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Expert Guide

11 Ways to Use Canned Coconut Milk

Coconut Chicken with Pickled Pepper Collards

Coconut Chicken with Pickled Pepper Collards Photo © Antonis Achilleos

The coconut water boom has ushered in something of a coconut milk renaissance. With its delicate tropical flavor and luscious texture, coconut milk remains an enduringly popular dairy alternative and a go-to pantry item for home cooks who love curry. Here, more ways to put the can in the cabinet to work.


1. Creamed spinach. Make a dairy-free cream sauce for vegetables, like this coconut-creamed spinach flavored with fresh ginger and lime juice.

2. Dinner crêpes. Blend coconut milk with rice flour to make lacy, turmeric-stained pork-stuffed crêpes, a favorite street food in Southeast Asia.

3. Ceviches Coconut milk’s soft flavor is especially nice with zingy ceviches made from sweet shellfish, like scallops. Similar but even simpler, try Bobby Flay’s six-ingredient coconut-crab salad.

4. Marinades. Blend it with lots of garlic and spices for marinating chicken; the coconut milk helps create a delicious, blistered crust on the grill. Or add coconut milk to a buttermilk soak for fried chicken, like these panko-crusted cutlets from star chef Marcus Samuelsson (photo above).

5. Dressings. For a completely inauthentic but totally delicious dressing for an Asian-inspired noodle salad, blend it with peanut butter, soy sauce, curry paste and aromatics.


6. Candy. Blend coconut milk with butter and toasted coconut to make a chewy filling for chocolate-coated candy bars.

7. Cocktails. Add it to cocktails, like this tropical riff on the Alexander from Pok Pok restaurants, in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Portland, Oregon.

8. Crème caramel. Use it to make a Malaysian-inspired take on this otherwise classic French dessert.

9. Pudding. Substitute it for milk in a stunning parfait of black-and-white rice puddings. Or add it to tapioca pudding with mango and lime to enhance the dessert’s tropical flavor.

10. Ice cream. Make a luxurious dairy-free chocolate ice cream or a light frozen yogurt.

11. Glazes. Blend it with confectioners’ sugar to make a tropical glaze for doughnuts; the glaze also is good drizzled over cake or used it as a dip for cookies.

Note: The delicious refrigerated coconut milk sold in cartons is best reserved for cereal and drinks—it’s not as thick and rich as the canned type typically called for when cooking or baking.

Related: Cooking with Coconut Milk
Southeast Asian Dishes
Delicious Dairy-Free Recipes

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