Shredded coconut is a very versatile ingredient and is also very common, it is used in many different countries across the world.
Shredded coconut is essentially grated bits of the flesh of a fresh coconut that has then been dried.
Shredded coconut has great health benefits because it is full of fibre, which can help with digestion and decrease constipation.
Coconut is also a good source of healthy fats, which can help lower cholesterol levels and decrease the chance of heart disease.
It is also a vegan friendly and gluten free ingredient.
Also check: 15 Best Substitutes for Coconut Milk
What can shredded coconut be used in?
Because of its versatility, shredded coconut can be used in either sweet dishes like desserts or in savoury dishes.
Shredded coconut makes a great substitute for breadcrumbs when making things like meatballs, and its nutty taste only gives your dish extra flavour.
You can even use it to garnish a salad or add the shredded coconut into a curry to give it a distinct sweet taste.
When it comes to sweet dishes, the list of uses for shredded coconut is endless. You can use it in baking and it will give your dish a slightly crunchy texture and it also adds a rich moisture.
When you cook shredded coconut it becomes quite chewy and gives off a slight nutty flavour.
Although the recipe to a dish may say it requires shredded coconut, you do not always have to use it.
You may not like the taste of coconut or you may not have any in the cupboard or you may even be allergic to it.
Luckily, there are lots of great alternatives to shredded coconut.
Each of the substitutes on the list will depend entirely on what you are making. Some people use shredded coconut purely for decoration and others use it just for its crunchy texture.
Shredded coconut substitute
Choosing an alternative depends entirely on why you are using shredded coconut in the first place. For a list of alternatives – and why they are alternatives – check out the list below:
If you are using shredded coconut for its taste:
1. Coconut flakes
Coconut flakes and shredded coconut are practically the same thing with only a small difference.
Instead of being finely grated like shredded coconut, coocnut flakes have instead been boiled and simply left in slightly bigger chunks.
As these two ingredients are very similar, they have the same texture and exactly the same flavour so they are ideally the best substitute for shredded coconut.
Although they have the same taste and texture, coconut flakes are not always ideal to put in delicate bakes or desserts due to their larger shape.
But you can easily fix this at home if your dish requires finely grated pieces. You can shred coconut flakes by putting them in a blender or chopping them finely with a knife until you reach your desired size.
2. Coconut extract
Another great substitute for shredded coconut is coconut extract because of its strong nutty flavour.
Coconut extract has a very strong and sweet flavour and like shredded coconut, it is also made from the flesh of a fresh coconut.
Coconut extract is available to buy at most supermarkets and is not very expensive. Simply use one teaspoon of extract to get a hint of coconut and you can add more until you reach your desired flavour.
The only difference between the two ingredients is that coconut extra does not have the same texture and crunch as shredded coconut. This means it is not really ideal for dishes which require a specific consistency and chewy texture.
3. Coconut milk
Coconut milk is a great alternative to shredded coconut as again it shares the same sweet taste.
It has a very strong flavour to coconut and is also quite similar to coconut extract. It is thick and often comes in tins which can be purchased for a reasonable price at most supermarkets.
Using coconut milk will make your dish very creamy and sweet and it is normally a staple in most curries, so it would be the perfect substitute for shredded coconut in dishes like this.
However, the only issue with coconut milk is that it lacks the strong nutty flavour of shredded coconut.
Also, being a liquid it does not have the same texture or crunch that shredded coconut may bring to a dish.
4. Coconut water
Much like coconut milk, coconut water is a viable substitute for shredded coconut. However, it is essential that you use coconut water as a substitute and not coconut-infused water that is sold in most supermarkets.
Coconut water will share the same sweet taste as shredded coconut and even tastes slightly nutty, which may put it ahead of coconut milk as an alternative.
However, much like the other liquid-based substitutes it does not have the same crunchy texture as shredded coconut.
If you do decide to use coconut water as a substitute, take care when using it in baking. It is advised to use double the amount required because it can easily lose some of its flavour when baked.
5. Coconut liquor
For those that can legally consume alcohol, coconut liquor is a great substitute for shredded coconut. It has a sweet taste and gives your dish an added kick.
But it is advised to only use this alternative in more liquid-based dishes such as curries, sauces, drinks or marinades.
This is because coconut liquor does not have the same texture as shredded coconut. Apart from this, it will easily replicate the desired nutty taste.
If you are using shredded coconut for its texture:
6. Chopped Macadamia nuts
Chopped macadamia nuts are a great substitute for shredded coconut. As well as having a similar texture to shredded coconut, chopped macadamia nuts unsuprisingly also share the same nutty flavour.
