I currently live in Bombay and work as a freelance photographer and writer. My interests vary from organic farming to natural health.
What Is Coconut Milk?
Coconut milk is a white, milky, creamy, and nutty flavoured product of coconut and water that is dairy and gluten free. Coconut milk shouldn't be mistaken with coconut water—the liquid found in fresh coconuts that became famous for its high electrolyte content that can be used as an isotonic drink to replenish yourself after excessive workout or in cases of severe diarrhea. When making your coconut milk from fresh coconuts you can use the coconut water to make your milk even more nutritious, but it is not a necessary ingredient if you make your milk from desiccated shredded coconut.
Coconut milk can be pretty much used like regular milk or cream—in coffee, cereals, smoothies, slushies, gravies, ice cream, baking and even home-made cosmetics. You will find my favourite recipes for coconut milk and coconut milk pulp (the still nutritious by-product of the coconut milk making) in the end of this article.
Why Canned Coconut Milk Might Be Bad for You...
In most countries Coconut Milk is mainly sold and consumed as a canned product. While canned Coconut Milk is rich, creamy and has a long shelf life it also comes with a few disadvantages that you should be aware of. Since the 50s a chemical compound called BPA (Bisphenol-A) has been used to manufacture polycarbonate plastics that can be found in a variety of consumer goods, including the inner lining of cans. Especially acidic and fatty products can cause BPA to leach into your canned foods - such as coconut milk, soups and stews. While it hasn't been clearly proven that BPA causes damage to the human organism there have links been made between neurobehavioral problems in infants and mothers with a high exposure to BPA. While you might think that contamination with BPA is a rather rare thing the CDC found BPA in nearly all of more than 2500 random participants of a clinical research in the USA.
Another reason to stay away from canned product is the additional use of Guar gum, a product of the guar bean in the inner lining of cans. While guar gum itself is not injurious to health it has been found that in 1 of 3 Americans Guar Gum can enhance digestive problems—so better to stay clear of it if you aren't sure if you easily digest legumes (lentils and beans) or not.
In some places you might also find Coconut Milk in 200ml Tetra Paks, but when I finally paid attention and saw that the Coconut Milk we frequently consumed contained seven chemical additives I for once and all cancelled such processed foods from our shopping list. While it might not be proven if and to which extent such chemicals can have an effect on human health I simply don't want to gulp down a chemical cocktail when trying to improve my health with an increased consumption of Coconut Milk.
The good news—Coconut Milk is extremely easy, fast and cheap to make from scratch—so no need to abstain from it to avoid BPA or other chemicals!
Coconut Milk Benefits
In the past few years coconut products such as coconut oil and coconut milk have gained vast popularity with people of all walks of life all over the world. While earlier coconut was mostly consumed in tropical countries or by people following specific diets such as vegan, dairy free or paleo diets it now has become an important supplement/ingredient for health conscious consumers all over the western hemisphere.
Coconut is a highly nutritious fruit rich in Vitamins (B1, B3, B5, B6, C, E), minerals (eg. iron, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and selenium), fibre and saturated fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). Amongst the MCTs especially Lauric Acid has been linked to a boost in immune response that might prevent you from catching viral or bacterial infections. Furthermore MTCs are quickly and effectively burned by the liver and less prone to become unwanted fat storage.
Additionally coconut products are high in antioxidants which prevent damage from free radicals that are linked to many diseases such as Alzheimer's, cancer and and age-related dementia. Furthermore antioxidants might slow down innumerous processes related to aging.
While excessive consumption of saturated fatty acids might increase the risk of coronary diseases, a well-balanced diet including coconut products such as cocount oil and coconut milk is an excellent nutritional choice.
Making Coconut Milk From Scratch
As mentioned before making Coconut Milk from scratch is a simple, straight forward and fast process that also might save you some money on the long run.
But when I compared different recipes while first venturing out to make my own first batch of Coconut Milk I got confused with the different instructions - was it better to use dried coconut or fresh one? Simmer it, boil it or simply press it cold? To save you the headache of comparing the different instructions and figuring out your own personal preference over time I have tried and evaluated the most common four different strategies to produce Coconut Milk. The table below will show you which one became my favourite, followed by the instructions on how to make Coconut Milk from dessicated shredded coconut and directly from fresh Coconuts which both have their up and downsides.
