About Desiccated Coconut

Process of Desiccated Coconut

By CBI and Autentika Global

26 October 2021

Desiccated coconut is the dried, shredded white meat of the coconut kernel, produced from fresh coconut. It is used as an ingredient in many sweet bakery, pastry and chocolate products (several brands of coconut chocolate bars with desiccated coconut are internationally famous), but also in some savoury Asian dishes.

Desiccated coconut processing can vary according to the country and processor, but it generally includes the operations described below.

Selection of coconuts – the quality of desiccated coconut depends on the quality of the harvested nuts. Desiccated coconut are produced from fully matured (10 to 13-month-old) coconuts. Around 8-10 coconuts are needed to produce one kg of desiccated coconut.

Harvesting – the coconut harvest varies among regions. One method is to wait for ripened coconuts to fall from the tree and simply pick them off the ground. Other methods involve trained pickers who either climb the tree and pick nuts by hand, or use a bamboo pole with a knife attached to the end. Mechanised harvesting and climbing devices are still not used on a large scale. Trained monkeys are still occasionally used (in Thailand), but this is considered unethical.

Mature coconuts are stored for maximum 2 weeks  with the husk, to absorb the water inside the kernels.

De-husking – before further processing, the husk is removed from the coconuts to make them less bulky for transport. In most producing regions, the husk is removed manually by pushing the coconuts against a metal spike. Husks can also be removed by pedal operated device or with a machete/knife. Several de-husking machines have been developed, but they are not widely used.

De-shelling (also known as “hatcheting”) – the de-husked coconut is usually split into two halves with a machete. Before splitting, drilling is often used to collect coconut water. The coconut kernel is then removed from the shell with knife-like devices.

Removing the testa (paring/peeling) – when the husk is removed, the kernel has a brown skin. In most cases this skin (testa) is removed by hand peeling. Peeling can be also performed on the whole nuts and cracking can be done after peeling. The brown skin can be also kept, to produce coconut pieces with brown edges (sometimes called smiles). However, for most desiccated coconut, the skin is completely removed, and the presence of paring specks is considered a defect.

Washing and pasteurisation – the white kernels are washed and sterilised to remove microbiological contaminants. Pasteurisation (or sterilisation) depends on the installed processing lines and often includes soaking in sodium metabisulphite and heating. Other options are the use of boiling water or hot steam.

Disintegrating – the pasteurised kernel is cut and shredded into small pieces on specially constructed machines. The size of the coconut pieces can be customised by adjusting the cutting equipment.

Drying – the coconut pieces are air dried on trays until they reach the desired moisture level (usually around 3%).

Sieving and packaging – the dried coconut pieces are classified into different sizes using sieves, and then packed into bulk packaging.

After this process, the final product is ‘full fat’ desiccated coconut with an oil content higher than 60%. Desiccated coconut can also be produced as a by-product of coconut milk production, but this type has a lower fat content.

Desiccated coconut is produced in almost all coconut-producing countries, but most quantities are produced in Southeast Asia, with the Philippines and Indonesia being the main processors.

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