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Open a Coconut

So you've got a coconut, and you're dying to get at it. Opening up the shell can be quite a challenge unless you know the trick to it. Here's how to get to the juicy core of your coconut.


Opening Method #1

  1. Hold the coconut in the palm of your hand over a sink or large bowl. The bowl will catch the coconut juice when the coconut splits open.
  2. File:Cracked coconut 4530.jpg
    Shell that was first grooved by a saw and then cracked.
    Note the seam that runs between the "eyes." Follow the seam to the equator of the coconut. Using the blunt edge (not the blade) of a heavy knife (for example, a chef's knife, meat cleaver, machete) tap firmly around its equator as you rotate the coconut in the palm of your hand. Continue to tap and rotate until the coconut splits completely open. If it's done right, after just a few turns, the coconut will break open into two equal halves.

Opening Method #2

    • File:Coconut face 1176.jpg
      Note the "face"... two eyes and a mouth.
      Note that there are three "holes" at one end of the coconut. Two will have ridges that resemble "eyebrows" by them.
    • Hold the coconut in one hand, with the tips of your index finger and middle finger just over the "eyebrows".
    • Firmly hit the "chin" of the coconut on a hard surface such as the edge of a concrete step. This is a firm "Thwack", not just a "tap".
    • File:Coconut art 06 6013.jpg
      Coconut split using this method.
      The coconut will crack in half. You may do this either before or after draining out the coconut water

Opening Method #3

  1. Tap the coconut as an alternative method. If you do not have a heavy knife, grip the coconut and firmly tap the coconut around its equator on a hard and solid edge. A corner on a very large rock or brick wall or the edge of a concrete slab works well for this (patio, street curb, concrete stairs). Continue to tap and rotate until the coconut splits completely open.

Drain before opening

  1. If you prefer you can drain the coconut juice before cracking it open:

    • Place the coconut on a hard, flat surface that will not be damaged. A sturdy cutting board will usually do.
    • Find the soft "eye" of the coconut that will be soft enough to push a Phillips head screwdriver through. If not, get a nail and a hammer to create the hole.
    • Drain the coconut juice into the bowl.

Opening Method #4

  1. Screw the coconut's "eyes" with a corkscrew.Put it over a glass while the juice drains out.
  2. Put the coconut in a plastic bag and smash it on a concrete floor.
  3. Take it out of the bag.

Opening Method #1(b) (more details)

(This is how they do it in the pacific islands).

    • First drill out two of the eyes and drain the juice.
    • Next, Decide where you want the coconut to split, bearing in mind that coconuts break naturally around their circumference, (with the eye and the tail at the poles)
    • Draw a line around the circumference where you want your nut to break (this is just for convenience - with experience you will not need to do this).
    • Hold the coconut in your palm so that the line is visible. Then, using a heavy stone or a piece of metal pipe or the back of a heavy knife, hit the coconut on the shell around your line. Use about as much force as you would as if you were punching one of your fists into your own palm - Not too hard or the shell will break immediately / not too soft or it will take ages to crack.

Rotate the coconut in your hand just a bit so that the line remains visible and then hit it again. Work your way around the coconut until you have rotated it about two whole revolutions (approx. 7 hits per revolution). At some point you should hear a different sounding "crack" that means the nut has started to split. When this happens, locate the crack and then keep tapping the nut just in front of the crack (but with a bit less force from now on) and keep rotating it in your hand until the nut splits in two.

It it hasn't split repeat these steps - but hit a little harder.

With practice you will be able to get an almost perfect split.


  • The juice in the coconut is not coconut milk - it's sweet water. The water in the nut is a naturally occurring part of the growing coconut and it changes colour and taste depending on how ripe it is. Coconut milk is a processed product made by extracting oil out of the ground up white flesh, usually using boiling water.
  • After breaking the coconut open, you can bake it at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes and the meat should come off the shell rather easily.
  • Puncture two of the eyes with a nail or screw, so that air can go in one while the coconut water comes out of another. It's so much faster!
  • To get the meat out you can also freeze the small coconut pieces for 30 minutes and then the meat will come off easily.
  • Try using the drain opening of your kitchen sink to hold the coconut while you hammer an awl or ice pick in the eyes to drain the juice.
  • Once opened, cutting the 'meaty' part of the coconut off its shell can be done with a knife. It's easier to do if the shell is in small pieces.
  • Use a dull table knife or spoon to remove meat from the shell. Cutting through the meat all the way to the shell, then prying a bit will pop strips and chunks out. Sometimes it's possible to get underneath the meat with a spoon and pry away from the shell progressively.
  • The easiest way to remove the meat from the shell is to use a device called a coconut shredder, which can be obtained in Asian Indian markets for less than $15. It looks a little like a meat grinder. One holds the coconut against the blade, and turns a crank. It takes about one minute to process a coconut with one.
  • If you do not have any of these materials (or you're in a hurry), but still wish to open your coconut, you can put it in a tough plastic bag and throw it against a hard surface. You will lose the juice, but still be able to eat the nut. (But make sure that you do not hit anybody!)
  • If you need perfectly symmetrical halves (i.e. for props, musical instruments, bikini, etc.) you can make a straighter cut (carefully) with a bandsaw. Drain the milk first to minimize the mess.
  • After draining the coconut juice, you can put the coconut in an oven, at about 350 (180° C, Gas Mark 4) for 20 minutes. This will cause the meat to contract causing partial separation from the shell and makes the remaining steps easier.
  • A quarter inch drill bit is just the right size to drill out the eyes, and is faster and probably safer than an ice pick.
  • Once the meat is out of the outer shell, a potato peeler works nicely to peel off the inner husk.
  • If nothing works you can wrap the coconut in a towel, then hit it with a hammer.
  • The coconut will have a slight point at the top where the three eyes are. After draining the milk, place the point of the coconut on a concrete floor or other very hard surface. Strike the bottom of the coconut firmly with a hammer. The nut should crack open easily.


  • Be very careful when hitting the coconut with the knife. The coconut should be hit firmly but not so hard that you lose control of the knife. You do not want to hit, cut, or stab anything by accident, especially your hand.
  • When the coconut begins to crack it may quickly split open and then close again before it breaks. Be careful not to get any part of your hand caught in the crack (ouch!).
  • If you are not confident handling a knife in this manner, it is best to have someone else do this for you.
  • Always smell the inside of the coconut. If it smells moldy or sour, it's bad. Don't eat it or drink the water!
  • Don't put the nut in the oven with the water inside. It might explode if it is left for too long and ferments..
  • Never try to bite open a coconut. It will not open it and will break your teeth.
  • While some of these different ways may *seem* easy, be forwarned! It is not as easy as it seems, and will probably take a really long time.

Things You'll Need

  • Coconut
  • Heavy knife
  • Bowl or container for the coconut water

Optional items

  • Hammer
  • Nail
  • Screwdriver
  • Ice pick
  • Strong garbage bag
  • Towel
  • Potato Peeler
  • Coconut shredder
  • Electric drill with 1/4 inch bit

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Sources and Citations