Flaked Coconut vs. Shredded Coconut: What’s the Difference?

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If your recipe simply calls for "coconut," what type of coconut do you choose? Here's your guide.

You’ve been dying to try out one of our coconut recipes, so you’re off to the store to stock up. But in the baking aisle, you’re faced with some decisions: flaked vs. shredded coconut, sweetened vs. unsweetened.

What type of coconut are you supposed to choose?

Flaked Coconut vs. Shredded Coconut

For starters, flaked coconut comes in a larger shape and size, while shredded coconut is small and thin. Knowing which form of coconut to use for your recipe is important, because it will provide the right texture and flavor to your dish.

Flaked Coconut

Coconut Flakes in a wooden bowlbhofack2/getty images

This type of coconut is shaved into long, wide flakes. Flaked coconut is best used when you want a noticeable crunch in your dish, such as adding them to a salad for texture.

Toast these flakes or use them as-is in all sorts of recipes—like this Favorite Coconut Cake—for added flavor and texture.

To toast coconut at home, pop the flakes in a dry skillet on the stove for about 5 minutes. You can also spread the coconut across a sheet pan and toast in the oven at 350°F for 6 to 8 minutes.

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Shredded Coconut

Shredded Coconut in a wooden bowlSvetlanaK/getty images

This form of coconut is mostly dry, though it does retain a bit of moisture. It’s shredded into small, thin strips and gives coconut desserts such a gorgeous finish.

Shredded coconut is best used when you want just a hint of coconut to be tasted in your dish, like in these coconut cookies. Use them for decoration, too, like sprinkling them on top of this pina colada cake.

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What Is Desiccated Coconut?

Toh Desiccated Coconut Gettyimages 885339006 Jveditnadisja/getty images

Desiccated coconut is ground, rather than shredded. The fine texture looks almost like a fresh snowfall. The main difference between desiccated coconut and flaked or shredded coconut is that the moisture has been removed.

Like shredded coconut, use desiccated coconut for decoration. Use it to dust atop ice cream or brownies for a snowy look or as a garnish for more elaborate meals.

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Sweetened vs. Unsweetened Coconut

The difference between sweetened and unsweetened coconut is pretty obvious. Unsweetened is plain coconut—no added sugar—and sweetened coconut has added sugar.

Because of the added sugar, the sweetened coconut will be moister and sweeter. It works best when baking sweet coconut treats.

Unsweetened coconut tends to be a bit drier and chewier. It can be a great substitute for baking recipes that already include plenty of sweet ingredients. Unsweetened coconut also works well in savory applications, like this Thai curry.

How Do I Choose the Right Type of Coconut?

If your recipe doesn’t specify which kind of coconut you need, use your best judgment. Savory dish? Use unsweetened. Sweet bake? Use whatever coconut you have on hand.

As for desiccated, flaked or shredded, you can use your best judgment there, too. The larger the coconut pieces, the more texture you’ll have in your dishes. Whatever the case, you’ll end up with a tasty result!

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Ivis Estrada
Ivis Estrada is an Assistant Editor for Taste of Home. She focuses on writing lifestyle and food content and building recipe collections. Outside of work you can find her at her favorite park walking her dog, binge watching movies and writing reviews or browsing the aisles at her local bookstores.