By Cat, Jan 2015 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
Coconut isn’t really a nut, but rather the fruit of the coconut palm. The meat or flesh of the coconut is inside a hard shell that can be a mystery to open unless you know the secret. See How to Open a Coconut for details.
Coconut meat (and milk made from the meat) possesses high amounts of beneficial fat – about 17 to 25 percent — in the form of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which are easier to break down than long-chain fatty acids (found primarily in nut and seed oils), and do not require special enzymes for metabolism. They are converted to energy rather than stored as fat. Lauric acid, a type of MCFA rarely found in nature, can be found in coconut milk.” (7) It is worthwhile noting that lauric acid has antimicrobial properties.
Other nutrients found in coconut milk include (7):
- Vitamins C and E
- B vitamins, such as B1, B3, B5, and B6
- Minerals, such as iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus
Read on for more about:
- 1. Creamed Coconut; 2. Dried Coconut: Flaked or Shredded; 3. Coconut flour; 4. Coconut Meat; 5. Coconut Milk; 6. Coconut Oil; 7. Coconut Water
- See also: 1. How to Open a Coconut; 2. Coconut Milk; 3. Coconut Milk Kefir; 4. Coconut Milk Yogurt; 5. Tropical Oils: Coconut & Palm Oil
“Creamed coconut, sold in cans or as a block, is formed from desiccated coconut that has been ground to an oily paste with thickens and sets when chilled. The block is sealed in plastic, and once opened, can be stored in the refrigerator for many weeks. Simply cut off pieces to use. Add creamed coconut to traditional Southeast Asian and Indian curries, or to stews, casseroles and soups to enrich and flavor them.” (5)
I have never used this product.
Dried Coconut: Flaked or Shredded
There are several different varieties of coconut flakes/shredded coconut. Most people are only familiar with the sweetened, shredded variety, as used in coconut cream pie, for example.
Bakers Sweetened Coconut Flakes (2) [NOTE: the label indicates a serving size of 2 tsp, but to be realistic in a recipe, and to compare with Bob’s Red Mill serving size of ¼ cup, I also provide nutritional information for ¼ cup]
- Nutritional label: In 2 tsp of flakes: 5 g total fat; 6 g total carbs of which 5 g are sugars; OR in ¼ cup flakes: 30 g total fat, 36 g total carbs of which 30 g are sugars
- Ingredients: Coconut, Sugar, Water, Propylene Glycol, To Preserve Freshness, Salt, Sodium Metabisulfite (preservative)
However, I prefer to use unsweetened variety and add my own sweetener when using in a recipe.
Bob’s Red Mill Unsulfered, Unsweetened and Dried Coconut (3)
- Flaked (3a) or Shredded (3b) Nutritional label: In ¼ cup flakes: 10 g total fat; 4 g total carbs of which 1 g is sugars; Ingredients: Unsulfured Coconut
- Fine Macaroon Coconut Nutritional label: In 3 Tbsp fine-shred: 10 g total fat; 4 g total carbs of which 1 g is sugars; Ingredients: Unsulfured Coconut
Compare density, as weights-per-cup (from Bob’s Red Mill April 2017 response to my query):
- Shredded Coconut (3b): 1 cup = 3.5 oz. (this is the product used in my coconut milk recipe)
- Macaroon Coconut (3c): 1 cup= 4.2 oz. (if use this product for making coconut milk, you will need more water than in my recipe, because it is more dense)
- Coconut Flakes (3a); 1 cup = 2.25 oz. (if use this product for making coconut milk, you will need less water than in my recipe, because it is less dense)
Desiccated Unsweetened Coconut Shred/Flakes
Desiccation involves steaming and drying at temperatures above 145°F as a preservation method, so this product is not the same as raw or dried-raw; the heat treatment reduces its nutritional value. Desiccated flakes come in both sweetened and unsweetened versions, so pay attention to which you are using as compared with what is called-for in the recipe.
Making your own shredded or flaked coconut from coconut meat
See WikiHow (4) for two methods: Drying in 350°F oven; or dehydrating at 135°F
Toasting Sweetened Coconut Flakes
These instructions are from My Baking Addiction (6)
- Oven method: Preheat oven to 325°F;
- Spread sweetened coconut flakes on rimmed baking sheet;
- Toast in preheated oven, watching carefully and stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 – 10 minutes (or 10 – 15 minutes if unsweetened).
- Set aside to cool before using
- Stove-top method: Place coconut flakes in a large cast iron skillet.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the flakes are mostly golden brown. If the coconut is sweetened it tends to brown faster so, it will take less time than if unsweetened.
