Raw Food: All About Young Coconuts

by Susan on January 29, 2010

When creating raw food recipes, the young coconut is a healthy substitution for many of the dairy products that we have eliminated.  Raw food is traditionally vegan.  Coming up with recipes that remind us of  the traditional recipes that call for cream, butter and cheese requires creativity with the ingredients that we do use, such as nuts and coconut.

Coconut flesh, coconut oil and coconut butter are healthy substitutions. Recent research as found that the saturated fat contained in coconut actually protects against heart disease, stroke and hardening of the arteries. Coconut oil contains large amounts of lauric acid which is the main fatty acid found in breast milk. Lauric acid strengthens the immune system and protects against viral, bacterial and fungal infections. You can read more about the health benefits of coconuts here.

What kind of coconuts do you use for the recipes? I use young Thai coconuts. They are coconuts in the earlier stages of development. (See above picture). You can find them at co-ops, Whole Foods, Asian markets and online. Recently I found a site that has great prices for fresh, organic young coconuts. I have not ordered any from here but wanted to let you know about the site. The owner wanted me to let you know that sometimes it might take a week or two to get your order because they ship as the coconuts become available. The link is: Florida Coconuts.

What is the difference between coconut oil and coconut butter? Coconut Oil is pressed out of the coconut flesh either by centrifugal force ( unrefined, virgin coconut oil) or the cold pressed method. Coconut Butter is coconut oil plus coconut solids. It contains the oil and the flesh of the coconut.

Opening Coconuts: When I first started experimenting with raw foods, I was intimidated by coconuts. I had no idea how to open them. I tried a tree saw, a huge cleaver and various knives. Every attempt was finally met with success but only after some pretty scary moments and fear of removing body parts.  Then, I stumbled upon a video showing the correct way to open a young coconut. Honestly, it is so easy, I couldn’t believe how much stress I had previously put myself through.

Trim excess husk from pointed top of coconut.

It will look like this.

With the bottom edge of your knife, strike the coconut towards the top.

Continue to strike the coconut around the top until you have reached your starting place.

Lift the lid, pour out the water (save it as it is quite good for you) and scrape out the flesh with a spoon!

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

joanna January 29, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Thanks for clearing this up, I’m sure many body parts will be spared, lol! Great info… really. :D

Now I’m off to check out that coconut site! Vroom…

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Serenity January 29, 2010 at 6:41 pm

If only it were that easy. I have to break out the toolbox. First, I drill a hole with a drill to claim all the liquid. Then break the joker with a hammer.

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Susan January 29, 2010 at 7:39 pm

You should try this method, It is very easy. I was amazed.

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dee January 29, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Except for cutting off the excess husk, this is how I open them up.
I just want to know, how do you know if you have a lot of flesh in the inside of the coconut.

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Susan January 29, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Honestly, I have opened up coconuts that I couldn’t even use. They all look the same from the outside.

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rachael October 29, 2014 at 5:54 am

Going by weight is best.
Sometimes a smaller coconut will be heavier than a larger sized one. Those are the best ones…the denser the better.

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dee January 29, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Have you ever made coconut cream from mature coconuts? I keep reading about it in recipes and don’t know what screen to use?

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Erin @ Living and Loving In L.A. January 29, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Oh my gosh! I did a similar post earlier this month! Although yours was way more informative.

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Susan January 29, 2010 at 11:02 pm

The key to making it really easy is the multiple hacks around the top.

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Evita @ Jakarta Indonesia January 30, 2010 at 10:20 am

Hi Susan.. If your coconut younger.. it’s more easy.. :)
do you know how to choose the young coconut?

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Patricia Robinett January 30, 2010 at 3:10 pm

one of my favorite foods! i used to use an electric screwdriver… a jig saw… a machete…. until i learned to cut off all the fluff on the top until you can see the wood clearly. then simply TAP around the top in a circle with the back of your knife or machete until a little opening occurs… (coconuts must develop like trees, building circles of fibers)… a little circular trap door will begin to open… then take the knife and with the blade, gently pry it open, up and down, left and right… even less violence for those who are really scared of knives. :)

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Susan January 30, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Yes…that is exactly how I do it in the post…except I do use the knife edge. Not much force is required at all.

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Nikki @ yummy raw kitchen January 31, 2010 at 12:33 am

I love young coconuts. Totally worth the effort to open & scrape them out :)

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Stacy January 31, 2010 at 7:47 pm

I have found that using a cleaver is easier, and safer…
Once, when using a knife like the one shown in your photos, I actually bent the back corner of my blade. :( And I wasn’t even hitting the coconut hard, it just kinked the blade’s corner when I was tapping into the coconut (glad the blade didn’t break and fly into the coconut or into the air)! The cleaver is thicker, heavier so you can even use less force and just let the weight work to your advantage, and is easier to pry open that little lid.
Great article, I have to agree with you about being stressed in the past about being worried about losing body parts :)

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Susan January 31, 2010 at 9:38 pm

I used to use a cleaver but much prefer my knife! I love how we all find our own way.

