Spicy Coconut Salsa

It may be simple, but spicy coconut salsa should not be underestimated. It’s a true kick-butt condiment that delivers a citrusy tang, tropical sweetness, and flavorful fire. This Tanzanian recipe can liven up any pork, chicken, or beef dish. And it works very well paired with barbecue, acting as the perfect flavor foil for earthy and smoky grilled meats.

Chili Coconut Salsa
Spicy coconut salsa, so good with BBQ

Traditionally, fresh coconut would be used for this recipe. And, to be honest, a fresher and more flavorsome result is there for the taking if you have the time and patience to peel and grate up a whole fruit. But, if this is out of the question, don’t worry. We use dried coconut in this recipe, and it works almost as well.  

Now if you choose fresh coconut, you may need to omit some water as it will be moister. You can grate it into larger chunks or finer strands, depending on your taste. And, for extra flavor, use the coconut water from the middle to moisten the flesh after grating.

In terms of chili peppers, a red medium-heat pepper is best here. Look to red jalapeños, red serranos, or ripe Fresno peppers. There are two reasons why red is best. The first is aesthetic. The color looks better with white coconut than green chilies.

The second is the natural sweetness of mature red chilies. As jalapeños (and many other hot peppers) age on the vine, they gain sweetness. Green jalapeños have more of a bright, grassy bite that’s not the right flavor profile to match the tropical sweetness of coconut.

Store in the refrigerator and use within three days. If you have some leftovers, boil some rice and stir in coconut salsa to make a delicious and quick lunch.

See spicy coconut salsa being made:

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Spicy Coconut Salsa

Spicy Coconut Salsa

A tropical salsa that's perfect with BBQ and grilled meats
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Condiment, Salsa
Servings 16 servings
Calories 20 kcal


  • 4 teaspoons water approximately
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 lime
  • 1 red chili pepper medium-heat (red jalapeño, serrano, or Fresno recommended)


  • Stir salt into the water until dissolved.
  • Place the coconut into a small bowl.
  • Pour half of the water over the coconut and stir. Add some more, but just enough to dampen.
  • Remove the seeds and stem from the chili pepper and finely chop the flesh.
  • Grate the zest from the lime into the bowl with the coconut and add the chopped chili pepper.
  • Squeeze the lime juice over the coconut and mix all ingredients thoroughly.


You can use fresh coconut in this recipe instead of dried coconut. If you do, use less water in the recipe. Fresh coconut will already be moist, so use water as needed to get the right consistency. You can also opt to use the coconut milk instead of the water to moisten. 


Calories: 20kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 1gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 38mgPotassium: 28mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 27IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 2mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Fresno pepper, Jalapeno Pepper, Serrano Pepper
Did you make this?Mention @PepperScale or tag #PepperScale so we can see what you made!

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on May 23, 2024 to include new content.
5 from 2 votes (1 rating without comment)
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Kort Kramer

Made my version of this over the past weekend.
Turned out great!


5 stars
Wow, this sounds tropically fantastic. I have relatives visiting and have to try this. Maybe over a curry dish perhaps?