Canned coconut milk is great for replacing evaporated milk or cream. I use it in my favorite fudge recipe, which originally called for evaporated milk. It works in main dishes, soups and sauces too. I buy canned coconut milk from my local Chinese Food Store. It’s very reasonably priced, only slightly more than a similar sized can of evaporated milk. Sometimes I can get it at Walmart, in the Asian food section, for almost as good a price. All of my other local markets charge about twice as much for canned coconut milk. I’m a cheapskate, so I’m not willing to pay that much for coconut milk. If the only coconut milk you can find costs an arm and a leg, then you can make your own from dried coconut. You can use unsweetened coconut or sweetened coconut, which is often cheaper. Coconut milk made from unsweetened coconut has a subtle and pleasant coconut flavor. Coconut milk from sweetened coconut can be very sweet, depending on how much sugar is added to the coconut. To me it tastes like a coconut version of sweetened condensed milk. Both types of homemade coconut milk work fine for cooking. The sweetened type is best used for desserts while the unsweetened type is fine for sauces and main dishes. I have used the sweetened type in some spicy main dishes, such as curries and it was fine. It doesn’t work well in potato soup or white sauce however. The sweetness gets in the way.
This is not the type of coconut milk that you buy in cartons, next to the milk. This is equivalent to canned coconut milk, which is richer and creamier.
When you make your own coconut milk you will have leftover coconut. It can be added to muffins, pancakes, brownies or curries. Don’t throw it out because it’s still got some goodness in it and you might as well get your money’s worth out of it.
2 cups dry, shredded coconut
2 cups water
Pot for boiling
In a 2-quart saucepan combine the coconut and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. When the mixture boils, turn off the burner and allow the coconut to soak in the water for 20 to 30 minutes. Strain the resulting milk off of the coconut and use it anywhere coconut milk is called for.
The leftover coconut can be used in Coconut Rice or Coconut Macaroons, or added to muffins, brownies, cookies or plain yellow cake.
To make authentic coconut milk, you can use fresh coconut meat that has been shredded or chopped in a food processor. Use 3 cups of coconut to 2 cups of water and proceed as directed above.
Since I am a budget cook, I usually use the sweetened, shredded coconut I find at the Dollar Store in large bags. Dry, unsweetened coconut can also be used with good results.