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In this season of thankfulness, I’m finding myself increasingly grateful for some of life’s simplest things…like thick and creamy coconut milk. It has made living dairy-free so much easier for me. Saying goodbye to heavy cream and milk is a breeze when you have coconut milk stocked in your pantry.
This post is going to teach you how to make thick coconut cream, an absolute essential in the dairy-free kitchen. It seems like coconut everything has hit the fan nationwide these days, so here’s a quick primer on some different-but-similar coconut products you’ll find out there:
- Coconut oil: This is 100% fat. Coconut oil is nothing but the oil (no flesh, no additives, just the oil). It melts at about 75 degrees but is solid and soft between 65 and 75.
- Coconut butter/manna: Coconut butter is the oil and flesh blended together, so you get much more flavor, fiber, texture, and density than with the oil alone. Coconut oil and coconut butter are NOT interchangeable! They both have very different purposes. Coconut butter will melt when heated and is solid at room temperature. It can also be called coconut cream concentrate.
- Coconut milk: Sold in cans and cartons, coconut milk is the coconut meat blended with water. Note that in the can, coconut is labelled “original” and “lite.” I always choose the original, as this contains the full amount of fat and is much more satisfying. Coconut milk “beverage” is what you’ll find in the carton by the almond milk and soy milk. It is meant to be used for things like smoothies and cereal, not your coconut curry recipe or dairy-free ice cream.
- Coconut cream: This is what I’ll teach you how to make today. It’s the thick, creamy portion of coconut milk that rises to the top of a can after you’ve chilled it. Note that it is NOT the same thing as coconut cream concentrate (see above, “Coconut butter/manna”). Trader Joe’s is now selling canned coconut cream, but I’m not a fan since it contains a bunch of junky fillers. Make it yourself to bypass the weird stuff!
Make Your Own Coconut Cream
Start by choosing an organic, full fat brand of coconut milk in the can. “Lite” coconut milk will not work for this. For consistent results, Thai Kitchen Organic is my favorite. (Note that they also sell a non-organic brand, so read labels carefully.) I’ve also had success with Native Forest, but the results are not as consistent. Friends of mine have tried the Arroy-D brand (not organic, though) and swear by it. I tried it once and it did work, but I didn’t like the flavor at all.
Chill your can of coconut milk in the refrigerator for 24 hours or more. I usually keep a can or two in the fridge at all times just so I have it at the ready.
When you’re ready to use the cream, carefully open the can and scoop out the thick cream on the top. Be careful to leave behind the liquid that will settle in the bottom 1/4 or so of the can. Discard the water or use for smoothies. The amount of coconut cream yielded from each can will vary. I find that I get the most with Thai Kitchen Organic.
That’s it! With a good chill in the fridge, coconut cream pretty much makes itself. Here are some extra tips:
- Do the shake test in the store. Some cans have already separated during transit in cold temperatures. Shake the can next to your ear in the store. Try to find one that doesn’t sound “sloshy.” If you hear nothing, that’s a good sign that the coconut milk is already somewhat separated and you’ll have better results.
- Buy more cans than you need. It’s always good to have a back-up in case the first can doesn’t separate.
- Store leftover coconut cream in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use it in any recipe that calls for coconut cream.
- To make whipped coconut cream, scoop the coconut cream from the can into a mixing bowl. Add desired sweetener (I like honey or stevia) and any desired flavorings (such as vanilla or cinnamon) and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy, 2 minutes or so. Coconut cream will lighten up a bit, but it doesn’t increase in volume like heavy whipping cream.
There you have it! Stop by tomorrow for a pumpkin recipe you won’t want to miss! (Hint: it’s gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soy-free, refined sugar-free, vegetarian, and vegan.)