Coconut Milk Comparison—Which One Is the Best?
|Fresh Coconut||Dry, shredded, cold Coconut||Dry, shredded, soaked in warm water||Dry, shredded, simmered for a few minutes||Canned Coconut Milk|
2 coconuts = 800ml milk
2 cups coconut (about 125g) = 1l milk
2 cups coconut (about 125g) = 1l milk
2 cups coconut (about 125g) = 1l milk
more than 10$
organic (bulk) ~ 1.20$ - 1.60$
organic (bulk) ~ 1.20$ - 1.60$
organic (bulk) ~ 1.20$ - 1.60$
~ 2.50 $
very rich and coconutty, excellent for dishes where intense coconut flavour is wanted
creamy, mild - excellent for coffee, cereals etc.
creamy, mild - excellent for coffee, cereals etc.
less creamy, mild - excellent for coffee, cereals etc.
very rich and creamy
10-12 days, refrigerated
10-14 days, refrigerated
10-14 days, refrigerated
10-14 days, refrigerated
3-4 days refrigerated
I Can't Recommend...
- Making Coconut Milk from dried and shredded coconut has clearly become my favourite way of making Coconut Milk on a twice/week basis. The shredded coconut gets blended as it is with cold water, starined and is ready—the process hardly takes 10 minutes and the flavour is delicious at a low cost.
Result: 5/5 stars for ease, lowest price and good flavour.
- Followed by that is the Coconut Milk made from fresh coconut. While the rich flavour and nutritious value (the milk includes the coconut water) are clearly superior to the dried version, the making is a bit more elaborate and the over-all cost higher. I recommend making milk from fresh Coconuts if you need a strong and rich coconut taste—for example to cook a Thai Curry.
Result: 4/5 Stars for inconvenience and high cost despite superior nutrition and taste.
- Some people exerience trouble with their weak blenders in processing the dried coconut—in such cases it is recommended to soak your coconut in warm water prior to processing. I recommend to invest in a decent blender and save yourself the extra time.
Result: 3/5 Stars for extra step in the making.
- A few recipes suggested to simmer the shredded coconut on low heat before processing. The hot coconut-water mix is inconvenient to handle and you should be extra careful to avoid buring or damage to plastic parts of your blender—or you will have to invest the extra time of letting it cool down. Additionally in many traditional cuisines that use coconut milk the first press is usually added at the very last of your cooking and shouldn't be boiled, supposedly due to loss in nutrition—this would be counter-intuitive to boiling your shredded coconut prolonged while making it. Last but not least I wanted to know if the boiled Coconut Milk would have a longer shelf-life due to it's added hygienic edge—in my 'fridge' test I couldn't find significant differences to the other versions though.
Result: 2/5 Stars for inconvenience, extra work and eventual loss of nutrition.
Which one is your favourite?
Let's Get Started!!!
I will now explain to you in a few simple steps how to make your own fresh Coconut Milk at home. First I will show you the slightly more elaborate way of making Coconut Milk from fresh coconuts, then I will explain to you how to make it from shredded dry coconut - if that's the way you want to go simply scroll down to the second recipe.
How did you like this recipe?
Coconut Milk From Fresh Coconuts
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
2 fresh Coconuts equal 700-800ml rich Coconut Milk
Coconut Milk Nutritional Value
- 2 full coconuts, fresh
- 3/4 cups coconut water
- 2 cups water
1. Clean Your Coconut From Excessive Fibers
When buying fresh coconuts make sure that they are heavy and filled with coconut water and that they have no cracks and have mold-free eyes.
2. Use a Screw-Driver to Open Two Eyes
Now gently apply pressure with a sharp tool like a screwdriver on the eye. You might be able to push it open just like that. If you can't, stabilize your coconut by placing it in a small bowl and use your screw-driver as a pick while hitting it on its end with a hammer. Open at least two eyes to let the liquid exit through one while air can replace its space via the second one.
