How to Open a Coconut

Three Parts:Drain before openingOpen the coconutRemoving the coconut flesh or meat

The coconut is a fruit native to India, coastal Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.[1] If you've purchased a whole, unopened coconut, opening it for the first time may appear daunting. Luckily, the reward (juicy, delicious coconut meat) is well worth the effort.

Part 1
Drain before opening

If you prefer you can drain the coconut juice before cracking it open; this does make it far easier to crack the coconut.

  1. Image titled CuttingBoard 2
    Place the coconut on a hard, flat surface that will not be damaged. A sturdy cutting board will usually do.
  2. Image titled SoftEye 3 2
    Find the soft "eye" of the coconut that will be soft enough to push a metallic skewer or a Phillips head screwdriver through. If not, get a nail and a hammer to create the hole; just be sure to do this over a non-slip surface. Only one of the eyes is soft and this will puncture easily. - It is the correct eye to puncture.
  3. 3
    Drain the coconut juice into the bowl. This can be used for drinking or cooking purposes.

Part 2
Open the coconut

Tap and rotate

  1. Image titled HoldCoconutBowl 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. Image titled TapFirmly 2 2
    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.
  3. Image titled SplitOpen 3 2
    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.

Hitting the coconut

  1. Image titled ThreeHoles 1
    Note that there are three "holes" at one end of the coconut. Two will have ridges that resemble "eyebrows" near 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. Make this a firm "thwack", not just a "tap".
    • The coconut will crack in half. You may do this either before or after draining out the coconut juice.

Tap and rotate on a hard, solid edge

  1. Image titled TapCoconut 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).
  2. Image titled TapSplitOpen 2
    Continue to tap and rotate until the coconut splits completely open.

Corkscrew and plastic bag smash

  1. Image titled SrewEyes 1
    Screw the coconut's "eyes" with a corkscrew. Put it over a glass or bowl to allow the juice to drain out.
  2. Image titled HitHammer 2
    Put the coconut in a plastic bag and smash it on a concrete floor. Use a hammer or similar object.
  3. Image titled TakeOutPlastic 3
    Take it out of the bag when it cracks open.

Drill, heavy hit and rotate

  1. Image titled DrillHoleCoconut 1 2
    Drill out two of the eyes and drain the juice. See link for safe drill use
  2. Image titled Decide 2
    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).
  3. Image titled DrawLine 3
    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).
  4. Image titled HoldCoconut 4
    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.
    • Note! Never smash the sharp end of a knife down into your hand! If you aren't strong and experienced, it is best to not use the knife for this method.
  5. Image titled RotateCoconut 5
    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 (approximately seven hits per revolution). At some point you should hear a different sounding "crack" that means the nut has started to split.
  6. Image titled CrackOpen 6
    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.
    • If it hasn't split repeat these steps but hit a little harder.
    • With practice you will be able to get an almost perfect split.

Heating or freezing

  1. Image titled SkewerCoconut 1 2
    Push a metallic skewer through the eyes of the coconut and drain the juice.
  2. Image titled BakeNFreeze 2
    Place the coconut in the oven at 200ºF/93ºC. Bake for 15-minutes. Alternatively, freeze it for the same amount of time. This will loosen the shell from the flesh inside.
  3. Image titled TapHammer 3
    Holding the coconut with one hand, and a hammer in your other hand, tap the coconut around the equator as you keep turning it.
  4. Image titled CrackOpen 4
    Keep going until the coconut cracks open. This should result in two equal halves.
  5. Image titled RemoveFlesh 5
    Remove the flesh from the shells. This should be easier since you either heated or froze the shells.

Part 3
Removing the coconut flesh or meat

  1. 1
    There are a number of possibilities for removing the flesh, so try different ones to see what works best for you.
  2. Image titled BakeCoconut 2
    Bake the coconut. After breaking the coconut open, you can bake it at 350ºF/180ºC/Gas mark 4 for about 15 minutes and the meat should come off the shell rather easily. Obviously, if you use the method for baking, you won't need to do this as the flesh will already come off with ease.
  3. Image titled UseSpoon 3
    Use a dull butter knife or spoon. This can be 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.
    • If using a knife, cut "V"s into the flesh to remove triangular chunks.
  4. Image titled AsianUtensil 4
    Use a special Asian cuisine utensil. One easy 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 USD$15. It looks a little like a meat grinder. Simply hold the coconut against the blade, and turn the crank. It takes about one minute to process a coconut with one.
  5. Image titled PotatoPeeler 5
    Use a potato peeler. Once the meat is out of the outer shell, a potato peeler works nicely to peel off the inner husk.


  • 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!
  • 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 color 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. However, you can also make your own coconut milk – see How to make coconut milk for details.
  • 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. Just make sure that you do not hit anybody!
  • If the coconut holes end up small and it's taking a while to drain, try holding the coconut over a glass and blowing through one hole - the liquid will come out quickly from the other!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • If nothing works you can wrap the coconut in a towel, then hit it with a hammer.
  • If you need perfectly symmetrical halves (for example, for props, musical instruments, a bikini, etc.) you can make a straighter cut (carefully) with a band saw. Drain the milk first to minimize the mess.
  • The coconut has a face on the pointy end, formed of 3 black spots. The two closest together form the "eyes" the third is the "mouth". The mouth is the weakest of the three , a sharp tool such as the blade of a pair of scissors will easily pass through the mouth into the hollow cavity. Work until this is about 0.5 cm (.2 inches) wide and then place over a large mug hole side down. The water will drain into the mug in about 30 seconds. Shake to see if its empty.
  • Use a screwdriver to poke a hole in the mouth of a coconut ( the weakest eye ). Drain the milk into a glass or bowl. Now use a the non-blade or non-edge of a knife and tap around the equator or the indented line on the coconut. Tap firmly and rotate the nut around. It will take a couple turns until the coconut cracks.
  • To drain the coconut milk with bits excluded, use a corkscrew. Screw into the mouth of the coconut until you reach the cavity then pull out.


  • Don't put the nut in the oven with the water inside. It might explode if it is left for too long and the water turns into steam, creating high pressure inside.
  • 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!).
  • 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. If you don't feel confident using a knife, then don't use any method involving one.
  • Always check the inside of the coconut. If it smells sour or looks mouldy, it's bad. Don't eat the flesh or drink the water!
  • Watch out for your eyes while hitting the coconut, pieces might fly off.
  • Never try to bite open a coconut. It will not open it and will break your teeth.

Things You'll Need

  • Coconut
  • Heavy knife
  • Bowl or container for the coconut water
  • Additional optional items:
  • Hammer
  • Nail
  • Screwdriver
  • Ice pick
  • Strong garbage bag
  • Towel
  • Potato peeler
  • Coconut shredder
  • Electric drill with 1/4 inch bit

Sources and Citations

  1. John Newton, Food – The Essential A-Z Guide, p. 99, (2001), ISBN 1-74045-031-0

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Food Cutting Techniques