Read on to learn the difference between shredded coconut vs. desiccated coconut, and what you can use as a desiccated coconut replacement. Learn what flaked coconut is and how to store dried coconut: including how long shredded coconut lasts and how to freeze shredded or flaked coconut.
Before we dive into the different types of dried coconut, we need to define the different parts of the coconut. Firstly you may imagine a brown hard ball that has rough fibre on it hanging from a palm tree, yes that's a mature coconut! However, there are also young coconuts which are bigger, white and almost cylinder-like with a cone on top.
When you break a young or mature coconut open there is a clear liquid called coconut water, and there is thick white flesh which can be made into dried coconut (shredded, desiccated, and flaked), and coconut oil.
Coconut water and coconut 'meat' (the white flesh) together make coconut milk.
Another fun fact: Coconut is not a nut, it is a fruit.
- Coconut Overview
- What is the difference between shredded coconut and desiccated coconut?
- What is flaked coconut?
- What can I use as a substitute for desiccated coconut?
- How long does shredded coconut last?
- Has my shredded coconut gone bad?
- Can you freeze shredded coconut?
- Can you freeze fresh coconut meat?
- Recommended Ways to Store Dried Coconut
- Can I use sweetened shredded coconut instead of unsweetened coconut?
- What are the health benefits of eating dried coconut (desiccated, shredded, or flaked)?
- Other types of coconut products and forms
- Other FAQ's about Coconut
- Healthy Snack Recipes
What is the difference between shredded coconut and desiccated coconut?
Shredded Coconut is made from the flesh of the coconut by grating it into long thin strips. It has a higher moisture content and fat content than desiccated coconut, which makes it chewy and fresh-tasting. Shredded coconut is a larger grated size than desiccated coconut. It is often used in baking delicious treats like coconut macaroons, homemade bounty bars or coconut cake.
Desiccated Coconut is also made from the grated flesh of the coconut, however, it is grated more finely and more evenly dried, leaving almost no moisture. Therefore, desiccated coconut has smaller, finer flecks, with less flavor than shredded coconut.
To recap, the main difference between desiccated coconut and shredded coconut is the size. Shredded coconut is larger strips and desiccated coconut has a finer texture with less moisture.
What is flaked coconut?
Flaked coconut is dried coconut that has been grated into thin flat flakes. It can also be sold as toasted flaked coconut which has a nutty flavor, this has literally just been toasted making it a golden brown color. Flaked coconut is used in savory and sweet recipes including granola bars, granola, cookies, trail mix, coconut clusters, energy balls, curries, and as garnish.
What can I use as a substitute for desiccated coconut?
When substituting something for desiccated coconut you often want to consider, whether you looking for a fine coarse texture, coconut flavor or tropical flavor? Is the recipe for a sweet dish or a savoury dish?
Depending on the recipe, here are three ingredients that are the best substitutes for desiccated coconut.
- Shredded Coconut: Regular shredded coconut can work as a great substitute for desiccated coconut in almost all recipes. I often use shredded coconut and desiccated coconut interchangeably when I am baking, making desserts, curries or coconut recipes. Shredded coconut is a larger fiber so you may want to pulse it in a food processor to make it finer to become more like desiccated coconut if needed.
- Coconut Extract: If you mainly want a coconut flavor, or a hint of coconut, the best option is to use coconut extract or essence, it won't add texture but it will bring that tropical taste. You can find this in the baking aisle of more grocery stores.
- Ground Nuts: Use finely ground nuts like almonds, cashews, or macadamia nuts as a substitute for desiccated coconut. This works well in certain baked goods where the nutty flavor complements the dish.
Other coconut substitutes for desiccated coconut are almond flour, ground coconut, white chocolate, or coconut powder.
How long does shredded coconut last?
Unopened Packaged Shredded Coconut can last a long time, from 6 months to a year or more. It will stay fresh longer if stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
Once the bag of coconut is open the shelf life decreases. Keep the remaining shredded coconut in an airtight container or a sealing bag, this prevents moisture and air from making the shredded coconut stale.
Storing shredded coconut in the refrigerator or freezer will make it last longer.
Has my shredded coconut gone bad?
To determine if shredded coconut is still good to use, smell it. If it develops any of the signs of spoilage listed below it's best to not eat it.
- an off smell,
- an unusual texture,
- any signs of mold
Other signs of old dried coconut is when it is shrivelled and becomes brittle. It can also turn from white to yellow.
Rancid: As coconut has a higher oil content it can go rancid easily, you will notice a sour off taste, to prevent this keep your shredded coconut in the freezer. Rancid coconut will not make you sick, it will just not taste good any longer.
Coconut exposed to moisture or humidity can spoil more quickly, so keeping it in an airtight container is necessary for extending its shelf life.
Can you freeze shredded coconut?
Yes! Freezing dried coconut is a great way to extend the shelf life of room temperature coconut that is close to the expiration date and that you aren't using up fast enough and save it for later use, or to prevent from going randcid (due to the high oil content).
I freeze my dried coconut when I buy it in bulk from organic matters to keep it fresh longer. Flaked coconut and desiccated coconut can be frozen also.
How to Freeze Dried Coconut
Storage: For best results when freezing shredded coconut, place it in an airtight, freezer-safe container or resealable freezer bag (such as a plastic bag, or use stasher silicone bags as they are more sustainable). Remove as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.
Label: Part of the freezing process is to label the coconut before freezing it! I have totally forgotten to label and date things when freezing, then I find it mystery food in my freezer and wonder how old it is...
How to use frozen shredded coconut: You can add frozen coconut shreds directly to recipes like smoothies, baked goods, or curries without the need to thaw it first. If you want it thawed leave it at room temperature for a couple hours before using.
How long will frozen coconut last? If frozen shredded coconut is properly stored in an air-tight bag or a sealed container it can maintain it's quality for an extended period of time such as 12 months or longer. It can last for a year or more however, it will slowly lose taste and the texture can be altered.
Can you freeze fresh coconut meat?
I have seen in the grocery store you can buy frozen coconut that is shredded. This coconut has not been dried, it is literally the grated coconut meat (the thick white part), frozen, then placed into sealing bags, and sold.
If you have a lot of fresh shredded coconut, this is a great way to save it for later use. Freeze the grated coconut as a thin single layer on a baking sheet, then place the frozen coconut into a bag, and keep it in the freezer. This will prevent it from all freezing together.
I like this method (freezing fresh coconut meat) as it keeps a lot of the nutrition in the food still intact.
Recommended Ways to Store Dried Coconut
Unopened Dried Coconut: Keep unopened coconut in your cool dark pantry. Use before the expiry date.
Opened Dried Coconut: Now that the bag of dried coconut is opened, store it in a sealing container or sealing bag. You will want to use it fairly quickly to maintain freshness, about 1-3 months.
Making Dried Coconut Longer (12 months+ ): To extend the shelf life of shredded coconut you can freeze or refrigerate opened packages or unopened dried coconut if you know you won't use it right away, or if you want it to last 6-12 months or longer. See the notes above on how to freeze coconut.
Can I use sweetened shredded coconut instead of unsweetened coconut?
You can use sweetened coconut instead of unsweetened coconut, however, it will make the recipe more sweet. Reduce other sweeteners in the recipe to compensate for this.
In savoury recipes, I do not recommend sweetened coconut when it calls for unsweetened coconut. Sweetened shredded coconut is covered in added sugar like icing sugar or other similar sweeteners.
What are the health benefits of eating dried coconut (desiccated, shredded, or flaked)?
Shredded coconut is a good source of essential nutrients, including dietary fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals - a good source of iron, phosphorus, and zinc.
The healthy fats in coconut provide a quick source of energy.
Coconut contains antioxidants, that may help protect cells from oxidative damage.
Other types of coconut products and forms
Coconut Water is known for its hydration and electrolyte-replenishing properties.
Coconut Meat is made into these common ingredients:
- Fresh Coconut Meat is the flesh of coconuts. This white fruit has a crunchy texture often eaten as a snack.
- Dried Coconut is where we get shredded coconut, desiccated coconut, and coconut flakes. You can also buy toasted coconut. It is used in sweet and savoury dishes. I like to make my own heavenly hunks with shredded coconut.
- Coconut Cream and Coconut Milk is when the meat and water are blended together to get coconut cream and coconut milk. This is used to make coconut ice cream.
- Coconut Oil is either cold-pressed or expeller-pressed. The oil is extracted from the meat of mature coconuts.
- Coconut Butter is made by blending a shredded coconut (that contains a high-fat content) into a rich, thick, and velvety-textured butter. I like to use this in icing for healthy cakes.
- Coconut Flour is when the coconut meat is fully dried, and then ground into a fine powder to make coconut flour.
Coconut Sugar is when the sugar comes from the sap of coconut flowers. Coconut sugar is becoming more popular as it is a natural sweetener with a lower glycemic index than refined sugar.
Coconut Aminos is a fermented sap from coconut blossoms. Because of the umami-rich flavor, it is commonly used as a soy sauce alternative.
The photo below shows most of the coconut products I use regularly at my house and are often present in my cooking.
Other FAQ's about Coconut
Store dry coconut in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Place the coconut in an airtight container (with a tight-fitting lid) or airtight bag in a dark place, this prevents moisture and air from making the shredded coconut stale. It can also be frozen to last longer.
Shredded coconut is naturally gluten-free, making it an acceptable ingredient for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
Yes, coconut water can be frozen. The best way to freeze coconut water is to pour it into ice cube trays and freeze it. Then place frozen cubes into an air-tight bag. Add the frozen ice cubes to curries, or smoothies! For best taste use within 6 months.
To make your own coconut milk, start by cracking open the coconut and removing the white meat from the shell. Remove any brown skin from the coconut meat. Otherwise, use dried unsweetened grated coconut (1.5 cups).
Place the grated coconut in a blender or food processor with 4 cups of hot water.
Blend the mixture on high speed for about 2-3 minutes until it forms a thick, creamy liquid.
Pour the blended coconut mixture through the strainer or nut milk bag, squeezing or pressing to extract as much liquid as possible. This liquid is your coconut milk, it will have a creamy texture.
Transfer the freshly made coconut milk to a clean container or bottle. You can store it in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.
I'm all about making healthy easy snacks in this corner of the internet! Find your next favorite snack! Looking for recipes with coconut to try? If you need an energy boost, try these chocolate seed balls with shredded coconut. Make healthy candy bars with dedicated or shredded coconut when you make homemade bounty bars!