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How to make your own coconut milk


Our pantry

Coconut milk doesn’t exist. At least not in nature. That’s something I didn’t realize until yesterday, when my husband was perusing the Tropical Traditions website (now we know why they don’t carry coconut milk).

Since we don’t eat dairy, coconut milk is a mainstay in our household. We prefer the Thai Kitchen brand because it doesn’t have any sugar added (unlike some refrigerated brands) and it’s labeled “gluten-free” right on the front of the can (yes, I realize gluten isn’t typically added to coconut milk, but since my husband has celiac disease we always have to be concerned about where things are manufactured, too, not just the ingredients).

One problem with buying canned coconut milk, though, is that the cans often contain BPA inside and BPA can leach into fatty foods like coconut milk. BPA is a synthetic estrogen that disrupts the endocrine system and has been linked to cancer, diabetes, obesity and damage to the brain and cardiovascular and reproductive systems (read more about BPA here), so it’s something we generally try to avoid.

Beyond the health concerns associated with the chemicals in the cans, coconut milk is also expensive. In our area, the cheapest place we’ve found to buy Thai Kitchen coconut milk is $2.14 for a not-quite 14-oz. can (and that price has gone up in the last year).

So, what is this pricey stuff really made of? Coconut and water. And that leads to the next problem. I have no idea what is in the water that is being used to make the coconut milk that’s sold in the stores, and I’m concerned there might be some things in there that I really don’t want to be ingesting on a regular basis, particularly since many of the coconut milks sold in the United States are made elsewhere. Thai Kitchen is made in Thailand, and I’ve seen other brands that are made in Mexico. How do you think Thai and Mexican environmental regulations compare to the United States? I haven’t researched this, but my hunch is that regulations are much tougher here.

The good news is that since coconut milk consists of two simple ingredients it is really easy to make yourself. I whipped up my first batch today. Here’s the recipe:

coconut milk

Homemade coconut milk


Prep. time: 20 minutes (including my usual scramble around the kitchen — where did I put that darn cheesecloth?)


  • 2 cups shredded coconut
  • 2 cups water, preferably filtered


  1. Heat water until near boiling.
  2. While water is warming, empty coconut into blender and line a strainer with cheesecloth or a towel. Place the strainer over a medium bowl or large tempered glass pitcher.
  3. When water starts to boil, pour it into the blender with the coconut.
  4. Blend for about 30-60 seconds (if you like to hold the lid on your blender while it’s doing its work, be sure to use a kitchen towel or something else to protect your hand from the heat).
  5. Empty the blender’s contents into the strainer and mash the coconut with a spoon to get as much of the liquid as possible out. You can use your hands, too, just be sure to wait until it cools down so you don’t burn yourself.
  6. If you like, repeat the process again using the same shredded coconut.

My total yield from this recipe was about 3 cups of coconut milk. I have the shredded coconut in the dehydrator right now at 95°F, so I can use it for baking. Once it’s dry, you can either use the shredded coconut as-is or throw it into a food processor to make coconut flour.

Here’s the cost breakdown:

Store-bought Thai Kitchen coconut milk: $0.16/oz.

Homemade version using organic shredded coconut (bought at amazon.com): $0.05/oz. (plus, I still have shredded coconut that I can use!)

I’ve linked this post to The Greenbacks Gal.

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6 Responses to How to make your own coconut milk

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe! I am very excited to try it. We have been buying coconut milk for a while so it will be nice to save some $$!

  2. Excellent! I’m going to have to make this soon – even though I can get coconut milk on the cheap from local international markets, it’s always nice to know exactly what you’re consuming. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

    • JM- I envy you there on the cheap coconut milk, but it is always nice to make things fresh. The only downside I’ve found is that our homemade did not come out quite as creamy as I’d like (we love coconut whipped cream), so that’s my next project.

  3. This is so interesting how coconut milk is such a rage in the US these days. I grew up where we made it by hand nearly everyday, and coconut trees were plenty and we played under them all day.

    The frozen shredded coconut you get at the Indian stores are better than the dried shredded. Also, back home we used just tap water, or lukewarm. It didn’t have to be boiling. The heat does helps the oils come out. Also, you can reuse the coconut multiple times. The first will be very thick, the second will be more like a “light” version.

    I used to help my mom at a young age, and it’s a really great activity for kids. I did it in my class with the kids. We scraped a coconut then made milk with it. You just put it in a bowl, and let the kids squeeze it with their hands. You can even put it in a mesh colander and press down if cheese cloth is too difficult for the kids. You can always freeze the extra like broth.

    Thanks for posting this. It’s a nice trip down memory lane. I should do it too instead of buying so many cans all the time. The tetra packs have so many additives too with Guar gum and such.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’ll have to see if I can find frozen shredded coconut around here. I combined all of the milk I made from my two runs this time, but I think I’ll leave them separate next time, so we have a thick and thin version.

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