Toasting coconut: no burning, no waiting – no problem!

Who among you has fallen prey to the dreaded Toasted Coconut Gone Awry syndrome?

Me, me, me!

You’re toasting coconut to garnish your coconut cake. Or coconut cream pie. Or some homemade chocolate truffles.

You carefully spread it in a layer on a baking sheet, stick it in a moderate oven, and wait. And wait. And wait some more.

Stir. Stir. Stir some more.

Ah, finally… it’s getting brown. Not quite ready yet, though. A few more minutes…

And all of a sudden, one “hot spot” has turned black. Meanwhile, some of the edges are still pale gold.

What’s a busy baker to do?

Take a tip from our friends at Saveur magazine, who clued me in to this method in a recent issue –

Toast coconut in your microwave.

Why is a microwave better than your oven?

Because you don’t need to wait for it to preheat. And you can avoid the guilt of turning on the oven for just those couple of tablespoons of coconut you need for a garnish.

The microwave toasts coconut much more evenly than a metal baking sheet – at least in my experience.

And, since it only takes a few minutes, there’s no way you’re going to forget about it and let it burn: you’ll be standing right there, checking it out through the microwave’s window.


Start by spreading coconut on a microwave-safe plate. I’m using 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut, and it’s cold from the fridge; this probably adds a bit of time to the process.

Microwave the coconut in 30-second bursts, until it shows signs of starting to brown (top right picture, above). This took 4 minutes in my microwave (set on high power).

Continue to microwave in 30-second bursts, gently stirring to redistribute each time. When the coconut is as brown as you like – stop. It’s done. It took me 7 1/2 minutes to get to this point; again, my coconut was cold, so it might take you less time.


See how evenly the coconut’s toasted? Sure, there are a few lighter shreds, but absolutely nothing burned. And overall, the color is very even, wouldn’t you say?

Mississippi Mud Cake, here I come!


Or, on the savory side – West African Peanut Soup, anyone? My favorite recipe comes from Moosewood Restaurant Favorites.

This same process works very well for toasting nuts. Interested in other neat microwave tips? Check out our microwave lemon curd, and microwave jam – both ready in just 10 minutes. Plus, use the microwave to dry fresh herbs, and you’ll be done in less than 5 minutes – AND preserve the herbs’ bright green color.



PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. sandra Alicante

    It is odd how some only use it to re heat things. I have found for example, that as long as you have decent bacon with a low water content, it cooks to a crisp very nicely in the microwave. All you do is put it on a plate between to pieces of kitchen paper. 4 Slices of streaky cooks to perfection for me in 2 minutes. Literally. (I like it crispy). No mess, no fuss and great when you want a bacon butty (UK term for sandwich).

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      I like that term, Sandra, “streaky” – so perfectly descriptive! And I’ll remember bacon butty… 🙂 PJH

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Toast coconut the traditional way, in the oven – people have been doing it that way for years and years. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet, and bake until it’s light brown, stirring frequently. I like to bake at a lower temperature (325°F), as it’s less likely to burn. Time can vary, depending on your own oven, the pan you use, and how much coconut you8’re toasting; just keep your eye on it, and it’ll be fine. PJH

    2. Dahn

      A method I use when I don’t want to use the oven is to place the coconut in a fry pan over medium heat. Stir frequently and remove it from the hot pan once it turns golden brown (the hot pan will continue to toast it if you keep it in the pan)

  2. lisa

    I have always done it on the stove in a dry pan as I would do to toast sesame seeds! But if we are talking microwave, google Barbara Kafka eggplant in the microwave – easy AND yummy!

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Thanks so much, Lisa – just checked out the recipe. I have all the ingredients – including the last of my Chinese eggplants, still in the garden. Definitely trying this tomorrow! 🙂 PJH

  3. TainaL

    Hmm, sounds interesting! I’ve never toasted coconut in the oven. I always toast nuts, seeds, and coconut on the stove in a dry skillet. That method doesn’t brown un-chopped nuts as evenly as oven toasting, but I’m usually just going to mix them into oatmeal, or cake batter or something where it’s flavor over appearance. Skillet toasting works perfectly for shredded or desiccated coconut though. I’ve never timed it but I’m sure its faster than 7 minutes. Good to know you can use the microwave though!!

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Taina, I’m so prone to burning things in my skillet, even though it takes me longer to brown in the microwave, it’s much more fail-safe. Since the skillet method works for you, though – stick with it! Why fool with a good thing, right? 🙂 PJH

    2. e. d. webb

      the trick to toasting nuts, etc in the skillet is to first heat the skillet, then add the nuts (or whatever) as you turn off the heat. stir until happy with the toasting. Can’t burn. Can’t miss.
      learned this the hard way after many burned misses. terrific for herb seeds such as cumin.

      try it. you’ll see.

