If you’re unfamiliar with cooking with coconut milk, let us break it down for you: For these recipes, you’ll want to find the kind, which is a blended combination of water and coconut meat. There is also boxed coconut non-dairy milk, which has a much higher concentration of water to coconut meat, and coconut water, which is the liquid found in young green coconuts—neither will work well here. If you’ve ever opened a can of coconut milk and seen that the coconut cream has risen to the top, don’t fret. For most coconut milk recipes, you can use both parts, but if you want extra creamy coconut flavor, refrigerate your can so they separate and just use the coconut cream on top. This will be extra helpful in dessert or drink recipes like our spiked coconut limeade, our lemon coconut tart, our vegan cheesecake, or our coconut ice cream. Be careful not accidentally mix it up with cream of coconut, which often has added sugar.
Coconut milk is popular in many Asian cuisines, and you may have encountered it in Thai and Indian food. We’d be remiss not to highlight one of coconut milk’s best ingredient friends: curry powder or paste. We love the flavor profile whether we’re slurping a bowl of comforting soupy noodles, like our Thai red curry coconut noodles or our creamy chicken ramen soup; spooning sauce over seafood, like in our coconut curry salmon; marinating chicken, like in our curried chicken & garlic golden rice; or tucking into a thick and flavorful stew, like our coconut chicken curry or our ribeye panang curry. They’re the perfect match because coconut milk can help soothe the spice of curry, while not diminishing its flavors.
Coconut milk is also an incredible way to take your average pasta and rice dishes to the next level. Try making coconut rice once, and we bet you won’t be making plain ‘ole white rice again for a while. Turn it into a casserole, like our chicken and coconut rice casserole, or serve it under your favorite protein, like in our mahi mahi with avocado crema. Try adding it to some of your old standbys—we added it and miso to our favorite bolognese, and now have a new favorite weeknight pasta dinner.