Desiccated Coconut: A Product From New York’s Coconut King

Desiccated coconut was an American invention, according to records from the United States Congress House Committee on Ways and Means from 1921. Those same records state that the original maker of desiccated coconut was the L. Schepp Company of New York City.

The L. Schepp Company was started by Leopold Schepp, who began his career in business by selling palm-leaf fans at the age of 10. He then quickly began selling matches, shoelaces, and coconuts after early success with the fans.

By age 20, he would make around $300,000 importing tea and spices. He figured out that the real profit in the coconut business was in selling shredded coconut. He bought a ship and began importing coconuts from the Caribbean and Central America. He eventually stopped selling everything else but the coconut products.

In 1886, he came up with the formula for a dried and shredded coconut that he named desiccated coconut. His success with it would earn him a nickname: the Coconut King of New York. Desiccated coconut became an extremely popular product and was bringing Schepp more than $1,000,000 per year. He was importing coconuts on his own ships and processing them in his facilities.

Desiccated coconut

Schepp began making desiccated coconut with coconuts from the Americas but then switched to Ceylon coconuts because of their higher quality.

A claim made to the Ways and Means Committee about desiccated coconut’s origins was that British investors sent men to work in American desiccated coconut factories to learn the production methods. They then took this method with them to Ceylon where they started plants for processing coconut. They could make higher profits there because the cost of labor was much lower than in the US.

Desiccated coconut flavor profile

Desiccated coconut has some of the nuttiness and creaminess that we associate with fresh coconut. Much of the product’s benefits in baked goods has to do with its texture, which can be described as being both fibrous and crunchy. Note that there are sweetened and unsweetened versions of desiccated coconut available.

Health benefits of desiccated coconut

While desiccated coconut is known mostly for its dessert applications, it does have an impressive set of health benefits that come from nutrients like:

  • Vitamins: Desiccated coconut contains various B vitamins like niacin, pyridoxine and riboflavin.
  • Minerals: Desiccated coconut is a source of several minerals including copper and manganese.
  • Fiber: Fresh coconuts are full of fiber, which is unchanged by the desiccation process. Despite being dried, sweetened and unsweetened desiccated coconut are good sources of fiber.

Desiccated coconut in your diet can help with the treatment and prevention of conditions like:

  • Constipation: The fiber in desiccated coconut can help waste to pass more freely through the intestines thus providing relief from constipation.
  • Anemia: The copper in desiccated coconut plays an important role in your body’s red blood cell production. Anemia occurs when you lack enough red blood cells to supply your tissues with oxygen.

Common uses

You can add desiccated coconut to baked goods like cookies and muffins as an interesting textural element and for the coconut flavor. If you use the sweetened version, desiccated coconut can replace some or all of a recipe’s sugar. Unsweetened, it can be a great addition to rice as well. Use it to make sambal or sprinkle it into curries for flavor and crunch.