Homemade Coconut Milk

April 23, 2012 in Categories: , by

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Coconut milk is an absolute staple in my house.  I use it in baking and in curries.  I like to let a can of full-fat coconut milk sit for a while then scrape the creamy top half of the can out and use it as a pudding or whipped cream substitute.  I use coconut milk in smoothies and I use it to make my own homemade coconut milk kefir and yogurt (recipe coming Wednesday!).  But coconut milk is expensive!  The cheapest canned full-fat coconut milk that I have found is 365 Brand at Whole Foods for $1.99 per can.  And it’s not organic and has guar gum as an additive.  Guar gum can be a gut irritant and given how sensitive my digestion is, I prefer to avoid it (I get a stomach ache if I have regular full-fat canned coconut milk).  I tried the light coconut milk that Trader Joe’s cells for $0.99 per can that is guar gum-free, but light coconut milk is just not the same and definitely not worth my money.  So, given that I average a can a day, an alternative was desperately needed in my house. 

As I started to play with homemade coconut milk recipes using organic, unsweetened finely shredded dried coconut as my base (using fresh coconut was cost prohibitive), I discovered that method really matters.  Methods where you soak the coconut in cold water first just don’t extract the fat from the coconut very well (and what’s the point if you’re not getting the fat!!!).  So, when I happened on methodology that used freshly boiled hot water instead, I was excited.  The hot water allows the fat to release from the dried coconut.  The pulp is then strained using an Extra Fine Mesh Strainer, a Cheesecloth draped over a sieve or colander, a Nut-Milk Bag or clean Paint Strainer Bags (which are virtually identical to Nut-Milk Bags but without a drawstring yet are substantially cheaper and available at most hardware stores).  Once discovering this technique, the trick for this recipe was really just figuring how much coconut to add to how much hot water to achieve the half and half creamy stuff to watery stuff that’s in a can.  And given how many recipes use “1 full can’s worth” of coconut milk, I needed to figure out how to replicate that perfect 13.5oz volume.  So, here is my recipe.  It costs less than a quarter the price of organic guar gum-free full-fat canned Coconut Milk and about half the price of the cheapest full-fat coconut milk (that contains guar gum and isn’t organic) that I can find.  It doesn’t require planning in advance (unless you are going to want it chilled).  It separates just like canned coconut milk if you want to make pudding or mock whipped cream from the top layer (in fact, the top layer is maybe even a little thicker than canned coconut milk), see the photo.  It has a cleaner taste than canned coconut milk and doesn’t contain the potential gut-irritant guar gum or contribute estrogen-mimicking compounds to your diet.  Plus, it makes great yogurt!

This recipe is perfect for the large cup of my Magic Bullet.  It makes the equivalent of one half of a can (slightly less than 1 cup of coconut milk).  If you have a larger Blender, go ahead and double the recipe to make the equivalent of one whole can.


1.    Place coconut into the large cup of a Magic Bullet or bottom of a Blender.
2.    Add freshly boiled, very hot water to coconut.
3.    Blend on high for 5 minutes (with the magic bullet, I blend for 45-60 seconds at a time, give the motor a few second break, and then repeat). 
4.    Pour pulp into a Nut-Milk Bag or Cheesecloth (or other chosen strainer) suspended over a glass bowl, mason jar, or measuring cup (have your strainer suspended over your bowl before you pour in the pulp). 
5.    You can either let gravity do its thing or you can squeeze the pulp through your bag or cheesecloth to release to coconut milk (I suggest waiting for the pulp to cool a little before doing this).
6.    If not being used immediately, store coconut milk in a glass jar in the fridge (the jar is great for shaking up later).  Enjoy!

One of my followers suggested using hot unsweetened coconut water instead of regular water in this recipe for an even better tasting coconut milk.  Definitely worth a try if you plan on drinking this milk or pouring on paleo granola!


I’d be afraid that now you have to worry about how much plastic residue you’ve got from hot boiling water in the plastic bullet. mmmm…

I reacently brought fresh coconut from our trip to Hawaii. I used the recipe using the fresh soft coconut in my vitamix for less than two minutes. I ended up with absolutely no pulp. I even strained and had nothing. It tasted good. And is pretty thick. Maybe small pulp will come to the surface after being in the fridge for a bit?

