Coconut milk from desiccated (dried) coconut

Coconut Milk
coconut milk
Makes a litre of coconut milk

100g desiccated coconut
500ml hot water
500-600ml lukewarm water

You will also need a food processor or blender, a sieve and a muslin square or fine-meshed tea-towel for straining.

How to make the coconut milk:
A few weeks ago, I made (and created a photo-guide for) some coconut mik from a fresh coconut. It was very good indeed, but it was a great deal of effort and decidedly not something I wanted to do regularly.

So I thought I would try using desiccated (dried) coconut, since most of the recipes I had found online assured me that it could be used in a similar fashion. I've had one or two people ask me exactly what desiccated coconut is and where to buy it - so here's a photo of one of the types available in Cyprus. It comes in packs of about 180g or 200g, and costs around 60-70c for 100g.

I experimented with various quantities, based on recipes I found elsewhere, and since I like to keep things easy, I opted for 100g coconut, which I weigh directly into my blender, or a tall jug if using a stick blender. Unlike almond milk, the coconut 'soak' water is used for making coconut milk.

For those who don't have metric kitchen scales, 100g is about 3.5 ounces. If necessary, if you want to use a measure, check the weight on the packet, see how many cups of coconut it produces, and do a little arithmetic. Different kinds of desiccated coconut seem to take up different amounts of space, so it's impossible to state an exact cup measurement.

I put the coconut in a pyrex jug or bowl, then I add about 400ml hot water - heated in the kettle or microwave, but not quite boiling. It should be sufficient to cover the coconut to allow it to soak. If your blender is made of pyrex or other heatproof material, you can soak the coconut in that, but mine is plastic which is not supposed to have very hot things in it. 

All that took a great deal of typing, but in practice it's about half a minute to get to this stage - perhaps a little longer if you include heating the water.

Leave the coconut soaking for around 20 minutes; it doesn't matter if it's somewhat longer. But don't leave it for more than about a couple of hours. 

After the coconut has soaked, I tip it into the blender, and usually add another 100-150ml or so of lukewarm water to rinse out the jug or bowl. Then I use the blender (covered, of course), for about a minute at high speed.  If you are using a stick blender, you may need to blend for longer, starting at low speed.

The extra water makes it sufficiently liquid that it should blend nicely; if you're so inclined, you can watch the clumps of coconut fall down into the centre to twirl around in the blender. If it seems a bit solid and isn't mixing well, stop the motor for a moment and add a little more water.

sieve covered with muslin for coconut milkWhile the blender is running, I get out my wide-necked two-litre jug and a suitable fairly fine sieve (strainer) that fits well over the top. I use the kind intended for sieving flour, but almost anything will do. Cover the sieve, sitting on the jug, as evenly as you can with a muslin square.

When the blender has run for around a minute, switch off, then tip the contents over the sieve into the muslin. If your sieve is too small, you may need to do this in two parts but it's quicker, obviously, to do it all at once.

I use a plastic spatula to help the coconut mixture out of the blender, but if there's a lot stuck to the sides, I may use another 50ml or so of water to rinse it around and then pour that over the muslin too.

So far, the entire process has taken maybe two minutes (excluding the soaking, where you can go away and do something else).

Now comes the part that can be a bit messy. You have to knead the coconut in the bag to extract the 'milk'. If you do this too enthusiastically, it can squirt in all directions. So be warned.

What I do is to gather up the corners so that the coconut is caught inside, then slightly twist the top together, and push down into the sieve. That way, most of the coconut milk will go straight into the jug.

After you've pushed and kneaded for a few seconds, and got most of the milk out, you can pick up the bag (making sure that the coconut itself doesn't escape) and then squeeze and knead in your hands; but, again, be careful to aim downwards as far as you can.

By this stage you should have about 500-600ml in your jug; it's hard to extract the liquid entirely.

When I first did this, I put the dry-ish coconut meal back in the blender and repeated the process. But it was very messy. I no longer recommend this but you can try it if you like.

What I do instead is to pour some more hot (but not quite boiling) water carefully over the coconut meal, which will help to extract more of the milk. Then pour a little cold water over that, estimating amounts; you want to make the resultant liquid up to a litre. The cold water is simply to make it possible to repeat the 'milking' process as shown above without burning your fingers!

Push down again, after gathering the top up, then knead, and squeeze; if you like you can also twist the top around tightly to force more milk out. Keep going until you reach the 1000ml (1 litre) mark on your jug.

If you don't have markings on the side of your jug, just guess. Or decant the milk into another jug which does have measurements on it. If you're in the USA, a litre is approximately the same as a quart (ignore that if you're anywhere else in the world, where a quart is 40 fluid ounces rather than 32, and thus rather more than a litre).

And there you have it: one litre of coconut milk. It tastes much the same as when it's made with fresh coconut milk, is less expensive, and considerably less effort. At most five minutes of work.

I usually put mine into a nicer jug (such as the one shown at the top of the recipe) which pours more easily before refrigerating. It keeps in the fridge for at least three or four days, but we get through ours in about two and a half days.

If you remember, it's a good idea to stir it as it cools, otherwise some fairly solid 'cream' will float to the top and set. You then have to break it in order to use the milk. However it doesn't matter, and quickly melts when used in coffee or to make curry.


Basic part wholewheat bread

Basic Bread for the Breadmaker
Makes one medium loaf

3/4 tsp olive oil (or other oil)
3/4 tsp molasses (or honey or treacle... can be omitted entirely)
260 ml lukewarm water (or part milk, or almond milk, or stock...)

200g wholemeal bread flour
100g regular wholewheat flour (or more bread flour)
75g regular white flour (or strong white flour)
3/4 tsp salt
1 heaped tsp dried instant style yeast

2 tblsp flax and sunflower seeds (optional)

For breadmaking machines:
Place the ingredients in the pan in the order given. If the temperature in your kitchen is particularly cold, it's worth warming the water or other liquid used, but don't get it too hot or the yeast won't work.

I then use the white setting on my breadmaker, as I find that although the majority of the flour is wholewheat, the wholegrain setting tends to make it too dense for our tastes. Add the seeds, if used when the machine bleeps - or if you have a seed dispenser, put them in that.

When done, cool on a wire rack.

For baking by hand:
Place the first three ingredients in a large bowl, ensuring the water is hand hot, then gradually add the flour, mixing in well each time. If you have a food processor with a dough attachment, you can use that. Keep mixing until all the flour is added, then add the salt and yeast.

Knead the dough thoroughly for ten minutes or so, then leave to rise in a warm place, covered with a cloth to keep insects away. After it has doubled in size - this may take up to an hour - punch it down, then shape it and place in a suitable sized bread pan (it should take up approximately half the depth at this stage) or on a baking tray. Leave to rise again for about 20-30 minutes until doubled in size again, then place in an oven (NOT pre-heated) set to 200C. Cook for about 30-40 minutes, or until it looks done and has a slightly crusty top.

Cool slightly in the tin then turn out on a wire rack.

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Note for those in the US: one cup of flour is approximately 100-120g flour. So 75g flour is about 3/4 cup, or a little more. A cup also holds about 260ml water or other liquid. If you are measuring rather than weighing ingredients, the results are a little more inaccurate - so keep an eye on the dough during the first kneading; if it seems to dry, add a touch more water. If too fluid, add a little more flour.

General notes: I developed this recipe for my Morphy Richards Cooltouch breadmaker, which lasted me for six and a half years. I have recommended it to other people with different machines, and recently tried it on a brand new Carrefour breadmaker with two paddles (hence the loaf-shaped bread in the picture) although I generally double the ingredients to make a larger family-sized loaf.

This recipe (or mild variations on the theme) has rarely let me down. You can add some herbs or garlic at the beginning if you wish, or chopped nuts rather than seeds. If you change the kind of flour, do make sure that at least 200g is 'strong' flour intended for breadmaking, rather than the all-purpose or cake varieties.

The reason I tend to use water as the main liquid is that it's the least expensive! I used to use half milk, or half almond milk when some of my family went dairy-free; then I discovered that it tasted almost exactly the same with just water. However if you want extra protein, some kind of milk works fine. Just make sure you warm it a little before using.

When my Morphy Richards machine stopped working part-way through its final loaf, it had completed the kneading stage, so it was a simple matter to leave the dough to rise in the machine, then punch it down by hand and put it in a baking tin for the second rise. I then baked it in the oven, and it turned out just fine.


Coconut milk from fresh coconut (a photo guide)

Coconut milk (from fresh coconut)
Makes a litre of coconut milk

1 fresh coconut
warm water

You will also need a food processor or blender, a sieve and a muslin square or fine-meshed tea-towel for straining. Plus a few other tools which can be improvised - see the recipe.

While coconut milk can be bought in a can, there are some concerns about the safety of canned products, particularly when stored long-term. And with fresh coconuts in the local fruit/veg shop, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to try making our own coconut milk. I searched online, and was particularly impressed by this explanation about making coconut milk - in video and text. Just to make sure, I also watched this series of videos about coconut milk. Both made it sound reasonably easy - so much so that I wondered why I had never tried before.

