How to make your own coconut milk

How to Make your own Coconut Milk


Coconut Milk, a staple of Thai and many other Asian cuisines. A not so easy to find product in South America some years ago. It is easier to find now but I will never forget feeling excited about seeing it in the supermarket or delicatessen and buying all three cans in stock. A curry without coconut milk is just not that good. But even if you are desperate, never ever replace it with the sweet coconut cream for piña coladas, it will just make your curry unbearably sweet!

I was introduced to coconut milk through Indian curries, mostly cooked by an Australian friend in Cusco, then I discovered the Thai green curry and fell in love with it instantly. Coconut milk in Thailand and any country in Southeast Asia can be found in any corner store, in boxes, or cans of all sizes. In the markets you can get it freshly made. In our neighborhood market in Phuket the coconut milk stall was always churning away bottles and bottles of milk. The empty coconuts would pile up very high and ferment when the garbage truck didn’t make it on time.

If you are a hard core cook, you can also make your own! On an island weekend trip to Koh Yao Noi, our family visited the home of Mina, a Thai cooking teacher and she taught us how to make real coconut milk. Nothing will ever be the same again. (Look how little Big Kiddo looks! And my hair was strawberry blond!)

make your own coconut milk, phuket, thailand, koh yao noi

My entire life, Ive known about the brown round coconut that looks like it has eyes and the inside is full of white meat you have to scrape off with your teeth. And then in Brazil I met the young green coconut whose top is hacked off with a machete and the water is enjoyed with a straw, nothing better for the heat and thirst, the same kind that we’ve enjoyed so many times in Laos and Thailand.

But I had not experienced HOW to make coconut milk with either of these coconuts until Mina sat me down with Big Kiddo on a wooden stool with a crazy metal spoke with spikes and taught me how to scrape the fat white meat out of a mature brown coconut. Hard but satisfying work that kept us distracted for 20 minutes.

The search for abandoned half buried legos in the muddy backyard of Mina’s house also kept him entertained for another half an hour. Small Kiddo couldn’t even walk yet and crawled around probably putting rocks in her mouth.

A photo posted by Crazy Little Family Adventure (@oranavelarde) on

After Big Kiddo and I had scraped all the white meat out of the coconut, it was G’s turn to do the squeezing of the milk. A little lukewarm boiled water is mixed with the shavings and then its all squeezed (with very clean hands) through a strainer and into a bowl. The mystery that was solved for me right then and there was that the first liquid that comes out is coconut cream and out of the second squeezing, with a bit more water is coconut milk.

There is quite a difference in thickness and in flavor. When making curries, the cream is used at the beginning with the spices and the meats, and then the milk is used towards the end to hydrate everything and finish off the flavors.

If you dont have a traditional Thai wooden coconut scraper stool, you can shave it by cutting out the meat with a knife and then using a grater with the small setting. Now that I know how to make coconut milk, I can tell you that now I can tell the difference between a dish cooked with real coconut milk and one cooked with the packaged kind. Ive become a coconut milk spoiled brat. Like I said, nothing will ever be the same again.

This post was originally written and posted in 2003, I have edited and updated and reposted because I think everyone should know how coconut milk is made! Yum!