How to open green coconuts for water

One of the safest sources of both food and water found across most of the tropics is the

coconut. Living along the coast in zone 9b, I am well into the growing area for the multipurpose trees. I will try to visit the various uses of the coconut palm.

I consume a LOT of coconut water, and in one of my recent barter deals, I picked up a half-dozen green coconuts that were going to be removed from a tree and thrown away. I traded about 10 minutes of my time and a two-mile drive for these six as well as a good chance at the rest of the coconuts on the trees in this property. Not a bad deal, considering there were over a dozen coconut palms :)

Here in south Florida, most owners of such palms pay to have the coconuts removed, and have them hauled away, or at least put out to the curb. Many times I’ve spoken to owners of such “trash” and picked up a dozen or two coconuts in various sizes, but all edible in some way.

In fact, at one point, BlueTang’s girlfriend was wanting a few coconuts, and, as a literal translation (a joke) of her wanting “lots of coconuts to plant”, I dropped off over 60 at one time. She called a halt to my merriment almost immediately though…

My point is, there are lots of coconuts around here, more than I can use personally, and most are free for the asking. And I don’t even have to climb a palm tree to get them!

Some of you know a coconut as a small, furry brown nut that resembles a monkey’s head, minus the face. Other know a coconut as a a large, fibrous husk that ranges from green to brown, depending on its stages of maturity. Some think that each is a different type of coconut. And a few of you know that is, in fact, a small monkey head nut inside of a larger fibrous husk. To many of my friends great amazement, I’ve shown them how the small brown nut can be found inside the giant husk.

As to methods of extracting the edible parts, my approach depends mostly on what I have on hand, and the age of the nut I am opening. The older the nut, the harder both the outer husk becomes, as well as the inner shell. When young and green, a sharp knife is all I use.

Tree end
"Lobe" end. Cut here.

Here is how I do it.

  1. Find a young green coconut. I prefer to have someone else do the climbing, so look for nuts that have been removed from the tree already. Fresh is important.
  2. Find the bottom end of the nut. This will be the end with three lobes, opposite the end that was connected to the tree.

    Start cutting here.
  3. Slice (or chop if using a machete) into each of the lobes towards the center. You are trying to slice the end off of the nut eventually. Try small cuts, working your way around, go slow, no need to cut your hand off.
  4. Once you have the end off, slice thin slivers off until you reveal the white crown of the nut.
  5. Now, depending on the maturity of your green coconut. you may either slice off the end of the shell if its very young, or use your knife to drill a hole if it is more mature and has a
    Second cut here.

    harder shell.

  6. Pour off liquid and drink, or drink right from the nut. Deeeee-lish!




  • Third cut here





Look for inner shell to determine if it is young enough to just slice off.
This one is young enough, so continue to slice thinly until you have an opening.
Aha! Coconut water!
Yes,I brought a straw! Enjoy!


Hope this helps!



  1. We use lots of coconuts in our household also Hillbilly and love the fresh milk and meat. I’ve got a tree growing in an empty lot that’s loaded with nuts under close watch and plan on loading up soon. We planted a nut several years ago and the tree is getting about big enough to produce nuts.


  2. Great post and great blog! I just brought home 30 fresh green coconuts from the keys and was wondering how to get the goodness out of them. Thanks to you, well be drinking fresh coconut water in a few minutes!
    If we want to eat the “meat” how do we harvest that out? Thanks ahead of time for your advice!

    1. Thanks much for the kind words!
      Green coconuts tend to have very little meat in them, it is more like a thin clear jelly. Still good to eat, just far less firm from what I’ve experienced. If you can cut the top off of the inner shell (the brown part we use to make cups, clopping horse sounds, and cheesy “Bear necessity” bikini tops), then odds are there will be very little “meat” inside.
      If the inner shell is too hard to cut with a knife, and a dark brown, remove all of the outer husk, find the three lines that run from the “eye” end to the pointy end, and rotating, strike each line a sharp blow with the back of a heavy knife, machete, or hammer. (I’ve done this with a heavy butter knife handle too). Rotate, strike, rotate, strike. Keep doing this and a crack will develop. Split the shell in half, and pop it in the freezer for a couple hours. This makes the meat shrink away from the shell a bit. Remove it from the freezer and pop out the meat using a blunt object, again I use a butter knife for this.

      That’s my method at least :)

      Hope it helps!

  3. If you want a quick way to get to the water. Take a screw driver and poke a whole in the side, wiggle it around a little bit. Flip the coconut over and place over a decent size cup so the whole will drain into the cup. Then poke another hole on the opposite side for an air hole and presto….coconut water dispenser. No cutting necessary unless of course you want the insides.

    1. Not to bust your chops, but I don’t always carry a (clean) screwdriver…but I almost always carry a knife.

      Now having said that, I’ll agree that in a pinch, do whatever you can to get the job done. I try to NEVER argued with results…

      Thanks for the comment (and one more option…just in case!)

  4. my neighbor just had all the coconuts cut off and i grabbed some, i opened them up all excited for the water and there was none. I can not understand why? Would you have any explaination for this, i can’t find any info.
    thank you

    1. The only thing I can come up with would be that they were too young…but that is a guess…

      I’ve had a few without any liquid in them, but not very often.

      Was there any damage where liquid could leak out? I’ve sen that as well…

  5. I brought back green coconuts we picked from a tree in Florida. Do they ripened with age? I wanted to use the meat inside to make pies but the one we cut today (1 month old) had soft meat and not sweet. Does it help to wait until the outside turns brown too?

    1. They ripen with age…while on the tree. If picked green, they stop their maturation, and will remain at the stage they were picked.

      In order to get a “meaty” coconut, find one that is brown and fallen off a tree recently…..or on a tree and looking large and brown. Those will yield less water and more meat.

      What you have (green coconuts) are perfect for drinking, and have very little meat inside.

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