How to Grate Fresh Coconut

freshly grated coconut from a brown coconut
Brown Coconut Freshly Grated

Grating Coconut – More than you will ever want to know!

Sometimes there is a need for freshly-grated coconut. Now I know most of the time you can use frozen shredded coconut, but for that special occasion, you might want to take the time to grate one for yourself.

But it’s not for the faint of heart! It’s not an easy task! The holidays are coming up and one way to tell your family you love them is to bake a fresh coconut cake))

I grated two coconuts for a fresh coconut cake for my grandson’s birthday. You know how that goes….if they want a coconut cake, then it is my job as a grandmother to produce a coconut cake! It’s a labor of love and I probably wouldn’t do it for anyone other than someone I had birthed.

My mother and grandmother always grated coconuts for those Christmas or Thanksgiving cakes. That’s the only time I can remember having a fresh coconut cake growing up. Honestly, I hadn’t even thought about whether or not coconuts would be available in the grocery store this time of the year. I did have to go to two stores to find them.

It had been a very long time since I had cracked a coconut and grated it, so I really sort of wanted to do it again just to document it I guess…lol. Everyone “needs” to know how! Or at least just so you can say “Been there, done that.” Next time, I’ll probably opt for the frozen coconut too))

Coconut Facts

I learned a lot about coconuts just by preparing for this post on how to grate fresh coconut! And I thought there couldn’t be that much to know…I was wrong)))

Coconut Palm

A coconut palm won’t reach peak production until it is 15-20 years old. A coconut palm can live 60-80 years. Coconuts are harvested about 8 times a year and on average tree produces about 15 coconuts per harvest. And they do fall off trees when they are ripe. And yes, they have been known to kill people!. Note to self: Wach out for falling coconuts!

Would you Prefer Green or Brown?

The only coconuts we see in our area are brown coconuts which just means they are more mature than green ones. The green ones are the type you can stick a straw in and drink coconut water. You have to run over the brown ones with a truck to crack them open.

green coconut with a straw to drink the coconut water
Green Coconut

Remember Tom Hanks in Cast Away? Lopping off the top of a coconut and drinking the juice. That may happen in real life in the tropics, but it doesn’t happen in the south. The only time we might see a green coconut would be on a cruise or a trip to Hawaii. If I ever get to go…..I’ll take pics and update this post)) Sounds like a research project…and would be tax deductible)))

Brown coconuts are hairy, heavy, and have delectable white meat which is called mature flesh or copra. The brown fibrous layer attached to the meat is edible, but most often it’s trimmed off before the coconut meat is grated.

how to grate the meat of a coconut to make a fresh coconut cake

How to Choose a Brown Coconut to Grate

Coconuts don’t come with an expiration date, or I’ve never seen one anyway. But they can get old, so be wary of a grayish-colored one. If you crack one and the water smells soured, discard it, and also discard it if the meat is yellowish.

A good coconut should feel heavy and you can hear the fluid inside when you shake it. The eyes should be clean-looking and it should have no cracks. The coconuts I purchased this week, did have a score mark around them that was supposed to make cracking them open easier, but I couldn’t tell that it helped at all.

brown coconut ready to be cracked open and shredded

Have you ever wondered why one of the three coconut eyes is soft? Well, me either, but anyway, one is the germination port. Sort of like an umbilical cord, I guess))

Grating the Coconut

First, poke a hole in the “soft eye” and drain the water. We would call this “coconut milk” but that’s not right. This is the “coconut water.”

how to choose a coconut, listen for the water inside

“Coconut Milk” is a commercially made product that uses the pureed meat of the coconut with water added. I supposed it may be done manually somewhere but for all practical purposes, we buy it in a can or container.

Coconut cream is just thicker coconut milk with a higher fat content. We buy that in a can also, called Cream of Coconut but it has extra sugar added. Real cream coconut does not. So be careful when you buy. The canned Cream of Coconut that we typically see on grocery shelves is used in desserts or alcoholic drinks like Pina Colada.

how to grate coconut for a fresh coconut cake

The fibrous brown layer attached to the white meat has to be cut off. Well, in my opinion anyway. It is edible, but snow-white coconut is the most desirable I think. Trim it off carefully. And carefully I mean as to not cut yourself!

Hand Grater or Food Processor

You can hang grate your coconut as I did with a microblade grater or a box grater using the fine grating side. It’s a slow process for sure. My Nijia didn’t have a grate or shred setting so I didn’t try using it. I did use a small 2-cup chopper to chop the tiny pieces that were too small to grate by hand.

So if you have a food processor that finely shreds, go for it! I do have a hand-cranked shredder that would have grated the coconut in minutes, but that meant getting it out, setting it up, then washing it and putting it away. So I grabbed the microblade out of the drawer and used it. I did grate my finger too once. 😳


Store the grated coconut in the refrigerator until ready for use. You can freeze it in bags too. I’m not sure how long freshly grated coconut would last, but the “internet” says four days. Most people who go to the trouble to grate coconut, like me, will be using it immediately. Any leftovers should just go on into the freezer.

The finished product

shredded fresh coconut

The grated coconuts from the two I had measured out about 8 cups. It was very light and airy. I stored it in the refrigerator while I made my cake and frosting and by the time I took it out, it measured out less. More like 6-7 cups which was plenty for my recipe.

Here’s my cake after all that work!

fresh coconut cake with strawberry garnish
Fresh Coconut Cake

I haven’t decided if I will do a post on the fresh coconut cake yet….it was a whole afternoon affair! But if you’re interested I’ll be happy to share the process.

Birthday Requests

Here’s Matt getting a taste of his birthday cake)))

matt tasting his fresh coconut cake made for his birthday
Matt on his 15th Birthday

Maggie’s birthday is coming up next week! She’ll be 20 and I have my fingers crossed that she will want chocolate chip cookies!

maggie at ole miss
more from my kitchen
yummy pound cake

My Aunt Mildred’s Pound Cake

Well, I call this pound cake. According to my mother’s recipes, it was my Aunt Mildred’s “plain cake.” But it’s a pound cake, so we’ll call it that. She may have just been referring to her plain cake without a glaze or frosting of any kind. Anyway….I decided to give the recipe a whirl!


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