Coconuts are high in fiber. Coconut flour is now available (such as from Bob’s Red Mill); though not a complete substitute for grain flours, it can be added as replacement for :
- up to 20% of grain flour in breads, cakes, cookies and pastries, to increase the fiber content. Be sure to add equivalent amount of liquid (water, milk, juice) to keep your product from becoming too dry. This combination also provides the benefit of helping the final product to retain moisture.
- up to 100% of grain flour if recipe includes eggs which provide the protein necessary for the coconut to behave like a grain flour.
You can also make your own flour; see Making your own shredded or flaked coconut from coconut meat, above.
The white meat inside has many uses. It can be shredded for use in decorating cakes and other desserts, for coconut cream pie, and in cookies. The shredded coconut can also be used to make coconut milk; see Coconut Milk for details. The first pressing is rich with coconut oil and the sweet flavor of the coconut. The second pressing is also known as “lite coconut milk” and has less of the rich oils and other nutrients.
Drying shredded coconut: See WikiHow (1) for two methods: Drying in 350°F oven; or dehydrating at 135°F.
Coconut Milk: A delicious substitute for dairy milk
Coconut milk provides protein; vitamins B1, B6, C, E and folic acid; and minerals calcium and iron; in addition to the healthful fatty acid profile. The first pressing has the greatest concentration of these nutrients and can be used for the following:
- You can substitute it 1:1 for milk or cream in smoothies, soups and most sauces.
- When used in puddings, I find it doesn’t have enough protein on its own to “set” the pudding, so I replace only half the dairy milk with coconut milk, or I add more eggs. The light coconut flavor is wonderful in custards, banana cream pie, chocolate mousse and ice cream.
- It can be cultured to make yogurt or kefir.
The second pressing is quite watery and can be used to dilute the first pressing for a more milk-like texture.
Inside a fresh coconut is ‘coconut water’ which is a recently popular fresh drink. It is obtained before opening the coconut by pouring it out through one of the two soft-spots on the shell, called eyes.
The coconut water can be consumed as is, or it can be cultured with kefir or other cultures for a fermented beverage; or it can be added to coconut milk. Sometimes I use it in combo with coconut milk in my daily smoothie, instead of whole raw milk.
The average “green coconut offers about ½ – 1 cup of coconut water.” (8) It is “an excellent alternative to sports drinks, a natural refreshing beverage that could be used for whole-body rehydration post-exercise,” (8) to which I can personally attest, as I’ve used to to rehydrate many times. Here are some other benefits (this list is from Green Med Info (8) which in turn come from various cited sources in the Green Med Info article):
- Slashing Blood Glucose and Excess Pounds Naturally
- Anti-ulcer properties: Both coconut water and coconut milk demonstrate strong anti-ulcer activity against chemicals such as indomethacin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).
- Lipid-lowering action: Coconut water has a lipid-modulating effect similar to the drug lovastatin in rats fed a fat- and cholesterol-enriched diet.
- Alzheimer’s disease protection: In a novel study, young coconut juice showed positive future implications in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer‘s disease in menopausal women.
- Sperm preservation: A coconut water-based extender, ACP-116c, along with 20% egg yolk and 3% glycerol, was effective for the cryopreservation of semen.
- Antibacterial benefits: Three peptides were purified and identified from green coconut water, exhibiting remarkable antimicrobial action against pathogenic bacteria.
- Kidney stone fighter: In a study on rats with kidney stones, coconut water barred crystals from sticking to the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract. In addition, it slashed the number of crystals formed in the urine.
- WikiHow: drying coconut: wikihow.com/Dry-Coconut
- FoodFacts for Bakers sweetened coconut: foodfacts.com/ci/nutritionfacts/Fruits-Nuts-Seeds-Vegetables/Bakers-Angel-Flakes-Sweetened-Coconut–oz/14213
- Bob’s Red Mill desiccated unsweetened coconut: (3a) Flakes; (3b) Shredded; (3c) Macaroon; (All links removed at their request)
- WikiHow: drying coconut: wikihow.com/Dry-Coconut
- Asian Online on creamed coconut: asianonlinerecipes.com/rss/item/923
- My Baking Addiction on toasting coconut: mybakingaddiction.com/how-to-toast-coconut
- Mercola: products.mercola.com/coconut-milk-recipes
- Green Med Info: greenmedinfo.com/blog/coconut-water-reduces-body-weight-and-blood-sugar