3. Save the Coconut Water for Later!
Save the coconut water in a jar to later use it in your Coconut Milk. Two coconuts will give you between 1/2—3/4 cups of coconut water.
4. Place Coconuts in Freezer
Now place your empty coconuts in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. This will later help you to separate the coconut flesh from the shell.
5. Crack the Coconut Open
Opening coconuts is a science to itself—skilled coconutiers can simply open it by giving it gentle blows with a blade all around the equator of the coconut (orthogonal to the direction of the fibers) until it opens up in two equal halves. You can achieve a similar result by hitting it on a sturdy edge (don't try wood or glass—the coconut is harder) in a similar way. I am not that skilled and prefer the brute style—simply place your coconut in a plastic back and hit it with a hammer.
6. Carefully Separate the Flesh From the Shell
You can now use a blunt knife to push the coconut meat out of its shell. Hopefully the freezing will help you to get it easily separated. You will now notice a brown skin that is attached to the coconut meat—I don't mind it and keep it on the flesh during the further processing. Some people cut it off with a knife. That is a tedious work and I don't understand why anyone would go through that trouble—just take a bite of your fresh coconut and you will see how delicious it is—even with the skin!
7. Blend Coconut and Water
After separating you simply blend your coconut meat with the coconut water and 2 cups of tap/filtered water. You can adjust the amount of water according to the desired thickness of your milk—if you prefer a thicker version start with less water—you can always add more later. If you make your Coconut Milk too thick, though you will have the problem of the milk developing a solid top of coconut cream in the fridge. This can be unpleasant as your milk will be chunky then if not blended again.
Blend for 2 minutes.
8. Strain Coconut Milk
Now you will have to pour your coconut water mix through a cheesecloth. For that I simply set up a broad rimmed jug, put a strainer on top and place the cheesecloth inside. Now I pour the milk into my cloth and when it is nearly gone through I gather the pulp tightly in the material and press any remaining liquid into the jug. You will be surprised how much liquid is still stored in the pulp!
Keep the Wet Pulp for a Second Press.
Simply blend your pulp with only 1 cup of water and keep it separate for cooking (if you plan to make a coconut based gravy for example). Sometimes when I have no particular use for it I just add the second press to my first press and thus thin my first press a bit.
9. Keep Refrigerated and Enjoy!
Simply fill your Coconut Milk in glass jars or bottles and keep it refrigerated. Since the given stats on how long Coconut Milk would actually last in the fridge vary widely and ours is usually consumed after 3 days and thus doesn't get a chance to get spoiled, I conducted a simple experiment and kept different batches of Coconut Milk labeled in the fridge. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my home made Coconut Milk made from fresh coconuts lasted an average between 10—12 days!
Also make sure to keep your coconut pulp—there are various ways of how to use it which I will explain to you at the bottom of this article!
You will also find that the creamy part of your Coconut Milk will separate from the watery part after a while—that is completely normal and all you need to do is to shake your milk well before using it. If a solid chunk of cream hardens on the top of your bottle you have made you milk too thick—that is not a problem though - just pass it through the blender again to give it back its smooth texture.
Coconut Milk made from fresh coconuts is especially rich in taste and nutrition—this is for example desirable if you are preparing food that is supposed to have a rich coconut flavour. On the other hand if you mainly use your Coconut Milk as a milk substitute in deserts, coffee or cereals the milk obtained from shredded coconut might suit your needs better. Simply check out the up-coming recipe.
The fastest and easiest way...
Coconut Milk From Dessicated Shredded Coconut
Ready in: 10 min
Yields: 2 cups of dried Coconut (~125g) gives about 1Liter of Coconut Milk
- 2 cups desiccated shredded coconut, unsweetened (!)
- 4 cups water, cold
- 1 additional cup of water for second press
1. Blend Shredded Coconut and Water
Firstly blend about 1 cup of shredded coconut with 2 cups of water at a time. Blend for 1 minute.
