Shredded coconut is a remarkable kitchen chameleon that delivers meaty, nutty, tropical deliciousness anywhere it turns up, whether it’s in cakes, pies or curries or sprinkled atop seafood. It’s sweet and savory — dinner and dessert.
While coconut bits come in a range of textures — shreds, flakes and chips — for this taste test, we focus on unsweetened shreds, which work well for recipes across the board. We tasted the shreds straight up, then folded them into cookies. Turns out good coconut is good. Bad isn’t saved by being buried in dough.
Anyone who has troubled to make a coconut cake only to have it taste like white cake with chewy stuff on top knows that the flavor of dried, shredded coconut often goes AWOL. While nutrition profiles of coconut shreds are nearly identical, differences in texture and flavor are huge due to sourcing, coconut ripeness and processing.
The best coconut shreds have a meaty, crispy chew and are loaded with milky, nutty flavor. They’re moist and buttery, but not oily. Bad shreds are dry, dense, tough, tirelessly chewy, regrettably flavorless and often include metabisulfites, which serve as preservatives.
Here’s the scoop on the best coconut brands to use in your cooking — the flavorless disappointments. Nutrition info refers to 15 grams (about 2 to 3 tablespoons).
Let’s Do Organic Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
Brilliant white bits of tender, moist and slightly sweet coconut with big coconut flavor make this the bag to grab. These fine, bitty-sized shreds are the epitome of coconut deliciousness. 100 calories, 10 g fat, 5 mg sodium, 1 g sugar. $3.99 for 8 ounces. (4 stars)
Anthony’s Organic Shredded Coconut
Open this pouch of moist, delicate shreds and breathe in — it’s like a trip to the tropics. And the aroma doesn’t lie. These handsome-looking shreds would be perfect for dusting cakes, truffles or shrimp headed for the oven or fryer. 100 calories, 10 g fat, 5 mg sodium, 1 g sugar. $7.49 for 8 ounces on Amazon. (4 stars)
Bob’s Red Mill Shredded Unsweetened Coconut
Don’t be concerned if this coconut appears slightly yellow — it’s entirely natural and affects neither the flavor nor texture. These smallish shreds are pleasantly crisp and sweet. They’re also fair trade and unsulfured. 110 calories, 10 g fat, 5 mg sodium, 1 g sugar. $4.79 for 12 ounces at Sprouts. (3½ stars)
Sprouts Organic Shredded Coconut
More flavor and moisture would be a big improvement, but these shreds made from Sri Lankan coconuts are better than most. They are sweet, flavorful and tender enough to sprinkle on fruit salad. 110 calories, 10 g fat, no sodium, 1 g sugar. 8.8 ounces $4.79 for 8.8 ounces. (3 stars)
O Organics Organic Shredded Coconut
Kudos on texture; these shreds have a crisp, fairly tender chew. Their biggest downfall is a disappointing lack of aroma and flavor. 100 calories, 9 g fat, 5 mg sodium, 1 g sugar. $4.99 for 12 ounces at Safeway. (2 stars)
Great Value Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
Eating coconut isn’t much fun when the flakes are as tasteless and tough as these. This coconut is not likely to make your cooking or baking shine. 110 calories, 10 g fat, 5 mg sodium, 1 g sugar. $2.18 for 7 ounces at Walmart. (1½ stars)
Raley’s Organic Unsweetened Flaked Coconut
Dry. So dry. Did we say dry? These bits of flavorless white stuff demand a long, hard chew … which never ends. Consider this a disappointing ingredient. 110 calories, 10 g fat, 5 mg sodium, 1 g sugar. $3.59 for 7 ounces at Raley’s. (1 star)
Sunny Select Flaked Unsweetened Coconut
These flakes are not capable of bringing true coconut flavor to anything. Texture? Yes. But flavor? Not present. 95 calories, 10 g fat, no sodium, 1.4 g sugar. $2.13 for 4 ounces at Safeway. (½ a star)
Raley’s Unsweetened Flaked Coconut
Think chewing gum without flavor. These rough shreds of coconut are so dry and flavorless that chewing — for minutes on end — merely turns them into a lump of fiber that never dissolves. 110 calories, 10 g fat, 5 mg sodium, 1 g sugar. $2 for 7 ounces. (No stars)
Reviews are based on product samples purchased by this newspaper or provided by manufacturers. Contact Jolene Thym at [email protected] Read more Taste-off columns at www.mercurynews.com/tag/taste-off.
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