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With the high prevalence of people choosing vegan foods and people living with food allergies, dairy-free milk substitutes are becoming increasingly popular.  I remember my little brother being lactose intolerant when he was young and his doctor recommending he drink goat’s milk, which still contains lactose but for some reason is easier to digest than cow’s milk.  My sister and I teased him relentlessly (all in good fun…what are loving big sisters for?), calling him a little “kid” (bad pun, I know).  Anyway, nowadays even in regular grocery stores you can usually find several different kinds of dairy-free milk, including rice, almond, soy, and coconut milk, to name a few.  While dairy-free milk products are commonly available, they are often thought of as being specialty products and are typically pricier than regular cow’s milk.  So why not make your own?

Coconut milk is easy to make; it requires only two ingredients – coconut and water – and minimal equipment.  Making it at home yields both coconut cream and milk (if you let it stand in the fridge, the cream will rise to the top and the milk will sink to the bottom, just like what you would find if you were to open a can of coconut milk). 

And even after extracting the milk, coconut pulp has its uses, so don’t throw it out.  Here are a few ideas for what to do with it: 

  • Add it to pancake, muffin, or cake batter
  • Add it to cake frosting
  • Add it to pudding
  • Add it to oatmeal
  • Add it to a smoothie
  • Spread it on toast with a drizzle of honey
  • Dry it out in the oven and use it as breadcrumbs for breading things like chicken

So now the $64,000 question:  what does it taste like?  (After all, in the end it’s the taste that really matters, right?)  Coconut milk is subtly sweet and has a faint coconut aroma.  It’s great to drink on its own or use in coffee, puddings, curries, soups, or pretty much anywhere else you would use milk.  Coconut cream tastes like coconut milk, but with a thicker, richer consistency.  Coconut cream works well as a cream substitute, and to make things like ice cream, curries, or whipped cream (just use an electric beater and whip until soft peaks form).

I really enjoyed making coconut milk.  I’ve never milked a cow, but I can only imagine that making my own coconut milk was rewarding in the same way that milking a cow would be (you know, as Steinbeck said, the whole living off the fat of the land thing).  I’m actually thinking of trying my hand at homemade rice and soy milk as well.

How to Make Coconut Milk (Adopted slightly from Best Ever Indian Cookbook’s Instructions for Making Coconut Milk)

(Yield:  About 1 1/2 c after first press; about 4 1/2 c after three presses)

6 oz desiccated (unsweetened shredded) coconut (about 2 1/3 c)*

2 c boiling water for each of three presses





Food processor

Step 1:  Line a strainer with cheesecloth (double thickness) and place the strainer over a bowl.

Step 2:  Put the coconut in a food processor and carefully pour 2 c boiling water on top.  Process for 45 seconds, then let the coconut cool a bit. 

Step 3:  Pour the pureed coconut into the cheesecloth.

Step 4:  Gather together the corners of the cheesecloth and twist to wring out the milk. 

Step 5:  To do a second press (in which you will end up with more coconut milk and less coconut cream), repeat steps 2-4 with the same coconut, reusing the same piece of cheesecloth.  

Step 6:  Do a third press in exactly the same way as the second press.

The milk can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 days (it will separate into coconut milk and coconut cream). 

*I used desiccated coconut, but you could also use fresh coconut here.

Desiccated Coconut

Step 2:  Process Coconut & Water in a Food Processor

Step 3:  Pour Pureed Coconut into Cheesecloth

Step 4:  Gather Together Corners of Cheesecloth and Twist to Wring out Milk

Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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  1. Making it right now for the first time (thank you for the recipe!), I plan to use it for tapioca pudding :)

  2. I’ve used coconut milk often but never tried making it, does seem doable even for me :)
    I can’t wait to see soy and rice milks too…cool

  3. I would of never thought it would be so easy! I just bought a whole bunch of coconut yesterday – can’t wait to do this – you’re a genius!