2. Strain Coconut Milk
Now you will have to pour your coconut water mix through a cheesecloth. For that I simply set up a broad rimmed jug, put a strainer on top and place the cheesecloth inside. Now I pour the milk into my cloth and when it is nearly gone through I gather the pulp tightly in the material and press remaining liquid into the jug. You will be surprised how much liquid is still stored in the pulp!
Keep the wet pulp for a second press.
Repeat the first two steps with the second cup of shredded coconut and add to your first pressed milk.
Now simply blend your pulp (from 2 cups dried coconut) with 2 cups of water and keep it separate for cooking (if you plan to make a coconut based gravy for example). Sometimes when I have no particular use for a thin second press milk, I just make my second press with only 1 cup of water and add the second press to my first press.
- Keep milk refrigerated - it lasts between 10-14 days
- Don't boil your first press, add only in the end when cooking. Second press is suitable for prolonged simmering
- Shake before use. If cream becomes solid in the fridge you made your milk too thick and should pass it through the blender
- Fresk shredded coconut should be shiny white and have a pleasant smell
- Milk obtained from fresh coconut is suitable for rich coconut flavour, for dairy replacement I recommend the dried version
- Keep your pulp - either dried and grated in airtight jar, or deep frozen - it can be used in multiple ways and is very nutritious and rich in fiber
3. Keep Refrigerated
You can keep your Coconut Milk for 10—14 days in the fridge.
Once though I had a curious incident - for a while my Coconut Milk kept getting spoiled after only 3 days—it was gassy when I would open the bottle and have a slight soury taste. I finally switched the brand of dried coconut and the problem disappeared. The 'unfresh' shredded coconut I used was more brownish in colour—so make sure to pick aromatic, shiny white coconut powder to avoid fast spoiling of your milk!
What to Do With the Coconut Pulp?
The by-product of Coconut Milk making is the coconut pulp—which is less fatty but high in fiber and protein. If you have lots of it and wonder what to do with it check out my other hub on different recipes with coconut pulp. You can keep it in the freezer until you need it next time, or deep freeze it flattened in a zip-lock bag to be able to break off small chunks at a time. This fresh coconut pulp can be addeded to thicken smoothies or to prepare the perfect grainfree Paleo muesli!
For most uses I recommend that you dehydrate your coconut pulp—either in a dehydrator, or if you don't have one, like me, in the oven. I simply spread the pulp on a flat baking tray and dry my pulp for 2-4 hours at a 100°C in the oven—depending on the quantity you have to dry. Simply check after two hours and increase the time accordingly. Once the pulp is thoroughly dried, let it cool down and put it once more in your blender and grate it into a fine flour. Like this I store it in an air-tight jar until I need it again.
This fat-reduced coconut flour can wonderfully be used for breadings—check out these scrumptious grain-free Chicken Schnitzel Strips.
It also lends itself for baking—try my all-time favourite: The German gluten free Hazelnut(-Coconut) cake!
And you know what???!
Once in a while even our cat happily indulges in a few sips of fresh Coconut Milk!
Have a nice day everyone!
BeaGarth on July 09, 2018:
Love this article, thank you! I plan to try and grind the dry coconut flakes before adding them to water given my blender is not that strong. I made some as is, and its wonderful! Love it that you have even thought of what to do with the used pulp!
Don Colfax from Easton, Pennsylvania on March 13, 2014:
Well, looks like I'm heading to the supermarket to find some coconuts. Thanks!
Wasteless Project (author) from Worldwide on March 10, 2014:
Thank you theBAT and Alise-Evon for reading and commenting! Sometimes it is surprising how simple and straight forward some things can be made at home :)
Alise- Evon on March 09, 2014:
Great article. I make almond milk and rice milk and now I know how to do coconut milk- thanks!
theBAT on March 09, 2014:
Hi. Nice hub. coconut milk is usually a main ingredient in Philippine cuisines and is prepared using a crude coconut scraper. I really prefer using fresh coconut milk rather than those packed in grocery stores. Thanks for sharing.
