Coconut 101

I was working on updating a classic American recipe for my Paleo Magazine column this weekend and realized I had no idea how to properly prepare a fresh coconut. After a little research and some tinkering in my test kitchen, this what I came up with. If you’ve never eaten fresh coconut, you really owe it to yourself to give a go!

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place the coconut on a kitchen towel for traction. Pierce the three “eye” holes on top of the coconut by gently tapping a clean screwdriver with a hammer. This is much easier than it seems.


Drain the water from the coconut and put it in the oven, directly on the oven rack, for 10 minutes.

Remove the coconut from the oven, wrap it in a kitchen towel, place it in the sink, and smack it with a hammer to crack the shell. The white coconut meat should easily pop out of the thick husk. You might need to bash the pieces a few times to break them into smaller, more manageable pieces; wrap the pieces in the towel every time.

Now, you can either remove the thin brown skin with a vegetable peeler or just leave it on. I left mine on because I’m mostly lazy, and it didn’t affect the taste or texture.

Now you can either shred the coconut in a food processor or with a box grater, or make “chips” with a mandoline slicer (so later you can make these Caramelized Coconut Chips). Store the shredded/chipped coconut in a covered container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.

Get toasty: If you want to toast the shredded coconut, preheat the oven to 350F, spread the coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast for 5-8 minutes. Keep an eye on it! It can go from blah to burnt in a blink.


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