9 Coconut Milk Recipes That Prove You Should Always Have a Can on Hand

By | August 22, 2022

Canned coconut milk is a welcome presence in any pantry.

If you’re vegan, vegetarian, or just veering into a plant-based diet and you don’t have coconut milk at the ready, get with the program! It’s not only satisfyingly filling and creamy (without any dairy) — it also contains inflammation-busting antioxidants

Even if you’re a carnivore, you can still be a fan. Coconut milk is ubiquitous in many iconic meaty Asian, Oceanian, and African dishes. You’d be remiss to stock up on coconut milk and not have an ample supply of curry paste or powder too. The two go together like peanut butter and jelly.

And the desserts. Oh, the desserts!

What is coconut milk?

Unlike coconut water, the liquid that accumulates in the cavity of the fruit, coconut milk is made from the flesh of the coconut fruit — which itself is a build-up of solidified water that accumulates as it ripens. The skin is removed and the flesh is shredded and simmered in hot water, then strained.

Light coconut milk (often labeled “lite” coconut milk) is thinned with water. It’s lower in fat and calories, but if you want a fuller, richer flavor that replicates your takeout favorites, go with the regular. (For cooking purposes, skip the boxed version, which is intended for drinking.)

You can also opt for thicker, fattier coconut cream if your dish is needs even more body.

Coconut milk recipes

We’ve got coconut milk recipes for days, but unlock the sweet and savory keys of this tropical milk with some of our favorites below.

1. Thai green curry chicken thighs

Coconut milk and green curry paste lay the flavor foundation to this classic Thai curry, but fish sauce pulls a funky assist. Beyond the chicken thighs, the fiery and filling dish calls for cilantro, green beans, bell pepper, and scallions (but feel free to add a mix of whatever veggies you have on hand).

Get our Thai green curry chicken thighs recipe.

2. Nasi lemak (Malaysian breakfast rice)

Tired of plain cereal to start the day? Try your hand at nasi lemak, the fragrant, multi-layered Malaysian breakfast staple. It’s prepared with dried anchovies and a spicy sambal on a base of deliciously rich, coconut-scented rice.

Don’t worry if you’re new to Malaysian cooking — we’ve got you covered with the how-to vid below.

Get our nasi lemak recipe.

3. Turkey mulligatawny soup

Either your bird was too big or your guests ate like one, but either way, don’t throw away that leftover turkey. Whip up this hearty Indian soup with the help of good ol’ coconut milk and its sidekicks, curry powder and garam masala.

Get our turkey mulligatawny soup recipe.

4. Chili garlic green bean casserole

Green bean casserole is an American dinner table staple (particularly during Thanksgiving), and for good reason. The O.G. recipe is undeniably scrumptious and easy to make, but know that there are myriad ways to spruce it up, including this Asian-inspired chili and coconut version.

Get our chili garlic green bean casserole recipe.

5. Slow cooker Burmese chicken and noodles

Golden-hued from ground turmeric and packed with zesty fresh ginger, this chicken dinner is more intriguing than your average slow cooker meal. The recipe calls for Chinese wheat noodles, but if your local grocer doesn’t carry them, you can easily sub spaghetti. (We’ll never tell.)

Get our slow cooker Burmese chicken and noodles recipe.

6. Overnight oats with summer fruit

Whip this up coconut milk-soaked delight the evening prior and wake up singing, “Ch-ch-ch-chia!”. It’s plumped up with chia seeds and garnished with summer fruits like pineapple, kiwi, and berries — which just so happen to go perfectly with coconut flavor.

Get our overnight oats with summer fruit recipe.

7. Red curry sloppy banh mi sandwiches

A Vietnamese standard meets latchkey kid weeknight staple with these mouthwatering coconut milk-infused fusion sandos. Choose your curry paste wisely and season to taste.

Get our red curry sloppy banh mi sandwiches recipe.

8. Coconut rice pudding

What to make for dessert for dinner party guests who are both gluten- and dairy-free? (Or, heck, to make just for yourself on a random Tuesday ‘cuz it’s freaking delicious?) Coconut rice pudding, of course! This Indian-inspired version will fragrance your kitchen with ginger and cardamom.

Get our coconut rice pudding recipe.

9. Halo-halo ice pops

Well, hello, halo! These frozen stunners, inspired by the popular Filipino dessert halo-halo, are paleo-friendly, vegan, dairy-free, and Instagrammable to the nth degree. Ube (purple yam) is on top, coconut milk takes the bottom, while a host of add-ins are studded throughout the popsicle.

Get our halo-halo ice pops recipe.

Bottom line

Whether you wanna slow cook your way to an easy, savory dinner or shimmy shimmy coco-pop through the summer with an iced treat, coconut milk is your culinary wingman. Keep a can handy in your pantry for all things creamy, dreamy, and dairy-free.

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