Fresh Coconut Curry – and how to make Homemade Coconut Milk

I have been working at juice bars for over 2 years now where we make fresh coconut milk daily.  It’s a tasty treat that isn’t too hard to whip up, just takes the confidence to swing around knives large enough to crack open the young Thai coconut’s shell.  At one place I worked they required us to wear a chain mail glove on one hand to prevent the loss of any digits – a small price to pay for the light, sweet, creamy taste of freshly made coconut milk.

We would blend it into smoothies, or into raw soups and desserts, but its also great to cook with and a much healthier version than the stuff you find in a can.  The coconut water is extremely hydrating because it is rich in electrolytes, while the coconut meat is full of good fats.  You can make the milk into vegan ice cream, use it in a dressing or sauce, or cook it down with homemade curry powder and a load of fresh veggies like I have here.
fresh coconut curry
2 1/2 c homemade coconut milk
1 1/2 tbsp curry powder (see below)
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 medium red onion
2 cloves garlic
1 medium portobello mushroom
1 medium carrot
1 heaping cup of chopped green beans
1 1/2 c chopped red cabbage
1 small head of broccoli
10 medium basil leaves

yields 3-4 servings


homemade curry powder
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
3 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp cumin powder
2 tsp chinese 5 spice powder
1 tsp ground white peper
1 tsp garlic powder


Making the coconut milk

Make your coconut milk ahead of time so its ready to go.  This is pretty simple actually, you’ve just got to pick up some young thai coconuts at your local thai market, and get a little practice at cracking them open.

To do this, you must have a large knife with a little weight behind it, then sharpen it to reduce resistance. Since I’m right-handed I hold the coconut steady with my left hand, and the knife in my right.  Then I bring the knife down swiftly on the right side of the coconut, creating a little slit in the top of the husk and a tiny crack in the shell inside.  Now turn the coconut 1/5th or 1/6th of a turn and give it another crack.  Continue to do this until you have connected all of the cuts and created a removable lid.  If it doesn’t come off easily simply wedge it open with the corner of the knife.

If the water or flesh is even slightly pink, I usually toss the coconut, as it can make you sick. This isn’t usually an issue with fresh coconuts.

If the flesh is white, hopefully its thick enough to make thick enough milk, but not so thick that its hard to blend.  This coconut yielded the perfect amount, about 2 cups of water that made 2 and 1/2 cups milk when the flesh was blended in.  Pour the coconut water into the blender and add in the meat as you scoop it out. Sometimes, if the hole in the top is big enough you can scoop it out of the whole coconut, but sometimes I need to make a series of cracks around the coconut, dividing it in half, then pry it apart.

If the flesh is too thin or so thick its hard to spoon out, consider using a different coconut.  If the one you choose is too small, add another one.  If the milk you make ends up being too thick you can always add a bit of purified water.  Don’t worry about making too much milk, you’ll find a use for it.

Blend on high for at least 2 minutes to make sure all little bits have been broken up.  Then run through a fine strainer in case any bits of the husk or shell are left.  Luckily very little needed to be strained out of the mixture.

There’s no exact science to it, you’ll get the hang of it as you go.  Once you get used to making it you can use it in all sorts of different recipes!


Making the curry powder

Prep your curry powder beforehand as well.  I used whole coriander and fennel seeds, toasted them in a dry skillet over high heat, but if you can add in whole cumin seeds, peppercorns or peppers if you’d like your curry hot.

Once toasted i toss them in my mortar to them grind up, but use an electric spice grinder if you have one.

Then mix them with the rest of the powders.  Store the extra in a sealed container.


Putting it all together

Chop up all of your veggies and mince your garlic.  Since I like my carrots cooked well I made sure to slice them thinly.  and I don’t much like broccoli stems much so I just used the florets.

Heat up 1 cup of the coconut milk over medium-high heat in a large skillet, then sprinkle in the curry powder and salt, and stir.  Toss in the onion, garlic and mushroom and cook for 2 minutes.  Add in the sliced carrot and cook another 2 minutes until they soften a bit.  Add in the remaining coconut milk, as well as the remaining veggies and cook for 3 more minutes.  cut the heat and add in your basil leaves, stir until they wilt in.

Serve immediately!


10 Responses to “Fresh Coconut Curry – and how to make Homemade Coconut Milk”
  1. Allyson says:

    wow! the colors in this post are fantastic… and making fresh coconut milk sounds like a wonderful idea. 🙂

  2. DJ Karma says:

    Excellent! I was just thinking of making my own curry spice. Thanks for sharing your expertise in making coconut milk too… looks beautiful.

  3. t says:

    I’ve been looking for a homemade curry powder recipe, this one looks great!

  4. andrea devon says:

    this is so very helpful. i am lucky to live on hawaii where local organic coconuts abound- especially here on maui. when i do splurge on coconut oil or canned coconut milk i always bemoan the fact that there is not a local producer of coconut milk/oil. now i will just collect the coconuts and make my own. thank you much! aloha, andrea

  5. Nicole says:

    I know this question comes months after the fact, but how do you recommend storing left over coconut milk? I can’t get coconuts very often here, and the canned variety really isn’t nearly as flavorful and rich in texture. Is it possible to freeze it or use another somewhat more long term storage method than refrigeration?

    BTW, I adore your blog utterly. 🙂 Thank you for worlds of delicious and unpretentious vegan inspiration!

  6. Angie says:

    Wow – I didn’t know you could make your own coconut milk. This rocks!! By the way, your pictures are gorgeous!

  7. Wow that looks delish! Who knew you could make your own coconut milk!!!


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