Tip Thursday: Unsweetening Sweetened Coconut

by: Elissa

Sweetened Coconut Flakes

Last year I discovered an incredible little baking shop. It’s packed from floor to ceiling with every baking supply imaginable, squeezed tightly together in a tiny labyrinth of a store. I spent hours just looking around, but my favorite find? Big bags of unsweetened coconut flakes for a buck each. As someone who can’t get enough coconut but sometimes finds it too sugary, I stocked up.

I find that most grocery stores only sell sweetened coconut flakes. They work for a lot of recipes, but when you’re looking for unsweetened, the sugar levels are just too high. Luckily, there’s a fast way to make your own substitute.

Spread them on a flat sieve

Spread some sweetened coconut flakes onto a flat sieve.

Rinse with hot water

Wash the flakes under very hot water, making sure to rinse every spot.

You'll see the sugar wash away

You’ll start to see the sugar actually wash away. Keep rinsing until the water is no longer cloudy, but clear.

Squeeze out the liquid

Squeeze the flakes in your hands, pressing out the excess water. Spread the flakes on the sieve and let them drain completely.

It dries fluffy!

When the flakes are fully dried, they’ll be fluffy again. The flavor won’t be as good as flakes that haven’t been previously sweetened (or better yet, flakes straight from the coconut) but this trick will do in a pinch when you can’t run out to the store.

Photos © Elissa Bernstein and 17 and Baking.

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March 17, 2011 | Print This Post | Share & Bookmark | Font Size: a A | 28 Comments | Leave a Comment

  • Nicole
    March 17th, 2011

    Clever idea! I love coconut, but I agree that the sweetened kind is too sweet.

  • Chloe
    March 17th, 2011

    Strange. I didn’t even know sweetened coconut existed. You can only buy it natural here in New Zealand

  • DessertForTwo
    March 17th, 2011

    Love this! I find sweetened coconut is too sweet for morning oatmeal. I can’t wait to try this!

  • Nuraini
    March 17th, 2011

    I can’t find coconut flakes here but only unsweetened dessicated coconut.

  • Liz
    March 17th, 2011

    Great idea! I never would have thought of that.

  • Julia
    March 17th, 2011

    I can’t believe this was posted today- I need unsweetened coconut for a recipe, and just bought sweetened, thinking I could “unsweeten” it somehow. Thanks for the great tip!

  • Spicy Bohemian
    March 18th, 2011

    Great tip! I had no idea you could get rid of the sugar that easily.

  • Faith
    March 18th, 2011

    great tip and BEAUTIFUL photos as always :)

  • Olga
    March 19th, 2011

    Is the shop you discovered in the Seattle area? I live in Seattle and I’d love to check it out if it is!

  • Cyndi Parisu
    March 19th, 2011

    Thank you, thank you, thnku! That bag of sweetened coconut flakes I bought on a whim-and on sale-is finally going to come in use now.^^

  • Chez Us
    March 20th, 2011

    Great tip. Wholefoods always sells unsweeted coconut in bulk. Also, I love kitchen stores; where was this amazing sounding kitchen store?

  • Beth Wallace
    March 21st, 2011

    What a great tip! I will definitely be doing that one for some of my more savory recipes – such as coconut shrimp! Thanks – and what a great site. I found you on twitter – keep up the great work!

  • Lea
    March 21st, 2011

    Very beautiful photographs!
    Here in Switzerland, there are only unsweetened coconut flakes in the stores, I have never seen anything else!
    Great idea for evreyone who needs this! :)

  • Jenn
    March 22nd, 2011

    hmm that’s interesting that you only find sweetened coconut flakes – I don’t think my grocery store that I go to en Suisse sells sweetened coconut at all – just plain noix de coco râpée – will keep this in mind if I ever need coconut in the U.S. though!

