How To Toast Coconut In The Air Fryer

Toasted coconut flakes might be one of the most underrated ingredients in the kitchen. Just a little bit of browning can really bring out the sweet, nutty flavor of this tropical fruit, creating an excellent garnish for baked goods and desserts. Still, not everyone prefers to put in the time to toast coconut at home — cooks often opt for the convenience of store-bought flakes, rather than firing up the oven just for this one garnish. Luckily, for those who take pride in 100% from-scratch desserts, you can use the air fryer to brown shredded coconut in no time.

This handy appliance only takes a few minutes to preheat, and for coconut flakes, you'll want to aim for approximately 325 degrees Fahrenheit. You can set the temperature a little higher if you want quicker browning, but keep in mind that the shreds toast up relatively quickly, so check the basket every so often to make sure they don't burn.

Once the air fryer has finished preheating, sprinkle your coconut flakes into an oven-safe dish, or onto a sheet of foil or parchment. This prevents the thin flakes from slipping through the holes in your air fryer grate. Toast the flakes and give them a quick shake every few minutes, to promote even browning and prevent burning. They're finished once they take on a golden-brown hue, and they've begun to release a delightfully sweet tropical scent into your kitchen.

Choose unsweetened coconut flakes for better toasting

Before you brown some coconut in the air fryer, you need to shop wisely — the kind of flakes you buy will make a huge difference in how they toast. You might think to purchase sweetened coconut flakes for that extra flavor boost, but unsweetened shreds are more ideal. Sugar browns very readily, meaning it might char when exposed to hot, dry air, giving your coconut a bitter taste. Unsweetened coconut also works better for garnishing savory dishes such as curries, making them more versatile than the sweet stuff.

Size is also a factor in how fast your coconut toasts. For example, desiccated coconut flakes have a very fine, almost powder-like consistency. They're a great choice for coconut macaroons that hold together well, or homemade granola that has coconut in every bite, but are also more prone to burning, since heat transfers faster through smaller flakes. Meanwhile, bigger coconut shreds or large coconut chips give you a little more leeway in terms of cooking time. Their crispier texture makes them a better garnish for smooth ice cream or frosted cakes.

As a final note, don't try to grate your own flakes from fresh coconuts. Raw coconut flesh is approximately 50% water, so it will take forever to dry out and brown. You'll also need to figure out how to open coconuts safely, and all that effort doesn't really add up to anything better than what you can buy at the store.

Tips on storing and using toasted coconut

Once you've toasted your coconut flakes in the air fryer, wait for them to cool before transferring them to an airtight container. Storing the flakes while they're still warm can trap steam inside the container and create condensation, which can ruin their crispy texture and even encourage mold to grow.

While the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that shredded coconut takes about a year to go bad in the pantry, the lifespan of toasted flakes is actually much shorter. The nutty and toasty flavors will start to turn bitter after a week in the pantry. To extend the life of your toasted coconut by up to a month, transfer it to the fridge in its airtight container. You can also freeze this ingredient preserve its quality for up to three months, but keep in mind that it can turn soggy once defrosted. You might have to re-toast the flakes before using them.

When you're ready to use your toasted coconut, think beyond the realm of desserts. While cookies, cakes, coconut cream pie, and confections like toasted coconut marshmallows are obvious uses for this ingredient, shredded coconut in a delicious fried shrimp recipe, or they can be sprinkled on top of Thai curries and lentil soup.