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Dot D. February 1, 2010 at 6:49 am

Thank you for this informative demonstration! I have never opened one but have seen many others try…..pretty frightening. This demo shows me I can have more confidence now….LOL

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RadiantlyRaw February 1, 2010 at 1:48 pm

This is how I do it as well! It’s easy & works every time. Do you happen to know if they can be frozen? Fridge space is at a premium & I’m fortunate enough to be able to buy a case here at the Asian store for about $12. It would be great if I could pop the case in the garage freezer & pull one out a few hours before needing it. I love young coconuts!!!

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Susan February 1, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I have not frozen them but I think it would be worth a try. I would take the flesh out and suspend it in the water and freeze that way. The coconuts actually keep for quite a while on their own.

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RadiantlyRaw February 2, 2010 at 3:06 pm

You mean they keep a while out of the fridge? That would work too. I could go through a case a week, easily. :-) Thanks!!

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Catherine March 27, 2010 at 1:39 pm

I can not get coconuts here in Alaska. I can order them, but cost and the fact that they can not guarantee they will be any good once they do arrive (the airlines does leave their cargo out on the tarmack and it can freeze, thaw and then freeze again at the next stop) makes it not worth the effort. So my question is, is there anything I can use in its place –rehydrated shredded coconut?

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Anna's Fasting For Weight Loss October 8, 2010 at 10:08 am

Hi Susan

Great post. This clears a lot of my worries in opening up a coconut. I had always relied on the shop owner to open it for me without knowing that I can actually DIY. Thank you for the post. And one more, I like the Florida Coconut link. That enables people to enjoy coconuts anywhere. Great resource!!

Anna

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LisaE December 4, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Hi Susan, Have you ever tried making your own coconut butter? Couldn’t you just use young coconut meat and blend it up with coconut oil in either a food processor or kitchen mixer?

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Michelle January 13, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Susan, have you ordered from the website you suggested yet? They are only a couple hours away from me & I was wondering if the variety they grow is thai or not.

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Maija Haavisto June 1, 2011 at 11:54 am

I tried this method on my first young coconut today. I could not get the knife to actually puncture the coconut part (or even leave a noticeable dent on it), but after whacking it around in a circle for quite a while it eventually caved in. Luckily it was good, because after all that work finding something nasty would have been quite discouraging… Spooning the flesh out was also more work than I thought – I actually ended up using a knife because it clung to the edges.

Not sure I’m going to fight another battle any time soon (I’m disabled so it was a bit too exhausting).

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Susan June 1, 2011 at 4:30 pm

You don’t want to puncture…you want to crack the top.

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Lexi Porter August 25, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Hey, Susan – thanks for the great article on this (love the pictures!). I’ve recently become a fan of young Thai coconuts (raw chocolate pudding – yumm!), but so far I’ve made my husband open them all for me. Maybe now I can do it myself (MORE raw chocolate pudding! :-)

Thanks again,

Lexi

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Mike January 13, 2012 at 10:32 am

@michelle

Yesterday I picked up a dozen from the link listed above as I live a few miles away them. I have noticed the “thai” coconuts to be smaller while the “florida coconuts are generally larger and have more water.

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Lise February 5, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Thx susan, love your site. Can we make our own coconut butter?

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Rocky March 14, 2012 at 8:40 am

I just wanted to say thank you for the Florida Coconut link. I had been buying the young Thai coconuts for their water at Whole Foods for about $3.00/coconut but recently learned that they are dipped in formaldehyde before shipping. The Florida Coconut Farm is literally right down the street from me and I now go there every few days. They are organic. The price is right and he sells a tool to open them up in about 10 seconds. The water tastes a little different. It seems fresher. Oh ya, you cant use the tool for the Thai coconuts because the husk and shell are too hard by the time they hit the stores. Hope this helps.

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Susan March 14, 2012 at 8:53 am

Glad you can use him! Also, Whole Foods does carry organic coconuts now. Cheers!

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Andrea December 6, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Thank you so much for these tips. I have been intimidated in the past and deliberately not bought fresh coconuts. I will be more willing to have a go at opening one now!

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Bethany Liesemer December 7, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I purchased 3 coconuts at an Asian grocer here in Toronto (Canada) yesterday, they came from California. However, they had just “arrived” yesterday. Today when I opened all of them one of them was definitely perfect, as the coconut inside was still firm, super white, and stuck to the sides, and the the water was much clearer. However, the other two, one has a slight pink on the bottom (a sign of them developing bad bacteria?) and the flesh inside was all gooey. The other was not pink, and the water (i put all the water from each coconut in separate glass jars – filtered it – to compare colour) was fairly close in colour to the healthy coconut, BUT the inside was gooey again.

