Giving your coconut purpose: A guide to opening and using a coconut 

All these weeks you’ve been surreptitiously observing the humble fruit/nut/seed, sat on the supermarket shelf, that encapsulates beautiful coconut deliciousness. Intimidating yet intriguing, you wheel your shopping trolley on, resisting the urge to welcome the coconut into your loving arms. That was then, but this is now. Now you do behold such coco fun; you’ve gone and done it. You have purchased the coconut, which presents a few questions: what now? How do I open the coconut? How do I get the coconut meat out? And what can I even use the coconut for?! Be fearful and intimidated no more. Here I give to you the concise guide to utilising your brand new coconut.


Preparation time:

10 minutes to retrieve the milk

15 minutes to extract and grate the coconut meat


Cooking time:

From 20 minutes up to 1 hour, the coconut works in mysterious ways!



Approx 180g of coconut meat


You will need…

❄️ 1 mature but fresh coconut


How to prepare (2 different methods):

Method 1 includes preheating your oven to 200°C (if you do not intend on method 2: whacking your coconut repeatedly with a large knife or on a step).

Hello sloth

No matter your method, the first step is to get a (sterilised) screwdriver/corkscrew/knife, and poke a hole in the shell through one of the three ‘eyes’ (one will be a lot softer and therefore easier to pierce than the others). Once you’ve worked out which one, drain the coconut milk over a jug, then use a sieve to get rid any dirt or shell. Drink the milk as it is, or even use it in cooking as it’s highly nutritious, it’s packed full of vitamins and minerals, and is lactose free!

100ml of goodness!

1A) Method 1 of cracking open the coconut:

Repeatedly hit the coconut on a hard surface until it cracks (and by hard surface I mean a really hard surface that is stable, e.g an outdoor step.) Place sheets of kitchen roll on the step for hygiene reasons and…hit…repeatedly. Once a large enough crack appears, use a butter knife to prize open the shell. From an outsiders point of view this would look slightly archaic and a little scary, however, proceed at your own free will.

1B) Method 2 of cracking open the coconut:

In a preheated oven (200°C!), place the coconut on the middle shelf of your oven and wait it out. From as little as 20 minutes, to as much as 1 hour, a crack will form in the shell of the coconut. Check frequently (with an oven glove!) to notice any changes. Once it’s big enough to prize open with a knife, do just that! Be careful though because it will be HOT. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

2) Now your coconut is hopefully in half, and cooled, use a small sharp knife to cut out pieces of meat, prizing them away from the shell using a butter knife. Rinse the pieces of coconut under a cold tap to be sure no shell or dirt contaminates the meat.

3) Using a large cheese-grater, grate the coconut. For the pieces that are too small to grate, use a sharp knife to thinly slice it into flake-sized pieces.

4) And there you go! You now have around 180g of delicious freshly grated coconut to use however you want. I made coconut bars (read on), and I made some coconut butter (recipe soon to follow). I also do believe you can freeze the coconut flakes for preserving for future use in cooking.


A recipe for coconut bars:

This is really easy and takes no time at all. Use 80g of your freshly shredded coconut, combined with 4tbsp of pure maple syrup, 2 tbsp of coconut oil and a pinch of salt. Simply put all ingredients in a blender and blend until relatively smooth (but not too smooth that it’s basically like coconut butter). You may need to stop the blender at intervals to scrape the mixture from around the edges to make sure it all blends and is incorporated properly. Use a spoon to pack the mixture into a small tin/mould. Hold back a small sprinkle of coconut flakes to put on top of the bars. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to give it chance to set. After it has set, cut into bars and serve.



5 thoughts on “Giving your coconut purpose: A guide to opening and using a coconut 

  1. Hi Sophie–I admire your patience with the coconut!

    Anyway, some tips–if you have a bolo/machete–you can give the coconut a good whack with the BLUNT edge (we hold the coconut with one hand, while the other whacks the coconut)–assumption: both coconut and machete blade had been washed well. A thin line/crack is created, and you should be quick to catch the coconut water (we call it coconut water; the creme extracted from the meat is what we call coconut milk–and it can only be extracted when the meat is raw; if it’s cooked, what will be extracted is coconut oil).

    I’m still hoping to find a coconut grater in the Asian shops–to grate the raw coconut (and be able to squeeze out the milk–very different from the sachet/tinned ones); the grated coconut would look like limp strips of snowflakes (ie, lattice-work pattern). If you’re curious as to what the grater looks like, you can make an image search for “kudkuran”. It’s a low stool (one sits on it like on a horse), with a serrated blade on the end.

    Liked by 1 person

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