I’m not typically one to be intimidated in the kitchen, or to shy away from a challenge, but one thing that has long intimidated me is dealing with fresh coconut.  I’ve looked longingly at the gorgeous fresh coconut curls atop pretty cookies, cakes, pies and more in magazines and cookbooks and finally I decided enough was enough.  It was time to figure this out.  As with so many things, the biggest obstacle was getting over the mental hurdle of intimidation.  Turns out, the whole process was pretty simple.  Certainly more involved than buying a package of shredded coconut but the results are so much more visually striking.  I know this will be my go-to choice for topping coconut flavored things from here on out.

I know that some supermarkets sell various pre-cut or otherwise manipulated coconuts to make this process more simple.  I wanted to figure out how to work with a regular old coconut in the event that this is the only kind available.  (And it actually was the only kind I saw at the store when I went to buy this one.)

So, let’s get started!  The coconut will have three eyes in the base.  Use the tip of a (clean) screwdriver to poke a hole through the two softest of the eyes.  (You may need to use a hammer to pound the screwdriver through the shell.)

Pour the water/milk from the coconut through a fine strainer into a bowl or cup.  Discard or save for a later use.

Place the coconut on a baking sheet and bake at 350˚ F until the shell is cracked in multiple places, about 30-35 minutes.  Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Wrap the coconut in a towel and hit it with a hammer several times in the same place to break it in half or multiple large pieces.  (I just banged it against the edge of our counter and it worked fine.)

Pry the coconut flesh away from the shell.  (I slid a knife around the inside of the shell to help loosen it and it came out easily.)

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough dark outer skin.

Rinse the coconut chunks and the vegetable peeler.  Peel along the broken edges of the coconut flesh to make long, thin curls of coconut.

Transfer to a skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring occasionally, until browned to your liking.  Use to garnish desserts, etc. as desired.  (Side note – many recipes will call for coconut to be toasted in the oven but I vastly prefer to do this in a skillet, where I can keep a close eye on the toasting and avoid burning or uneven browning.)

Looking for a dessert to top with these pretty fresh coconut curls?  A few of my favorite ideas:
Coconut and Tropical Fruit Trifles
Toasted Coconut Shortbread
Hummingbird Coffee Cake
Coconut Cream Pie


  • Ginnette Malespin

    Hello Annie, the water of the coconut is one of the best part of it! Try it! Much better if its cold and is very good for you too :)

  • Man, just looking at that coconut makes me want to go Florida!

  • LisaR @ Who Stole My Baby?

    Wow, this is intense, and also awesome. If I’m ever stuck on a desert island with tons of time and an oven and a stove, this is the first thing I’m going to do.

  • I use a cork-screw wine opener to make the hole in the coconut eye! Works great!

  • annieseats

    Ooh, good idea!

  • Thank you, I always wanted to know how to do this!

  • I love fresh coconut water but the most annoying thing is cutting them open, my sister actually throws it at a wall! I hardly ever get too much out of the flesh apart from a few spoonfuls, so it would be cool to try this!
    Oh and please don’t tell me you discard your coconut water, it’s so yummy and really hydrating!

  • Carolina

    Ginnette is right! Coconut water is the best thing in the world. I live in Brazil and I could certainly spend a whole day at the beach just drinking coconut water :)) You should definitely try it! Best wishes to you and your beautiful family.

  • Caroline L.

    Pretty! I’ve been obsessed with coconut this past weekend – especially coconut oil! But this is such a great tutorial… it’ll come in handy one day, hopefully!

  • soccergal2018@gmail.com

    Wow this looks great! Can’t wait to try. You have the cutest blog! I love visiting your blog every morning and trying your recipes. I recently started my own blog, amysmixingbowl.blogspot.com, and would be stoked if you would check it out and leave a comment! Thanks for the inspiration, and keep up the great work.

  • Nikki

    Hi Annie- These, along with everything you make, look incredible. A quick question: How do you keep that pan from accumulating brown stains around the edge? We have the same one and no matter how hard I scrub, I can’t get the burnt oil/grease off the sides. Thanks so much!

  • annieseats

    Hmm…we’ve never had any problem with ours accumulating stains or anything since it’s stainless. But when it starts to look dull and less shiny, we scrub it with Barkeeper’s Friend and it makes the pans look new again.

  • Sally Stamm

    Thanks! this really works!

  • LeAndra

    I love this DIY post. It is always so helpful to see step-by-step photos so I know what to expect. I see a lot of people have commented on the deliciousness of coconut water, so I am going to jump on that bandwagon too. The hot yoga studio I practice at sells coconut water as an alternative to chemical- and dye-laden Gatorade. Given I am not a nutritionist, I don’t know how accurate that substitution is, but I thought I would share.

  • wildcat15

    Ahh! You’re amazing, thank you for sharing…Definitely inspired to try it out now!

  • Cindy Diane Poteet

    What about using an ice pick?