How to Toast Coconut: 4 Easy Methods
Wondering how to toast coconut to give your favorite sweets even more flavor? We've got four simple methods.
When you’re craving a tropical dessert, you can’t go wrong with coconut recipes, like cakes topped with shredded coconut or chewy macaroons. If you want to get even more texture, flavor and color in these recipes, learn how to toast coconut.
These methods for toasting coconut can be used with whatever type of coconut your recipe calls for: shredded or flaked, sweetened or unsweetened.
How to Toast Coconut in the Oven
One of the most common ways to toast coconut is right in the oven. Start by preheating the oven to 325ºF. Spread your desired amount of coconut—flakes or shreds—evenly onto a rimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
Put the sheet into the oven, then give the coconut a stir every 5 minutes. When the coconut is fragrant and looks lightly browned and toasty, remove the pan from the oven and let cool. The whole process will take about 20 minutes.
This method works best when you’re toasting a larger quantity of coconut, like for our coconut chiffon cake.
How to Toast Coconut in a Pan
You can toast shredded coconut in a pan right on the stovetop much the same way you’d toast nuts. To do this, heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the coconut. Keep an eye on the coconut and stir it frequently. Within 5 to 10 minutes (depending on the quantity), you’ll have perfectly toasted coconut.
This technique works well for when you need smaller quantities of toasted coconut. If you overfill your skillet, you won’t get the even browning you need for our top 10 coconut recipes.
How to Toast Coconut in the Microwave
If you’re in a hurry, you can toast coconut in the microwave. Place the coconut in a thin layer in a microwave-safe dish and microwave in increments of 15 to 20 seconds (any longer and you risk burning it). Stir after each increment. Repeat this process until the coconut is golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. It’s that easy and fast! Just be careful touching the dish—it may get very hot.
Since you don’t want to pile the coconut too high, this is another method that works best for smaller portions. If your recipe calls for a lot of toasted coconut, microwave it in batches (or toast the coconut in the oven).
How to Toast Coconut in an Air Fryer
Looking for an excuse to buy a Test Kitchen-recommended air fryer? Here’s one! Put the coconut flakes into a small cake pan, put the pan into the air fryer, and air-fry at 325º for 5 minutes, stirring or shaking the coconut every 2 minutes.
Every brand of air fryer cooks a bit differently so you may need to experiment with the timing—but don’t skip stirring the coconut or you’ll risk burning it. The coconut is ready when it’s golden brown.
Test Kitchen Tip: If you put shredded or flaked coconut directly into the air fryer without using a small pan, you’re going to have some coconut slip down to the bottom of the air fryer and toast unevenly. Along with the pan, a pair of silicone tongs is another air-fryer accessory that would be useful here. If things get too messy, here’s how to clean an air-fryer.
Tips for Toasting Coconut
Toasting coconut is a simple process and a great way to add even more flavor and texture to your recipe. To get perfectly toasted coconut, keep these tips in mind:
- Work in small batches: When toasting coconut, don’t overfill your pans. An overfull pan means the coconut won’t brown evenly. It’s better to work in two smaller batches than one oversized batch.
- Watch the heat: Keep an eye on the heat, especially on the stovetop. Tossing coconut into a too-hot pan or oven can burn it.
- Any coconut will do: You can use the methods above for flaked, shredded or desiccated coconut. Smaller bits will brown faster, so pay extra attention if you’re using desiccated coconut.
Ways to Use Toasted Coconut
Not only are there lots of ways to toast coconut, but there are also plenty of ways to use it. Toasted coconut plays a key role in recipes like Coconut Pistachio Pie, Pina Colada Cupcakes and Coastal Coconut Cream Cake.
You can also use toasted coconut to top and garnish treats like chocolate truffles, Key lime pie and even ice cream. Anywhere you’d use sprinkles, nuts or chocolate shavings, you can use toasted coconut.
How to Store Toasted Coconut
Keep toasted coconut in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag with the air squeezed out. You can store it in the pantry, fridge or freezer, but we recommend storing toasted coconut in the freezer. It will stay fresh in there for several months! Then you’ll have toasted coconut flakes on hand next time you’re baking a snack, like our Buttery Coconut Bars.