The Origins of Coconut
Coconut originally comes from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera), a tropical plant that grows in the coastal regions of the Pacific, Indian and the Caribbean. The tree is widely cultivated for its fruit, which is used to produce coconut oil, water, milk, and other food products. Today, coconut is grown in many tropical and subtropical countries around the world, including India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Mexico, and Brazil.
Health Benefits of Coconut
For centuries, coconut has been revered for its incredible health benefits. In recent times, however, the health claims associated with coconut products have been contentious.
Most of the research conducted on coconut looks at coconut oil specifically.
Here's what some of the recent data says:
May support heart health
Coconut oil has been shown to increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or "good" cholesterol, which may help lower the risk of heart disease. However, at the same time it raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels which are actually associated with poor cardiovascular health.
So does that mean the health benefits are really nil?
Studies in some Asian countries say that coconut oil helps your heart and cholesterol levels. But there are not enough studies done in Western countries to prove that this is true. There's a growing body of evidence showing that coconut oil has an unfavourable influence on the lipid (cholesterol) indicators connected to cardiovascular health.
Similarly, a 2022 systematic review revealed that coconut oil may not, in fact, be healthier than other plant-derived oils, such as avocado and olive oil as far as cardiovascular health is concerned. The bottom line is, further research is needed to investigate the therapeutic potential of coconut oil in various health conditions, including heart health.
Boosts Immune Function
Coconut oil, which is abundant in medium-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides, has a remarkable power to heal. It is an all-natural antibiotic that helps regulate immunity for the betterment of your health. Whether applied topically to the skin or consumed, coconut oil is metabolised to produce lauric acid and another fatty acid substance called monolaurin. These compounds possess potent anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties.
Coconut oil has another interesting quality - its antimicrobial action can activate the body's natural anti-inflammatory responses, making it effective in reducing inflammation. In addition to this antimicrobial activity, coconut oil metabolites have been demonstrated to not encourage resistant organisms. This means that using coconut oil to treat various infections doesn't cause the pathogen to become resistant to treatment. Coconut oil is a safe and effective way to protect against infections, according to the research.
Promotes Healthy Skin
Nourishing skin and hair with coconut oil has become an increasingly popular way to add moisture. Coconut oil's moisturising properties might come from its ability to lock in water, helping to alleviate dryness and eczema by improving the skin barrier which keeps irritants out while trapping hydration inside.
Overall, incorporating coconut products into your diet can offer several potential health benefits.
What Is Shredded Coconut?
Shredded coconut refers to the meat of a coconut that has been freshly grated into small, thin strips. It is a popular ingredient used in many desserts, breakfasts and snacks around the world. Southeast Asian, Thai, Indian and Sri Lankan dishes often feature coconut strongly. Shredded coconut has a distinctly sweet flavour and aroma and when toasted, it can add an extra layer of texture and flavour to your dishes.
So how do you make toasted coconut?
There's a couple of methods of toasting shredded coconut. Let's see how it’s done.
How To Toast Shredded Coconut - Using an Oven
This is a low and slow method of toasting shredded coconut that gives beautifully golden, sweetly scented toasted coconut every time. Depending on your oven, you may need to rotate the tray to avoid hotspots and the risk of burning. Definitely don't skip the baking paper as well. If possible, give a stir halfway with a spatula to ensure even browning.
Steps to toasting shredded coconut in an oven
- Preheat the oven to 160°C.
- Line a baking tray with baking paper and spread an even layer of shredded coconut.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to ensure even toasting.
- When the shredded coconut has a golden-brown colour and your kitchen smells like the warm tropics, it's done.
- Remove from the oven and let the coconut cool before eating or using it in recipes.
- Store in an airtight container for 2 weeks or in the fridge for a month.
How To Toast Shredded Coconut - Using a Pan or Skillet
Toasting shredded coconut using a frying pan or heavy-bottomed skillet is also a great method to use. Toasting coconut this way gives a wonderfully fragrant and delicate flavour to the final product. Another benefit of toasting coconut in a pan is that you have more control of the browning process by stirring constantly and keeping a close eye on the coconut.
Steps to toasting shredded coconut in a pan
- Start by heating a dry pan over medium heat.
- Add the shredded coconut to the pan and stir constantly, making sure nothing sticks to the bottom.
- Keep toasting until the coconut is evenly browned and fragrant. This should take around 5-8 minutes.
- Once it reaches your desired level of toastiness, remove it from the heat and let it cool before using.
- Store in an airtight container for 2 weeks or in the fridge for a month.
3 Easy Toasted Shredded Coconut Recipes
Coconut Banana Pancakes
Start your morning off right with these delicious Coconut Banana Pancakes. To make this dish, you will need one cup of all-purpose flour, two ripe bananas, one teaspoon of baking powder, a pinch of salt, and one cup of toasted shredded coconut. Begin by mashing the bananas in a bowl and then whisking in the dry ingredients. Fold in the coconut and cook pancakes in a pan over medium-high heat in a drizzle of coconut oil. Serve with a squeeze of honey or maple syrup on top!
For an easy dessert recipe, try making these classic Coconut Macaroons. You will need four egg whites, two cups of toasted shredded coconut, 1/4 cup of caster sugar, and a pinch of salt. Use an electric mixer to whisk the egg whites in a bowl until they form stiff peaks. Fold in the coconut, sugar, and salt until combined. Spoon macaroon dough onto a baking sheet-lined tray and bake at 160°C for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let the macaroons cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack and enjoy.