So… my question, if anyone can answer or still reads this blog post – can I use that gooey coconut flesh, if there is no sign of pink? And is the water still safe to drink?

I feel like I wasted money, because I could only use 1 of the 3.

Also, is there a way to pick the coconuts from the grocers and know from the outside or smell which might be healthier?

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Susan December 7, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Sometimes, you don’t get mature enough coconuts. If I open one that isn’t…has the purplish cast and relatively little flesh, I return them. People are very good at taking them back as you have a coconut you really can’t use.

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mee March 6, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Hello,
I am wondering if a few questions about coconut oil be answered please if possible:
What is the difference between coconut fat and coconut oil?
What is the difference between raw coconut oil and cold pressed coconut fat?
Could the oil and fat be the same thing?
What makes a thing raw?
I hope you can help.
Thanks in advance
Mee

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Susan March 6, 2013 at 12:47 pm

First, I need to understand what you mean by “coconut fat”.

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mee March 7, 2013 at 11:25 am

Thanks Susan, but that is why I am asking. I have seen for sale coconut fat cold pressed and I currently buy raw coconut oil ( in it’s solid form).

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Susan March 7, 2013 at 11:49 am

I only use raw organic virgin coconut oil that is cold pressed. It is solid at room temp. I would really worry that “coconut fat” especially if it was liquid at room temp was processed and not healthy. But since I honestly have never seen something labeled “coconut fat” I am at a loss here. I can’t even find it if I google it. Are you in the US? Coconut oil is the fat from the coconut. To keep the raw status, it can’t be heated over 115 degrees in processing.

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mee March 7, 2013 at 11:28 am

… Could the term raw mean that the oil pressing were taken from the raw fresh coconut flesh and not like usual from the dried flesh?

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mee March 7, 2013 at 12:07 pm

The coconut ‘fat’ is from a place which should be aware of the difference. It is organic from India. It does not claim to be raw. I think that to be raw it must be from fresh coconut flesh then as opposed to dried. I am not in us and I presume that the ‘fat’ is solid at room temp also but if it isn’t I will not buy it. The 115 degrees sounds hot.

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leslie l. April 5, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Thank tou somuch for this information. Ive been drinking young cocnut water for years now but always feeling alil guilty because living in California I can get the almost year round. Since I started researching more on Raw Food Diet Ive been buying the twice a week, drinking and making (kale, date, banana) smoothies with the water. However, I wasn’t clear of a few things, 1. the nutrition and 2. what if any things to do with the husk?
Thank you.

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Rick October 7, 2013 at 8:50 pm

All the Coconut Oil I find in stores lately (as of 2013) are all rancid and/or contaminated. I never had an issue with simply grabbing quality/pure white coconut oil off of the shelves a few years back. Now that there’s a higher demand for it; the quality is awful and not safe to ingest (in my opinion). Never ever had this problem a few years ago, I take 8 tbsp a day so Im constantly purchasong it. I just started missing days as of 2013 fue to all the stores distributing poor quality coconut oil. Its ridiculous, and they’ll tell you it’s not rancid “its just yellow because of the smoke point during manufacturing” or “because its organic” as if anyone can determine whether or not its yellow due to the smoke point or rancidity. How can this be determined? Coconut oil or any food doesnt just go bad over night, its a gradual and slight process; therefore, what could happen.if/when youve mistaken it for something “organic” going on with or if its just bad. I live in CA, all stores here are selling bad coconut oil and Ive gotten the catch in the throay among many other situations because of it. So my question is, how can you determine good young coconuts? I just began eating them

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Susan October 7, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Hi, Rick, I am sorry you are having trouble with coconut oil. I also live in California and have no problem finding good coconut. In fact, I haven’t had a bad jar. I am not sure what kind of coconut oil you are getting but you can get organic raw coconut oil at Whole Foods. As for the young coconuts, that is trickier. There are bad ones out there and you really won’t know until you open them.

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Emily January 2, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Hi Susan, I was checking out the coconut website you recommended and am considering buying coconuts from him. But I was curious – his are young green coconuts and not recommended for their meat – yours in your picture is not green and you specifically need the meat for the recipe. Are his the same thing?

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Julie S March 9, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Hi Susan,
I bought a case of these from my local H Mart and had them stored in my garage. Due to the low temps we’ve had they froze. Are they still good? I opened them and the water looks a little “dirty” and some of the meat seems a little “rubbery”.

Julie
Colorado

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Suzanne Russell March 27, 2014 at 11:30 am

Thanks to your excellent step-by-step, I have successfully opened my first young coconut and scraped the out the meat with ease. I can hardly wait to use it. Thanks again!

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Helen May 30, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Look up the tool called Coco-Jack. . .awesome tool and you’re not dealing with a knife.

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