How to Open a Coconut

Cracking a coconut is easier than you think

Coconut splitting open held in two hands

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If you've ever stared at a coconut and been baffled by how to get the goods out, don't worry—you're not alone and it's easier than you think. Use these steps to crack open a coconut and use the milk and coconut meat.

Draining the Coconut Juice

You'll need to drain and collect the coconut juice before opening the coconut if you're planning to prepare your own coconut milk, which entails blending the meat with the juice and adding water. Drain the coconut milk by poking a hole through one of the three eyes of the coconut. You will need a knife or a clean screwdriver.

  1. Test each eye with a knife to find the softest one.
  2. Use the knife in the softest eye to create a half-inch hole.
  3. Invert the coconut over a bowl to drain the juice.

Although you can open the coconut directly over a bowl to catch the juice, the process can be a little messy. Use the poke-the-eye-and-drain method to reduce the cleanup.

Cracking Open a Coconut

The rest is pretty simple. You will need a hammer.

  1. Hold the coconut in your non-dominant hand.
  2.  Look for the imperfect "equator" line that runs around the middle of the coconut.
  3. Take a hammer and whack along the equator line with swift hard hits—keeping the fingers of the hand holding the coconut well out of the way.
  4. Turn the coconut and continue whacking the equator line until the coconut splits open. You'll probably end up turning the coconut all the way around three or four times.
  5. Use your fingers to pull the two halves apart and place them cut side down on the counter.

You can use the blunt edge of a heavy butcher's knife instead of a hammer, but be careful not to cut yourself.

Not all coconuts are created equal. They can be drier, fresher, bigger, or smaller. The method is the same, but some will open faster than others.

Loosening and Removing the Coconut Meat

Now you have coconut halves meat-side down on the counter. Here is how to get the meat out.

  1. Strike the coconut halves repeatedly with the hammer to help loosen the meat from the shell. Tap over the entire shell area to loosen all the meat. Don't worry if the shell breaks into smaller pieces.
  2. Slide a butter knife between the shell and the meat and pry the meat away from the shell. Repeat with each piece. 

Caution: Use a dull butter knife and push away from your hand and body to prevent injury.

Alternate Method for Removing the Meat

Most people find that removing the meat from the shell is the hardest part of using fresh coconut. Here's an alternate method to try.

  1. Wrap the coconut halves in foil.
  2. Place in a 400 F oven for an hour.
  3. Wait for them to cool.

The meat should come out easily after this. If you want to remove the thin brown skin from the coconut, use a vegetable peeler for this purpose using the same caution you use when peeling other vegetables.

Using the Coconut

What comes next is up to you. Whatever you do, it'll be delicious. Here are some ideas: