How to Toast Shredded Coconut (3 Different Techniques)

published Feb 10, 2023
How to Toast Coconut

You can toast shredded coconut in the microwave, on the stovetop, or in an oven.

Makes1 cup toasted coconut

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toasted coconut in a pan
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Shredded coconut is a powerhouse ingredient when it comes to baked goods like muffins, quick breads, and cookies. We also love it sprinkled on yogurt bowls and smoothies, and stirred into granola. But if you’re baking with shredded coconut straight from the bag, you’re not using it to its full potential. Learning how to toast coconut until it turns golden-brown and fragrant is a game-changing skill.

Because shredded coconut is made up of small, thin pieces, it toasts within minutes. And unlike nuts or seeds, you can even toast it in the microwave! In this article, we’ll explain how to toast coconut using three techniques: in the microwave, on the stovetop, and in the oven.

We tested all three methods with 1 cup of shredded coconut for each. (We found that using much more than a cup required larger pans or skillets, and caused the coconut to toast unevenly.) Here’s everything you need to know about toasting coconut until it smells amazing and looks golden-brown.

What Are the Different Types of Shredded Coconut?

Most pre-bagged coconut is sold in shreds that look like they belong in a snow globe. Shredded coconut is either sweetened or unsweetened. Sweetened coconut is infused with sugar. Unsweetened coconut is more versatile, as it can be used in sweet or savory recipes. 

The most important difference between sweetened and unsweetened coconut is that sweetened coconut will toast faster than unsweetened. Sugar’s natural ability to caramelize means you may have to shorten the time required for each of the following methods. We tested them all with unsweetened coconut.

Less commonly available are coconut chips, which are sometimes called coconut flakes. These are unsweetened chunks that have been shaved or cut from the coconut, rather than grated. If you have coconut chips, you can use all three methods for toasting it, although you’ll have to adjust the times. The oven works best for evenly toasted coconut chips, due to their larger size.  

How to Toast Coconut in the Microwave

Yep, you really can toast coconut in the microwave! As with softening butter, frequent progress checks are key here — you don’t want to overdo it. To toast shredded coconut in the microwave, you’ll need a microwave-safe vessel. A glass pie plate or an 8×8-inch glass casserole dish work great. You can use a standard dinner plate. Do not use a metal pie plate.

Spread the coconut onto the dish in an even layer. Place it in the microwave and cook on full power for 4 to 6 minutes, stopping every 30 seconds to stir the coconut and check on its progress. We tested this method in a 1,000-watt microwave, and found that 5 minutes was just right for lightly golden with a soft, bouncy texture. 

If you want darker coconut, or have a lower-watt microwave, you may wish to increase the time. The most important thing is not to walk away while the coconut is toasting. 

How to Toast Coconut on the Stovetop

If you’d rather have deeply golden-brown coconut with a crunchy texture, the stovetop method is a better choice. This method is super fast, although it has the greatest tendency to burn — so it’s once again key to stand watch until the job is done.

Use a large wide skillet or 10-inch stainless steel frying pan and spread the coconut in an even layer. Avoid using smaller pans to prevent clumping and uneven cooking. Also, steer clear of bare cast iron pans, as the coconut may take on the flavor of whatever else you’ve cooked in the pan. Enameled cast iron pans are fine.

To toast coconut on the stovetop, place the pan on a burner over medium-low heat and begin stirring immediately with a heat-proof silicone spatula or spoon. All pans have “hot spots,” which is why the constant stirring is crucial for even coloring. The coconut will begin to toast and smell fragrant within a minute or two. Depending on how toasted you want your coconut to be, the shreds should be fully toasted in 2 to 4 minutes.  

When the coconut has been toasted to your ideal shade, immediately take it off the heat and pour it into a bowl, rimmed sheet pan, or large measuring cup. If you leave the coconut in the hot pan, it will continue to cook, and may burn, or turn bitter and too brown to use.

How to Toast Coconut in the Oven

If you have a little more time to spare, toasting coconut in the oven is a good way to achieve crunchy, evenly toasted shreds. We found that 350°F was the best temperature for toasting coconut in the oven. It toasted the coconut evenly in minimal time without burning. A quarter sheet pan was the perfect size for 1 cup of shredded coconut. If you’re toasting 2 to 3 cups, a half sheet pan (the standard size for most home cooks) is a better choice.

To toast coconut in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack situated in the middle. Once the oven is preheated, spread the coconut in an even layer on the sheet pan, smoothing clumps and minimizing bare space on the pan. Add the pan to the oven and toast for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and give it a quick stir (be sure to close the oven door while you do this, so you don’t lose heat). Repeat this method 4 to 5 times, toasting the coconut for a total of 8 to 10 minutes.

In most ovens, the coconut will be lightly golden at around 8 minutes. If that’s your goal, you can remove the coconut and let it cool on the tray. For darker, toastier coconut, add another minute or two.

Toasted Coconut Recipes

Need a little coconutty inspiration? These recipes all use shredded, toasted coconut.

How to Toast Coconut

You can toast shredded coconut in the microwave, on the stovetop, or in an oven.

Makes 1 cup toasted coconut

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 cup

    unsweetened shredded coconut

Equipment

  • Glass pie plate, an 8- to-10-inch skillet, or rimmed baking sheet

  • Oven mitt

  • Heat proof rubber spatula or wooden spoon

Instructions

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How to Toast Coconut In the Microwave

  1. Spread the coconut in an even layer in the pie plate and place in the microwave.

  2. Each time you pause the microwave, remove the pie plate using an oven mitt. Stir the coconut, put back in the microwave, and continue to cook.

  3. For a pale golden color, remove the coconut after 4 minutes and let cool on the pie plate before using. Add an additional 1-2 minutes for a darker golden color.

How to Toast Coconut on the Stovetop

  1. Spread the coconut in an even layer in the skillet and place on the stovetop.

  2. Turn the heat to medium-low and immediately begin sitting the coconut with the spatula. Stir slowly and constantly until the coconut has reached your desired shade of golden brown, around 2-4 minutes.

  3. Once the coconut is done, immediately transfer it to a cool bowl or dish, so that it does not continue to cook.

How to Toast Coconut In the Oven

  1. Situate a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spread the coconut in an even layer on the baking pan and place in the oven.

  2. Cook for 8-10 minutes, removing the pan every 2 minutes to stir. Once the coconut has reached your desired shade, remove it from the oven and let it cool on the pan before using.