Coconuts have become increasingly popular in recent years and so have coconut products.
One of the best known and most versatile is coconut oil; you can use it to prepare food with, for hair and skin treatments, oil pulling and even to condition your cutting board.
Other coconut products are coconut water and coconut milk.
But there are more amazing coconut foods that you don’t want to miss out on!
Coconut butter, coconut flour, coconut aminos and coconut yoghurt for example.
In this article I talk about 19 coconut products and explain how they are made and what you can use them for.
All are derived from the coconut palm, which is rightly named the tree of life as it provides us with food, shelter and livelihood in so many ways; literally every part of it can be used for something.
The coconut palm
When you think of coconut palms you probably imagine exotic bounty beaches and lush green rainforests. Makes sense because the coconut palm needs a lot of sunshine, regular rainfall and high humidity, typically found in the tropics.
Initially there were two kinds of coconuts with distinct DNA. One originated in the area of the Pacific Ocean in countries including Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. The second originated in the Indian Ocean in countries including India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. From there they spread throughout the world, some naturally, others by trade and colonization.
The coconut palm can grow up to 30 meters / 98 feet tall with fruits of 30-40 cm, / 12-18 inches in length.
It takes about 6-10 years for it to grow its first fruit and can then, under optimal conditions produce up to 100 fruits per year. The growth process from flower to mature coconut takes about 1 year.
It can take anywhere between 15-20 years for the palm tree to reach its peak stage of production.
Coconuts are in season all year long.
Nut, seed or fruit?
Unlike their name suggests, coconuts aren’t really nuts but form part of the drupe family, which are fruits consisting of a fleshy external part with a pit and seed inside.
Drupes have three layers; the outer layer, a fleshy middle layer and a hard layer that surrounds the seed.
Mangoes, olives, almonds, peaches and cherries are other drupe varieties.
Coconuts are multi-purpose fruits full with health benefits; here are some of the healthiest and tastiest coconut products:
This is the clear liquid found in young coconuts of between 6-10 months old. Every coconut stage and variety has a different flavor; the older the sweeter.
Coconut water is very popular for its hydrating properties and abundance of electrolytes; important minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium.
Water from freshly picked coconuts drank straight from the coconut is of course as good as it gets.
If you don’t have access to fresh coconuts, there is also commercially packaged coconut water.
It can still contain many health benefits – it all depends on how it’s produced.
Make sure to buy coconut water that is;
– 100% natural
– not pasteurized and unheated
– not made from a concentrate
– free of chemicals
– free of added sugar
– free of added flavors
– made from young, green coconuts
Most older coconuts also contain coconut water. You can often drink it and it can be very tasty. But you have to know which ones you can drink, as the water in very old coconuts tends to get acidic and doesn’t taste good.
Also, coconut water from young green coconuts is much more nutritious than water from mature, brown coconuts.
Coconut water kefir
Coconut water and water grains are used to make a healthy fermented beverage that contains good bacteria and enzymes.
You might know regular water kefir, but you can also use coconut water for additional nutritional benefits and taste.
There is also coconut milk kefir, which I will talk about in a bit.
In case you’re curious; milk kefir offers more health benefits than water kefir, the same goes for the coconut variations.
Young coconut meat
The meat of young coconuts has a jelly-like consistency. You can scoop it out of the shell and eat it as is, or use it in desserts and other dishes. Some people feed it to their babies as it’s very healthy, easy to eat and babies love it.
Young coconut meat is also used to make raw coconut yoghurt. Probiotics and coconut water are added to help with the fermentation process.
At first a young coconut doesn’t have any ‘’meat’’ or kernel inside, just water. When it’s about 7 months old it starts to have soft jelly-like meat; young coconut meat. The more the coconut matures, the more solid and thick the meat becomes.
This white coconut meat is creamy and rich in taste and is used in many dishes. It’s packed with healthy fats called MCT’s.
Coconut meat is used to make coconut products such as coconut milk, coconut oil, shredded coconut, coconut ice-cream, coconut yoghurt, coconut kefir and coconut flour.
Coconut milk isn’t actually found inside the coconut, but is made from grated coconut meat and added water. It’s a traditional homemade drink in many tropical countries.
Coconut milk is highly nutritious; it is rich in fiber, minerals and vitamins B,C and E as well as healthy fatty acids MCT’s.
During the production of coconut milk the liquid separates into a cream that can be skimmed off and used for another coconut product; coconut cream. The cream is similar to coconut milk but it’s thicker and creamier; perfect for recipes that require a rich consistency.
Coconut milk has a delicious creamy taste and can be consumed on its own as well as in smoothies and many dishes such as curries, soups and desserts. It’s one of the most versatile coconut products.
Coconut milk is a great replacement for recipes that traditionally call for cow’s milk and popular among vegans and people who follow a dairy-free diet.
Coconut yoghurt is plant-based yoghurt made from coconut milk and probiotics. It has a rich, creamy taste and texture, similar to dairy yoghurt, but is (at least to my taste!) superior in taste.
Another way to make coconut yoghurt is using young raw coconut meat, coconut water and probiotics.
Coconut milk kefir
Kefir is a fermented drink with a tangy taste, traditionally made with cow milk.
It’s a probiotic, cultured beverage with a huge amount of good bacteria that supports gut health and the immune system.
