How to make coconut milk from fresh coconut

24.7.16 | Recipe by Renz

A step by step guide to making homemade coconut milk from a fresh coconut.

Coconut is a staple in Caribbean cooking.

Found in abundance, this one item is used to make so many different things and used in various foods, from sweet to savory.

The most popular basic use of a fresh coconut is to make coconut milk or to make coconut oil.

Coconut milk has so many amazing benefits and it's quite easy to make.

I grew up seeing my mom make coconut milk from dry coconut whenever she needed it to cook.

We had a coconut tree, so coconuts fell all the time. It was just about going out to the tree and grabbing a dry coconut and cutting it up to work on it.

The milk would be used in stew chicken or any other stewed meat, and even with fish.

But that isn't all the coconut is good for.

Besides the oil and milk, the husk is also used to make sweets/snacks including coconut tart, coconut drops, and savory dishes of sweet bread and coconut bake.

Why is the coconut so prevalent in Caribbean cooking?

Coconut, in general, has many benefits. It provides vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6 and has minerals ranging from iron and sodium to magnesium and phosphorous.

Dry coconut husk

This milk which is not really a milk per se is really the meat of an adult coconut blended up and the liquid produced becomes the milk.

How to choose the best fresh coconut

When choosing the best dry coconut make sure it is the dry coconut and not the young nuts we use to get coconut water.

What we call "dry" is the adult coconut that has started losing its water content.

Find your coconut and give it a little shake. Make sure you hear some water in there. We want it to have water.

As a coconut matures, it loses its water as more "meat" develops. So though we want more meat then water, we don't want all the meat. Most times if there is all meat the coconut is rotten.

Once you have shaken a few dry nuts and picked your best one, it's now time for us to open.

You will need some tools for this:

- a hammer or cutlass or butcher knife to get the hard shell cracked
- a knife (a rounded-edge knife is safest though I use a pointy one as it makes it a bit easier for me to get between the meat and the shell
- Blender or some people use a food processor. Or if you are really old school, a grater.
- bowl
- Strainer of some sort - it can be cheesecloth or a sieve
- Jars to store milk when done.

To get the nuts open give it some wacks with your hammer/broad knife till cracked. Remember there is water in there so be careful where you do this as it would obviously leak out.

Fresh coconut

I like to give the coconut a few taps before I give it the heavier hits.

It helps to loosen the meat from the shell

Cracked fresh coconut

Once cracked open, we will need to get the meat off of the shell.

You can continue to try to break it up more using our hammer or start using your knife here. The one with the round tip.

Put the knife, wiggle it a bit, between the shell and the meat and lift it off. Be careful with your fingers.

Removing coconut meat from shell

I prefer to cut the meat up into smaller pieces to blend them. If you are going to use a grater it's best to have bigger chunks so that you can hold them and not get your fingers knicked.

But I'm not sure how many people are still using graters for this at this time.

Cut the meat up that it would fit well in your blender.

Coconut meat

Add the meat to the blender then add enough water to it so that it is just about the same level with the amount of coconut there.

Coconut meat in blender with water to blend

Then blend on high until all the coconut is finely chopped. You may have to stop it a few times so as to not burn out your blender.

Once finely chopped (we really want as much milk as possible, pour the milk out either into a fine strainer or a strainer lined with cheesecloth.

Coconut husk straining for milk

We want all the liquid out.

You can make it run out for itself as much as possible then start squeezing the husk with your hand or ringing the cloth.

I find it easiest to, as you squeeze some, to discard what you squeezed already to the side.

Do this until you've worked your way through all the husk.

Squeezing milk out of husk

Once you think you have removed all the liquid possible, strain the milk into a clean bottle.

Straining coconut milk into bottle

Now don't get me wrong.

I am an avid user of coconut milk in the cans.

They are convenient and surely less work. And sometimes depending on where you live, you are not able to find a fresh coconut anywhere.

I can assure you though, that after making your own milk that you would see the difference in the taste of this fresh version.

Canned milk obviously has preservatives for shelf life, some more than others which is a strike against it.

Natural coconut milk, on the other hand, does not last half as long as one from the tin.

How to store fresh coconut milk?

Making sure that you have now stored the milk in a sterile container with a cover, any milk not used immediately needs to go into the fridge.

This will last about 6 to 7 days in the refrigerator before it starts going bad.

Have a lot of milk leftover? Freeze it.

I do this regularly by just throwing it into a zip lock bag. But best practice would be to freeze them in smaller containers, say like ice trays so that you can use a block at a time to defrost and use.

Homemade Coconut Milk

So now you have coconut milk to use in your stews or your curries. Even in your coffee.

Pretty easy right? It doesn't take that much especially if you have a really good blender.

So go ahead and get some fresh coconut milk into your life.

You won't regret it.

And remember I said we use all of the coconut!!

Check out some recipes that use coconut milk:

Recipes that use other parts of the coconut: 

How to make coconut Milk at home