How to Make Coconut Milk from Scratch

Coconut milk from scratch--so tasty! This recipe requires a blender. However, with all of the fresh fruits available, I encourage every Peace Corps Jamaica Volunteer to invest in a blender for two years of amazing smoothies! I like to freeze all of my overripe bananas and throw them in my blender for fresh ice cream. I have also used my blender to make enough hummus to survive off of for several months. A blender costs about J$3000 dollars here, and it is worth every penny.

I was never a huge milk drinker, but it is nice to have something creamy to add to morning black tea, oatmeal, pancakes from scratch, or those smoothies mentioned above. I was living in Vermont before coming to Jamaica, where the dairy cows are aplenty and the cheese and yogurt = divine. Dairy is too expensive in Jamaica and dairy milk alternatives aren't much cheaper (unless they have a bunch of sugar and other ingredients that I don't care for).

I used to make almond milk back home, and although there are almond trees everywhere in Jamaica, bulk almonds are imported and expensive (I think I need to learn how to process the local nuts). As a alternative, I turned to that beautiful, brown and hairy bowling ball of a drupe. If you don't have a coconut tree in your yard, a mature coconut from the market costs J$150-200, depending on the size. I didn't even have to go to the market, because on the way to the taxi park, a man was selling roasted breadfruit and mature coconuts on the street out of his homemade cart. Common Jamaican recipes using fresh coconut include coconut drops, cakes and most importantly (using the milk), rice and peas! Mackerel rundown is a favorite as well, where mackerel is cooked down in coconut milk and spices until it the milk thickens into a spicy and creamy sauce.

Homemade Coconut Milk - makes 2 quarts

What you need:

  • 1/2 of a large mature coconut OR 1 small mature coconut (and a way to open it! I used my machete.)
  • Pitcher or other storage container
  • Strainer
  • Blender
  • Knife

How it's done:

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First, take a sharp knife and pierce the coconut in one of the eyes. You may have a better tool than a knife, such as a hammer and screwdriver, but I work with what I have. Let the water drain out and put it aside to drink or use in something else.

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Now you have to open the coconut. It doesn't take too much force and usually you'll get a clean cut. Usually...

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Next, your use knife to carefully wedge out the pieces. I leave the brown skin on because I don't have the patience to take it off. This was a large coconut so I decided to only prepare half.

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Throw it into the blender with some water (about four cups).

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Mash it up!

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Strain it into a bowl, squeezing the blended coconut to get the most out of it. Cheesecloth would be helpful here, but this is Peace Corps style so I just use clean hands. Pour that liquid gold into a pitcher. Add 4-5 more cups of water to the strained coconut and blend it up again.

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After three cycles of blending and straining, your two quart container will be full of delicious coconut milk.

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Throw it in the fridge and add it to everything. Sometimes I grate up some fresh nutmeg and add in some cinnamon. Before use, I give it a good swirl in the pitcher.

I used only one half of my J$200 coconut, so now I have two quarts of fresh coconut milk for J$100...that's less than a buck in US currency. I can make light coconut milk veggie soups, peanut butter banana smoothies, or drink it plain...woohoo!

Easy, right? I didn't say it wasn't messy...

By the way, that glob of leftover blended coconut bits in your strainer is called the "trash". I'm not one for trash, so I made some experimental biscuits/cookies. They were interesting...(not my favorite, but edible)

How do you use your coconut milk? Have you ever tried any Jamaican style coconut dishes?