Is Coconut a Nut? And Why Does It Matter?

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Is Coconut a Nut or not? 

If you’re allergic to nuts, should you avoid eating coconuts? Good question–and it turns out that the answer is pretty interesting!

Is Coconut a Nut?

The question of whether a coconut is a nut or not might seem like an odd question for me to be tackling–I mean, it’s not the typical topic that I address such as…

But this does need to be asked.

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Why I’m Wondering “Is Coconut a Nut?”

The main reason I’m digging into “Are Coconuts Nuts?” is that my oldest has tree nut allergies, so it’s important for me to keep on top of food allergy information, but there’s another reason that spurred me on to dig into this issue now.

It was a VERY unfair review of my Homemade Protein Bars recipe.

About a month ago, I received a comment on my Homemade Protein Bars post. In the post, I mentioned that if one wanted to make the recipe nut-free, one could substitute in either seeds or coconut for the nuts.

Due to that, a woman commented and accused me of putting my readers’ health in danger for making such a suggestion because COCONUT IS A NUT.

And it didn’t stop there. I gave her solid scientific info defending my decision, but she went on, continuing to attack me and even threatening to report me because I removed her negative review….(to whom—the recipe rating police?)

Anyhow, drama aside–was she right? Is Coconut a Nut?

Why I Suggested Coconut as a Nut Substitute

Since coconut and coconut butter can be good substitutes for nuts and nut butter, I was trying to make the recipe helpful for those who either have allergies to nuts or are on the AIP (autoimmune paleo) diet.

I started my blog to share recipes. Our oldest was born with life-threatening food allergies and eczema, and due to that, as well as his autism and other health issues in our family including candida, I was eating and developing special diet-friendly recipes. More and more people started asking for copies of them and so one day my husband said,

Why don’t you just start a blog and put the recipes there?

I had no clue how to do that, but I figured it out–and the rest is history.

Now, since our oldest has so many life-threatening food allergies, I know what it’s like to avoid certain foods. It’s hard and though we can eat many nuts, I’m always trying to think about options for others.

Is Coconut a Nut? Or a Fruit, Or What Is It?

This is similar to the question about what a tomato is. Cherry tomatoes don’t go in a fruit salad, right?  But scientifically, tomatoes are fruit.

However, for cooking, tomatoes are considered to be vegetables.

So is coconut a nut?

Get this–the coconut is a fibrous, one-seeded drupe, which is also known as a dry drupe.

What Is a Drupe?

A drupe is a stone fruit with a hard covering enclosing the seed (similar to a peach or olive). The term drupe comes from the word drupa meaning overripe olive. Interestingly, blackberries and raspberries are drupes comprised of aggregates of drupelets.


Now, I don’t know about you, but I never thought that coconuts and olives had anything in common.  However, now you know that they do.

Drupes Have Three Layers:

  • the exocarp (typically smooth and greenish outer layer)
  • the mesocarp (fleshy middle layer), and
  • the endocarp (hard, woody layer that surrounds the seed)

So coconuts in stores obviously aren’t greenish so what you are buying is the endocarp with the exocarp and the mesocarp removed. Got that :)? Betcha didn’t think you’d be learning about exocarps and mesocarps on Whole New Mom today…’re welcome.

Half a coconut with text overlay of Is Coconut a Nut? (and why it matters)

Is Coconut Considered a Nut for Food Allergy Concerns?

The situation here is that frankly, all of these things are related and it’s TOTALLY CONFUSING about what is what and what one should be concerned about.

After spending literally hours researching “Is Coconut a Nut,” I have come to the conclusion that different groups of people have different thoughts on this.

Botanists think one thing (and they don’t always agree), allergists think another thing, cooks think another, and the FDA thinks something else. What is really important is to look at cross reaction of foods, instead of definitions, and that you should just be as aware as possible about food allergies.

Cross-Reactivity of Tree Nut and Coconut Allergy

The angry reader made the argument that if people are already allergic to nuts, then they are more likely to be allergic to coconuts.

Well, here’s the problem with this argument.

Coconut allergies amongst people who are allergic to tree nuts is very rare. (source) In fact, coconut allergies in general are extremely rare. (source)

Does that mean that coconut allergies don’t exist? No. But it does mean that claiming that I am putting readers’ lives at risk is an invalid claim.

For example, years ago, it was common to recommend that people allergic to peanuts should avoid legumes since peanuts are a legume and not a nut. Actually, more than 50% of peanut-allergic individuals can have a positive allergy test to another legume, but typically 95% of them can tolerate and eat those cross-reactive legumes. (source)

So basically, anyone telling people who are allergic to peanuts that they need to avoid all legumes would have been limiting people’s diets unnecessarily.