Coconut Rice Pudding
This is a crowd-pleasing dessert that's super comforting as well. To make this Coconut Rice Pudding, you'll need one cup of cooked white or basmati rice, one can of full-fat coconut milk, two tablespoons of toasted shredded coconut, two tablespoons of sugar (optional), and a pinch of ground cinnamon. Begin by adding the cooked rice to a pot with the coconut milk, shredded coconut, and sugar (if using). Simmer for 10 minutes or until the mixture is creamy. Sprinkle cinnamon on top before serving and add stewed peaches or pineapple. Yum.
Here's a few more sweet and savoury recipe ideas that celebrate toasted shredded coconut. Yum!
- Thai Red Coconut Fish Curry
- Coconut Prawns with Mango Salsa
- Fried Rice with Toasted Coconut & Pineapple
- Quinoa Stuffed Peppers with Toasted Coconut Flakes
- Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Stew With Toasted Coconut
- Teriyaki Tempeh Bowls With Brown Rice and toasted coconut
- Simple Toasted Coconut Ice Cream with stewed fruit
- Mango Sticky Rice with Toasted Coconut
- Toasted Coconut Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Toasted Coconut - Frequently Asked Questions
What is toasted coconut?
Toasted coconut is shredded or flaked coconut that has been cooked in an oven or on a stovetop until it becomes golden brown and fragrant. Toasting brings out the natural sweetness of coconut and adds a nutty and slightly smoky flavour.
Can I use the microwave to toast shredded coconut?
Yes, it is possible to toast shredded coconut in the microwave. However, some argue that the results aren't as good as compared to pan-toasting or oven-roasting coconut. You can microwave coconut by spreading a single layer of shredded coconut onto a microwavable plate. Cook on high heat for 2 minutes, then stir and cook another minute or until the desired colour is achieved.
Are there added health benefits of toasted coconut?
Coconut is a good source of fibre, vitamins, and minerals, and it may provide some health benefits. However, toasted coconut is high in calories and fat, so it should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
Is there a difference between shredded coconut, coconut flakes and desiccated coconut?
Shredded coconut is flesh from a coconut that has been grated into small strips with a thin texture and shape. It is different from coconut flakes which are bigger, flatter pieces of grated coconut that resemble wood shavings. Coconut flakes are chewier and not always used in baking or desserts because of the coarser texture. However, coconut flakes give interesting contrast as a finishing garnish for healthy smoothies, healthy desserts and even savoury dishes.
Desiccated (dried) coconut has been dried or ground and is much finer than shredded or flaked coconut. Desiccated coconut is fairly sweet and is typically used in cakes and biscuits to add texture and flavour and blends well due to its finer texture.
What are the benefits of toasting shredded coconut?
Toasting shredded coconut helps to bring out its natural flavour and aroma. Plus, it adds a delightful crunchiness and a slightly nutty flavour that we all love with desserts. Furthermore, toasting enhances the texture of the coconut which makes it perfect for baking in cakes, muffins, and other treats. Additionally, toasting shredded coconut also helps it to last longer as the heat from the oven evaporates any leftover moisture which helps prevent it from going rancid quickly.
How long does toasted coconut last?
Toasted coconut can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to a month. It may lose some flavour and texture over time, so it's best to use it sooner rather than later.
Can I toast coconut ahead of time?
Yes, you can toast coconut ahead of time and store it in an airtight container. This can save you time when you're preparing a recipe that calls for toasted coconut.
What other products can be derived from coconut?
Coconut is an incredibly versatile fruit that offers a range of different products.
Here are some popular products derived from coconut:
- Coconut oil - a highly versatile cooking oil and ingredient used in a range of beauty products
- Coconut water - a popular drink that is rich in electrolytes and has a refreshing flavour
- Coconut milk - a creamy liquid used in cooking and as a dairy substitute in many recipes
- Coconut cream - a thicker, richer version of coconut milk that is often used in desserts and curries.
- Coconut flour - made from dried coconut meat, this is a gluten-free and low-carb alternative to wheat flour.
- Coconut sugar - a natural sweetener made from the sap of coconut palms.
- Coconut vinegar - a tangy vinegar made from coconut water.
- Coconut aminos - a soy sauce alternative made from coconut sap, often used in paleo and gluten-free cooking.
- Coconut flakes or chips - lightly toasted or untoasted coconut pieces used as a snack or topping for baked goods.
Enjoy Perfectly Toasted Coconut at Home
Now that you know how to toast shredded coconut, feel free to experiment with different temperatures and cooking methods until you find a technique that works best for you. You can now add a unique texture and flavour to food. Have fun making endless creations using toasted shredded coconut like macaroons, cakes and curries. Enjoy your perfectly toasted coconut!
Deen, A., Visvanathan, R., Wickramarachchi, D., Marikkar, N., Nammi, S., Jayawardana, B. C., & Liyanage, R. (2021). Chemical composition and health benefits of coconut oil: an overview. Journal of the science of food and agriculture, 101(6), 2182–2193. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.10870
Duarte, A. C., Spiazzi, B. F., Zingano, C. P., Merello, E. N., Wayerbacher, L. F., Teixeira, P. P., Farenzena, L. P., de Araujo, C., Amazarray, C. R., Colpani, V., & Gerchman, F. (2022). The effects of coconut oil on the cardiometabolic profile: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Lipids in health and disease, 21(1), 83. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12944-022-01685-z
Jayawardena, R., Swarnamali, H., Ranasinghe, P., & Misra, A. (2021). Health effects of coconut oil: Summary of evidence from systematic reviews and meta-analysis of interventional studies. Diabetes & metabolic syndrome, 15(2), 549–555. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsx.2021.02.032
Joshi, S., Kaushik, V., Gode, V., & Mhaskar, S. (2020). Coconut Oil and Immunity: What do we really know about it so far?. The Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, 68(7), 67–72.
Wikipedia Contributors. (2023, April 5). Coconut. Retrieved from Wikipedia website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut, viewed April 5, 2023