Coconut milk is one of my kitchen staples. I use it very often and a lot of it in pretty much anything. It is a necessity in most curries, goes well in soups and stews if you want to add a nice exotic flavour and it makes a great dairy replacement in baking and smoothies. You can also use it for making your own ice cream or simply enjoy it on its own with ice cubes or make a lovely hot drink by boiling it with some cracked cardamom pods. Homemade coconut milk is a much cheaper and much healthier option than the canned version as nutrition fades over time in a can.
Until summer last year I was buying it in cans until I realised I could make it myself without any big fuss or special appliances. It is in fact very easy to make and there are many ways of doing so. My favourite for making homemade coconut milk is using whole coconuts. It gives me two different portions of coconut milk and coconut flour. One whole coconut provides about 2 cups/5o0ml of full-fat coconut milk, 2 cups/500ml skimmed milk and 3 cups / 500g of coconut flour.
If getting all this out of one measly coconut isn't incentive enough for you then consider the additives and preservatives you skip by making your own and the fact that you will save a lot of money while doing so in the long run.
So how to get homemade coconut milk from whole coconuts? I added quite a few pictures to explain the whole process as precisely as possible.
Ingredients: metric ( imperial )
Yields 500ml (2 cups) full-fat coconut milk and 500ml (2 cups) skimmed coconut milk
- 1 whole coconut, which yields about 200g (7 ounces) of peeled flesh
- 500ml ( 2cups) warm water, for the first blend
- 500ml (2 cups) warm water, for the second blend
As you can see in the picture below I am not using many tools. You will need a good and heavy knife or cleaver, a mesh sieve or cheesecloth and a high-speed blender. The peeler is optional and it depends on if you want to make coconut flour or not. I also use a drill because I like to keep the water but you can skip that step, just make sure you crack your coconut over the sink or in the garden to avoid a mess in the kitchen.
Cracking the coconut is the trickiest part when it comes to making homemade coconut milk from whole coconuts. I use a two-step method that has worked the best for me so far. I drill a hole into one of the three dark indents at the bottom of the coconut and strain the water through a sieve. You can drink it instantly which is what I usually do but you can just as well add it to a smoothie later.
Now comes the tricky part and it involves a very heavy knife or cleaver. Hold the coconut in one hand and hit it with the dull edge of the cleaver while slowly rotating the coconut. But don't worry, you don't need to use insane force for this. It is a matter of rotating the coconut and hitting in a line around the thickest part of the coconut. If done precisely you will end up with two beautiful halves and it is almost a shame that you need to crack them further to get the flesh out.
Once you removed the flesh from the shell you are presented with two options. If you want to make flour you should consider peeling the flesh with a vegetable peeler to remove the dark skin. If you do not care for the flesh you might as well skip this step. The milk will turn out just as white and there is no noticeable difference in taste.
Place the coconut flesh into a high-speed blender and add 500 ml/two cups of water. Blend at highest speed until a very creamy mass is formed. Depending on your blender this can take anywhere from 5 - 10 minutes. Pour it into a mesh sieve or cheesecloth and squeeze all the liquid out of it. By squeezing I mean squeeze it until you are left with a nearly dry pulp. You can achieve this by pressing it down with a spoon or by using a cheese cloth and squeezing it out with your hands. And there you go, you just made full-fat homemade coconut milk.
For the skimmed version simply place the squeezed out coconut shreds back into the blender, add another 500 ml/two cups of water and repeat the process mentioned above. You will have coconut milk that contains a lot less fat and slightly less flavour. I usually use this in smoothies and for replacing milk in cooking or for my breakfast cereal.
The milk will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week if stored in an airtight container. Keep in mind this is free of emulsifiers and stabilisers so you will have to shake it before use since the fat will separate from the water.