Wasteless Project (author) from Worldwide on March 09, 2014:
Dear Jess, I am so happy that the hub was useful to you! Even I used to buy ready-made coconut milk for the longest time... until one day I actually paid attention and saw how many additives were in it. Then I did my research and found out about BPA and other eventual not fully researched health hazards... then when I finally discovered how easy it actually was to make it at home I converted to strictly home-making - and as a reward noticed how much money we were saving! We also live mostly dairy-free (besides yoghurt once in a while and even less often cheese) - have you tried lactose-free cheeses or very old ripened ones (since you miss it so much)? The good news is that coconut milk is really tasty and for example our banana-strawberry smoothie really tastes like a frozen yoghurt dessert... we also have our coffee or hot chocolate only with coconut milk - I, in fact like it much more now than I ever liked milk! Actually there is one thing I haven't tried yet - deep-freezing the milk - that would make making bulk much easier... we nowadays make our milk fresh twice-thrice/week. Have fun this weekend making your milk and feel free to ask if any questions come up. Much love, Helen
JessBraz from Canada on March 08, 2014:
Wow! Incredibly informational hub! Great job!
I love coconut milk. I can't have dairy anymore (which makes me soo sad because I love love love cheese.. sadly, it doesn't love me in return.) .. Having coconut milk makes giving up dairy more bearable. I make a lot of smoothies with coconut milk.. Though I must admit, I've never tried making it myself. I usually buy it by the carton or, gasp, in cans.. which I never realized would be bad for me.. Yikes.. I think I might have to stop doing that now though.. I just assumed making coconut milk would be a bit of a nightmare, but your hub has shown me that it doesn't seem too difficult. I could buy a whole whack of coconuts for the price I pay for a can or two of canned coconut milk. Even cheaper coconut milk! This makes me very happy! :D
Thanks for the great hub! I'm going to try to make some myself this weekend!
Wasteless Project (author) from Worldwide on March 07, 2014:
Thanks Jenny and Purple Perl for reading and commenting! I will try the wettening technique ;) Thanks for sharing!
Esther Shamsunder from Bangalore,India on March 06, 2014:
Excellent guide! In South India,we use fresh coconuts on a daily basis in a variety of dishes. Making coconut milk from fresh ones are the norm. Especially for curries and stews.
Hot Tip for breaking a fresh coconut in half---wet the fresh coconut and then hurl it on a stone,it will break in half. It is now easier to remove the flesh inside.
Jennifer from Canada on March 06, 2014:
Great idea! Will give it a try!
Wasteless Project (author) from Worldwide on March 06, 2014:
Thank you, I am happy you enjoyed the hub!
CraftytotheCore on March 06, 2014:
This is a fabulous Hub. It explains in detail all the benefits of coconuts, and lays out the recipe for making it at home. I really enjoyed reading this Hub.
sujaya venkatesh on March 06, 2014:
tasting good was
Wasteless Project (author) from Worldwide on March 05, 2014:
Hello Hendrika and Thelma, thank you for reading and commenting on my hub - I am happy you liked it! @Thelma - oh yes, I have seen such graters - the blender is really a much easier way;)
Thelma Alberts from Germany on March 05, 2014:
This is a great hub. I have not made coconut milk by using a blender. I always used the old coconut grater of my mother where I have to "ride" on this grater like a horse and grate the coconut before making it into a coconut milk. Thanks for sharing this useful hub. I might use the blender next time I´m making coconut milk.
Hendrika from Pretoria, South Africa on March 04, 2014:
Now you really have me interested. I think I will go for the shredded coconut and cold water. Raw coconuts will not be easy to come by where I live.
Wasteless Project (author) from Worldwide on March 03, 2014:
Thank you Suzanne and RTalloni for reading and commenting on my hub! I am happy you found it useful and could follow the instructions easily. If I would have known how easy it is to make coconut milk, I would have started that much earlier in my life :)
RTalloni on March 03, 2014:
I love all forms of coconut and your entire hub makes my mouth water! Thanks for the interesting and useful information, including the instructions and great tips you've provided on making coconut milk at home. I am inspired! I'll be checking out that German…cake link.
Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on March 03, 2014:
I enjoyed your hub and the step by step photos were very helpful. Thank you for sharing how to make coconut milk from scratch! Voted useful.