When reading the older comments, some people posted that they had used it to make coconut flour. — Tamar, Sarah’s assistant

First thanks for you site! Its making things much easier for planning and whatnot. With 8 kids, 1 who may be Celiac, and a hubby with Type 1 diabetes money is tight around here. So while we may not be able to go full Paleo and are more paleo”ish” I am looking forward to seeing how this helps my hubs and at least my one child.

I have been making my own coconut milk and almond milk for a while. I used different ratios than what you have, I think it was a 2:1 ratio(water:coconut) and this last batch I did i twice with the same pulp b/c there was more fat in the flakes. I soaked the first batch for a couple hours and then blended it up in my ninja blender and strained. Then I warmed the pulp on the stove with more water and blended again and strained.

Put it in the fridge and later had the hard fat that had separated up on top. It was not spoon-able off though. Is this the fat that is spoken about for making cream and stuff?
If I am not going to use it right away is there a way to store it? Does this make the milk below become “skim” milk. If I am trying to get more good fat into my husbands diet should I just leave it in there and find a way to re-blend it in?
Also hubs doesn’t like the taste, what would be an ok way to flavor it a bit..for drinking. I would make a separate batch for cooking. Sorry for all the questions.

You can store the milk longer-term by freezing it, and blend the fat back in for full-fat milk (the liquid that separates out is basically coconut water). The hard layer on top is the “creamed coconut” or “coconut cream” referred to in many recipes. You could try flavoring it with pineapple, lemon, lime, or any other flavor you like. – Christina, Sarah’s assistant

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been making my own coconut milk for a while and it is always thin. I despaired of ever finding a recipe that would adequately substitute for canned coconut milk. Thank you for making this possible! I will try it soon!

try adding in some guar gum. The canned version allmost all from what I have seen have a thickening agent like guar gum, careegan, xnathum etc

This is amazing! It was so unbelievably easy and its delicious! Thank you for posting this, I will be sharing this recipe with everyone I know :)

[…] Milk has sugars, proteins, and fats that can be tricky to swap out. Almond milk often works well, but it’s hard on Evan’s stomach and I like, but don’t love, the taste of almond milk. Coconut milk can work well, (like Paleo Parents’ Chai) but when heated it has a tendency to separate if it doesn’t have a lot of binders in it. And the best coconut milk is the kind that you make at home (Like PaleoMom’s Recipe). […]

Would this work in a juicer, vs. a blender? I have a decent Cuisinart blender, but it’s so big and bulky I never use it. Thanks for this, I’m excited to try it!

I have not heard of using a juicer for coconut milk, but do see some comments from others that have tried it and say it works. For best results, Sarah recommends following her recipes as written. – Christina, Sarah’s assistant

I can’t tolerate the full fat canned milk (even the one w/o guar gum) so I typically make my own. I was looking for a “shortcut” for when I run out an don’t have time to make my own. I bought a can of Trader Joe’s “lite” coconut milk and I actually liked the flavor and consistency a lot. I added a 1/3 of a cup of coconut manna to add back some of the fat. I was wondering what are your thoughts about that?

I hate to waste anything so i’ve found ways to use it. I’ve added it to stir-frys. I’vemixed it with fruit salad, mixed it into smoothies, sprinkled it on salad and even put it on a pan and toasted it in the oven. Be adventurous! It’s great to add a little texture and fiber to almost anything.

My reply above was in reference to Tanya’s question about using the pulp after you strain off the coconut milk. Rereading it a few days later I realized without that reference it looked like I was writing abt what I use coconut milk for—and what I really meant was what I do with the coconut pulp. I had hit the ‘reply’ link in Tanya’s post and thought that my reply would be connected to her post as well. I’m new to this posting stuff–and yet I thoroughly enjoy seeing everyone else’s ideas and questions!!

Thanks for a great site!!

Hey! So, i make my own coconut milk from coconuts…i live in west africa and can get the coconuts easily and cheaply enough. Here is my problem…i can’t seem to get that nice thick cream everyone raves about…here is how i have been doing it. I cut up fresh coconut (the brown dry coconut, not the green young coconut) put that in my blender with enough water and blend for quite a while…i used to add hot water, but just use room temp water now and heat then a bit on top of the stove, sieve, and then refrigerate.. It will separate but there is no thick cream. Any tips or suggestions as to how to make that happen would be great! Thanks!

I live in South Florida and fresh coconut is available just about anywhere… including our yard! This recipe seems amazing, but based on previous comments, it doesn’t seem I will get the same results if I use fresh coconut…

Please, can someone tell me what I would need to do to get the same results using fresh coconut for this recipe?

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