How to open a coconut

Step by step instructions to open a coconut

Thursday, 18 October 2018

How to open a coconut

The coconut is one of nature's little treasures.

It is extremely versatile and can be used in many dishes in very different ways. Despite its sweet taste, it has a well-deserved place in savoury dishes as well as desserts. Thanks to its popularity with bloggers and celebrities over the last few years as a food, drink and even beauty products, the coconut is enjoying a massive revival.

To help you enjoy coconut's full potential, here are my tips for using the fresh drupe.

Coconut products

There are so many coconut products from the water to the cream to flour and oil. These are all produced by putting the coconut flesh through various processes to extract the fat. For more information about these, visit my ingredients guide on coconut and its products.

Coconut oil is also fast becoming the oil of choice for many people. It's a great oil to use but as with any fat, use sparingly and for dishes where it makes sense. If interested, you can read more about the benefits of coconut oil.

But what about a whole coconut? I think I already know your first question...

How do I open a whole coconut?

Most people are reluctant to buy whole coconuts because it feels like a bit of a hassle to break into it. This is how I do it:

1. Drain the coconut

There are 3 eyes at the back of the coconut. Two will be softer so find them and pierce with a screwdriver or skewer. 


Pour the milk into a container to drink or use in your cooking.


2. Crack the coconut

There are various options here. Once you have drained the coconut, you can either heat the coconut in an oven at 190C for 10 minutes or in a microwave for 3 minutes. This shrinks the inside away from the shell so you can crack it, leaving the coconut whole. Freezing the coconut will also do this. The internal brown coating of the white flesh doesn't need to be removed but you can peel it with a potato peeler if you want only the white flesh. 

If you don't heat the coconut, an alternative method is to tap the coconut with a hammer or with the back of a heavy knife like a cleaver and rotate it around until you get a hairline crack around it. You can also do this by bouncing it on a concrete floor (the way my mum does) or to be extra safe, covering it with a tea towel and then tapping with a hammer until it cracks. A disadvantage of these methods is that you won't always get the internal nut in a whole and the flesh will crack stuck to the hard outer shell. If you have one, you could use a coconut scraper to scrape the flesh out of the two halves of the coconut.


To rectify this, once its cracked use your hammer to tap the outer shell gently all the way around to loosen the flesh. You can then carefully run a knife between the flesh and shell - you should be able to pry the flesh out.

Alternativley you can also put the cracked coconut in the oven, as above, to shrink the flesh away from the shell and then pry it out. 


How should I store coconut?

Once you have opened a coconut and removed the flesh, you can refrigerate it for up to four days by ensuring it is covered tightly. You can also freeze coconut - just shred the coconut meat and pack it into an airtight plastic container or freezer bag. Frozen coconut will last for up to six months. Coconut oil should last for up to two years, regardless of whether it is liquid or solid.

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