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Ingredient

Coconut Milk

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What is it?

Coconut milk is not the liquid found within the coconut: it’s a thick, creamy liquid made from combining coconut meat with hot water (or dairy milk or cream) and straining and squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Coconut milk is an essential ingredient in Thai cuisine, where it’s added to curries to tone balance the spicy heat with its creamy sweetness. It can also be used in many recipes in place  milk or cream, adding a wonderfully rich texture and flavor to everything from hearty soups to delicate desserts.

Coconut cream is the thick substance that floats to the top of the coconut milk and may be spooned off.

Reduced-fat or “lite” coconut milk is just regular canned coconut milk with water added.

Don’t have it?

You can make your own, but canned coconut milk is convenient and is found in most supermarkets, as well as in Asian or Latin American groceries.

How to choose:

Seek out coconut milk from Thailand—it’s consistently the best, fresher tasting than others, with a luscious texture that’s thick and rich.

Do not confuse coconut cream with a product called cream of coconut (Coco Lopez is one popular brand). Cream of coconut is a processed product made with coconut cream and lots of sugar. It isn’t interchangeable with coconut milk or coconut cream and is best used for blender drinks.

How to prep:

Unless a recipe specifies otherwise, vigorously shake a can of coconut milk before opening it. Blending the thick cream on the top with the thinner milk below will make it easier to remove the coconut milk from the can without a rubber spatula.

How to store:

Canned coconut milk will keep for years unopened in a cool, dry place. Once the coconut milk is opened, transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate. It won’t last for more than a couple of days.

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    Recipes

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    Ginger Coconut Rice

    The addition of coconut milk and fresh ginger and garlic makes a basic pot of rice so much more interesting. Serve with stir-fries and curries.

  • Recipe

    Pan-Seared Sea Scallops with Thai Green Curry, Snap Peas, and Carrots

    Perfectly seared scallops stand out in this fragrant curry. There are a lot of ingredients involved in making the curry paste, but they all go right into a blender, which…

  • Recipe

    Coconut Curry Rice Noodle Soup with Shrimp

    This soup—somewhere between a curry and a pho—gets its inspiration from Malaysian laksa. Fish sauce takes the place of the traditional shrimp paste, and jalapeños impart heat. There are many…

  • Recipe

    Tagliatelle with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Coconut Milk

    Shrimp and asparagus are often paired in pasta, but the addition of creamy coconut milk adds a fresh twist to the classic combination.

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    Ginger-Sesame Waffles with Indonesian Fried Chicken

    Want to wow guests at dinner? Make this. It’s wild and wonderful with flavors and textures that get better with every bite.

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    Curry-Crusted Shrimp with Coconut Noodles

    Fans of Thai cuisine will immediately recognize the flavors in this dish, which is like a deconstructed Thai shrimp curry. The twist here is that the shrimp are fried separately…

  • Recipe

    Coconut Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce

    This panna cotta is a delicious option for those on dairy-free diets, vegans (see the tip on gelatin), or anyone who loves coconut. It’s a little less glossy than traditional…

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    Spicy Thai Chicken and Pineapple Soup

    This bright, fragrant soup is just the thing to take the chill off a cold winter night. The sweetness of pineapple meets the heat of chile for a flavor duel…

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    Coconut Milk Eggnog

    Rich coconut milk stands in for the usual milk and cream in this dairy-free nog, lending a mild tropical note to the familiar flavor profile.

  • Recipe

    Islas Flotantes

    In this tropical rendition of the classic French dessert île flottante (floating island), meringues are poached in a mixture of coconut milk and puréed fruit, instead of the traditional custard.

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