Do you have a whole lot of coconut milk just laying around, and don’t know what to do ?
How about freezing it, is that possible ?
If not, how else can you store coconut milk ?
This is what we’re going to talk about today, and give you a few useful tips for storing coconut milk. First, we need to understand what coconut milk is, so we’re on the same page here.
What is coconut milk ?
Coconut milk is a plant milk, made up of the blended coconut flesh. The fats and proteins get separated naturally, and they are then suspended in hot water.
Essentially, the coconut flesh is grated pressed vie cheesecloth in hot water, until all the fats and proteins are now in the hot water.
The very thickest coconut milk – called coconut cream – is done only with warmed coconut flesh, and not added water.
Thinner coconut milk is made with added water. This lowers the fat content and also makes it a bit easier to handle. The thickness of the coconut milk may vary from brand to brand.
This kind of milk is actually an emulsion (like mayonnaise). This means that it may actually separate, under certain conditions, but usually it’s pretty stable.
So can you freeze coconut milk ?
Yes, you can freeze coconut milk. You should use an airtight, freezer-safe container to freeze it since (as any liquid) it will expand and contract during freezing and thawing and the container may burst or leak.
The texture will not be very pleasant after you thaw it, but there’s a workaround for that.
Keep coconut milk frozen up to 30 days
Don’t keep things in the freezer for too long.
This applies to coconut milk as well, since there’s a separation process that happens when it freezes.
The main problem is from the protein that is separated. Like with meat, it may develop freezer burns if kept for too long, and this will alter both the flavor and the taste.
What happens when you freeze coconut milk
Alright, what about that separation ?
As mentioned coconut milk is an emulsion, this means that fats are blended together with water and this results in a creamy substance. You can break an emulsion by disrupting the balance of fats-to-water, or by exposing it to extreme temperatures.
In the case of coconut milk – any milk actually, especially dairy milk – the fats and proteins will separate from each other, and from their suspension.
The water that’s normally in coconut milk (like dairy whey) will be separated from the fats and milk, and you need to emulsify them again.
If you don’t, the texture of the milk will be grainy and not exactly pleasant.
We had this one can of coconut milk that was all white on the top and when we added it to a curry we realized it was JUST coconut fat.
The milk was much lower in the can, since it had separated in the fridge and we didn’t notice. If you look closely at a separated can of coconut milk you’ll notice that the fats are white but slightly transparent (noticeable around the edges) and the solids or proteins are opaque and a bit brighter.
Is coconut cream any different ?
No, coconut cream behaves like coconut milk when frozen. It has no added water, that’s true, but there’s way more fat in this coconut product.
This means there’s more that’s going to separate from the protein and whey.
And even with no water added, there’s still some whey-like liquid present in the coconut cream, only it’s the coconut flesh’s natural liquid, not added water.
Blend coconut milk after thawing
The workaround for separated coconut milk is actually to blend it all together again. As long as it’s reasonably warm, like room temp, it should all blend back together beautifully.
You’ll notice that even canned coconut milk may be separated, with the whey on the bottom and the fats on top in a thick, hard layer. This is what usually happens if you even put the milk in the fridge, it starts to separate.
Give thawed coconut milk a quick blend (whether immersion or regular), or if you’re feeling like you need a workout you can use a whisk. Or, if you’ve got a jar or something similar that’s going to stay closed tightly you can shake it for several seconds to knock everything back into place.
Any of these methods work, because they’re agitating the ingredients and this is basically what creates an emulsion.
Other storage options for coconut milk
Alright, if you’ve got lotsa coconut milk and don’t want to freeze it, there’s other ways you can keep it.
These methods are going to vary in efficiency depending on how good the coconut milk is. One made with a couple of stabilizers (usually it’s the canned versions) are going to keep very well, as opposed to fresh versions.
Keep fresh coconut milk in the fridge for up to 1 week
If you’ve made coconut milk from scratch, congrats ! That’s actually a nice skill to have, and it also means you can use the coconut shreds as dried coconut flakes.
Right, so if you’ve got freshly made coconut milk it can be kept in the fridge for up to 7 days. We recommend giving it a stir every now and then, just to make sure it doesn’t separate.
Opened, canned coconut milk can last up to two weeks
If you’ve got opened coconut milk than you can keep it for up to two weeks. The reason we say two weeks and not longer is because we’ve actually tried this and it never seems to last more than that.
Canned coconut milk will usually solidify on the top (depending on the fat content), so if you’re going to scoop it with a spoon to put in food or coffee, make sure the spoon is clean.
If you only need a little at a time it’s very important to use a clean utensil to get the milk or cream out, otherwise those two weeks will turn into 24 hours.
Always, always leave the coconut milk very well closed. We’re talking cling wrap, aluminium foil, anything you can use to create an airtight seal.
Otherwise you’ll get lovely white, fluffy mold growing on the top and you’ll need to throw it all away.
Unopened canned coconut milk can last for months
If you’ve got an unopened can of coconut milk then you should really only worry about it if you can’t remember when you bought it.
These are usually made to be shelf-stable and their ‘use by’ date is a pretty good indicator, so go for that.
If you’re keeping it in the fridge, know that it might separate if it’s got a large fat content.
In terms of exactly how many months, again check the ‘use by’ date printed. If you choose to store it in the fridge you could keep it for a bit longer, but we wouldn’t recommend it.
Try using leftover coconut milk
Okay, what can you do with leftover coconut milk ? Aside from freezing or storing it.
Well there’s several ways to use it, and we’ll list here two of the most common ones we know of. A good rule of thumb would be to use it as you would any regular milk, but keep in mind it’s got a little more fat.
Use it in coffee
One of the best ways to use coconut milk (in our very biased opinion) is to use it in coffee. Add a splash of rum extract and you’ve got a coffee that’s very close in flavor to rum balls:
Rum – just extract, but yes. You can add actual rum if you like.
Coconut flakes – coconut milk, but check.
Chocolate – no, but we’ve got coffee so it’s in the ballpark.
Sweet – definitely.
Another way to use it, aside from coffee, is in smoothies. If you’ve got a thicker milk just thin it out with a bit more water, the flavor will still be there.
Try baking with it – mind the extra fat
You could also try using coconut milk in some baking recipes, whether it for a really moist cake batter or for some nice pastry, it’ll work fine.
It’s the extra fat that’s actually going to keep the sweets moist, so there won’t be as much need for butter or oil to be added.
We hope this article got you the answers you were looking for. Coconut milk is really great and you can use it in all kinds of combinations, aside from a curry or two.
As long as you like the flavor and are willing to experiment, it’s come out great.
And now there’s no need to freeze it, so that’s another win !
If you’ve got any food curiosities be sure to check the related articles below, we’re always adding more food facts to make your life that much easier.