butter
  • Shredded coconut
  • Coconut flour

We may not be able to create all of these items from a whole coconut using basic home kitchen equipment, but you will be able to produce at least half of them.

Health Benefits of Coconut

  • Rich in healthy fats, which help to balance blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, fuel the nervous system and provide us with energy
  • High in lauric acid, an anti-microbial and anti-bacterial fatty acid
  • Dairy-free and nut-free
  • Its medium-chain fats are easy for us to digest and use
  • When using a whole coconut, you get the added benefits of fibre

What to Do With a Whole Coconut

1. Select a Good Coconut

When choosing a coconut, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Shop at stores that have regular turnover (this is a great general tip for buying most items like produce, spices, meat, etc.) – this will increase your chances of getting a fresh one.
  • Look at the eyes of the coconut, which are three small dots at one end. Check for mold and ensure they are dry.
  • Check the entire coconut for mold, cracks or sogginesss. A damp coconut likely means that there is a crack or multiple cracks and the water has started to drain out.
  • Shake the coconut gently – a fresh coconut full of water will feel heavy and you’ll hear the water sloshing.

2. Crack Open the Coconut

The first step in using a fresh, whole coconut is cracking the darn thing open! This part of the process can be tricky, yet once you get the hang of it you’ll feel more confident in your coconut-cracking skills. There are many ways under the sun to crack a coconut, but these are the methods that we (and our students in the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program) have found most handy:

The Screwdriver/Hammer Method

  1. Pierce the three eyes of the coconut. You can do this by taking a screwdriver and gently pressing into them to make holes, or tap the screwdriver lightly with a hammer to help the process along. When the skin is pierced, drain out the water.
  2. Place the coconut on a tea towel so it doesn’t roll around. Tap around the centre of the coconut with a hammer, turning it around as you go, until it cracks in half (you may not get perfect halves and may have some extra pieces).
  3. Scoop the coconut meat out of the skin by running a knife along the skin. If the meat is super soft, you may be able to use a spoon.

Tool-Free Method

  1. Find a sharp and pointy surface, like a rock (extra points if you’re on a beach!).
  2. Have a bowl ready to quickly catch the coconut water. Drive the coconut into the point until the coconut skin is pierced.
  3. Drain the water into a bowl.
  4. Continue to bang the coconut on the pointy surface, turning it around as you go, until it cracks.
  5. Scoop the coconut meat out of the skin by running a knife along the skin. If the meat is super soft, you may be able to use a spoon.

3. Use the Coconut Goodness

Best Iced Elixirs

There are a number of ways you can use the component pieces of a whole coconut. More details below!

How to Use Coconut Water

Recipe to Try: Lemon Lime Coconut Quench by Meghan Telpner (*ACN Founder + Director)

How to Make + Use Coconut Milk

Vegan + Gluten-free Noodles - whole coconut

To make your own coconut milk: blend the coconut meat with the coconut water until smooth. Then you can use it in a variety of ways, including:

Depending on how you are using your milk and your personal tolerance for texture, you can strain the coconut milk and remove the pulp or keep the pulp in. If you save the pulp, you can dry it out and make your own coconut flour to use in baked goods.

Recipe to Try: Creamy Pumpkin Gluten-Free Noodles

How to Use Coconut MeatWhat to Do with A whole Coconut - whole coconut

  • Blend into to smoothies and smoothie bowls
  • Cut into chunks and add to stir-fries and stews
  • Fold pieces into cooked grains
  • Make coconut bacon/jerky
  • Use as a garnish
  • Blend into dips and spreads
  • Make it into dairy-free cheese
  • Make shredded coconut (see instructions below)

Recipe to Try: Raw Caramel Apple Smoothie by Will Frolic for Food

How to Make + Use Shredded Coconut

Carrot Cake Bites Recipe - whole coconut

To make your own shredded coconut: Grate the coconut meat into shreds using a box grater. Dry in a food dehydrator or in the oven at its lowest setting until completely dry (time will vary depending on the size of the ‘shred’, but it could take 2-3 hours in the oven and 6-8 in a dehydrator). Then use your homemade shredded coconut in a variety of ways:

Recipe to Try: Spiced Carrot Cake Energy Bites

How to Make + Use Coconut Flour

Mini Gluten-Free Apple Galette whole coconut

To make your own coconut flour: take the strained pulp from coconut milk and spread it out on a baking sheet. Bake at your oven’s lowest temperature until completely dry, then blitz in a high-speed blender until fine. It won’t get as fine as milled flour, but will still be great to use in recipes like:

Recipe to Try: Mini Gluten-Free Apple Galettes

We hope you feel inspired to grab a hammer, crack a whole coconut and start using it in your cooking!

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Whole Coconut