Shredded coconut and coconut flakes are often confused with each other. Even experienced bakers sometimes refer to both products as shredded coconut or coconut flakes, but the two are not interchangeable. Because of the confusion, some recipes that call for one may actually mean the other. In other words, many people do not know the difference. You should always ensure that a recipe writer knows which is which. In the SPICEography Showdown below, we will show you the differences between shredded coconut and coconut flakes and help you to determine the right one to use in your recipes.
How do shredded coconut and coconut flakes differ?
Both shredded coconut and coconut flakes are forms of processed coconut, which means that they have been grated to make them easier to use. The difference between them is in the sizes of the pieces. Shredded coconut has been grated into narrow, thin strips similar in size and shape to shredded cheddar cheese; coconut flakes tend to be thicker and wider pieces of coconut. Note that depending on the brand, the difference between shreds and flakes can range from barely perceptible to dramatic.
The different sizes ensure that each product brings its own distinctive texture and mouthfeel to foods. Use shredded coconut for a light crunch and coarseness; use coconut flakes to get a heavier and more noticeably crunchy texture.
If your recipe calls for one, can you use the other?
Shredded coconut can sometimes be used as a substitute for coconut flakes, but may not always be ideal. It may be a better substitute if you don’t like the taste of coconut since it won’t provide the more robust coconut flavor and fibrous bulk that you would get from coconut flakes. If you do use it, you may need to use more of it to get something closer to the flavor and texture of the flakes.
Coconut flakes can make an excellent substitute for shredded coconut. You have two options: can either use them as-is or you can toss them into your blender or food processor and shred them.
Using coconut flakes without shredding them might work in some recipes and they may be an upgrade if you want your dish to taste more like coconut. A coconut cake will have a more intense coconut taste and texture if you use flakes on the exterior instead of shredded coconut.
When should you use shredded coconut and when should you use coconut flakes?
Because shredded coconut is finer, it works better for decoration. For example, you can sprinkle it onto the surface of a frosted cake for an attractive snow-like effect even if there is no coconut anywhere else in the recipe. A light sprinkling will provide a little texture but is mostly there for its appearance. In comparison, coconut flakes will work better if you want the coconut flavor and texture.
Shredded coconut is also what you will want to use for a subtle coconut texture in coconut cookies and muffins. They are great in the breading for deep-fried shrimp and chicken wings. Use coconut flakes to get a heavier crunch. Use them on your coconut cream pies or sprinkle them over your salad to enhance the texture.