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When you taste the cool, unique flavor of coconut, it's hard not to think of sun, sand and waving palms.

Nutritional Highlights

  • Coconuts are known for their fiber content. In about 1/3 cup (30 grams) of shredded fresh coconut, you'll find a good source of dietary fiber.
  • Unlike most fruits, coconuts contain about 10g fat (mostly saturated fat) in a 1/3 cup serving.


It's tough to say where coconuts originated, since seafaring people spread them long beforeColumbus first set sail — and because coconuts can float from isle to isle. They are used for their meat, the fluid or “water” they contain, and their shells and fibers, which made great charcoals and ropes.

Did You Know?: The coconut is technically the pit of a "drupe," a class of fruits that includes peaches, mangoes and dates. Before the 1700s, English-speakers called this fruit a "nargil." Much later, when tropical field hospitals ran short of IV solution during World War II, medics used coconut water in its place. (The water is the clear fluid that naturally occurs inside coconuts; coconut milk, on the other hand, is a thick creamy concoction made of blended coconut meat. The latter is high in saturated fat, but it also comes in light varieties.) And here's something to smile about. The word coconut comes from cocos,which is Spanish for "grinning face," since the three holes in a coconut shell can look like a little smirk.


There's really only one variety of the coconut itself, but the palms vary greatly. Scientists have found 60 different tree varieties, most of which are categorized as either Dwarf or Tall.

When are Coconuts in Season?

Since they mostly grow in the tropics, coconut "season" never really ends. You can get your hands on coconuts all year long.

How to Choose Coconuts

A good coconut will have no cracks in its hard outer shell. Grab one, hold it up to your ear and give it a little shake. If you hear coconut water sloshing around inside, you've got yourself a winner.

How to Store Coconuts

Coconuts will keep for a few weeks at room temperature, and a refrigerated coconut can last for several months.

How to Open a Coconut and Remove its Meat

To start, you'll need to drain the water from a coconut. Using an ice pick, test the hardness of the three "eyes" found at the base of the shell. One of them should be noticeably softer than the others. Push the ice pick into it, puncturing the shell, then let the water drain into a glass or bowl. (You can drink it: It's delicious.) Next, lay the coconut on its side on a hard countertop. Lift it and rap it firmly on the surface of the counter, or hold it down and carefully tap it with a tack hammer. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of force to break one open. Once the shell has split in two, press a sharp knife into the white flesh to cut it into sections, then pry them out with the pick or a butter knife.

Key Measurements

Coconut is measured in cups (shredded or diced) for most recipes.


Nothing can really replace the distinct taste of coconut meat, but for a similar tropical taste and buttery texture, try macadamia nuts or Brazil nuts.

Coconuts in Recipes

This Indian Lentils and Ricedish uses shredded coconut, ginger, garlic and red pepper to deliver a burst of East Indian spice.

If that's too hot for your tongue, cool off with a slice of chilled Healthified Coconut Cream Pie.

Or, for a zestier dessert, try these Glazed Lemon-Coconut Bars.

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