In fact, if you think about it, if coconuts are related to tree nuts and those allergic to tree nuts should avoid coconuts, then shouldn’t they avoid eating blackberries and raspberries too since those are also drupes?

Of course not!

Does the FDA Say That Coconuts Are Nuts?

As I mentioned to the angry reader, the ACAAI (American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology) says:

Coconut is not a botanical nut; it is classified as a fruit, even though the Food and Drug Administration recognizes coconut as a tree nut. While allergic reactions to coconut have been documented, most people who are allergic to tree nuts can safely eat coconut. If you are allergic to tree nuts, talk to your allergist before adding coconut to your diet.

The ACAAI is an organization that deals only with allergies. The FDA has loads of functions, but regarding categorization of foods, their claim about coconut being a nut is about the labeling of packaged food.

I looked at many and contacted our allergist’s office (a very well-respected office with lots of expertise in food allergies) and was told that indeed they do not consider coconut to be a nut when it comes to food allergies.

Of course, if you are concerned that you might be, or are allergic to coconuts, or are concerned about eating them for the first time, please speak with your physician.


  1. Coconuts are NOT nuts
  2. VERY few people who are allergic to tree nuts are allergic to coconuts
  3. VERY few people are allergic to coconuts
  4. Everyone is different
  5. Talk to your doctor and be your own advocate
  6. Food blogs are not subject to the FDA food labeling rules, and neither are cookbook authors, since recipes aren’t food labels.
  7. Coconut is yummy :). This is a very important part of this post. Of course this part is subjective, but it’s pretty close to fact…in my opinion.

Delicious Coconut (Nut-free) Recipes

If you are like us, and you LOVE coconut (which I am figuring you are since you are reading this post), here are some delish healthy coconut recipes to add to your recipe box.

Caramelized Coconut Chips (a super simple and delicious treat)
Honey Bunches of Coconut Chips (yummy cinnamon spiced coconut chips that taste like the popular boxed cereal)
No-Bake Coconut Cookies (a great sweet treat on the fly)
Egg-free Vegan Macaroons
No-Bake Almond Joy Bars (you can easily leave the nuts out of this recipe by following the substitution recommendations in the post)
Easy Homemade Coconut Milk (skip paying for boxed coconut milk and make this instead)
Homemade Coconut Butter (no need to

Yes, I know that you all didn’t need to know the drama behind my search to answer the question, “are coconuts nuts?” (and actually I didn’t share anywhere near all of it), but felt I should share some of the “life behind the scenes” with you.

And if you are so inclined to help a blogger out who regularly deals with these and much more intense (and sometimes downright evil and nasty comments), please FEEL FREE to head on over to my Homemade Protein Bars post and make the bars and tell me how great they are–and don’t forget the 5-star review on that recipe and on any others if you think the recipe deserves it.

We think they are delish and so do many others:)!

Thank you kindly!

I so hope this has been helpful for you.

Share with a friend who might be helped by this information too!

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  1. I am sorry you had to go through that negative interaction with that lady. I can confirm that my son who has severe food allergies is allergic to literally every tree nut on the list, but he can eat coconut and has it in some form every day. I never knew it was a drupe so I appreciate this info! Thank you.

    1. Hi Nicole – thanks so much! I really appreciate it. So sorry for your son’s allergies, but I’m glad we can all have coconut :). By the way, our son hasn’t lost his nut allergies (yet) but you can read a little about us here and how he’s losing some of his – and subscribe to updates if you’d like. Two are gone now — egg and dairy :). Take care!

  2. This may seem an off the wall comment, but please don’t immediately discard it mentally. It is quite possible that your oldest can be immensely helped by an Eden Energy practitioner. Just for the fun of it, research Donna Eden and what she reversed with this system that she developed. It turned around my life and that of many others. It is NOT woo-woo, and belief is not required for it to work. It is not instantaneous because the energies must be re-trained, and for someone in genetic dire straits (as Donna was / is) a lot of maintenance has to be done. But the rewards can be fantastic. All the best.

  3. SO… I am the one-in-a-million that is indeed allergic to tree nuts AND coconut. I know, because I found out the hard way (and I developed my nut allergy at age 26.) It is rare–but it is possible. Perhaps the connection with both has something to do with my allergy starting later in life. However, I do safely enjoy raspberries and blackberries on the daily. Not everyone will react to every “type” of fruit or nut in that family. For example-I have friends who are allergic to peanuts (member of the legume family) and also legumes, but can safely enjoy chick peas. Point is, it’s definitely complicated, but possible. Listen to your body.

    1. I’m so sorry–how terrible! Are you allergic to all nuts? Yes, you are completely right about how complicated it is. Peanuts are for sure one of the most common allergens.

      Welcome and hope to see you around again!

