Homemade Coconut Cream

Coconut Milk
The Spruce
Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 5 mins
Total: 35 mins
Servings: 32 servings

Coconut is an extremely versatile food. It can be turned into flour, milk, oil, butter, or cream, and you can drink the water or simply eat the coconut as is. It can be purchased fresh, shredded in packages or cans, sweetened or unsweetened, and is used in both sweet and savory dishes.

One ingredient that can be made from coconut is coconut cream. As its name applies, coconut cream is a thick and creamy substance. Made by steeping shredded coconut in hot coconut water that is combined with cream or milk, it's used as a thickening agent for soups, curries, smoothies, or desserts. Coconut cream is available in cans in the supermarket (usually in the international foods aisle), but it is actually easy to make your own at home using freshly grated coconut.


Click Play to See This Homemade Coconut Cream Recipe Come Together


  • 2 1/2 ounces grated coconut (from 1 shelled coconut), water reserved
  • Heavy cream or whole milk (enough so when added to reserved coconut water it measures 1 quart)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. 

    Homemade coconut cream ingredients.
    The Spruce  
  2. Pour the reserved coconut water into a measuring cup, and then add enough cream or milk to make 1 quart of liquid.

  3. Place the grated coconut in a heavy saucepan and cover with the coconut water-cream mixture.

    Add coconut and coconut cream or milk to saucepan
    The Spruce  
  4. Slowly bring this to a boil, stirring often. Turn off the heat, cover the saucepan, and remove from the burner. Let cool to room temperature.

    Bring coconut mixture to boil
    The Spruce
  5. Place a sieve or strainer over a large bowl. Line it with a double layer of damp cheesecloth.

    Line strainer with cheesecloth
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  6. Pour the soaked coconut with its liquid into the lined strainer.

    Pour coconut mixture into strainer
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  7. Lift the cheesecloth, pull the edges together, and squeeze out the coconut cream into the bowl.

    Squeeze coconut cream into bowl
    The Spruce  
  8. Cover and refrigerate the coconut cream and use within 5 days. 

    Finished coconut cream
    The Spruce


  • After squeezing out the liquid, the remaining coconut flesh can be air-dried and/or toasted for other uses.
  • If you can't find or don't want to use a fresh coconut, you can make coconut cream from canned or packaged unsweetened flaked coconut. Substitute 12 ounces of flaked coconut for the fresh coconut and use 1 quart of cream or milk. Proceed as directed.

What's the Difference Between Coconut Cream, Milk, and Water?

Although they can be used together in some recipes, there is a difference between coconut milk, coconut water, and coconut cream. The easiest way to distinguish each is to simply focus on the word after "coconut," and keep in mind how we use cream, milk, and water in general. So if the recipe calls for milk, you know you can substitute coconut milk, but not cream or water. Another product that can add to the confusion is cream of coconut; this is a sweetened version of coconut cream and is used in desserts and cocktails. 

How to Open a Fresh Coconut

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Place a folded towel in the bottom of a large bowl and set the coconut on top of it. Turn the coconut so the end with the three "eyes" is facing up. Use a screwdriver and meat mallet and hammer holes into 2 of the eyes.
  2. Turn the coconut upside down over a clean container to drain the water. Store the water, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  3. Place the coconut on a sheet pan and bake for 15 minutes. The coconut should have cracks in several places. Using a dull-bladed knife like a putty knife or oyster knife, separate the hard shell from the brown husk. Peel the brown husk from the coconut meat with a serrated vegetable peeler. Rinse the coconut meat under cool water and pat dry.
  4. Grate the coconut pieces in a food processor or by hand. Refrigerate any unused grated fresh coconut in a covered container for 2 days. For longer storage, squeeze out any liquid from the grated coconut and place it in a covered container in the freezer for up to 4 months. Make sure to leave a little headspace in the container to allow for expansion of the coconut.