Making coconut milk

There are numerous Southeast Asian desserts that feature a soup of coconut milk. So when I made these Five-Coloured Glutinous Rice Balls, I substituted the cow’s milk with coconut milk for a more fragrant soup.

Choose a mature coconut that’s not too old. Use a large knife to chop into quarters then peel off the brown husk.

coconut milk peeling

Then grate the white flesh as finely as possible.

coconut milk grating

A traditional grater, such as this one which my family has been using for decades, is made from aluminium and has dozens of tiny sharp teeth. This produces much finer shreds than conventional western graters.

coconut grater
coconut grater closeup

Add a little bit of water to the grated coconut, then put into a muslin cloth. The more water you add the thinner the milk will be so it’s better to start with a thick consistency as you can always dilute it later. Squeeze hard to extract the coconut milk (first yield). When no more liquid will come out, add more water and repeat squeezing (second yield).

coconut milk squeezing

In a pot, bring the coconut milk to a boil then turn off the heat. A couple of pandan leaves knotted together can be added for a fragrant taste.

coconut milk cooking
This is the amount produced from half a coconut.

Coconut milk turns very easily so refrigerate as soon as possible and use it up in a couple of days. It’s also very rich, so one can easily get an upset stomach from consuming too much as well.

Read more information about choosing coconuts and making coconut milk in Southeast Asian cooking here (Thai) and here (Indonesian).

23/12/07 update: See my post on graters for coconut and other foods.

9/4/08 Update: Traditional coconut graters on display at the National Museum of Singapore, read more here. And see also my solution to improving the yield for homemade coconut milk.

6 Responses

  1. […] the original recipe, the soup is made from cow’s milk. Instead of this, I made two options: coconut milk (see photo of round-shaped balls above) or soya bean milk (see photo of dented balls below). Both […]

  2. Hey
    Thai food uses lots of coconut milk
    If you want to learn how to cook Thai food at home, try this site
    It’s got about 30 popular Thai cooking receipes and each one has with a video

  3. Hi norris hall,
    Thanks very much for the recommendation, I’ll check it out.

  4. I like your grater, is it easy to use? I have some pictures of how I grate coconuts on my blog, if you are interested:

  5. Hi Jenni, the traditional grater is pretty scary to use as it’s easy to hurt yourself if you are not careful! Hence my other posting on the updated method we now use.

  6. This is amazing stuff. I have heard about coconut milk but have never seen the process for making it. Very informative and I will have to give it a try as holistic health is one of the primary focuses in my life.

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