  4. Oh i make coconut milk too , but for curries:-)
    I love this post and ur pics!
    I dont use the Cheese cloth thought and we actually dont find it here but i have a sub!!
    ur coconut milk looks sooo creamy and good!

  5. Very nice rendition of how to make coconut milk!

  6. Faith,

    I make my own coconut milk and know exactly how it tastes. May I have the $64cG’s now? I’ll give you a routing number.

    Next level, huh? Rice and soy. Go for it. Anything homemade is much better than store bought. Your tutorial was masterful and your photos spot-on. Very well done.

    I wonder how many people actually got the “kid” thing? Not many I would venture to guess.

  7. 5 Star Foodie says:

    This is very cool, to make your own coconut milk! An excellent tutorial and I’m bookmarking to do this for a cool project with 5 Star Foodie Junior.

  8. Interesting how you used dessicated coconut to extract milk. Lucky for me, coconut milk can be bought at the market very easily!

  9. sounds light and refreshing… my mind is thinking of all the ways to use it- i love how you are always thinking outide the box…

  10. I love coconut milk, specially to make dessert or sweet soups..

  11. I normally use coconut milk in cooking and not so much as a beverage. Recently, I found them in cartons at the health food store. Extracting your own is probably more economical. Thanks for sharing.

  12. So tasty! Artie has been having issues with milk lately so we have been rocking almond milk in our house. I love adding coconut milk to pumpkin pie…sooooo tasty!

  13. I’ve never thought of making my own coconut milk before – love the idea!

  14. Wow, I really want to try this! I wonder if I could make it without a food processor? I’ve actually never tried coconut milk, we generally use rice milk. But I’d be curious to try making rice milk as well.

  15. I’ve heard so many people talk about this! I really need to try it.

  16. Wow…that’s really brilliant! I love coconut in my cooking. Never thought of extracting coconut milk from desiccated coconut. Would love to try one day. Thanks very much for sharing.

  17. Neat, Faith! I wonder if it would be good with unsweetened coconut? I find goat’s milk products WAY easier on my stomach….

  18. Great info, Faith. My daughter is always asking me to buy a fresh coconut, and now I know what to do with it! Stumbled! :)

  19. darn it! i wanted to see a picture of you wielding a machete and attacking a few whole coconuts!

  20. What an excellent tutorial, Faith, and one that brings back such good memories! I lived for many years in the Philippines, where, at the time, the only way to obtain coconut milk was to make it oneself. Market ladies sold the just-ground fresh coconut meat in plastic bags, and we would take it home and make it just as you teach here, but minus the food processor. Just a whole lot of squeezing with one’s hands!

  21. This looks sooooo good. I love coconut milk and all its creamy richness :) I love the “kid” joke…I thought it was funny, anyways :)

  22. I’m really impressed that you make your own coconut milk. It’s something I never would have thought of doing and this is a great service to others who might like to try. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings…Mary.

  23. I love coconut milk, use it all the time. Wonderful post, Faith, for people who have never tried it. I use it in so many recipes too.

  24. What an awesome post and an amazing undertaking! I actually only drink almond milk because I like the taste and because I don’t feel comfortable buying non-organic milk but organic is so expensive. Oh and because it’s shelf stable. Major plus. This coconut milk looks amazing however. I just can’t get over the fact that you made it yourself. Well done.

  25. I love posts like this. Practical, healthy, important. However, it is SO difficult to get a fresh coconut here. They are sold all of the time, but are almost always bad when I buy them.

  26. Amazing! I adore coconut milk, but I’ve never thought to make it at home. You should submit this to punk domestics. I think they would love it! Thank you for sharing. I hope your week brims with hope and joy.

  27. Faith,

    We used to extract coconut milk from fresh coconut. Getting from dessicated coconut is wonderful idea. I like it.