Kefir can also be made from coconut milk, which makes it even more nutritious and suitable for those that don’t consume dairy. More about coconut kefir in this article.
Coconut milk kefir is made with Tibetan kefir mushrooms, also known as milk kefir grains.
Another fermented drink is coconut water kefir which is similar to regular water kefir. Instead of Tibetan kefir mushrooms, water kefir grains are used.
Condensed coconut milk
Condensed coconut milk is cooked coconut milk that gets a thick, creamy consistency due to evaporation during the cooking process.
It’s known as sweetened coconut condensed milk when sugar is added to it and it is used to make fudge, pies, tarts, pudding, ice-cream, dulce de leche, as well as savory dishes and hot or cold drinks.
It’s a healthier, tastier and vegan-friendly alternative to regular condensed milk which is made with cow milk.
Here is the recipe to make your own sweetened condensed coconut milk.
Frozen coconut milk makes the creamiest, most delicious dairy-free ice-cream. Either as coconut flavor or as a base for other flavors such as chocolate or caramel.
Here is how to make traditional Thai coconut ice-cream.
This is oil extracted from either fresh or dried coconut meat, from coconuts between 10-20 months old. Fresh coconut meat is used to produce virgin coconut oil, while dried coconut meat (copra) is used for refined coconut oil.
Coconut oil is very suitable for different cooking, baking and frying methods, in desserts and in snacks, complimenting both savory and sweet dishes. Coconut oil is high in healthy saturated fats, which make it the most heat-stable fat to cook with. It has a melting point of 24° C / 76° F.
Coconut oil is is also a popular ingredient in products for topical use such as soap, moisturizers and many skin and hair products.
More about coconut oil:
Curious about how virgin coconut oil is made? This article shows the whole process with photos.
Made from dehydrated coconut meat and typically used in desserts, baking and in fruit salads.
Coconut flakes are a tasty, healthy snack on their own or combined with nuts, seed and other fruit.
You can buy them as flakes and chips.
They also form the base for the next delicious coco ingredient on the list: coconut butter.
Coconut flakes are processed in a food processor, optionally with a bit of coconut oil to make creamy coconut butter.
It can be used as a vegan, dairy free butter replacement, nut-free nut butter, as a base for desserts such as fudge and for frosting. Coconut butter is also known as coconut manna.
Dehydrated or air/oven dried coconut meat is blended to flour.
Coconut flour makes a great gluten-free flour and can replace regular wheat or other grain flours in most recipes.
It has a mildly sweet taste, but is not dominant, so it can also be used in savory dishes.
Coconut flour has the highest fiber content of all flours: 48% and is low in carbohydrates.
Because it’s so rich in fiber it absorbs more liquid, so you will need to use a different ratio than you would with regular flour, roughly 1/4 cup of coconut flour for 1 cup of regular flour. You’ll have to experiment a bit with it to see what works best for you.
Coconut syrup or Toddy
Juice extracted from the flower buds of the coconut palm is heated to evaporate the liquid until it transforms into a syrup consistency. It can be used as a sweetener, to prepare desserts or be further processed to make:
Once coconut syrup becomes very sticky, it is removed from the flame and stirred until it becomes granular and that is coconut sugar.
Coconut sugar or coconut palm sugar is the sweetest of all coconut products.
It has become popular in recent years as a healthier substitute for refined white sugar.
Its glycemic index of 35 is lower than that of regular sugar and most other sweeteners. It contains minerals such as iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium and potassium, different amino acids and vitamins B.
Coconut sugar has a rich taste with a hint of caramel.
Coconut syrup can be further processed into a variety of coconut candy. You’ll find different types in various parts of the world. Some of my favorites are from Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand and the Czech Republic.
A light alcoholic beverage made from coconut syrup, very popular in different parts of Asia, South America, Africa and the Caribbean.
Coconut sap juice
The sap of the coconut palm blossoms is collected to make this sweet, rich beverage.
It can be further processed into coconut vinegar or nectar and coconut aminos.
Coconut sap juice is fermented and salt is added to it. It is used as a low-sodium soy sauce alternative.
The taste is slightly sweet, so it’s a bit like ketjap manis or teriyaki sauce, but more liquid.
It’s very suitable for people with soy or gluten sensitivities, anyone who wants to avoid soy or keep their sodium intake low. as it contains around 70% less sodium compared to soy sauce.
The last on today’s list of coconut products is coconut vinegar.
Fermented coconut water from either young coconuts or from the sap of the coconut palm is used to make coconut vinegar.
Coconut vinegar is a popular ingredient in Asian cuisines including the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka. It has an acidic taste and contains many nutrients.
This type of vinegar is rich in potassium and also contains other minerals including iron, magnesium, zinc, copper and manganese. It contains the 9 essential amino acids, which are used by the body as protein building blocks and 8 other amino acids.
Coconut vinegar is suitable for diabetics and people who watch their sugar intake, as it has a low glycemic index of 35.
Quite impressive right? And that’s only one side of coconut’s amazing versatility.
The coconut shell, husk, coir, leaves, trunks and roots are used to produce brushes, ropes,carpets, fishing nets, fuel, charcoal, mattress filling, musical instruments and much more.
I hope you enjoyed the coconut products guide. If you feel inspired to make your own coco creations, take a look at these recipes made with coconut products.