If you have ever bought a brown coconut in a supermarket and taken it home to open, only to find the meat inside is hard, you may have wondered why it is so hard? Conversely if you have been so fortunate to be in a tropical country and had a freshly picked young coconut opened for you to eat, you might have been surprised to actually find the meat is soft like a gel. So the question is Why Is Coconut Meat Hard or Soft?
Coconut meat is hard when the coconut is mature and old. The meat begins to harden after the coconut is 7 months old and reaches full maturity and hardness at 12 months. At the fully mature stage, the skin would have turned brown and the coconut meat is firm. 
Coconut meat is soft when the coconut is young and develops after the coconut water. The meat starts to form from 5 months old as a thin layer of jelly inside of the shell. The best time to harvest young coconuts with soft meat and maximum water sweetness is at 7 months when the skin is still green. If the coconut meat or water is pink then check this article: Why Coconut Water Is Pink? Is It Safe & How To Prevent It Happening
Please read on as we delve into the benefits, differences and distinguishing features of coconut meat at different developing stages. Here are some of the things we will discuss:
- What Does Soft and Hard Coconut Meat Taste Like?
- How To Remove Coconut Meat Easy in 5 Minutes: Step by Step With Pictures & Video
- How Long Is Coconut Meat Good For? With Helpful Tables & Storage Options
- Does Coconut Meat Go Bad?
- Can I Freeze Fresh Coconut Meat? How To Guide
- How To Cook Coconut Meat & Nutritional Benefits
- What Is Organic Coconut Meat? Why It’s Not Necessary
- What Is Dried Coconut Meat & How To Dry Your Own
- Fun Question: Do Chicken Like Coconut Meat?
Let’s start from the beginning with a young coconut.
When the coconut is between 5 to 6 months old, the sugar is still increasing thus, the coconut water taste at this age is better than at the younger stage but still not the best time for consumption. The meat is very soft and jelly like, but it is still not at the optimum time for consumption.
After 7 months of growth, the sugar in coconut water reaches its maximum at 7.5% meaning the taste of coconut water at this fruit age is suitable for consuming.
Thus, harvesting time for coconut is done between 6.5 and 7 months for very sweet water and sweet and soft meat. From 7 to 9 months old, the sugar slightly decreases and meat begins to thicken and harden. Less water and more meat begin to form as the coconut water starts to harden.
However not all of the coconut water becomes coconut meat, so even in mature coconuts, you should still find that there is some coconut water. Most coconuts will fall from the tree when they are mature at 12 months. However, some may not fall and can even sprout while still on the tree before finally falling.
Stay clear below as a falling coconut can cause serious harm and injury to the person who happens to be in its path below. In fact, falling coconuts have and can cause serious injury to the head, the back, and shoulders. If you think about it a coconut tree can be as high as 24 to 35 meters and the weight of a coconut can be as much as 1 to 4 kg unhusked. This can equate to a blow to the head of a force of up to 1 metric ton. 
To answer this question, I bought a young coconut from the supermarket to open and scrape out the meat to do a taste test. The coconut was from Thailand and cost around $4 for one. The white husk was still on it, so I removed the husk from one end with a knife and then cracked the top open to reveal the flesh and water. I tipped the water into a jug to taste later. My wife, who is from the Philippines then cut the coconut in half to reveal the meat which we scraped out into a bowl.
The meat of a young coconut is soft and jelly-like with a nutty slightly salty taste. The texture is very delicate and white. The coconut water is sweet with a slightly salty taste and is clear.
I did the same with a mature coconut, as you can easily find them in the local supermarket for around $3 each. The difference with the mature coconut you buy from the supermarket is that the husk is removed and you essentially just have the hard outer shell (or seed). The water is easy to get to as the ‘eye’ of the coconut can be clearly seen. Just pierce a couple of the ‘eyes’ and then pour the coconut water into a glass and drink. Open the coconut the same way as you would a young coconut to get to the meat.
The meat of an old or mature coconut is hard and very firm with a taste that is nutty slightly sweet and salty. As you chew the meat the milk is released with a very creamy sweet, salty taste. The coconut water is sweet and clear.
Have you ever wondered if a coconut is a fruit, nut, seed or vegetable? Take a look at our article to find the answer: Is a Coconut a Fruit or Vegetable or Nut or Seed?
Once you have the coconut opened you may wonder what the best way is to extract the coconut meat. There are a few ways, many use a butter knife to pry it out, but this is not the best or easiest way. First let’s consider a mature coconut where the meat is firm.
To remove coconut meat, place half of the coconut with the shell into hot water and boil for 5 minutes, making sure the water is below the top edge of the coconut. Carefully remove the coconut from the hot water and allow to cool for a few minutes. Pry the sides with a butter knife, where the meat sticks to the shell. The meat should ‘pop’ out of the shell easily.
Take a look at the pictures below to see how to remove the coconut meat from an old mature coconut. This is how to separate coconut meat from the shell.
Step1: Boil Coconut in Hot Water for 5 Minutes
Step 2: Pry Coconut Meat Out With a Butter Knife
For young coconuts, the process of extracting the meat is so much easier as the meat is still soft and just comes away easily from the shell. All you need to do is scoop it out with a spoon.
Check out our Video below which takes through extracting the meat from a young coconut.
