17 Sweet And Savory Coconut Milk Recipes

Coconut milk is an underappreciated hero in the culinary world — and one ingredient that all home cooks should always have on hand. Although it's often thought to be the liquid sloshing around in the center of a fruit, coconut milk is extracted from the coconut's meat, giving it a creamier, more milk-like consistency. This liquid is sold canned in several varieties, including regular (full-fat) and lite (or reduced-fat). The full-fat yields a thick layer on top, which is sold separately as coconut cream, and a watery layer below it. 

Lite coconut milk has the fat skimmed off, which saves a few calories but sacrifices the thick consistency and full-bodied flavor. Coconut milk in the carton is much more heavily diluted, which makes it a replacement for dairy in lattes and beverages. When selecting a type of coconut milk, always choose the type indicated in the recipe. Otherwise, you could alter the texture dramatically. 

If you're looking for a way to use leftover coconut milk cans in your pantry, check out some of our favorite recipes. Many highlight Thai and Asian flavors, where coconut milk is a staple ingredient, while others use it as a dairy-free replacement for milk in sweet recipes. 

Garlic Shrimp in Coconut Milk

This recipe is your entry into Thai cooking — even if you've never worked with these ingredients. Plump shrimp are cooked in a rich sauce of traditional ingredients, including lemongrass, curry, ginger, fish sauce, and full-fat coconut milk. You can customize this recipe by adding pieces of bird's eye chili (also called Thai chili) or dried peppers to bump up the Scoville rating and impart some extra heat. Serve your shrimp over warmed jasmine rice or aside a Thai cucumber salad for a fresh dinner idea. 

Recipe: Garlic Shrimp in Coconut Milk

Vegetable Coconut Curry

Vegans deserve the opportunity to enjoy delicious takeout-inspired fare, too. Our vegetable coconut curry recipe is seasoned with copious amounts of sweet curry powder, turmeric, cumin, and coriander. The other ingredients include hunks of nutrient-dense veggies like butternut squash, tomatoes, cauliflower florets, and diced green beans. This curry keeps well for several days, and we think the flavor improves the longer it melds together. Complete your meal with a serving of rice, noodles, or naan. 

Recipe: Vegetable Coconut Curry

Coconut Curry Mussels

You won't have to go out to a fancy restaurant to sample delicious mussels. Instead, you can whip together this simple, easy meal at home with fresh mussels from the seafood counter, a can of coconut milk, and aromatic ingredients like ground ginger, garlic, curry powder, and onion. Top your mussels with chopped cilantro and lime and accompany it with a slice of crusty bread. Although this seafood dish doesn't tend to reheat well, we doubt you'll have many leftovers. 

Recipe: Coconut Curry Mussels

Coconut Chai Rice Pudding

Chai is a welcoming, warming flavor that is perfect in tea. However, in this recipe, we're bringing the beloved blend of spices to rice pudding instead. Rice is cooked with star anise, cinnamon, and vanilla extract until it's flavorful and soft. Then, it's brought together with brown sugar, cardamom, nutmeg, and ground cloves before being served cold and garnished with extra spices. This recipe makes several batches of rice pudding that will keep well in the fridge for up to three days. 

Recipe: Coconut Chai Rice Pudding

Fresh and Vibrant Coconut Fish Curry

The saltiness in any seafood always pairs well with the creaminess of coconut curry. This recipe utilizes several different types of seafood, including tiger prawns, hake, and skinless salmon, to infuse a fresh-from-the-sea flavor into the recipe. However, use whatever fish is freshest at your local market.

You can reheat this dish, but you'll need to be careful. The microwave should be avoided because it will cause the fish to become rubbery. Instead, when it's time to reheat, do so slowly in an oven or skillet until warm. 

Recipe: Fresh And Vibrant Coconut Fish Curry

Coconut and Lime Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs are a hearty protein and are best paired with a flavorful sauce. This recipe is seasoned with shallots, garlic, and ginger, giving it strong, aromatic qualities and a punchy flavor. After the chicken finishes cooking, the dish is completed with fish sauce and lime juice to round out its flavor. While our version is made with poultry, you can substitute chicken thighs for tofu or seafood or stick to a vegetable-only curry with crunchy bell peppers, tomatoes, and carrots. 

Recipe: Coconut and Lime Chicken Thighs

Coconut Banana Fritters

We never said eating fruit always had to be healthy. These fried donut balls are made with shredded coconut, mashed banana, flour, and binding ingredients. Then, they are plopped into a pan of hot oil and fried until they reach golden-brown perfection. Like other fried foods, fritters are best eaten the day they're fried — but we don't think you'll have a problem eating them yourself or sharing them with family and friends. 

