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.

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