  28. How cool! I’d love to try this. I love using coconut milk in so many of my recipes. Was the coconut very expensive? I have Bob’s store right down the road and I may be able to get it in bulk.

  29. Okay, the “kid” joke is pretty bad… but I still laughed. But I tend to have a juvenile sense of humor, tee hee! ;) This is a fun idea, not something I would have thought to try on my own. Thanks for sharing! I went through a soymilk phase for a while, and then an almond milk phase… now we’re back to cow’s milk as we’re supporting a local dairy’s business by buying their products. Maybe sometime soon I should post about them. :)

  30. Wow, this is easier than I thought. I figured you’d need to crack your own coconuts or something, but this is way better :) Thanks so much for sharing!

  31. That looks really good! I love how many uses there are for the used coconut as well. No waste! I’m a huge fan of coconut milk; I may have to try this!

  32. I used to watch my dad milk our cow, but I’ve never seen anyone milk a coconut. :) This is a handy thing to know how to make- I always try to keep desiccated coconut on hand.

  33. Hahaha…. You and your sister…. hilarious, had a good chuckle at the unintentional pun used in teasing your ‘kid’ brother. :)
    This post is wonderful Miss Faith, I’ve never tried to make my own coconut milk or cream… To the shops I go!

  34. This will sound really silly but I didn’t realise that you could get milk out of dessicated coconut! I thought once it was dessicated and dried then you couldn’t and could only get it from fresh coconut meat. Thanks Faith! :D

  35. Great post! I’ve never tried to make my own before, but I adore coconut milk. I’m interested to try both this and homemade almond milk.

  36. Wow!
    That’s so adventurous of you. I am sure it would be very rewarding.

  37. I gotta tell Faith, while I like coconut milk I’m much too lazy to make my own. :)

  38. I bet this beats the canned stuff by a long shot. The coconut milk looks so creamy and delicious. Thanks for showing us just how easy it is to make the real deal.

  39. Faith…what don’t you do? LOL
    I’m always interested in how versatile you are in the kitchen ;o)

    BTW…my ‘Nonna’ in Italy had to drag me kicking and screaming into the barn…and with all that…I still stood ground on never milking a cow. Now, making coconut milk, I can handle!

    This was a great learning experience…thanks ;)

    Ciao for now,

  40. your too funny, I got this visual of you sitting on a stool under a coconut milking it….not quite the same as a cow!
    I’d love to see your recipes for soy and rice milk!


  41. Dairy-free products are not common in Turkey. But this looks like a great way to make your own milk at home. By the way, I milked a cow as a child and it was so exciting! I’m sure your method is exciting, too.

  42. I am a huge fan of almond milk and always have it on hand. I am yet to try coconut milk. Maybe my first should be homemade- great recipe!

  43. I have never made or seen how to make coconut milk. This post was very educative Faith. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  44. That looked pretty simple and I’m sure it’s really tasty! I can’t stand soy milk so have been drinking almond milk. Might have to give this coconut milk a try!

  45. Home-made coconut milk (as well as soy, rice and almond milk!) are soooo much better than any shop bought ones! Delicious!

  46. That is super cool, I am of to buy coconut today. And it will be easy to do even without a kitchen which is my problem now. I am more excited about the cream rising then the milk I think…just cool

  47. Hi Gorgeous!

    Thank you for this recipe…I’ve been hearing about more and more people drinking coconut and almond milk. I haven’t had a glass of cow’s milk in 20 years and i would love to give this a try. I love Carol’s comment…my favorite candy bar…LOL!

    I have missed you sweet friend and can’t thank you enough for your friendship…you truly are one in a million and I adore your sweet and gentle soul…I am lucky to call you friend!


    1. Karyn, Thanks so much for the lovely comment! You are such a dear, sweet friend and your words always brighten my day. Hope you have a beautiful day, sweetie! XO

  48. Looks like a good project! Looks so good, too!
    I’m thinking chocolate syrup and it would be like drinking a mounds bar!

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