Recipe: Coconut Banana Fritters

Coconut Lemongrass Fish Curry

This curry can be made with almost any cheap whitefish, like tilapia, without sacrificing the flavor. The key to elevating this curry dish is using fresh lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, and cilantro to make a bright dish, which is best accompanied by white rice to soak up the remaining coconut milk curry. You can also buy a bag of naan or pita bread to make the most of your flavorful broth. 

Recipe: Coconut Lemongrass Fish Curry

3-Ingredient Dairy-Free Fudge

Fudge is a delicious confectionary treat you will rarely find made without dairy. This recipe swaps out animal products with sweetened condensed coconut milk, dairy-free chocolate chips, and vanilla extract, making it a 100% vegan way to enjoy a classic dessert. Melt the ingredients together in a pot before pouring it into a pan to allow it to set and harden. It's a recipe that will last two to three months in an airtight container, so you can gift it to your friends and family or keep all the tasty fudge for yourself. 

Recipe: 3-Ingredient Dairy-Free Fudge

One-Pot Thai Coconut Soup

This is one soup recipe you'll want to add to your rotation. It's filled with numerous delicious, filling ingredients, including shredded chicken and sliced shiitake mushrooms, along with commonly found ingredients in Thai cuisine, like fish sauce, lime juice, and cilantro. You can add more or less ancho chili pepper to alter the spice level to fit your palate. Once the curry has cooked down, serve it with rice or noodles, or enjoy it straight from your favorite soup mug. 

Recipe: One-Pot Thai Coconut Soup

Pistachio Pudding

If you love the taste of pistachio ice cream, this pistachio pudding recipe is bound to take the cake ... er, pudding. It's made with fresh spinach and tapioca flour to give it an organic, slightly nutty flavor and bright green color. Moreover, the maple syrup's sweetening element and the fattiness of coconut milk take the dish beyond a smoothie and transform it into something that feels like a real dessert. Top each pudding cup with whipped cream and pistachios, and dig in!

Recipe: Pistachio Pudding

Braised Coconut Beef Ribs

This recipe is delicious for both summer and wintertime, and it gets extra brownie points because it can be made in a single pot. Beef ribs are first seared in a pan before being topped with Thai aromatic ingredients, sesame oil, and soy sauce. After an initial braise, everything is mixed with coconut milk, baby corn, water chestnuts, and bok choi and finished in the oven. This one-pot wonder is perfect for date night, especially when paired with a cool glass of sake.

Recipe: Braised Coconut Beef Ribs

Fresh, Aromatic Thai Shrimp Curry

Plump shrimp is the star of this aromatic shrimp curry dish, complete with notes of turmeric, Thai basil, and spicy chile peppers. The curry paste is DIY, so you can slightly alter the ingredients based on your palate. If you want to change up other aspects of the dish, you can substitute different veggies for the zucchini and green beans. However, don't skip out on the other greens, as these ingredients are critical for building traditional Thai flavors. 

Recipe: Fresh, Aromatic Thai Shrimp Curry

Coconut-Lime Shrimp Ceviche

Ceviche is a fresh, summery dish, and this version takes a unique Thai spin on things. After the shrimp is cured with lime and salt, it gets mixed with flavorful coconut milk, chilies, and soy sauce. If you're crunched for time, ceviche is the perfect recipe — it can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes. Serve it as a light appetizer or with a side of rice for a twist on a poke bowl. The one downside to this dish is that it can't be meal-prepped; the shrimp will continue to cure and eventually become rubbery. 

Recipe: Coconut-Lime Shrimp Ceviche

Hawaiian Butter Mochi

First, it's important not to confuse this dessert with pillowy balls of ice cream. Instead, Hawaiian butter mochi starts with mochiko, a sweet rice flour, which creates a batter with soft coconut custard and shredded coconut pieces. 

The key to getting the perfect slice on each piece is to allow your dish to cool sufficiently on a wire rack before sticking a knife inside. For best results, you should plan to separate the squares to allow them to cool; stacking the pieces would cause them to fuse. 

Recipe: Hawaiian Butter Mochi

Soft Cassava Cake

Cassava cake is a common dessert in the Philippines. However, this version has slightly different flavors and is made with a Dominican style in mind. It's made with fresh, grated cassava mixed with evaporated and condensed milk. Then, the top of the cake is topped with more custard before being baked and broiled for the optimal color. After being sliced, this cake can be enjoyed plain or spooned with dulce de leche on top. 

Recipe: Soft Cassava Cake

Classic Thai Mango Sticky Rice

We'll be honest: We often get takeout from our local Thai place just for the sticky rice. The key to this recipe is using glutinous rice, often sold under the label "sweet" or "sticky" rice, rather than other grain varieties you'd find at the grocery store. After steaming the rice, it can be mixed with the unsweetened coconut milk, sugar, and salt. The sweetness of the mango ties everything together, balancing the flavors to make a treat that feels wholesome and light. After all, there's always room for dessert. 

Recipe: Classic Thai Mango Sticky Rice