How to Soften Coconuts: Short and Sweet Guide

Coconuts are hard to open, but when you get them to crack, you’ll find soft, sweet flesh inside. However, sometimes, you might find that your coconut is hard and almost inedible. Wasting food is no fun for anybody, so it’s important that you know how to soften coconut when this happens.

In this article, you’ll learn how to soften coconut that’s gone hard and what you can do to prevent it from becoming hard in the first place. In addition, you can read on to learn what you can do with coconut that’s too far gone to come back to the land of the soft.

How do you Soften Coconut?

Hard coconut is one of those things that can be detrimental to your dessert plans. Luckily, if you need to soften coconut, it’s relatively easy.

One way to soften coconuts is to steam them for about ten minutes, or until you feel it is soft enough. Steaming the coconut with reintegrating some of that lost moisture without cooking it completely. However, there are a few more things to know about softening coconut.


Steaming Coconut Will Bring It Back

Steaming your coconut is easy: grab your steamer, put a thin layer of your hard coconut meat in it, and let it steam for about ten minutes. You should start checking on it after about four minutes, though, because you don’t want it to oversteam and become mushy. 

Before you try to use it in a recipe, make sure it’s completely cool.

If you’re rehydrating completely desiccated coconut, it’ll probably need the full ten minutes. However, if you’ve just left some fresh coconut out and it’s gone hard, you’ll probably be able to pull it out sooner. You’ll know when your coconut is soft if it fluffs up.

Young vs. Old Coconuts

Younger coconuts (the green ones) generally have softer meat, although there is less of it and more of the water. In its youngest stages, up until about five months, the meat of a coconut is gelatinous.

However, as the coconut matures, the meat inside gets harder and most of the water disappears into it.  If you just need a little bit of meat, a young coconut is great.

More often than not, you don’t just want a tiny bit, and you settle for one of the hard, brown, furry coconuts they usually house next to the bananas. The meat in these is going to be harder than younger coconuts by default, but it is still edible.

Is Hard Coconut Safe to Eat?

The desiccated coconut that you buy from the store is always safe to eat. If you left your coconut out and are worried that it’s gone both hard and bad, there are a few things you can do to check if it’s worth saving.

These include:

  • Discoloration. If your coconut has turned yellow, it’s expired. If your coconut has black spots on it, it’s rotten.
  • Texture. Another sign of bad coconut is if it’s brittle to the touch. Coconut should be slightly bendy and pretty fibrous, so if yours just breaks apart, it might be too far gone. If it is still white, you can try steaming it, but if it’s yellow, just let it go into the compost.
  • A weird smell. If your coconut smells sour, it has gone bad. Coconuts should smell slightly sweet. However, if your coconut has no smell, that could be an indicator that your coconut is, again, dry.

There are a few things you can do with coconut that has gone hard, so even if you can’t steam the moisture back into it, all hope is not lost.

What Can I Do with Hard Coconut?

Sometimes, hard coconut is a blessing in disguise. It has several uses, including:

  • Smoothies. Adding coconut to your smoothies can thicken them and give them a nice added texture. You can do this with hard or soft coconut; just chop it up and add it into the blender.
  • Acai bowls. Acai bowls are all the rage recently, and something you’ll see on most of them is coconut pieces! When you have something like an acai bowl, the texture of the hard coconut is most likely going to get lost in other foods with similar textures like granola, nuts, or seeds.
  • Shredding. You can shred hard coconut. This will kind of soften it, in that you won’t be able to feel the harder texture as much, though it’s not quite a suitable replacement for steaming it. Shredded coconut is amazing in cookies, cupcakes, or protein balls.
  • Garnishing dishes. Basically any pretty dish can benefit from some little coconut pieces for garnish. They can tie the dish together aesthetically, and you and your guests don’t actually have to consume it if you don’t want to. You can still feel like you used it.
  • Compost. Know when to call it quits. If you know you don’t care enough to do anything with this hard coconut meat, then just put it in the compost, or outside in the yard. Give it back to mother nature.

How to Prevent Coconuts from Going Hard?

The problem of hard coconut is 100% preventable. Unless you buy your coconut pre-desiccated, it did not come that way, and it doesn’t have to end up that way, either. As soon as you get your coconut meat, dump it all into an airtight food container and stick it in the fridge.

Stored that way, your coconut should be good for up to five days. After that, even if you stored it correctly, it might start to get hard.


Freshness Makes a Difference

The kind of coconut you’re buying really matters. If you’re buying pre-cut, pre-packaged coconut meat from the refrigerated cases in the produce section, it might already be getting dry. It might’ve been sitting there for a day or two, which is like decades in coconut years.

If you want the freshest, softest coconut meat possible, you really should buy a fresh coconut. Those are hard to get open, but once you do, the meat inside is fresh and soft. To get the softest meat from a coconut, you should choose one that looks good on the outside.

Brown, standard grocery store coconuts have very little water inside, so they won’t have much in the way of hydration. Choose one that has no mold spots, especially near the eyes (the little holes at the top.

Otherwise, you might wind up with a coconut that is already dry and brittle on the inside, or worse, completely rotten and unusable, even for smoothies.

In Conclusion

Hard coconut can definitely put a damper on your day. However, if you have a little extra time and a steamer basket, you don’t have to give up hope on having the soft coconut of your dreams. Just remember to always store it in an airtight container and put it in your fridge, and you’ll have the softest coconut in town.

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