What is the difference between White & Brown Coconuts?



My husband and I were married on a remote island in Fiji. For our wedding dinner one of the men who worked on the island went out and caught us fresh lobster. Although it was amazing, the best part of the wedding feast was probably the cake.

I had requested a butter cream cake. Never mind that we were in the tropics and butter would have to be shipped in from New Zealand (what can I say? I was young.). The cake was a masterpiece. The employees were especially thrilled with the layers of creamy white frosting as most of them had never even seen a fancy white wedding cake before.

As we exchanged the traditional serving of a bite of cake with one another, we both realized there was something not quite right about the cake. Nevertheless, we served it up to our guests and friends (most of whom were the employees) who were giddy with delight. They busily ate, nodding at one another with wide smiles. They thought it was great! As my husband and I trepidatiously took another bite we both realized what our clever cooks had made it out of. Shortening! The entire thing tasted like Crisco©! It was the only thing that wouldn’t have melted into a puddle right there on the floor! To add insult to injury, I’m pretty sure that the cake had absolutely zero sweetener in it!

If I had it to do over again, I think I’d go for something made with coconut instead!

And there’s my lead-in for coconuts…

While we were there, we learned that the Fijians consider the brown coconuts “old” (which they are). In fact the brown “mature” coconuts are left lying on the forest floor-fodder for whatever can manage to get it open.

Typically the green coconuts are eaten. With a green outer husk and gelatinous inner meat, the water of the young coconut is especially prized.

When we asked for a brown coconut to be opened, our Fijian host said “Ah yes, this is more like what you eat in America.” And sure enough, it was exactly (as you’ll see in Part II: The easiest way to open a brown coconut) what we Americans typically expect the meat of a coconut to look like. Thick, with white firm flesh that has little coconut water remaining.

A Healthy Fat

Although the flesh of a mature coconut contains mostly saturated fat (1 cup of meat= 283 calories and 26.8 grams of fat), it is an MCT (medium chain tryglyceride) which is broken down much faster than long chain fatty acids (which you’ll find in almost all other saturated fats). Studies have shown that MCT’s actually help to lower cholesterol levels while raising good (HDL) cholesterol.

Weight loss

An increase in coconut oil consumption has been associated with weight loss. The body uses this fat immediately instead of storing it for later use.

Difference between white/young and brown/mature coconuts

  • While the white/young coconut produces more water, the brown/mature coconut produces more meat. The meat of the white coconut is gelatinous and not very flavorful. The meat of the brown coconut is thick, fibrous and full of flavor.
  •  Often used in smoothies, the meat of a young coconut can be turned into coconut milk if put through a juicer. The fiber left over can be dried and used in place of shredded coconut.
  • The meat of the brown coconut is perfect for eating raw, shaving and dehydrating, toasting in the oven, etc.
  • The meat of the young coconut can be frozen for later use. The meat of the old coconut should not be frozen.

Nutritional Profile

One whole white coconut contains roughly 140 calories, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 3 grams fat, and 2 grams of protein.

  • Contains 50% of your Daily Recommended Allowance (DRA) of manganese, 15% of your DRA of potassium, and 6% DRA of magnesium.

One whole brown coconut contains roughly 1405 calories (no, that is NOT a typo!), 60 grams of carbohydrates, 36 grams of fiber, 133 grams of fat, and 13 grams of protein. Keep in mind, it would be difficult to eat an entire raw coconut in one day!

  • Contains 67% of your RDA of manganese (which helps metabolize both fat and protein). High in potassium with minimal levels of folate, copper,and calcium. Contains negligible amounts of Vitamins C, E, K, B-6 and more.

Health benefits of coconut water

  • The water of both the white/young and brown/mature coconut is filled with electrolytes that ensure proper contractions in the heart and support normal digestive and muscle function.
  • Young coconut water is a great source of iron as it contains 3.30 mg of iron. (Men typically need 8 mg of iron per day and women 18 mg)

Fun Coconut Fact to wow your friends and family with:

  • Roughly 150 are killed every year by falling coconuts making coconuts more dangerous than sharks or lightning.