Fresh coconut meat that is removed from the shell will only last a few days if not refrigerated. The best way to keep coconut longer is to leave it unopened in the shell, which can last 1 week. If it is then refrigerated the coconut meat will last 2-3 weeks if left in the hard shell unopened. Placed into the freezer, they can last up to 6-8 months.
Please check the table below for storage options to keep your coconut meat lasting longer.
|Fresh Coconut Lasts For:||1 week||2-3 weeks||6-8 months|
|Fresh Coconut Lasts For:||2-4 days||1 week||6-8 months|
|Roasted Coconut||2-3 months||6-8 months||6-8 months|
|Dried Coconut||4-6 months||6-8 months||6-8 months|
|Coconut Oil||1-2 years||–||–|
How long does coconut meat last for in the fridge? If unopened coconut meat will last for 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge, however, if it is opened it will only last 1 week in the fridge.
Coconut meat will go bad if scraped out of the shell and not refrigerated or frozen. However, if left in the shell the coconut water will eventually become meat and the coconut will germinate and sprout. The sprout inside the coconut is soft, edible and a delicacy in many tropical countries.
Occasionally you can get a fresh coconut from the coconut tree, and although it may appear good on the outside, on the inside it can be black and smelly. It is rotten and no good for consumption.
Coconut meat that has been removed from the shell and left out of the fridge will start to turn yellow and smell. It is no longer good for consumption and should be thrown away.
Coconut meat can be stored in the freezer. If cutting into pieces they will keep better if you sprinkle a little sugar over them before placing into an airtight container or freezer bag. Make sure as much of the air as possible is removed from the freezer bag before placing into the freezer. Coconut will keep for 6 to 8 months stored this way. You can store other fruits well in the freezer to such as Rambutan, take a look at the article: Can You Freeze Rambutan or Do You Refrigerate Rambutan?
It is interesting to note that coconut meat, like many vegetables that are frozen and then thawed, can become waterlogged and lose its firmness. One way to counteract this is to coat the coconut in some lemon juice (citric acid) before freezing.
Coconut meat is commonly grated and then toasted in the oven. It is also cooked with sugar, milk and butter to make coconut candy.
To toast coconut simply extract the meat from an old coconut as explained above. Once you have extracted the meat, grate it using a cheese grater or slice it with a mandoline.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and then place the grated or sliced coconut onto a baking sheet and place in to the preheated oven. Bake until the coconut is lightly toasted. Allow it to cool before using.
Toasted coconut is great as a snack or delicious with your morning muesli.
If you are wondering what to cook with coconut meat then there is no end to the recipes you can find online. Just a couple of ideas are salads and creamy coconut pudding.
And it doesn’t stop there as coconut meat has a lot of nutrients along with benefits similar to coconut oil.
Check out the nutrients below with 100 grams of coconut meat.
|Vitamin C||3.3 mg|
|Pantothenic acid||0.3 mg|
|Vitamin B-6||0.054 mg|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)||0.24 mg|
There are also many health benefits due to the fat content of coconut meat, which the oil is taken from.
Coconut meat may benefit your heart health as it can boost good cholesterol and reduce bad cholesterol.
Eating coconut meat can also aid your digestive health as coconut meat can help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients. The fats (medium-chain triglyceride) in coconut meat can strengthen the gut bacteria which can protect against inflammation and fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes.
Coconut meat may also improve your immune system and reduce inflammation due to the antioxidants and minerals such as Manganese. The medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s) may also have antifungal and antiviral properties. 
Organic Coconut meat is grown without the use of any pesticides and has not been modified genetically.
However, there are no GMO varieties of coconuts, and also there are few pesticides used on coconut trees, although there are some that do exist. Coconuts also grow very high up in the air at the top of the 25 to 35-meter trees, unless they are the dwarf variety, however, so they are never sprayed.
Luckily though it seems that, it doesn’t look like organic coconut makes any big difference. It appears that several studies have looked for pesticide residues in different coconut products and come up pretty much empty-handed.
The dried meat of the coconut is called Copra from which coconut oil is extracted.
Coconut meat can be dried by placing the meat in the sun for 3 or 4 days or placed into a specialized oven and baked.
And now for a fun question:
Chicken like coconut meat and will run for it when it is offered to them. They thrive on it and get very plump and healthy on coconut meat. It helps the chickens to feel full after eating.
An interesting side benefit of feeding chicken coconut meat is the healthier meat they produce. Laboratory tests on the chickens raised on Coconut meat showed the presence of lauric acid in the fat and meat, a medium chain fatty acid that is found in the coconut oil and also human breast milk, and readily known to have a number of health benefits.
 Postharvest Handling Technical Bulletin
 The development of 2 acetyl-1-pyrroline (2-AP) in Thai aromatic coconut
 National Institutes of Health: The Chemical Composition and Biological Properties of Coconut Water
 The Journal of Trauma: “Injuries due to falling coconuts”
 Carrangeenan Cryprotectant of Frozen Coconut Meat
 US Department of Agriculture: FoodData Central
 National Institutes of Health: Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease
 National Institutes of Health: Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Health: The Potential Beneficial Effects of a Medium Chain Triglyceride Diet in Obese Individuals
 PubMed: Equivalence of lauric acid and glycerol monolaurate as inhibitors of signal transduction in Staphylococcus aureus
 National Institutes of Health: Manipulation of Host Diet To Reduce Gastrointestinal Colonization by the Opportunistic Pathogen Candida albicans
 Poultry World: Coconut fed chickens bring golden egg
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