Food: 7 Ways To Use Coconut Milk In Cooking

Coconut milk and coconut oil on wooden table. Image from

Whether you have leftover coconut milk from last night’s hair regimen or you have some you’ve been preserving in the fridge its time to whip out that milk and get cooking. There are various ways you can use that coconut milk and that is what we shall explore in this article. 

  1. Use it as a milk substitute

The good thing when it comes to using coconut milk as a milk substitute is that you will not have to worry about conversions. If you normally use one cup of milk to bake use one cup of coconut milk for the same.

That said since coconut milk separates and eventually you end up with a cream, it is important to differentiate between coconut milk and coconut milk. Coconut cream has less water and fat content than coconut milk. Hence it is a better substitute in Thai curries and other dishes you’d prefer to have a thick liquid. Coconut milk, on the other hand, can be used to make soup. 

Recipes that call for whole milk can be made with coconut milk while those that require a heavy cream can be made with the coconut cream. 

Even though coconut milk is lactose -free and thus favourable to people who are lactose intolerant, it helps to know that due to the coconut flavour coconut milk cannot be used as a substitute in all milk recipes. Besides, you cannot use coconut milk in a skim milk recipe because there’s not fat-free coconut milk. 

However, some of the ways you can use coconut milk as a milk replacement includes;  in your coffee, to make coconut muffins, cupcakes, coconut loaf, coconut crepes and pancakes.

   2. To make coconut rice 

You will love and be utterly surprised at how easy it is to make this delicious Thai style dish. All you need is to replace half of the water you use when making rice with coconut milk and you are good to go. 


  • 1 cup of long-grain rice
  • 1 cup/can of coconut milk
  • 1 cup of water
  • ½ tablespoon of granulated sugar
  • Sesame seeds to garnish (optional)
  • Salt 


  1. Over medium heat plunge the rice, coconut milk, water, sugar and salt in a pan and bring the contents to a boil. 
  2. Reduce the heat, cover the rice and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, let the rice sit for a few minutes then fluff with a fork. Garnish with sesame seeds if desired. To serve 2.

Check out this recipe on how to cook coconut pilau rice 

   3. To make creamed spinach

Traditional vegetables are often cooked with milk to enrich the taste and tenderise the veggies. But did you know that use coconut milk to make other creamed veggies? Taking kale or spinach as our vegetable of choice, you will need the following to make this dish a success.


  • 4 bunches of organic kale or spinach
  • 2 tablespoons of unrefined coconut oil or butter
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • A pinch of crushed red paper flakes
  • ⅓ cup of canned coconut milk or cream
  • Black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Salt to taste


  1. In a skillet or frying pan saute the finely chopped onions and garlic until soft. Cook with medium heat.
  2. Add spinach and toss. You can add more oil if necessary. 
  3. Add salt, pepper and a pinch of red pepper to taste.
  4. Reduce the heat from medium to low and add coconut milk. Stir to mix everything together. 
  5. Simmer for 2 minutes then serve. 

You can pair this dish with Ugali, spaghetti, chicken or steak. 

   4. To make curry

If you’d like to make an Indian tasting curry sauce in under 30 minutes then this is the recipe for you. You will need.


  • Coconut milk
  • Turmeric
  • Curry powder
  • Garam masala 
  • Coriander
  • cumin
  • Paprika
  • Tomato puree
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Stock, chicken or vegetable broth.


  1. Mix an appropriate amount of each of the spices in a container.
  2. Saute the onions, garlic and paprika
  3. Add in the spice and cook till the contents have blended. 
  4. Add coconut milk, tomato puree and stock
  5. Stir and simmer to cook.

Just like that, you have made your curry sauce. You can opt to add beans or vegetables like spinach or pair it with seared chicken or fish. This dish is enough for 2 servings. 

   5. To make dipping sauces and dips

You can extract coconut cream from coconut milk or choose to boil the coconut milk up with butter, sweetened condensed milk and a pinch of salt to obtain the perfect sauce. 

If you would like to obtain coconut cream from coconut milk ensure that the type of coconut milk you have turns into a cream when refrigerated. If the coconut milk you have remains liquid when refrigerated it will not be suitable to make a cream – since it has high water content. Another option is to buy the coconut cream and thin it out by adding milk until you achieve the consistency you’d like.

Nonetheless, once you have obtained the cream from the coconut milk, you have the main ingredient needed to make this delicious dip. 


  • ¼ cup of coconut cream
  • ¼  teaspoon of soy or fish sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • ¼ lime
  • ½ clove finely minced garlic
  • ½ tablespoon of desiccated unsweetened coconut.


  1. Put the coconut milk in a container
  2. Squeeze the lime into the cream and mix
  3. Add finely chopped garlic into the mixture. 
  4. Add the honey and soy sauce and adjust the level of salt and sugar accordingly. Add more honey if you prefer a sweeter dip or more soy sauce if you prefer a more salty taste. 
  5. Add the dried shredded unsweetened coconut to thicken the dip or coconut milk to loosen the consistency.  
  6. Garnish with onion seeds (optional). To serve 2.

This dip is a classic accompaniment for chips, wraps and other deep-fried snacks.

   6. Make a smoothie

Yes, you can make this Puerto Rican inspired Coquito smoothie in the comfort of your home in just a matter of 5 minutes. What you need is the following ingredients and of course coconut milk to make it all come together.


  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1 ¼ cup of coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • ¾ teaspoon of ground nutmeg. Have more to garnish if desired.


  1. Break the frozen bananas in half.
  2. Combine the bananas, maple syrup, nutmeg and coconut milk in a blender. Blend to completely smooth and serve with additional nutmeg to taste. 

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7. To marinade

The three essential ingredients needed for marinating include; 1 part acid, oil and seasonings/spices.

In place of milk, wine, yoghurt or honey which are often used as acidic foundations and enzymes necessary to tenderise meat, you can use coconut milk. As long as the coconut flavour doesn’t clash with the dish go ahead and explore.

How to make fresh homemade coconut milk

If you would like to try some of the above recipes and you’re wondering how to make coconut milk, this recipe is for you. You will need;


  • 1 mature coconut. Mature coconuts have less amounts of coconut water as compared to young coconut. A mature coconut is also the best option as it contains lots of coconut meat which is what will yield the milk. 
  • 2 cups of hot water


  1. With care use a hammer to break the coconut in half. 
  2. Drain the coconut water in a container.
  3. Break the rest of the coconut into sizeable pieces and use a knife to pry the coconut meat from its husk. Put the coconut meat in a blender  
  4. Empty 2 hot cups of water into the blender. You can also use cold water. Although hot water produces richer coconut milk higher in coconut oil.
  5. Blend the contents until you attain a smooth slurry. 
  6. Use a butter muslin or a clean cotton cloth to pour the blend into a plastic jar or any other plastic container of choice. 
  7. Squeeze as much milk as possible from the cloth and transfer the coconut milk into the refrigerator for preservation. 

Since freshly homemade or canned coconut milk does not contain preservatives ensure it is refrigerated in a tightly sealed container. You can use a plastic wrap or the aluminium foil to seal.

You can only store it up to 4 days. Otherwise, if you’d like one with a longer shelf life opt for store-bought refrigerated coconut milk. 

Check out how to use coconut milk for beauty purposes.


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