  4. I have been blown away by the ridiculous comments posted on food blogs (in response to banana ice cream – literally, frozen bananas are the ONLY ingredient – someone said they were allergic to bananas and asked if there were any subs). I read on – shaking my head and rolling my eyes along the way. I definitely wouldn’t have thick enough skin to be a food blogger. Thank you for the research you do! Coconut is one that has been brought up by both strangers and family for my daughter… she doesn’t seem to react to it, thankfully!

    1. You are so welcome! Glad she doesn’t react to it either!! It can be tough sometimes…..thanks for being an encouragement :).

  5. My daughter has tested positive to an allergy to pine nuts and coconut, as well as a couple of other things. I never knew coconut allergies were even possible!! I would definitely advice anyone who has a nut allergy and is concerned about avoiding coconut to get tested for it and find out how their body responds so they can feel more confident either way. 🙂

  6. Thank you for sharing the results of your research. I actually am one of the apparently few people who does have a food allergy (not a food sensitivity) to coconuts, but I do not have allergies to tree nuts (mild sensitivity to Hazelnuts), or thankfully to other foods classified as drupes. I appreciate that you gave options for substitutions in your recipe; to me that implies that you are trying to give more options for people. I usually have the reverse issue of trying to find out how to substitute for coconut in recipes, as well as having to check food labels (especially granola, andprotein/granola bars), Usually I make things from scratch to avoid any issues.

    Until I had a food allergy/sensitivity test, I had no idea I had a coconut allergy, so I agree that anyone who is having unexplained symptoms, like headaches, malaise/lethargy, intestinal upset, rashes, hives, etc. should have this type of testing done so they will know what to avoid. One cannot ever assume that a particular food allergy or sensitivity excludes all other foods of the same classification. Many people are allergic to oranges, but all other forms of citrus are fine. I have a sensitivity to cow’s milk and whey, but not to butter or hard cheeses. As you pointed out, everyone is different. Thank you again for enlightening the rest of us in your own pursuit of knowledge, and so sorry you had to experience such negativity.

    1. Thank you so much! I agree that it’s best actually not to eliminate the other foods that might be related unless a doctor tells you to do so. I have been doing some research into restrictive diets and they can cause a lot of problems. Thanks again!!

  7. Hi! I’ve been following you for about 4 years. I enjoy your posts and recipes. Keep up the good work!
    Our last 2 kids were born with severe allergies, the oldest is now allergy free The younger is much better but still progressing. I have a doctor that’s great and works via internet. Contact me if you’re interested. Thanks again

    1. Hi Laurie – thanks for the kind words! Sounds great that you are having progress. Feel free to email me at adrienne {at} wholenewmom {dot} com. Depending on the modality I may or may not be interested.

  8. I enjoy your spirited debates with other learners in the Universe . I’ve learned quite a bit from your blogs, and am able to answer questions when posed to me Keep up the good work Adrienne.

    1. Hi Susan! Thanks for your kind comment. I really can’t say enough how much comments like this have encouraged me this week. Bless you and thank you!!

  9. Hi Adrianna
    Just a quicky from Thailand to let you know i love your recipe’s & blog.
    Dont let the nasty few get you down. Your doing a great job & i look forward to your emails & recipe.

    1. Thank you, Lena. Some day I should write a post showing you how nasty people get. This was almost nothing (with the exception of threatening to report me…not sure to where, but still). Thank you so much :).

  10. Allergies are unique to the person who has them–one person with an allergy to this or that can eat it once or twice a year–another cannot even smell it cooking or be in the same room without having to visit the ER or use an epipen. So while individuals obviously have strong feelings about it, most people understand–don’t take someone else’s advice if you have a serious food allergy–always check things out. Recently, for example, I found out Starbucks sells a coffee product which has TOMATOES in it. Now, I assure you, I never make coffee with tomatoes in at home, and I don’t frequent Starbucks, but THANKFULLY I didn’t order it either–because I’m allergic to tomatoes and that would do me in–where I wasn’t expecting it (tomatoes in coffee?!?!??!?!?!?!!) Thanks for all you do, including researching this issue. Had no idea. I read your blog and news letters regularly and rarely comment–with this topic and the ire it raised, I wanted to let you know there are lot of very happy, but very silent, readers “out” in cyber world who appreciate you and your blogging efforts.

    1. Thanks for the “interesting” comment. Tomatoes in coffee? I just searched for that and didn’t find it and even called Starbucks to ask them if they had any tomato ingredients in any of their coffees. As I suspected, they said that they do not.

      So basically, it seems like you went to all this length to leave an inaccurate accusation against Starbucks so that you could post the name of your site on my blog in an effort to get traffic there? Or am I making a faulty assumption?

      If that’s the case, please don’t do that any more. I moderate all comments for this reason. Thanks.

