How To Open A Young Coconut Like A Pro

SomethingSwanky is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.

Knowing how to open a young coconut and extract everything inside is an essential tool in any aspiring chef’s belt, because it’s such a potent fruit for spicing up cakes or mocktails. Young coconuts are one of the few unripe fruits that are as good, if not better, than their riper version. While ripe coconuts have a brown, hairy husk that’s a real pain to open, young coconuts have a sleek green exterior (or cream-colored, if the skin has already been peeled off) and the flesh inside has a softer, more palatable texture ideal for use in food or beverage recipes. You can also use the coconut water inside in your drinks or as part of a broth to add a subtle tropical tang. In this post, I’ll explain how exactly to open a young coconut to full effect.

The Two Parts of Young Coconut

Young coconuts are unique among fruits in that each fruit comes with two parts that you have to consume in totally different ways: the coconut water and the young coconut meat.

Young Coconut Water

A young coconut has a hollow center that is filled with coconut water – most young coconuts contain around 11 ounces.

Mature coconuts also have water, but not nearly as much.

Young Coconut Water Uses

Young coconut water is a great addition to drinks, from smoothies to mocktails. It’s a more flavorful and arguably even healthier alternative to water, and it will bring a tropical kick to drinks it’s added to.

Coconut water is also delicious by itself or with just a little bit of flavoring added in. Coconut water infused with pineapple juice, lime juice, or even rum is a great refreshment at parties.

Also, once you drain the water from a young coconut (either by drinking it or pouring it into a glass), the husk of the young coconut makes a tropical-looking drinking vessel that will add a bit of flavor to whatever is put inside.

Young Coconut Meat

When cut open, you can extract a few ounces of soft, jelly-like meat from a young coconut. Coconuts develop a lot more meat as they mature and have about 10 ounces when they are fully ripe, but young coconut meat is softer and, in my opinion, more enjoyable.

Young Coconut Meat Health Benefits

  • It’s rich in antioxidants.
  • It has tons of manganese, copper, and selenium, three essential nutrients not too easy to come by in most foods.
  • It’s high in fiber, which keeps you full for a long time and prevents overeating.
  • It helps with digestion.

Young Coconut Meat Uses

Young coconut meat provides a distinct crunchy texture without being too dry, which makes it a valuable addition to meals you want to make a little more interesting in terms of consistency. It also brings a tropical flavor that can be a great addition to many desserts or stir-fries.

The same can be said for drinks. Sprinkling a bit of shredded young coconut meat into a mocktail or a fruit shake adds a little crunch.

Fresh coconut meat is also used to make things like coconut cream, grated coconut, coconut oil, coconut sugar, and fresh coconut milk. Those things are made using processes like drying, blending, and squeezing.

Picking Out a Fresh Young Coconut

First, it’s best to seek out a store that has a lot of young coconuts rather than one that stocks only a few at a time. An Asian market is usually the best choice, both because you have a better chance of finding a good young coconut and because bigger supermarkets will probably overcharge you – a reasonable price for a young coconut is $3 or less. Coconuts with the green husks still on are generally the freshest of all. Most parts of the country only offer pre-husked coconuts, though. Once you find a large selection of pre-husked coconuts, look at a lot of them and consider these factors:

  • You want one that’s white in color or as close to it as possible on the top and sides. Brown or yellow husks often mean the coconut is old, and a pinkish husk means the coconut is rotten. Color is the most important criterion for finding a good young coconut.
  • Feel the bottom of any white coconut you find. It should be a bit soft without being too soft. Go for the hardness of a ripe green apple.
  • The bottom should not have any cracks, fissures, or, God forbid, mold on it.
  • Heavier young coconuts are better because they contain more water.

Steps To Cutting a Young Coconut

The following are the steps for cutting a pre-husked and fresh young coconut in a fashion that will allow you to extract the coconut water and then the coconut meat.

Gather Materials to Cut Open a Coconut

You’ll need a cleaver, which is one of those heavy chef’s knives with a large, square head. You’ll also need a cutting board to make the cuts on and a super-thin and extremely flexible utensil to scoop out the young coconut meat, plus a drinking glass if you’re planning on keeping the young coconut’s water for later use.

Cut Off the Top of The Husk

The first step is cutting off the top of the husk to gain access to the top of the coconut’s shell. Do so by cutting in a circle about .75 inches below the top of the husk. When you are cutting, the knife will meet resistance when it reaches the hard shell, and that’s how you know how deep into the husk you should cut. When you’ve cut all the way around the coconut, the top of the husk should fall off, revealing the top quarter inch or so of the shell.

How to Pop Off the Top of the Coconut Shell

Now you need to embed the inner corner of the cleaver in the revealed shell of the coconut. This will require bringing the cleaver back a few inches and swinging it into the shell like a hammer. The shell is fairly soft, though, so you don’t need to swing the cleaver back and hack at it with a lot of force – it’s not safe. Note that you may need to tap the cleaver in the cut a few times to deepen the incision.

After you’ve embedded the inner corner of the cleaver in the top of the shell, pry the cleaver up a bit to pop the shell off – it will usually come off quite easily. For some more stubborn shells, you may need to insert one of the outer corners of the cleaver into the incision you made with the inner corner and pry up with that corner for more leverage.

Drink/Drain the Water

If you need to quench your thirst, you can drink the water straight out of the young coconut. Otherwise, pour the water out into a glass.

Scrape Out the Meat

Now slide the ultra-thin spatula between the inner wall of the coconut’s shell and the layer of coconut meat that lines the shell. Slowly push the spatula down, bending it to hug the inner shell, until you’ve worked it all the way down to the base of the coconut. Now work the spatula in a circle along the inside of the shell’s wall. You’ll probably need to circle the coconut three or four times before the layer of meat falls free from the shell walls. If done correctly, the meat should all fall off in one piece. Most of the time, though, it will come off in pieces. Either way, turn the coconut upside down and shake out the meat.

Note that the meat should be white or ivory-colored. If it has a pinkish hue, it’s rotten and you probably shouldn’t eat it.

Enjoy (or continue on to make a tasty treat)

Now that you know how to open a coconut, use the fresh coconut meat and the young coconut water you extracted earlier in food or drink recipes or eat or drink them fresh!

Try some of our favorite coconut recipes:

How to Open a Coconut FAQ

Now to answer some frequently-asked questions about young coconuts.

What is the difference between a young coconut and a regular coconut?

A young coconut is just another way of referring to unripe or immature coconuts. Young coconuts contain a lot more water and less meat than mature coconuts, because the water solidifies over time. Young coconuts are also smaller than their grown-up versions and have a smooth green exterior (before being de-husked) as opposed to the brown stringy exterior of ripe coconuts.

Will a green coconut ripen when off of the tree?

No. Coconuts stop ripening after they are picked or fall off the tree, and they stay good for at least six months – usually more like a year if they are kept in the pantry.

Does young coconut need to be refrigerated?

No. In fact, young coconut keeps longest if you keep it out of the fridge in a cold, dark storage area.

Put the Lime in the Coconut

Young coconuts are incredible fruits. They’re flavorful, the texture is totally unique, and they are extremely healthy. You can also extract multiple types of goodies from them if you know what you’re doing. Here’s hoping this quick guide on how to open young coconut helps you to bring the pride of the south pacific to your next round of cakes, puddings, or mocktails!

« Previous Post

How to Make Sticky Buns: A Definitive Guide

Next Post »

The Most Delicious Air Fryer Grilled Cheese

Leave a Comment