How To Tell If a Coconut Is Bad [Definitively]
Coconuts are highly resilient fruit that can withstand harsh environments – but that doesn’t mean that they can’t go bad!
Coconut meat can go bad just like any other food, but if you use the right storage techniques, then you can prolong the shelf life of coconuts quite a bit.
How to tell if a coconut is bad? The hallmark features of a bad coconut are a foul odor. Coconut meat contains fat, and when it is contaminated with bacteria, it usually produces an off-putting odor. The second feature is a mushy texture. Coconut meat is firm but can lose its texture when it goes bad!
Read below to learn more about how to pick fresh coconuts, how to crack them, how to store them, and how to tell when they have gone bad.
Picking the Right Coconut
You might think that every coconut is fresh so long as it is in its hard shell, but you would be wrong.
Despite the appearance of the outer shell, if the coconut is old enough, the meat inside could already be spoiled.
Fortunately, you can use a few clever techniques to see if the coconut is fresh or old!
Here is what you need to look out for:
Inspecting the Outer Shell
Unlike the cover of a book, you can judge the inside of a coconut by looking at its outside. The coconut shell is a marvel of nature.
It is very tough and it keeps the meat inside safe and separated from the outside environment – that is until it cracks.
See, just like any other food, coconuts can also degrade over time.
This is usually caused by oxidation or constant exposure to moisture that wears away the outside layer of the coconut.
If the coconut is particularly old, then its outer shell will not be as strong, meaning that it will be prone to cracking, even with light taps.
When the shell cracks, air and moisture rush inside along with bacteria.
It turns out that the inside of a coconut is an excellent incubator for dangerous bacteria that can thrive using the moisture and nutrients of the coconut meat.
If the coconut is comprised this way, then it can go bad within 1-3 days!
This is why we recommend that you always check the shell of the coconut for cracks or breaks.
Do not accept a coconut that you can break open by squeezing your thumb against the shell as this would indicate that the coconut is old.
Even if the coconut is fresh, you should still check the shell as sometimes the coconut might crack if it falls from the shelf!
Checking the Quality of Coconut Meat
If you aren’t purchasing a whole coconut and only want coconut meat, then you should be extra careful! Coconut meat can go bad just like any other food.
Always check the quality of the meat by first confirming the manufacturing date on the shelf.
If the coconuts are processed fresh, then they will usually be of high quality, but if they are 1-2 days old, then they might begin to dry up.
Coconut meat can dry when it is exposed to air and while this doesn’t spoil the meat, it does lessen its quality.
Dry coconut meat has a different mouthfeel and texture compared to fresh coconut meat, so if you want the best then always go with fresh coconut!
When purchasing coconut slices, please make sure that you inspect the front and back of the slice.
Both sections should have no mushy parts or dark spots.
If the coconut meat does have these signs, then it will not be suitable for consumption.
Cracking and Storing Coconuts at Home
Please be very careful when working with coconut shells at home.
Although most coconut shells are easy to breach, they can also pose a risk because if you don’t use the right technique or tools then you might risk hurting your fingers.
There are a variety of tools that you can use to crack coconuts at home.
We highly recommend using a dedicated coconut cracking tool instead of a knife, especially if you are cracking them for the first time.
You can go with a cheap and effective tool kit like this one from Amazon, or other similar coconut crackers, depending on your needs.
The key is to create multiple cracks around the shell. Once the coconut is sufficiently cracked, the shell can be picked apart very easily and without any risk.
You can also use puncture tools to create a small hole to extract the delicious water inside. When the coconut is drained, you can then access the meat.
Coconut meat is high in important nutrients and contains a bit of water which makes it delicious for humans and bacteria. This is why you will need to store the meat properly.
Here is the right way to store coconuts:
The best way to store coconut meat is to keep it in a clean and dry container or food-safe plastic bag. Remove the excess air from the bag and store it at the back of the fridge at 40F.
Storing the bag at the back of the fridge will keep it from going bad quickly due to temperature variances.
Refrigeration can increase the shelf life of coconut meat to up to 3-4 days but for the best results, always eat coconut meat within the first day of extracting it.
If you want even longer storage, then you can also freeze the meat! Freezing is a great way to preserve the quality and texture of the coconut.
All you need is to put the coconut meat inside a freezer-safe container or bag and then store it at the back of the freezer at 0F.
The coconut meat will last up to 4-6 months in the freezer. To thaw it, simply move the coconut meat back in the fridge and let it defrost overnight.
Whole Coconuts at Room Temperature
If you want to store whole coconuts then you can leave them in the shell at room temperature for about 3-4 months.
But before you store whole coconuts, make sure that they are bought fresh and do not have the defects that we discussed above.
Store the coconuts in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight for the best experience!
How to Tell If a Coconut Is Bad
The easiest way to tell if a coconut has gone bad is to look for three signs:
Spots and Discoloration
This is a great way to visually determine the overall quality of the coconut.
If the shell or coconut meat has any discoloration or white, green, or fur-like spots, then this would indicate that the coconut has gone bad.
These spots may be caused due to oxidation but in most cases, they are usually also caused by bacteria. It is best that you pick a spotless and flawless coconut for the best experience.
This is a clear giveaway! Smell the coconut shell or meat to see if you can detect any off-putting odor.
Bacteria produce toxins and chemicals that give off a bad smell – and if you can detect this odor then you should just throw away the coconut because it might already be heavily contaminated.
The odor might not be detectable from the outer shell but it will surely be present in the meat.
This is why we recommend that if you plan on using the meat the same day, you should have the coconut cut at the store and inspect it before bringing it home.
Coconut meat has a pleasantly chewy and delicious mouthfeel but if you notice any change in texture then this could mean that the coconut has gone bad.
Slime, mushy bits, or other textural changes are usually caused by bacteria or mold.
Another thing to look out for is dryness. A dry texture doesn’t necessarily mean that the coconut has gone bad, it just means that it is of lower quality – and it might potentially go bad.
An easy way to check the moisture content of a coconut is to shake it.
If you hear water splashing inside then the coconut is likely fresh, if you don’t then the water might have already dried up due to the age of the coconut or because of a crack on the surface.
Here is a great video I found walking you through another easy way to tell if a coconut is bad or not:
Coconuts are relatively shelf stable as long as they are left unopened but you should always inspect them for flaws or damages that may indicate spoilage.
Now that you know how to tell if a coconut is bad, here are some related questions:
Can you salvage a bad coconut?
No, if a coconut has been compromised due to bacteria, then it will not be safe to eat. Do not try to salvage the coconut by washing it!
While this may reduce the overall signs of spoilage, the coconut will remain inedible and may even make you sick.
Can you defrost frozen coconut at room temperature?
The safest way to defrost frozen coconut is to either thaw it in the microwave using the defrost setting or to let it thaw in the fridge overnight.
Do not thaw frozen coconut at room temperature as it may cause it to go bad quickly!