      If your comment was sincere, please do tell me which coffee drink has tomatoes in it so that I can call Starbucks and correct them. I do appreciate the kind words, however!

      1. Oh to clarify for other readers, the above commenter left his / her name as a company name which was an Essential Oils site, which is what tipped me off that this wasn’t an accurate comment. My blog is not the place to do your company / website marketing. Thanks for the understanding.

          1. Thanks for that…interesting. So the question is, does one w/ an allergy to tomatoes have an allergy to lycopene? I just started looking into that but perhaps you know the answer?

  11. Dear Adrienne, I just want you to know I LOVE your blog (sorry for the caps, they are for positive emphasis). 🙂
    I have multiple food sensitivities (even to coconut and stevia-boo), and when I found your blog, almost leapt for joy. While I cannot make exactly some of your recipes, I can usually adapt them for my uniqueness.
    The main reason that I am writing is to let you know I am a Nurse Practitioner in a Rural Health office. When a patient comes in and I am able to diagnose them with food allergies/sensitivities, your blog is the one to which they are sent. I truly believe it will help people (especially those who are older) understand better how to deal with the overwhelming diagnosis of food issues, and of course to help them with recipes.
    Anyway, keep up the terrific work. I am so very happy that you do what you do so that others, like me, can enjoy eating again. THANK YOU!!

    1. Hi Sheri –

      Thank you SO MUCH! Caps right back at you :)!

      I’m so sorry about your coconut and stevia problem. Maybe you can heal from them? One can hope! I’m working on a new protocol–starting soon. So let’s keep in touch. I’m hopeful that I will recover from mine!

      Oh wow…..thank you! You have blessed me so much. My eyes are literally welling up with tears. As I have said to others, the past few months have not been easy and well, I won’t go into all of it but your comment in an answer to prayers. Hugs and blessings on you and your work!

      PS – non coconut and stevia recipe coming soon :).

  12. Hi, my daughter has been tested for and is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. So I lovingly made her coconut flour muffins made with coconut oil and she got an immediate rash all around her mouth. I haven’t had her tested for coconut but that experience validated it enough (there were no other ingredients in the muffin she hadn’t had before). After reading your blog, I probably should report this to her allergist… maybe there are others in similar situations and we don’t report it and just learn to live with it since we already have injection medicine.

    1. Hi Tara,

      Thanks for reading. I’m so sorry you had that problem. I would think it’s most likely that your daughter does have an allergy to coconut, however, sometimes people develop allergies to foods that they have had before. Our former neighbor (diagonal) developed a shellfish allergy suddenly in her adult years and I developed allergies later in life. My son did as well.

      It’s important to do your best to figure out what is going on. Some doctors can do a food challenge in the office so you can try to see what is going on w/ medical supervision. Best wishes!

  13. Thanks for the recipes, Whole New Mom. I am a fan. As a decision making adult I use your site for some recipes in my battle on cancer. ( no sugar, no soy, etc) I pick and choose as any one should for my own families needs. Dont let angry nay sayers get you down. You are appreciated! And FYI my daughter is allergic to coconuts, coconut oils,palmitate etc. , both internally and topically. AND she has no nut allergies. She is very rare. But I love coconut and can use it however Iike. Thank you for all your efforts!

    1. Thank you so much, Maribeth! I so wish you well on your battle! That’s tough. I so appreciate your kind words! Hope to see you around again!

  14. Thank you for your insightful blogs, and all the research you do and sharing!!
    I’m definitely all about being your own advocate and am quite interested in finding out if the Canadian FDA has any views on this topic as well 🙂

    1. Hi Cherene,

      Thank you SO much for your kind words! I would be interested in that as well….would you like to find out and let me know :)?

  15. Good for you honey!!!! People are so anal and self-centered theses days…I think I can picture the person that caused this whole ordeal for you!!

    1. Thanks, Lillian. Sadly, it’s been much much worse than this. You can see some of it on this post (the first comments that came through) but I deal with all kinds….people cursing at me and calling me horrid names, and more.

      It’s just sad really. Thank you for the kind encouragement!

  16. One of the reasons I follow your blog is that you do a ton of research on issues of health that matter to a lot of people. You basically save me time in that I feel like I can truly trust the work you have put into researching a topic, looking into multiple sides of the issue, asking relevant questions and finding those answers. Thank you for all you do!! WWWNMD? LOL (What Would Whole New Mom Do)

    1. Wow – Barb. Thank you so much. It’s been a not so great couple of weeks (or more) here so your encouraging words mean the world to me! Thank you! Hugs!!! I’m not perfect, and believe me, I’m struggling under the weight of researching more things and having a hard time with it, but I’m doing my best!

      I don’t think I deserve WWWNMD but that’s pretty hilarious for sure – thanks again!