Not having a coconut grater - and liking to use minimal effort - I decided to use the food processing method to chop the coconut into fine enough pieces.

The first thing to do, having bought a coconut that smells fresh and has a sloshy sound when you shake it, is to pierce the coconut at the 'eyes' at one end, so that the watery liquid can be removed. (I did first of all remove some of the hay-like strands and rinse the whole thing.)


Alas, no. Perhaps a cake skewer would have helped, but I don't have one. I tried a variety of pointy objects and eventually managed to pierce one eye. I could see the white coconut flesh... as shown in this picture. But of course basic physics determined that the liquid would not drain out when there was nowhere to let air in. So I spent another couple of minutes trying to bang the other eyes, and eventually did manage to create a hole and drain the liquid out, into a jug.

Then, at least according to some of the online advice, it's a good idea to put the coconut in a medium oven for half an hour or so to make it easier to crack. I did have the oven on for something else so I popped the coconut in for about 20 minutes. I was too impatient to leave it for longer.

Then I had to let it cool down for a while.

Next thing on the agenda is to hit the coconut a few times with a hammer, so it breaks into two nice even pieces. I did actually use a hammer, and would recommend doing so, but any heavy blunt instrument would probably suffice.

I tried holding the coconut while hitting it, but that didn't really work, so I put it on an oven glove on the counter top. I hit and I hit... and then, suddenly, I did see a crack. Not a beautifully even one like the tutorial videos show, but still. A start.

I kept on hitting in other places until, slowly, the crack expanded and at last the coconut broke into two parts.

This is the stage where, if you have a coconut grater, you can work up a sweat by using it. I can't say that it appeals to me. Much easier is to take a short-bladed knife, or even a screwdriver (washed), and remove chunks of the white coconut 'meat' a piece at a time.

I found that cutting a rough triangle, a few centimetres in size, down to the husk, enabled the coconut to come away from the shell very easily. Each piece was backed in a sort of brown skin; online advice varies as to whether one should keep that or not. I discovered that a potato peeler was a good way of removing most of it without too much effort.

I also rinsed each piece quickly. I don't know if it's necessary to do so, but there seemed to be random bits of brown stuff that didn't look terribly appetising.

I put all the pieces in the food processor, and switched it on for about half a minute. You might want to do it for longer - and a blender would probably be more effective, but my food processor is much easier to clean than my blender.

The smell of coconut was very pleasant at this stage.

The coconut had rather flown around the inside of the food processor, so I used a flat-bladed spatula thing to push the pieces down into the bowl and switched it on for another half minute or so.

Next thing to do is to add some water into the mix. Different sites recommend different amounts, but most of them suggest that it should be warm. I added about a cup and a half (350-400ml) so that the coconut was just about covered, and then put the food processor on for another minute.

And, yes! It did turn milky coloured.

I have a muslin square (although a tea-towel would work) so I put that in a big sieve, over a pyrex jug, and poured the contents of the food processor into it. I let it drain for a minute or two, then squeezed - and was surprised at how much extra 'milk' came out.

Most of the recipes suggest repeating this stage, so I did exactly that - dumped the coconut shreddings from the muslin square back into the food processor, added more water, processed for another minute, and strained all of that in too, adding more water to 'rinse' out the food processor into the sieve. Then I squeezed the muslin even more strongly at the end.

In all, it made approximately a litre of coconut milk. I wondered if it might be too watery, but we used it in some frapp├ęs in place of cows' milk, and I thought it extremely good.

It needs to be refrigerated after use, and should last a few days. Can be used anywhere you would use regular milk (so long as you don't mind a slight coconut aroma. It might be a little odd in a cheese sauce). It's particularly good in curries.

Note that it does tend to separate into a kind of skimmed milk at the bottom, and a much creamier substance at the top. Just like real non-homogenised milk used to do. Just give it a good stir before use. If it solidifies - as it will eventually - you may have to bring it to room temperature before it returns to creamy form. Or just put a chunk in your coffee along with the watery part.

Oh, and you don't have to throw out the remaining shreddings of coconut meat. Just spread them on a tray and dry out in a cooling oven overnight (or a dehydrator, if you have one) and you can use it as desiccated coconut.  Best to keep in the fridge, though.

Final note: coconut milk can also be made with dried/desiccated coconut, which is much less effort, and usually less expensive too.