Episode 43 – How Do You Open A Coconut In Hawaii?

open coconut

If I wanted to know how to open a coconut, the best place to go would be Hawaii. I’ve traveled to the Maui Tropical Plantation to see how the experts do the job.

My tour guide, Mina is an expert, she knows everything about coconuts. Actually, they’re not a nut, they’re a fruit. They’re also “self-harvesting”. This means that you shouldn’t stand or park your car under a full coconut tree.

Coconuts can weigh 50 pounds, and when they decide they’re ripe, they fall from 50 feet or more above. More people are killed by falling coconuts than shark attacks in Hawaii, Mina tells me.

The coconut has a thick fiberous outer husk that must be removed first. The Hawaiian way to open a coconut is to thrust it onto a sharpened stick or metal spike secured to a table. A prying motion eventually removes all the outer husk to be discarded.

What remains looks a lot more like a coconut that you’d see in a grocery store. It’s the size of a grapefruit and has a hard woody outer shell. There are also three small circles at one end of the fruit, Mina calls them eyes.

Of the three eyes, one is soft enough to plunge a knife or screwdriver into so that you can drain the coconut water inside.

Then, a sharp blow with a rock or a hammer will open the coconut, revealing the bright white meat inside. Mina advises that to remove the meat from the shell, freeze and defrost the coconut halves. The expansion and contraction of the coconut meat will free it from the shell.

What should I make with fresh coconut? What’s your favorite coconut dish? Leave a comment below:


Leave A Reply (9 comments so far)

  1. henry
    4 years ago

    Hi Chef Todd,
    I grew up in Hawaii, have peeled many coconuts…
    did you know that the coconut water was used in the war for a substitute for IV Saline!

    never heard of bad juice (unless the coconut was old and spoiled)

    Thanks for the great video, brought back many memories.

    • ChefToddMohr
      4 years ago

      Hi Henry!
      No, I didn’t know that coconut water was used for saline in the war, that’s amazing.

      I feel like I took IV Mai-Tai’s when I was there, but they went in through the mouth.

  2. Betty R.
    5 years ago

    This was so informative. I made a coconut cake from scratch one and because of the prep of a coconut I haven’t made one since now I can enjoy making the cake again and will try other things.She made it look so simple. Thanks again Betty DeMeo

    • ChefTodd
      5 years ago

      Hi Betty!
      Thanks for your kind comment. I’m glad you’re motivated to enjoy cooking again, it will improve your lifestyle for sure!

  3. Carla
    5 years ago

    Hello Chef Todd. So far, I have never had any problems with drinking Buko Juice (coconut juice). It’s my favorite guilt-free drink when I want to quench my thirst. The green coconut is actually the “Buko” and it’s the safest to drink. Yes, even the ones from the coconut vendors down the street are safe. As long as the juice is from the fruit itself (the green coconut), i can always let the coconut vendor open it slightly, insert the straw, and voila! i already have my guilt free drink, super fresh right from the shell :-) And when im done with drinking, i can have it opened wide, then I’ll enjoy the coconut meat :-)

  4. Phaw Khrua
    5 years ago

    Todd, I’ve never had any problems with what the street vendors have here, but I’ve never paid attention that closely. Maybe Carla will have more experience with that.

    BTW, One local company (“Link”) bottles an “Agua de Coco” (“Coconut water”) soda that is amazing.

  5. Carla
    5 years ago

    Here in the Philippines, we call the coconut tree as “The Tree of Life”, because it has a lot of purpose from its roots to fruits. Really,it’s an understatement, especially now that virgin coconut oil and coconut sugar is at it’s peak fame. Even young coconut meat which we call “macapuno” is very popular for local desserts and it even has its own ice cream flavor. Local street vendors also sell Buko juice (people will drink the juice right from the fruit itself), and big companies have already managed to package the juice commercially, and it’s a favorite drink among health-conscious people (preferred over the soda).

    We have a song about coconuts which was made popular in the early 1990’s sung by the Smokey Mountain. It’s called “The Coconut Song”, more famous as “Da Coconut Nut”. It’s actually a fun song, you can listen to the song here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Dx8QlTi1QY (by The Smokey Mountain)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxFoefBWJ9U&feature=related (Acapella version by the San Miguel Choir)

    I must note though, Filipinos don’t normally sing or speak the way the singer sang the song. No pun intended, no offense meant, he sang that way in order to have a tropical vibe :-))

    Just in case it’s hard to understand, here are the lyrics:

    The coconut nut is a giant nut
    If you eat too much, you’ll get very fat
    Now, the coconut nut is a big, big nut
    But this delicious nut is not a nut

    It’s the coco fruit (it’s the coco fruit)
    Of the coco tree (of the coco tree)
    From the coco palm family

    There are so many uses of the coconut tree
    You can build a big house for the family
    All you need is to find a coconut man
    If he cuts the tree, he gets the fruit free (repeat chorus)

    The coconut bark for the kitchen floor
    If you save some of it, you can build the door
    Now, the coconut trunk, do not throw this junk
    If you save some of it, you’ll have a second floor

    The coconut wood is very good
    It can stand 20 years if you pray it would
    Now, the coconut fruit, to tell you the truth
    You can throw it or use it as firewood

    The coconut leaves, good shade it gives
    For the roof, for the walls up against the thieves
    Now, the coconut fruit, say my relatives
    Make good cannonballs up against the thieves

    • ChefTodd
      5 years ago

      That’s great Carla! Thanks for sharing.

      I have a question for you. Isn’t there a type of coconut water NOT to drink because it can give you digestive problems?
      Is it green coconut water that will lock you in the bathroom for the day?

      Which to drink and which NOT to drink?

  6. Phaw Khrua
    5 years ago

    Here in Honduras, street vendors have custom-made “bicycles” equipped with ice-filled coolers. When you buy a coconut from them, they take off a small amount of it with a machete, stick a straw into it and you drink the coconut water with the straw. Afterward, if you wish,you hand it back to them and they use the machete to cut it in half so you can dig out the meat. With the coconuts we have here, that’s usually easy enough to do with a spoon.

    One coconut from such a vendor, costs about U.S. 53 cents..

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