HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Coconut-Sweetened or Not?

I recently made a cake with shredded coconut. Many times recipes do not indicate whether to use sweetened or unsweetened. What is the best to use? What is your favorite recipe with coconut?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. In America, if a baking or dessert recipe doesn't specify, it means sweetened. It would be very rare to call for unsweetened. I love coconut sweets but don't have a favorite recipe. I like to sub light coconut milk for water in jello, and for milk in custardy applications.

    2 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      I would have never thought to use for jello, thank you!

      1. re: greygarious

        That is a super idea about the jello! I have a recipe I'm making that calls for 1/3c, so I've been pondering what to make with the rest. I actually like jello and just got a jello mold I want to try out!

      2. Generally, sweetened is used in sweet dishes like dessert and unsweetened is used in savory dishes like a curry.

        1 Reply
        1. I can't stand sweetened coconut (to me it's like eating sugar straight out of the bag), so I always, always use unsweetened.

          8 Replies
          1. re: sunshine842

            Me too. I can control the amount of sugar and I think there is more coconut flavor.

            I like rice and coconut puddings well coconut cake with lime curd filling and coconut frosting.

            1. re: sunshine842

              Same here. I use unsweetened in recipes that call for sweetened without a problem. As has been discussed many times here, a lot of dessert recipes can benefit from a reduction in sugar. As a matter of fact, I'm planning on trying this recipe today:


              1. re: cookie monster

                Oh, I remember that old-timey-delicious recipe! I used to like it with pecans in the topping. Yum.

                1. re: sandylc

                  Yes I made it with pecans rather than walnuts - I'm mildly allergic to walnuts - and it was a big hit. Had to bake it for closer to 40 minutes but otherwise I followed the Serious Eats recipe as is.

                  1. re: cookie monster

                    FWIW, the SE version has some significant differences from the CI one, which is probably its source. It uses 1/2 cup of white sugar but otherwise is the same as this: http://thebittenword.typepad.com/theb... They stress that it is important NOT to use rolled oats, because quick oats create a much better texture.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      Hmmm. I used rolled oats and quite liked the texture.

                  2. re: sunshine842

                    I don't use it often. I made a Queen Elizabeth cake last week and the only coconut I had was sweetened, the recipe called for unsweetened. It was mixed in with a fudge topping, it was too sweet. I never know which one to buy. I guess I should have read the recipe beforehand.

                  3. Half and half for most desserts.

                    4 Replies
                      1. re: Ruthie789

                        toasting unsweetened coconut really brings up the natural sugars. i cannot stand the sweetened kind.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          I am learning from this thread, will try the unsweetened in my baking from now on.

                          1. re: Ruthie789

                            it's all a matter of preference. typically i don't care for commercial baked goods that contain coconut because i find them achingly sweet and that's from the bakery or restaurant using sweetened flakes.

                    1. I like Baker's Angel Flake sweetened coconut. My favorite recipe to make with it is Mounds brownies, followed closely by Mounds gelato. Just call me the coconut kid.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: kattyeyes

                        For some reason although I do a lot of baking, I do not use much coconut. I am going to try the cake that was posted earlier in this thread, today in fact.

                      2. Sweetened flaked coconut is much moister than unsweetened shredded. I recently looked up appropriate substitutions of one for the other on various baking sites, and they suggested adding coconut water as well as upping the recipe's sugar when using unsweetened instead of sweetened.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: heidipie

                          I suppose the sugar has a hygronomic effect.

                          But upping the sugar? Not gonna happen in my kitchen.

                          1. re: heidipie

                            I have some coconut water it is a great suggestion.

                            1. re: heidipie

                              Sweetened coconut has sugar, water, and propylene glycol, among other things. These additives make it wetter and make it stay wetter.

                            2. I mainly use coconut in savory applications so I only have unsweetened on hand. If I do need it for baking, e.g. my annual coconut cake, I use unsweetened. I've never thought the end result needed to be *more* sweet.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: tcamp

                                I think I will purchase the unsweetened from now on.

                              2. I've switched to unsweetened because the 2Kg bag at Costco is waaaaaay cheaper than the small bags of sweetened in other stores.

                                1. I just made a coconut cream pie. I usually use unsweetened coconut, but I was using up some sweetened that was in my mother's freezer.

                                  So, I was toasting this sweetened coconut, and I opened the oven door to check on it, and a nasty chemical odor came out of the oven.

                                  This coconut and the rest of the bag went into the trash.

                                  I got some unsweetened coconut from my freezer and carried on with my pie.

                                  Whew. Close call.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: sandylc

                                    As they say KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON!

                                  2. I bought myself a table-mounted rotary coconut grinder and now I just get a fresh one and finely grate it right out of the shell. It has made the best cakes and pies when I substitute it for dried (sweetened or unsweetened). I am a coconut fanatic, though.
                                    Generally I tend to use unsweetened as I don't like the sickly sweetness of the other kind. The texture is better on the sweetened stuff, though--moister.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: pavlova

                                      I know that in some of the Asian markets in Montreal, you can purchase grated coconut in the freezer section.

                                    2. I've always used sweetened. I only use coconut for sweet dishes and the thought really never occurred to me to use unsweetened. Is the unsweetened readily available? I always pick up my coconut located in the baking aisle of most grocery stores and I never noticed there was a choice.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: SaraAshley

                                        It would be more of a "natural" foods product - some regular stores would have it; natural foods stores are more likely to carry it.

                                        EDIT: Oh, and I have seen frozen natural coconut in Asian stores, but I haven't tried it.

                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          That makes sense! I was going to say that if it's sold right next to the sweetened coconut in the grocery store, it's surprising I haven't picked it up by mistake at least once since I usually just grab whatever I see first.

                                          1. re: SaraAshley

                                            i usually get bob's red mills and yes, it is right next to the sweet coconut flakes in the baking aisle.

                                            have also bought frozen from asian stores.

                                      2. Coincidentally this article on Coconut was in the Montreal Gazette today: