desiccated coconut; dried coconut; flaked coconut
Coconut that's been shredded and usually dried. Shredded coconut is available both sweetened and unsweetened, and the shred ranges from fine threads to coarse flakes. Sweetened coconut has been combined with confectioner's sugar and is best used in sweet preparations. Use unsweetened shredded coconut in savory dishes.
It's a bit labor-intensive, but you can crack a whole coconut and shred it yourself in a food processor.
Be careful not to substitute sweetened shredded coconut for unsweetened (or vice-versa); it's best to stick with what the recipe calls for.
You can find dried coconut in the supermarket, but you don't often find a variety of sizes, and it's usually sweetened. Health-food stores are often a better bet for unsweetened shredded coconut, and you'll often have several choices from fine shreds to large flakes. If possible smell—or better yet, taste—the coconut before you buy it to be sure it's fresh.
Taste before using to guarantee freshness. Toast shredded coconut to round out its flavor. Raw and desiccated coconut take on a beautiful golden color and a deeper flavor when gently toasted. To toast coconut, spread it evenly on a baking sheet and put it in a 350°F oven. Watch it carefully and stir once or twice for even color. Pull it out just as the coconut begins to turn a light brown.
Store shredded coconut in a cool, dry place where it will last a month or two. Or freeze coconut airtight for up to a year.