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Sweetened coconut substitute

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I'm having a coconut-baked good craving and wanted to make some cupcakes or bars, but many of the (American) recipes out there on the web call for sweetened shreeded coconut, which is unavailable in the UK, where I live. I can buy flaked/shredded unsweetened coconut (and also dessicated! But I am aware that's a totally different beast) at health food stores. If I used that, would I need to compensate for sweetness, or soak it in some kind of liquid beforehand? (I'm imaging the US sweetened shredded coconut as being sugary and pliable, though I might be wrong!).

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  1. I sweeten flaked, shredded and dessicated ground coconut with Splenda (we don't do sugar), and I think you can do the same with any sweetener, including sugar. For every 1/3 cup of the dry coconut, use about 2 or 3 tablespoons of hot water with 1 or 2 tablespoons of whatever sweetener you choose dissolved in the water. Mix well and let the coconut sit for a while to hydrate. Of course, if you have some simple syrup handy, just heat that up, add the coconut and let it hydrate. I often add a bit of vanilla to the syrup as well. This coconut can be used in any way that one would use regular American-style sweetened coconut. I hasten to add that you don't need to hydrate dried coconut if it's to be added to a batter where it willl hydrate on its own. Just add a tablespoon or so of extra liquid and sweetener. But if you want coconut to top your iced cupcakes, or if you want the coconut in your bar cookies to get toasty brown, I'd go with hydrating it in a syrup of some kind first.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sancan

      Just to make it clear, the OP's assumption that US sweetened, shredded coconut is soft and pliable is correct. Sometimes it is also referred to as flaked coconut, and in American recipes that call for shredded/flaked coconut without specifying sweetened, it is assumed. In America, you have to go looking for unsweetened, but sweetened is sold in every supermarket baking supplies aisle.

      Another road to sweetening coconut would be to stir some corn syrup (or Lyles Golden) into unsweetened.

    2. American sweetened shredded coconut is grossly sweet. I substitute regular unsweetened conconut all the time. Most coconut recipes are very, very sweet. You could also just add a bit of sugar and if it seems very dry, toss it with a tablespoon of water before mixing it in.

      2 Replies
      1. re: JudiAU

        Yes, I agree. I always thought I hated coconut until I tried the unsweetened, which was a revelation.

        Sweetened is, I agree, grossly sweet.

        Depending on the recipe, I would substitute the unsweetened, taste it and adjust if need be.

        1. re: karykat

          me too. If anything, a tiny bit of sugar, I definitely wouldn't soak it in any real or fake sugar

      2. Thank you all for your replies, I found each of them to be interesting and helpful. I will experiment first with unsweetened in the baked goods (as I often cut the sugar in baked goods anyway), and then try out sancan's hydrating method for the topping.