  • Molly @ Drexelius Chocolates
    March 22nd, 2011

    fantastic idea — open a coconut and shredding the meat can be a real hassle…

  • Anne
    March 22nd, 2011

    This is a great tip, I had no idea you could do that! It’s so hard to find unsweetened coconut in regular stores so I can’t wait to try this out!

  • Kelley
    March 31st, 2011

    How interesting! Great tip.

  • Gloria
    April 16th, 2011

    Thanks this is a great tip.. would also love to know the name and location of the great baking shop.. maybe that might be a great update in the future.. great baking shops??

  • Aundrea L.
    May 10th, 2011

    Wow! I love coconut so much & never knew you could do something like that! This will be so much to try out. Thank you for sharing (:

  • Nicole
    July 6th, 2011

    Is the shop near seattle? I’d love to go!

  • Banana Snacking Cake » Boston Maternity Photographer, Boston Newborn Photographer, Boston Children's Photographer, Boston Family Photographer, Massachusetts Newborn Photographer, Massachusetts Children's photographer, Massachusetts Family
    April 18th, 2012

    [...] Note: If you can’t find unsweetened coconut, just put some sweetened in a colander or on a sieve and rinse until the discarded water is no longer creamy looking.  You can see detailed instructions here. [...]

  • virginia
    May 5th, 2012

    this is a life saver i could not find unsweeten cocnut where i live..went to all the stores.. they did not even have fresh cocnut.. i live in a very small mountain town…..im giving this a try. thank you so very much

  • Marlene*
    October 31st, 2012

    Yes I have done this before when making a German Chocolate Cake for my husband who has type 2 diabetes, not wanting to add to the type 1 diabetes(which I DO have)problem epidemic here in America. I just do not know or understand why American food companies have to add sugar, salt and everything else bad for us in & to their products, (then charge us less), than natural unprocessed food goods, (so we will still buy them of course, right?) We buy unsalted, unroasted nuts at health food stores and it is way more expensive than brands with added unecessary C-R-A-P in it. (SORRY) Just makes me sick angry, at American Food companies who are making us Americans all sick with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, ETC.ETC.ETC.. I am just glad that some American people see through the bad and do better for ourselves, themselves and get/buy healthier foods, not disease ridden foods full of pestisides etc. that kill us all off quickly. God bless our American troops for protecting us but what about OUR AMERICAN GOVERNMENT protecting our rights to live LONG HEALTHY LIVES. SORRY AGAIN, just reading posts from these other people in other countries who have more than we do, (per say). They get REAL FOOD and we get OVERPROCESSED JUNK. Thanks and GOOD HEALTH TO ALL OF YOU, <3 & GOOD HEALTH- M@C*

  • Pam
    June 15th, 2013

    Thank you for posting the way to unsweetened coconut. This way sure beats buying unsweetened coconut from different web sites.
    I needed unsweetened coconut in a cookie recipe and now I have it!

  • Brandon
    November 28th, 2013

    I rinse my sweetened coconut in cold water. The reason being that most of the flavor from coconut comes from the coconut oil which is abundant in a bag of sweetened coconut. Hot water removes oils from the flakes. Sugar is water soluble so there is no need to heat up the water. The sugar will leach into the water due to laws of osmosis. Use a large bowl and fill it with cold water with the sweetened coconut. Stir the coconut with a spoon or you clean hand and break up the clumps. The water will become cloudy. Put a cheesecloth or a piece of canvas into a strainer and dump the water in with the coconut. Wring out the coconut with the cheesecloth. Repeat to get out more sugar.

  • stocks
    January 14th, 2014

    I do not even know the way I stopped up here,
    however I thought this post used to be great. I do not know who you are however definitely you’re going to a well-known blogger if you are not
    already. Cheers!

  • Iris
    August 17th, 2014

    Thank you so much! I’m overseas and at the mercy of commissaries and really needed unsweetened flakes and of course the only thing they have is sweet! You a life saver!

  • mary
    November 24th, 2014

    thank you

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