How to substitute unsweetened for sweetened coconut? It may not be an earth-shattering problem. Still I needed the answer.
I had all the ingredients for my favorite granola, except for sweetened coconut and didn’t want to go to the store before making a batch. During my search for a stray bag of sweetened coconut that I might have bought and saved for a “rainy day,” I discovered that I had the remains of a container of unsweetened or natural coconut.
How to substitute unsweetened for sweetened coconut?
Unsweetened coconut is typically used in savory dishes such as curries or other Southeast Asian sauces. It is also great combined with breadcrumbs or on its own as a coating for shrimp or chicken baked or fried.
However, unsweetened coconut is too dry for most sweets. Also, the sweetness associated with coconut doesn’t come out in a baked dish if you just add more sugar or honey to the recipe without actually sweetening the coconut itself.
Transforming unsweetened into sweetened coconut required more than just additional sweetener.
I found what seemed to be a great solution on Food.com – mix the coconut with simple syrup. Remember the simple syrup sweetening method from candied ginger? It worked perfectly for my granola and I could not tell the difference between this batch with home-sweetened coconut and the original version, which used store-sweetened coconut. My home-sweetened coconut is on the left below, with the unsweetened version on the right.
For home-sweetened coconut, the ratios are 1 tablespoon of water to 1 teaspoon of sugar for every ¼ cup of unsweetened coconut. My granola calls for ¾ cup of sweetened coconut, so this description uses that serving size.
For a cup of sweetened coconut, you would use 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) of water and 4 teaspoons of sugar.
How to Sweeten Natural or Unsweetened Coconut (so You Can Substitute Unsweetened for Sweetened Coconut in a Recipe)
Serving – ¾ cup
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 teaspoons of sugar
- ¾ cup unsweetened or natural coconut
- Small pot
- Measuring spoons
- Measuring cup
- Waxed paper or cookie sheet (optional)
Put the water and sugar in a small pot. Gently bring them to a boil. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
Add the coconut and stir until the simple syrup/sugar water is totally absorbed into the coconut. To dry the coconut slightly (not necessary if you’re using it in a recipe like granola that adds liquid in a later step), spread the now-sweetened coconut out on waxed paper or a cookie sheet for 20-30 minutes.
I’m going to try this method on the coconut in my Chocolate Coconut Pecan Bars and my Almond Coconut Cake too. Maybe even my gluten-free Coconut Almond Macaroons. What coconut recipes do you love where this substitution could work well?