The Coconut Allergy Diet Guide

In This Article

Coconut allergy is very rare with only a few reported cases in the medical literature. The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) states:

“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."

Coconut is the seed of the coconut palm tree found in the tropics. Many people mistakenly believe coconut is a tree nut (not surprisingly, with “nut” in the name and the source being a tree), but the coconut is actually a fruit.

In Europe, the coconut does not appear on the list of tree nuts that must always be labeled on food packages. In the U.S., though, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies it as a tree nut for labeling purposes.

Coconut with knife and fork
daitoZen / Getty Images

Coconut Allergy Symptoms

Although coconut allergy is rare, food allergy symptoms associated with a coconut allergy may occur after drinking or eating foods made with coconut in those who are allergic. These reactions may include:

  • Skin reactions: Rash, hives, or eczema
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms: Nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Airway symptoms: Wheezing, coughing, or runny nose
  • Swelling (angioedema): In the lips, tongue, or face

Severe reactions, called anaphylaxis, may occur in coconut allergy and affect multiple organ systems. However, anaphylaxis to coconut is extremely rare.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact allergic dermatitis to coconut is more common than a full-blown allergic reaction. This occurs due to the presence of coconut-derived products such as:

  • Coconut diethanolamide
  • Cocamide sulphate
  • Cocamide DEA
  • CDEA

These can be found in personal-care products such as shampoos, moisturizers, soaps, cleansers and hand washing liquids.

An itchy blistering rash may develop a day or two after contact with the coconut allergen, and take several days to resolve. If you suspect contact dermatitis due to coconut, contact your doctor for proper testing.

Cross-Reactivity

Botanically, coconuts are most closely related to other palm and betel nuts. While botanical relationships aren't the only factors that determine whether two foods will be cross-reactive, close biological relatives often share related allergenic proteins.

For example, cashews and pistachios are closely related and contain similar proteins. People who are allergic to one of these nuts are often allergic to the other one as well.

Allergy Alert

When it comes to coconut, there's some evidence of cross-reactivity between:

  • Coconuts and hazelnuts
  • Coconuts and walnuts

However, the botanical distance between coconuts and tree nuts suggests that most people with tree nut allergy are likely to tolerate coconut.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Coconut allergy is usually diagnosed by a medical doctor (allergist) after a medical history, physical examination, and food allergy testing are performed.

The treatment for coconut allergy is the elimination of coconut from the diet. You'll need to avoid coconut-containing foods completely to avoid an allergic reaction.

Coconut is found in many food products and is added for flavor and texture. Foods most likely to contain coconut include granola bars, cookies, other desserts, and cereals.

The Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) identifies coconut as a tree nut (even though it’s a fruit) for the purposes of product labeling and consumer protection against potential allergens.

Manufacturers must list coconut as a potential allergen ingredient and foods containing coconut are required to be labeled "contains tree nuts" under FALCPA. You may also find statements that say, “contains coconut” on the label.

Not only will you find this information in the ingredients list, but it should also be on the package.

Not all products call out coconut-based ingredients on the label. There are two things you can do in this situation: Call the manufacturer and ask about the specific ingredients in the product, or don't eat it.

Foods to Avoid

To avoid coconut in foods, you must be a food label detective. Coconut is present in many foods as a derivative. You may also find coconut:

  • Cakes
  • Chocolates
  • Rum
  • Candy
  • Many desserts
  • Infant formula
  • Soaps and shampoos

Watch for any form or coconut on the label, including:

  • Coconut
  • Coconut milk
  • Coconut water
  • Coconut oil (highly refined oils are generally not problematic)
  • Coconut cream
  • Coconut milk powder
  • Coconut sugar

Food that May Contain Coconut

  • Candy bars (Almond Joy)
  • Cookies (macaroons)
  • Pie (coconut cream pie)
  • Yogurt (coconut flavor)
  • Ice cream
  • Granola
  • Smoothies
  • Mixed alcoholic drinks (piña coladas)

A Word from Verywell

Since there's no cure for coconut allergy, living with a coconut allergy means learning to avoid coconut and coconut ingredients in foods and non-food items while being prepared for future reactions.

You should carry an emergency first aid kit with you, including contact information, antihistamines, and an epinephrine auto-injector, if prescribed by your doctor.

If you're allergic to another tree nut but have eaten coconut without a problem and want to keep it in your diet, talk about further testing with your allergist. They can guide you toward the reasonable next step.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Tree nut allergy.

  2. USFDA. Section 201(qq) of the Act defines the term "major food allergen" to include "tree nuts." In addition to the three examples provided in section 201(qq) (almonds, pecans, and walnuts), what nuts are considered "tree nuts?" Updated February 1, 2016.

  3. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Food allergy.

  4. Anagnostou K. Coconut Allergy Revisited. Children (Basel). 2017;4(10). doi:10.3390/children4100085

  5. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. Coconut allergy. Updated 2019.

  6. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Everything you need to know about tree nut allergy.

  7. Anaphylaxis Campaign. Coconut allergy. Updated 2019.

  8. Kids With Food Allergies: A Division of Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Frequently asked questions about the food allergen labeling consumer protection act (FALCPA).

  9. Food Allergy Research & Education. Treating severe allergic reactions.

Additional Reading
  • American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Tree Nut Allergy fact sheet
  • Anaphylaxis Campaign. What Is Anaphylaxis? fact sheet.
  • Food Allergy Research and Education. Tree Nut Allergy fact sheet