We all know the many benefits associated with coconuts and their many products, but knowing when they are spoiled is rarely spoken about…until now! Want to know how to tell if a coconut is bad? Read on, dear reader, read on!

Tips for picking a good coconut

Before we get to how to tell if a coconut is bad or not, let’s look at a few tips on how to select a good one. Knowing what’s right about a coconut is equally as important as knowing what’s wrong with one, so let’s start here.

Tips for selecting a young coconut

stack of young coconuts ready for sale

First up, let’s take a look the young coconut, commonly referred to as Thai coconuts. These are seen in stores throughout the country and usually have their green outer layer (husk) cut away to reveal the white inner before being sealed in plastic wrap.

The key thing to look out for with these is their color. The whiter the better is definitely the way to go when it comes to these coconuts. They should like “bright” and have no dullness at all, and there shouldn’t be any really obvious signs of discoloration. The tops (the pointy end) will usually be the first ones to turn brownish as they age. Remember, the whiter the coconut, the more likely it is to be fresh and tasty.

Two things to bear in mind when looking at the color: green is generally okay, pink generally isn’t. Green will usually just be remnants of the husk, whereas a pinkish hue is a surefire sign that the coconut isn’t in good shape.

As they are generally imported from miles away, it isn’t always possible to find the perfect coconut, so you may have to accept a little yellowing even though it isn’t ideal. While choosing the very best one you can on color alone will stand you in good stead, there’s more to look out for.

Naturally, if you are looking for ultra white coconuts with little discoloration, they’ll have to have no signs of mold to fit the bill. Unfortunately, many store bought coconuts will have signs of mold on them (usually on the underside), and it’s a fair indication that all is not well on the inside if the outside is suffering. So, discard these ones and keep searching.

Another thing to look out for when inspecting coconuts at the store is any obvious holes, splits, or cracks. If the outer casing has been compromised there’s a good chance that the inside will have become damaged as well. Again, discard these ones.

Finally, give the bottom of the coconut a light press with your thumb. There will usually be a little give in the underside of a young coconut, but you should be wary of any that feel overly soft.

Tips for selecting a mature coconut

mature coconuts

Now, onto mature coconuts. These are the ones with the brown, “hairy” outer husk and are possibly more familiar to many of you than the young variety.

Selecting these is a little different for several reasons, but mainly because they are still in their husks. This means there’s no chance of looking for whiteness with these, but there are other tell-tale signs to keep an eye out for.

First, give your mature coconut a shake. You should be able to hear a good amount of liquid sloshing around inside. This is the prized, nutrient rich, coconut water that has taken the west by storm over the last decade or so. Naturally, the more water, the better, so make sure you can hear it when you shake your coconuts!

Another way to tell if the coconut has a good amount of water inside is to just feel the weight. A nice, fresh coconut will feel heavy for its size. This can take a little trial and error with a few coconuts if you are unfamiliar with them, but you’ll soon be able to tell the difference. Obviously, go for the heaviest ones as these will be full of delicious coconut water.

As with immature coconuts, cracked shells are to be avoided. Cracks in the shell mean that the inside is likely to have been exposed to all manner of nasties, including fungus and other unwanted germs. The likely result of buying a coconut with a cracked shell is that it’ll be moldy when you open it up at home. Not good.

Cracks will also cause the water to leak out from the inside, so check the outer husk for any signs of moisture. Sometimes the cracks will be tiny and almost invisible, so feeling the coconut for dampness can be a good indicator that the outer shell has been damaged. Discard these, too.

Finally, check the eyes. Yes, coconuts have eyes! Well, not like you or I, but you’ll see what I mean when you turn a mature coconut upside down. On the underside of each coconut will be three spots, almost like the holes of a bowling ball. These are the coconut’s “eyes”. The eyes are different in that one will be softer than the others as the shell is thinner there. This is a great place to look for freshness.

Any signs of mold around the eyes is a bad thing. They should look clean and brown, not light-colored and dusty or show any signs of green mold around them. Any coconuts with such issues will usually be sour at best, completely rotten at worst. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Check out the video below from Your Produce Guy for more info on selecting a fresh, ripe coconut:

How to tell if a coconut is bad

Now we’ve done all that we can to select the freshest coconuts in the store, but there’s a bit of a catch – you never truly know their quality until you open them up and take a look inside.

Here’s a quick video to show you how to open a coconut with tools that most of us will have around the house (I would give the screwdriver a wash and possibly even sterilise it before doing this, however):


Okay, so as you are draining the water from the coconut, you can do the first freshness test: how does it smell? A fresh coconut will smell sweet and have a clean aroma about it. If yours doesn’t and smells more like alcohol or has a mustiness to it, it’s likely that your coconut is spoiled. Your only real options in this case is to either throw the coconut away or return it to the store. Eating it isn’t advisable.

Other times you’ll fully open a coconut and see that the flesh itself has become discolored. Again, this isn’t a good sign and the nut will need to be discarded. Obviously, the same applies if there’s any mold present.

If you’re thinking that this may be a slightly ambiguous task and you’re worried you may not spot an off coconut, I wouldn’t be too concerned. Bad coconuts are pretty pungent once you crack the shell. In fact, a spoiled coconut could even make you retch, so you’ll know, believe me!


How long do coconuts last?

So, now you’ve found a nice fresh coconut, opened it up, and enjoyed some of the hidden treasure, you may be wondering How long do coconuts last once opened? Well, let’s find out, shall we?

An opened fresh coconut will last in the refrigerator for up to one week, but you may get as long as 6 to 8 months in the freezer. The shelf life of coconuts will, however, largely depend on how well you store them, so let’s take a look at that, too.

How to store fresh coconut

how to store fresh coconut meat

First off, you’ll want to remove as much of the “meat” from the coconut as you possibly can. While you can do this with a spoon, this coconut tool is especially made for the job and will make your life a whole lot easier.

Now you’ve got all the good stuff away from the husk, you need to decide how long you want to store it for as refrigeration and freezing require slightly different prep work. For refrigerated coconut, you can either shred it or leave it in chunks. For freezing, however, it’s always best to shred your coconut and then squeeze out as much of the moisture as possible before you commit it to the icy depths of your freezer.

Whichever method you opt for, you’ll want to store it in an airtight environment with as much air removed as possible. This is the key to getting the most life out of your coconut and ensuring that you don’t lose much of the flavor. Vacuum sealing would be best, but I’m betting that not many of you have a vacuum sealer at home.

Thankfully, there’s another way that simply involves a Ziploc bag and a large bowl of water! I go through the process in this post on freezing spaghetti squash, check it out!

With your coconut safely sealed inside its Ziploc bag, you’re free to place it either into the refrigerator or your freezer depending on how you intend to store it. That, my friends, is how to store a coconut!


That’s it for another post, you lovely lot. I hope you got what you needed from it and I covered everything you came here for (there’s more coconut info in my 101 guide, by the way!). If I didn’t, let me know by dropping me a comment below!