You can either buy the macadamia nuts pre-chopped from the supermarket or chop them finely at home to give a similar crunchy chewy texture to shredded coconut.
Macadamia nuts have a sweet buttery taste and will bring out the desired flavour in your dish. Macadamia nuts are also for being very sweet so perhaps use a little less in your dish than you would with shredded coconut.
When baking with macadamia nuts, you must bare in mind that the nuts are not as absorbent as shredded coconut so it may leave your cake a bit moist if you use too much liquid.
7. Chopped Brazil nuts
Similar to macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts are a great substitute and give the same texture as shredded coconut. They share a very similar chewy texture and will give a nice crunch to both sweet and savoury dishes.
Although Brazil nuts unsurprisingly share the same nutty taste as shredded coconut, the nuts do lack the same level of sweetness.
To overcome this issue, simply add a little more sugar into your dish until you reach the desired sweetness.
You can either buy the Brazil nuts pre-chopped from the supermarket or chop them finely at home to give a similar crunchy chewy texture to shredded coconut.
8. Ground or rolled oats
Ground or rolled oats are very good texture substitutes for shredded coconut. This is the best alternative for dishes that require baking as your ground or rolled oats will produce the same chewy and slightly crunchy texture when cooked.
However, ground or rolled oats do not have the same taste as shredded coconut and may lack the desired nutty and sweet taste so perhaps only use this as a texture substitute.
If you are using shredded coconut purely for decoration:
9. Grated white chocolate
For a more decadent alternative to shredded coconut, grated white chocolate is a great substitute.
It is both tasty and looks very similar to shredded coconut. Unsurprisingly, white chocolate does not share the same texture or even taste as shredded coconut.
However grated white chocolate is a great way to fake using shredded coconut when it comes to decoration purposes.
It does have a very sweet taste, a lot sweeter than shredded coconut, and it is a great thing to top your cake or cover your dessert in.
However, you must be careful not to use too much grated white chocolate as it can overpower the rest of your dish and make it rather sickly.
10. Powdered milk
Perhaps the most surprising substitute for shredded coconut, powdered milk is actually a very good alternative.
When it comes to decoration, powdered milk will replicate shredded coconut well because of its pure white colour.
However it does not share the same sweet and nutty taste as shredded coconut or even share its chewy texture. It does taste just like milk, but for decoration purposes it will work.
Are there any healthy alternatives?
Most of these alternatives are not bad for your health, especially when consumed in moderation.
Dried fruit is a surprising alternative for shredded coconut. Although dried food does not have the same nutty taste, it is a highly rated substitute for shredded coconut.
Dried fruit as an alternative can range from raisins and sultanas to dried apricot and even to dried cranberries. All of these will give your dish the same texture as shredded coconut would.
Dried fruit is also a healthy alternative that will give you the same desired sweet taste. However, using dried fruit as an alternative, especially when it comes to baking, should be used carefully. It can make your dish a little sticky and too much dried fruit can turn it stodgy.
Can I use desiccated coconut as an alternative?
Yes you can use desiccated coconut as an alternative to shredded coconut. It absorbs liquids well and you can use it in either sweet or savoury dishes.
Desiccated coconut is very similar, near identical, to shredded coconut because it is just another type of dried coconut.
The only difference between shredded coconut and desiccated coconut is that desiccated is made by grinding the flesh of a fresh coconut into a fine powder-like consistency, whereas shredded is more flaky. Desiccated coconut is let with very little moisture in it.
Can I use normal coconut as an alternative?
Yes you can use a normal coconut as an alternative to shredded coconut. Simply buy a fresh coconut from your local supermarket and use it to create your own shredded coconut.
A normal fresh coconut can be used to create your own shredded coconut substitute.
Fresh coconuts have a sweeter taste than shredded coconut so you may need to adjust the amount of sugar in your recipe.
However you can not always use a fresh coconut right away when you have purchased it so this may be an issue for your cooking.
Only use ripe coconuts which have brown or reddish shells, not green. You will then need to sharply cut into the coconut and then cut off and scoop out the flesh.
You can chop, grate or grind this down to get your desired texture. Fresh coconut will also have a lot more moisture than shredded coconut so you may want to leave it to dry out a little first before using it or adjust the amount of liquid used in your recipe.
Clearly there are lots of great alternatives to using shredded coconut in your dish. It just depends on what you are making and what you are trying to substitute. You can replicate its taste, texture and look pretty easily.