What you use as a substitution for desiccated coconut depends on the dish you’re making and why you’re substituting it.
Desiccated coconut simply means the moisture has been removed (learn more about it and how to make your own here). Whether you don’t have access to coconut or don’t like the flavour of it, here are several substitutes:
1. Shredded coconut
Most desiccated coconut is unsweetened, so look for unsweetened shredded coconut in the baking aisle. The moisture content of shredded coconut isn’t likely enough to throw off a recipe that calls for desiccated, so you can simply swap shredded in. However, if the lack of moisture or finer consistency is important to your recipe, you can grind and dry shredded coconut further at home.
If you want finer pieces of coconut than shredded provides, use a food processor or spice grinder to get your desired consistency. To dry shredded coconut, simply spread it on a baking sheet and leave it on the counter for a day or two. Alternatively, you can bake it in the oven at a low temperature (below 150F/65C) for 30 – 60 minutes.
If you can find a whole coconut, or even coconut chunks, you can make desiccated coconut at home. Drain the coconut water, remove the shell, and peel the skin so you’re left with the white meat. Shred the coconut using a cheese grater or get a finer texture using a food processor. Then dry the shredded coconut at a low temperature.
3. Coconut milk powder
To add a milk coconut flavor to a recipe without adding moisture, you can use coconut milk powder, which is coconut milk that’s been dehydrated. It has less fat content than desiccated coconut but will add creaminess and a hint of flavor and sweetness.
4. Coconut extract
To add the flavor of coconut to a recipe, you can use coconut extract. How much you add will depend on what you’re making and how much flavor you want. 1 teaspoon is a safe amount for most baking recipes.
5. Dried fruit
Dried fruit can be a good substitute for desiccated coconut in granola bars. It will add substance, flavor, and texture like the coconut would. Dried apricots, cranberries, raisins or even mangos could work. They will add more moisture and stickiness than desiccated coconut, so you may need to balance that out by reducing how much dried fruit you use in place of the coconut, or by adding more nuts or oats.
6. Ground nuts
Finely chopped almonds, cashews, macadamias, or other nuts may be a good substitution if you need to add texture but don’t like the taste of coconut.
7. Shredded white chocolate
Some desserts and power balls call to be rolled in dried coconut to add texture and visual interest. To get the same look without the coconut flavor, flakes of white chocolate could work. Obviously the chocolate will melt if applied to warm desserts and it will add more sweetness than coconut would.
8. Skip it
If desiccated coconut is being added to a dish for flavor, it may be okay to skip it. If it’s to absorb moisture and balance out the wet ingredients, skipping it may not be a good idea.
Can I substitute shredded coconut for desiccated coconut?
In most cases, shredded coconut will work as a substitution for desiccated coconut. Be sure to use unsweetened shredded coconut, unless the recipe calls for sweetened. You can also grind shredded coconut into a finer texture or dry it further if needed. Instructions are mentioned under point #1 above.
Can I substitute desiccated coconut for fresh coconut?
You can use desiccated coconut instead of fresh coconut, however, it will have less moisture than fresh. You may want to rehydrate it first by steaming it for 10-15 minutes.
Can I substitute coconut milk for desiccated coconut?
Coconut milk should not be substituted for desiccated coconut, unless you’re able to reduce the moisture from other areas of the recipe.