I love coconut. Do you? If you do, you’re going to love making Elephant Toenails”¦these are really just shavings of fresh coconut, toasted in a heavy pan with sugar and coconut water.


Crunchy and sweet, Elephant Toenails are irresistible once you start eating them!

To make Elephant Toenails, you’ll want to purchase a fresh coconut at your local market or produce department. Hold it close to your ear and shake it, making sure you can still hear juice sloshing about inside. That liquid sloshing around is called “œcoconut water”, which is fat free and low in calories. This is different from the thick, white “œcoconut milk” purchased in cans for use in some Asian recipes. The coconut milk is made by pureeing the white coconut “œmeat” and water, than straining it. “œCoconut cream” has a higher ratio of coconut to water than “coconut milk” does. “œCream of coconut” is a creamy liquid often used in pina coladas; it begins as coconut cream (mentioned above) but sugars and stabilizers are added to give it a very creamy consistency.


To prepare the coconut, you’ll need a heavy-duty nail, a hammer and a towel or rug to work on.


Early Spanish explorers called it “œcoco” which means “monkey face” because the three indentations (eyes) on the hairy nut resembles the head and face of a monkey.


Stabilize the coconut firmly on the towel or rug, and pound a nail into two of the three holes.


 You’ll need to pound the nails in fairly deep to go all the way through the white “meat” inside.


Now, pull out the nail…

…and after making two holes, turn the coconut over and collect the “water” in a bowl. You’ll want to reserve at least 1/4-1/3 cup of the liquid for later.


Set the coconut down on a firm surface and give it a good, strong hit with the hammer…

…breaking it into several pieces.

At this point, you need to separate the white meat from the hairy, hard shell. I found it separated much easier after I put it in a low temperature oven for about 15 minutes. I used a butter knife to get in under the meat and lift it away from the shell.

Next, I used a potato peeler to shave the coconut into strips. These will be varying lengths, depending on the size of your pieces.

Then, I put 3/4 cup sugar in a heavy pan….

 …and added 1/4 cup of the reserved coconut water.

I tossed in the shavings of coconut meat… and kept stirring…

…and stirring…

…and stirring over a medium flame, until the liquid evaporated and the sugar crystalized, like this:

The Toenails were still a little damp, so I put them on a cookie sheet and let them dry out in a very low oven.

Yum! The Elephant Toenails will keep well in a sealed container for several weeks…but I bet you won’t have them around that long!



Elephant Toenails

Elephant Toenails


  • 1 fresh coconut
  • 1/4-1/3 C. coconut water, depending on the size of the coconut
  • 3/4 C. sugar


  1. Poke or bore several holes into the coconut and drain out the coconut milk which is inside. Set it aside while you prepare the meat of the coconut.
  2. Crack the hard coconut open with a hammer and remove the coconut in chunks. You will need to separate it all from the hard shell but you do not need to peel off the dark skin of the coconut meat. If you find the meat is tightly attached to the shell, put it in a low oven for 15-20 minutes. This will make it easier to separate the meat from the shell.
  3. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the coconut into long strips.
  4. Mix the coconut strips, coconut milk and sugar in a heavy frying pan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until the liquid and sugar have completely coated the coconut and the shavings have dried out. If the shavings are not completely dried out, put in a low oven while watching them carefully. They should not be sticky when you store them; preferably very dry.
  5. Cool completely. Enjoy!

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