  4. Darla

    I love the Moosewood Cookbooks and will try the coconut trick in the microwave the next time I make some peanut soup for my family. Thanks for the tip, I will be using it often.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      I love that series too, Darla. That West African soup is absolutely a keeper! Thanks for connecting here – PJH

  5. Rachel B.

    Thanks for the herb suggestion. I have been hanging mine to dry from various knobs in the kitchen, which is cool for the first week, but not so much after that. Looking forward to getting the sage bush in my front yard moved along into jars for Christmas 🙂

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      ‘Tis the season, isn’t it, Rachel? Neat to get going on the holiday gifts early, so there’s not such a rush. Good luck with the microwave drying! PJH

  6. Diane

    Why turn on the oven when you have a perfectly good stovetop and skillet right there? I mean microwave, hell yeah, but I did some in my skillet and just kept moving it around and it came out fine.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Why fix it if it’s not broken, eh, Diane? Whatever works is what you should do – I tend to mess up the skillet method, so prefer the microwave, but to each his own, for sure. Thanks for sharing here. PJH

  7. Patty

    I’ve toasted my coconut on the top of the stove for years, the secret to your success is to use a non-stick fry pan, and medium heat. Stir continually and in just a few minutes, your coconut is perfect. Remove from pan immediately.

  8. Dianemw

    Oh my goodness, this couldn’t have come at a better time. I checked my email while waiting for a batch of KA baked donuts to finish baking and there was your wonderful blog about microwave toasted coconut! Tried a batch immediately to sprinkle on the donuts and it came out perfect! Kind of feel guilty that it was so easy! Thanks so much for sharing! Love your blogs!

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Diane, always happy when we can deliver some just–in-time help. Enjoy those doughnuts – and thanks so much for your kind words. PJH

  9. RuthB

    Thanks for the great tip – I’ll use it when making coconut to put on my Thai Butternut squash soup. Blanching nuts is another great chore for the microwave – put them in a pie pan, barely cover with water, cover tightly, and cook on high for 2 minutes – let the nuts cool and those skins come right off. Great when you need some blanched almonds for a veg dish. Thanks for the great blog – love to read it!

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Wow, Ruth – never thought of this. I’m absolutely going to try it. I love how much we’re able to learn from our fellow bakers out there – like you! And thanks for your kind words, too. PJH

  10. Laurie

    To toast nuts, I use my toaster oven set at 200° for 5-10 minutes. Hard to burn them at that temperature. I have never tried toasting coconut. Thanks for the tip!

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      I’ve never tried my toaster oven, I’ve always gone with the stovetop. Now I can do twice as much at the same time. ~ MJ

  11. Mary O'Brien

    Thanks so much for this tip PJ! I tried and it worked perfectly. I used toasted coconut for dead weeds in my graveyard cupcakes and this made it so much easier. More dead weeds and less forest fire!

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      HA! Thanks for starting my day with a smile, Mary… I’m glad your weedy graveyard was a bit easier to attain (and better looking!) this year. 🙂 PJH

  12. Concerned Dad

    So my teenaged daughter sets out to include toasted coconut as part of a ‘protein bar’ treat for friends last night. Oven, 350. Within less than 5 minutes, we have an all out fire blazing on the thick cookie sheet!

    Her technique sounds not too different from what’s here—what caused the fire? (She did have aluminum foil under the coconut.) Carmelization? Chemicals used to preserve the coconut?

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Gosh, I don’t know – just 5 minutes at 350°F sounds like it shouldn’t produce that extreme a reaction. All I can think is that perhaps it was HEAVILY sugared and very oily, as that combination is more likely to burn. My husband once baked me a birthday cake (“once” being the operative word) and set it on fire in the oven because he thought he’d warm it up, and it already had the icing on it, and the icing caught on fire… So it’s possible the coconut was just too sugary/oily. Sorry I can’t be more helpful – PJH

  13. Celebes Desiccated Coconut

    Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed! Those photos makes my mouth water!!! 🙂 Certainly it is delicious with coconut ingredients on it!

  14. Lorel

    I am making a pie that calls for a toasted coconut crust. I jumped the gun and added butter to the coconut and forgot to toast it. Can I still toast it with butter already mixed in?

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Yes, just place it under the broiler and watch it like a hawk to get a little toasted flavor on it. ~ MJ

  15. Karen Perry

    Thanks for this great tip – I have done it in the oven and on the stove in a frying pan so now I will try the microwave and it will be PERFECT I just know it.

  16. Amado

    Good blog you have here.. It’s difficult to find quality writing like yours nowadays. I honestly appreciate people like you! Take care!!


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