Sources: Coconut Research Center | Livestrong.com| Calorie King


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  1. Difficult to eat an entire coconut in one day????

    You don’t know me then, ’cause it’s no problem. I’m also 6’2″ and 155 lbs, so the calories aren’t an issue for me, in fact they are just the opposite.

    Thanks for the info though, although I am still confused as to how something can increase in calories as it ages. Most normal aging processes do the opposite.

  2. Mary Jackson says:

    If the young coconuts are white…it’s because they’re dipped in chemicals (formaldehyde treated) 3-4 times before we (here in U.S.) purchase them…it DOES seep in through the soft “eye” of the coconut…
    I just started drinking coconut water recently and so after finding out about the formaldehyde (today), the new goal is to find the healthiest form/source (no coconut trees where I live)

    • where do you get this from?
      there are young and mature coconuts. the young ones are green and when the green husk is trimmed off it leave a trimmed up white case ready to cut in and through the harder shell. THAT is why it is white!!!!!

  3. I store fresh brown coconut in and love it. However, it you store it in the freezer for a long time, like a couple of months, it starts to sour. Don’t know why. I wish I knew how much fat the coconut water of brown coconuts contain.

  4. When I was in the Air Force stationed in Guam, we would start the day by putting several coconuts in the refrigerator to get cold for break time…..Oh they were so good better than a Gatorade.

  5. “Keep in mind, it would be difficult to eat an entire raw coconut in one day!” I hope I am not the only one but I find it difficult not to eat an entire raw brown coconut in 20 minutes!!

  6. I never realised how much lower in calories and fat the young coconut is compared to the brown. I tried my first young coconut today and I much rather its flavour and texture compared to brown. It was delicious in a Thai salad I made. The coconut water was so much nicer than the commercialised versions too. I’m hooked!

  7. sorry for the first post
    from my experience, the young coconut me is more flavorful than mature, but you need to know which young coconut meat to eat for the best flavor. there are different stages of young coconut meat from no meat, translucent meat to soft white meat before it mature to a harder thick white meat. be i guess in the end it depends the persons taste buds. Also we juice mature meat to get the milk coconut milk, vs young there is almost no milk to juice and there’s no oil and from the young meat.

  8. from my experience, the young coconut me is more flavorful and mature, but you need to know which young coconut meat to eat for the best flavor. Also we juice mature meat to get the milk coconut milk, vs young there is almost no milk to juice and there’s no oil and from the young meat.

  9. When you say 1 whole brown coconut is 1450 calories, does that exclude the coconut water inside? what is the amount of calories without the mature coconut water?

  10. Vertumnus says:

    The water from young coconut is far superior to that of mature coconut and the young meat is what people in Southeast Asia looks forward to eating.

    Growing up in a tropical country, I had plenty of fresh young coconuts water to drink. They taste delicious. What they sell at the supermarket doesn’t even come close. There’s a big difference between young coconut water and mature coconuts water.

    The mature coconut water is usually discarded and the meat shredded and mix with water to extract the coconut milk. The milk is used in a variety of stews, curries and desserts.

  11. Ahimsa Yogi says:

    Is this a typo: One whole young coconut contains roughly 140 calories, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 3 grams fat, and 2 grams of protein.

    only 3grams fat for a whole young coconut? Doesnt seem correct

    • That’s what my resources said, and I checked quite a few. The young coconut does have much less fat for some reason. When I grind the meat up in my Vitamix and store it to make yogurt no fat rises to the top (like with a mature coconut).

  12. Since I’m buying shredded coconut in large bags I have always stored it in the freezer, thinking it would keep fresh longer. This is the first time I have seen that you should not freeze old coconut meat – which shredded coconut is. Why is that?

    I just found your FB page and your youtube tutorials, they are fantastic and so informative and easy follow!

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