No matter how much I love my store-bought coconut milk, it doesn’t even come close to fresh homemade coconut milk. The taste of fresh coconut milk is so clean, so refreshing, and so fragrant. It’s just like fresh coconut in the creamy liquid form.
A fun fact about coconuts. In Sanskrit, the coconut tree is known as “kalpa vriksha”, which translates to a “tree which gives all that is necessary for living.” And it’s true. You could literally live off of coconuts for several months if you needed to. But very few people have ever actually eaten a fresh raw coconut, besides that one time in Mexico, of course. So why don’t we eat fresh coconuts more often? Well, I would guess that you’re probably not growing coconuts in your backyard. And even if you were, it’s pretty hard to crack them open. Once you open them, you can use all that beautiful white flesh to make coconut milk.
While having milk from fresh coconuts is out of this world, there are other ways to make coconut milk at home. You can use already cracked and peeled coconuts (i.e., intact young coconut meat with coconut water still inside), dried shredded coconut, or coconut manna. Be aware that the flavor of homemade coconut milk is much more pronounced than that of a store-bought. So if you want more neutral-tasting plant-based milk, go for homemade almond milk instead.
Tips for Making Fresh Coconut Milk
- Coconut: you have two options when it comes to coconut – fresh coconut (brown-mature or white-young) or dried coconut (flaked or shredded). Depending on your location, you might have difficulty finding fresh coconuts. While I can get fresh coconuts in the store all year round, they are not the cheapest. Another advantage of using dried coconut for this recipe is that it’s much faster and easier. Sometimes you don’t have the time to crack the coconut open, drain the coconut water, extract the coconut flesh from the hard shell, peel the brown bits, chop the flesh into smaller pieces … you get my point.
- Water: I’ve seen many recipes calling for coconut water as the base liquid for coconut milk, but I find the flavor of coconut water really strong. It completely overpowers the mellow flavor of coconut milk. So, use plain water. Also, the hotter the water, the better. The hot water softens and steeps the coconut, resulting in an easier blending and better flavor.
How to Make Coconut Milk
Making homemade coconut milk is easy! All you need is coconut and a high-speed blender. Sure, you can make this recipe with a regular blender too, but the flavor of the milk won’t be as well-rounded and full. Here’s how to get the most out of that coconut flesh:
- Blend the ingredients. Add the coconut and water to a high-speed blender and blend on high until the coconut has broken down and the mixture becomes frothy.
- Strain the coconut. The milk will look creamy but still have little coconut pieces. So, set a nut milk bag over a large bowl and pour the milk in. Bring the top of the bag together and use your hands to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. The squeezing part is really important. You want to squeeze the coconut flesh as hard as you can. You should essentially end up with very dry and tasteless coconut flesh. You could also use a piece of cheesecloth, but it’s not very practical – it needs to be doubled or tripled; otherwise, it comes apart and is nearly impossible to wash. Nut milk bags work so much better because they are already bag-shaped, don’t stretch over time, are resistant to picking up stains or food odors, and can be easily washed.
How to Store Coconut Milk
- Refrigerating: transfer the coconut milk to an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to 5 days. If separation occurs, shake before serving.
- Freezing: transfer the coconut milk to an airtight container and freeze it for up to 3 months. You can also pour the milk into ice cube trays and freeze it.
Coconut Milk Variations
The thickness of the coconut milk really depends on your needs. Always start with less water and add more as you go.
My go-to ratio is 2 cups/180 g of shredded coconut to 4 cups/960 ml of water. A high ratio of coconut to water is ideal for desserts where you want to replace the taste and texture of canned coconut milk. A lower ratio of coconut to water is best for drinking or pouring over cereal.
How to Use Coconut Milk
Coconut milk works well for both sweet and savory dishes.
You can blend it into a smoothie, pour it over granola or cereal, stir it into a chia pudding, bake with it, or drink it with ice.
Perhaps the most classic use of this non-dairy milk is in curries and vegetable stews. You can also incorporate it as one of the liquid ingredients when making a soup, such as this butternut squash soup.
More Nut Milk Recipes
- Almond Milk: homemade almond milk is a very popular dairy-free milk alternative. It has a slightly nutty flavor and a beautiful bright white color incomparable to the store-bought variety.
- Cashew milk: my favorite dairy-free milk is cashew milk. It’s slightly sweet, smooth, and creamy, with a beautiful white color. It’s also really easy to make at home as it doesn’t require any straining.
- Tigernut milk: this plant milk is naturally sweet with a mellow nutty flavor (despite tiger nuts not being a nut).
If you try any of these recipes, please, leave a comment and rate the recipe below. It always means a lot when you do.
- 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
- 3-4 cups water
- Blend the ingredients. Add the coconut and hot water to a high-speed blender and blend on high until the coconut has broken down and the mixture becomes frothy. The milk will look creamy but still have little coconut pieces.
- Strain the coconut. Set a nut milk bag over a large bowl and pour the milk in. Bring the top of the bag together and use your hands to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. You should end up with very dry and tasteless coconut flesh.
- Store. Leftover almond milk keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. For longer-term storage, freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
What is the emulsifier that you use in the video?
Hi Manuela – I am not using any emulsifiers. I can always spot them in plant-based milks and really don’t like the flavor.
You do mention them in both the video and the blog, however. Do you have any directions or can you point us in the right direction of how we me might add emulsifier to these milks?
Hi Anthony – yes, I do mention the lecithin because of separation. However, I can always detect the flavor of lecithin in the milk so I don’t usually use it (that’s why it’s not mentioned in the actual “recipe”). Emulsifiers are really easy to use though. You can find the lecithin in a powdered form or liquid. When I use lecithin, I add 1/2 Tablespoon of powdered sunflower lecithin into 2 cups of coconut milk. Then I blend the whole mixture until the lecithin completely dissolves. You might not even notice the lecithin is there (my husband never does), but I can always tell, lol. Please, let me know if you have any other questions!
Refreshingly honest and helpful
Aw, thank you!
Hi, what brand of shredded unsweetened coconut to you use and where do you buy it from? I’m in the UK and can seem to only find shredded desiccated coconut online, or much more expensive shredded sweetened coconut (used for baking), but I’m wondering whether I’m not looking for the right thing.
Hi Tia – I either buy Bob’s Red Mill or NOW Foods brand (I am not sponsored by either of them, just really like their products). Let’s Do Organic is another really good brand. I get the coconut from my local health food store, but it’s available on Amazon as well (I just checked UK Amazon, and some of those brands are there 🙂
Really enjoyed your video! Any thoughts on oat milk (ie: recipe, nutritional value) that you may share would be appreciated! Thank you!
Hi Jeanette – thank you for your kind words. I am yet to try making oat milk at home. It is definitely on my to-do list though because a lot of people have asked for a recipe.
Thank you very much for the receipt. I tried to do and the result was perfect! Much cheaper than bottled milk from the stores and healthier.
Thank you so much for the feedback, Alexandra! So happy you enjoyed it 🙂
Amazing article!! This was the first time I ever bought and used fresh mature coconut and I had no idea what to do with it. Turns out, making fresh coconut milk is something I now thoroughly enjoy! It turned out amazing, I hope to use it to make some kind of coconut milk dessert. Though, next time I may use shredded coconut as you said, it was a lot of work to start with a fresh coconut.
Hi Siena – so happy you enjoyed the recipe! I love fresh coconuts, but shredded coconut is definitely easier to work with 🙂 I usually use coconut milk in smoothies, smoothie bowls or hot drinks, such as hot cocoa or hot chocolate.