|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 66g||85%|
|Saturated Fat 59g||295%|
|Total Carbohydrate 30g||11%|
|Dietary Fiber 18g||64%|
|Total Sugars 12g|
|Vitamin C 7mg||33%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
Coconut is a versatile fruit that can be used to produce many dairy-free and gluten-free cooking ingredients, including flour, butter, oil, milk, and cream. All of these—including coconut cream—are readily available in stores, but making coconut cream from scratch is a fun and rewarding experience that delivers a fresh and natural-tasting product.
The Difference Between Coconut Water, Coconut Milk, and Coconut Cream
It may be helpful to clear up any confusion about the three different liquid coconut products. Coconut water is a naturally-occurring clear liquid in the center of the coconut. It’s a refreshing and hydrating beverage on its own, and can also be incorporated into cocktails, smoothies, and salad dressings.
Coconut milk and coconut cream are both made by blending the flesh of the mature coconut with water, the difference between them being the ratio of flesh to water. Coconut cream has a higher ratio of coconut to water, resulting in a higher fat content and a creamier, thicker texture.
How to Use Coconut Cream
With its high fat content, coconut cream is an excellent dairy-free alternative to heavy cream, and is a popular ingredient in many savory dishes such as soups and curries, or in smoothies and desserts. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Southern Coconut Poke Cake
- Vegan Whipped Cream
- South Indian-Style Chicken Curry
- Thai Beef Coconut Curry
How to Choose and Store Fresh Coconuts
To make coconut cream, start by selecting the right coconuts. In general, stores that specialize in international foods with diverse tropical produce have a better selection and more competitive prices than the average supermarket.
For coconut cream, mature brown coconuts are better than young green ones, as they contain a larger quantity of developed flesh. Look for coconuts that are well hydrated, a good indicator of freshness. Generally speaking, a heavier coconut contains more water, and ideally you should also be able to hear the sound of water sloshing around inside if you shake it. Also check the three “eyes,” which are round indentations at the top of the coconut. These should not be moldy or soft.
You can keep a fresh whole coconut for up to a week at room temperature, or up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Once a coconut has been cracked open, it must be stored in the refrigerator, where it will stay fresh for 2 to 3 days, or in an airtight container in the freezer for long-term storage.
How to Crack Open a Coconut
Cracking a coconut may seem daunting, but with a bit of patience and practice it can be done easily. First, find the softest eye on the coconut and create a hole with a metal skewer or corkscrew. Puncturing a second hole will allow easier drainage. Drain out all the coconut water, and retain it for other purposes.
Next, strike the coconut several times with a hammer or the blunt side of a heavy kitchen knife such as a cleaver, hitting carefully but quite hard around the middle or “equator” of the coconut. It may take 10-20 strikes to split the shell in half.
You can also skip the draining step if desired and simply crack the coconut over a bowl to collect the coconut water.
How to Separate Coconut Meat From the Shell
Remove the white flesh from the coconut halves by inserting a butter knife between the flesh and the shell. If the flesh is difficult to remove, use a paring knife to carefully cut the flesh into pieces, making it easier to remove.
Placing the whole coconut in an oven at 375 F for 15 to 20 minutes can expedite the removal of the flesh, but bear in mind that overheating a coconut may change its flavor and texture slightly. Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to remove the exterior brown skin layer from the coconut flesh.
As an alternative to using it for coconut cream, raw coconut flesh can be a great snack, or it can be shredded, dehydrated, toasted, and used in various desserts.
How to Make Coconut Cream Using a Juicer
If you have a juicer, making coconut cream is even simpler and easier, eliminating both the addition of water and the separation process. The juicer will turn pieces of coconut flesh directly into coconut cream, leaving behind a dry pulp. The cream can be strained and refrigerated until use, and the remaining pulp can be further dried for other uses.
Can I Turn Store-Bought Coconut Milk Into Coconut Cream?
An unopened can of full-fat coconut milk can be placed in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. The cold temperature will allow the coconut milk to separate and the fat to harden, with the thicker cream rising to the top and the thinner liquid settling at the bottom. Simply scoop out the solidified coconut cream and save the cloudy coconut water left behind for another use.
How to Use the Leftover Coconut Pulp
Coconut pulp can be added to smoothies or dried and used instead of bread crumbs for dredging (especially for baked fish), or as flour in macaroons, cookies, and crackers. When substituting coconut pulp for flour in baked goods, start by swapping no more than one-third of the flour for the coconut pulp for best results.
"The homemade coconut cream was much easier to make than I thought it would be, and the flavor was subtle, but more distinct than canned coconut cream. It was a fantastic addition to my hot chocolate, and I can't wait to use it in a curry." —Diana Rattray
3 mature coconuts
1 1/2 to 3 cups water
Steps to Make It
Gather the ingredients.
Drain the coconuts by inserting a metal skewer or a corkscrew into one or two of the coconut eyes. Allow the coconut water to drain into a bowl, and reserve it for another use.
Crack open the coconuts using a hammer or the blunt side of a large knife.
Use a butter knife to pry the coconut flesh from the shells. Then use a vegetable peeler to remove the brown, fibrous layer that covers the white flesh.
Cut the coconut flesh into small pieces and place them in a blender. Add the water and blend until you have a smooth and creamy mixture. If the texture was too dense, add up to an additional 1 1/2 cups of water.
Pour the mixture into a nut milk bag or several layers of cheesecloth over a bowl and squeeze to remove all the liquid. You should be left with a thick and creamy liquid in the bowl, and a fairly dry pulp inside the nut milk bag that can be saved for other purposes.
Transfer the liquid from the bowl into a narrow jar with a lid, and place it in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours. Over that time the liquid will separate, with the coconut cream rising to the top and a much thinner liquid collecting underneath.
Scoop out the coconut cream, and refrigerate until needed. Save the thinner liquid for other purposes.
How to Store Coconut Cream
Store your homemade coconut cream in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. Alternatively, it can be placed in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Frozen coconut cream can be thawed out overnight in the fridge or used directly in soups, stews, and curries.