How to open a coconut (it’s coconut week!)


It’s officially coconut week on this blog. I’m dedicating these next few posts to the humble coconut, possibly the weirdest little seed/nut on the planet, because it only took me thirty years to build up the courage to buy one, and no sooner to realize how tasty and versatile the thing is. I also didn’t really know, until very recently, that there was a difference between coconut water and coconut milk. Shame on me. Oh, AND I thought the flesh was soft like a peach and not crunchy like an apple. I can’t believe I had the audacity to once call myself a foodie.

As I’m writing this, the skies just darkened and a tropical storm is a’brewin. I think the universe likes my plan. Let’s start the week with a quick lesson on how to open a coconut!


First, assemble your tools. Tools are important, and without them, you’ll never be able to get that nut open. You’ll need:

  • a hammer
  • a large nail or screw (or screwdriver)
  • a couple of towels that you don’t mind getting dirty
  • a small bowl
  • Tin foil
  • a butter knife

To open the coconut:

  1. Locate the three dark holes on your coconut. Pound the screw or screwdriver into these holes, one at a time, with a hammer. You’ll need to hammer rather hard, much harder than you think. It will take a few good pounds before the nail even pierces the tough outer layer of the coconut, but once it breaks it should go through a little easier.


  1. When you have three holes bored, drain the coconut juice- the clear liquid inside of the coconut- from the holes into a small bowl. Set aside (you can strain then drink this, but I prefer to use it to beef up my coconut milk!)
  2. Once all the juice is shaken out, place the coconut on a towel on the ground. This is sort of important, because if you’re on the kitchen counter, you’ll end up making a racket. Using your hammer, pound directly on the coconut, around the area of the three holes. After a few tries, you might notice the coconut starting to crack. Perfect. Pound along this crack until your coconut finally splits open. It will take a few pretty hard whacks, so don’t be afraid to take out whatever anger you’ve got on this little nut.


Now, to take out the flesh!

  1. Turn on the oven to 375°, wrap the coconut halves in foil, and stick in the oven to bake for 45 minutes-1 hour. Timing isn’t really important here. The baking will help loosen the flesh from the shell, and it will also provide for an awesomely rich coconut milk later.
  2. After about an hour, take out of the oven (notice that heavenly smell!?) and carefully unwrap. Set aside to cool, or if you’re as impatient as I am, just run under cool water.



  1. Using a small knife- something like a butter knife will do- pry along the edges where the meat meets the outer shell. Eventually, the coconut flesh will come loose. It might take a bit of MacGyver-ing, but it’ll come.
  2. The flesh will still have a thin brown shell layer attached. If you’re just making milk, this is fine, and you can leave it as is. However, I like to keep the pulp after straining the milk to make things like coconut crusted fish and shrimp, so I prefer to carefully peel this off. I’ve found that the best method is to lay the chunks on a cutting board, and using a knife, shave off the brown parts.


Voila! Coconut meat to shave over salads, eat in chunks as a post-workout snack, or to steep with water and make coconut milk. And speaking of which, check back tomorrow. I’m going share how to make the most luscious coconut milk ever!

4 thoughts on “How to open a coconut (it’s coconut week!)

  1. Pingback: How to make coconut milk (a.k.a. the most delicious milk on this planet) - Peeps From Abroad

  2. you’re not totally off with thinking the coconut flesh to be soft! The coconuts you purchased are considered to be “old” which is why the flesh is so hard. These old coconuts are the circular brown ones, like the one you purchased.

    You can also purchase young coconut, and those are white/cream colored, and usually grocery stores shave them down.. (google it for clarity) but when you open up one of those, the flesh is wayyyyyy more tender than the old coconuts and you can just scoop it out w/o needing to bake it.

    very delicious and refreshing! You should try it!

  3. Ahhh thanks Teresa. I didn’t know there was “young” coconut vs. “old” coconut, although duh, that makes sense!! I’ve had a different variety of coconut, more green and oblong-shaped (common here in Tanzania, and also in a lot of other parts of the world) and those have a really thin layer of soft flesh… but really thin- you wouldn’t be able to make any milk out of it. Thanks for clarifying, I’m still new to the whole coconut craze!

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