Anyone who has ever used coconut milk, whether it’s from a can or a carton, will know that a little goes a long way due to the distinctive flavor.
Coconut milk is great for thickening curries and soups or used as a milk alternative for vegans or those who are lactose intolerant.
However, it’s one of those products that we can end up wasting a lot of when we don’t use it up in time, especially if you only use coconut milk occasionally.
You can freeze coconut milk, however, it can be a little tricky and it will alter the texture slightly.
The manufacturers of both the beverage and canned version do not recommend freezing it, as it can change the texture and taste.
However, many people still freeze it as a way to reduce food waste and to ensure they have a handy supply of it at all times. This way they don’t have to worry about it going bad in the space of a few days.
We’ll talk you through the best ways to freeze coconut milk including everything you need to consider beforehand, and afterward.
How to freeze coconut milk
Method 1: cubes
One of the easiest ways to freeze coconut milk is by using ice cubes.
These allow you to easily thaw as much coconut milk as you need rather than the entire amount.
Pour your coconut milk into an ice-cube tray. You can also use ice cube bags, although these aren’t as environmentally friendly as you can’t reuse them.
Place the trays in the freezer and store them there until the cubes are frozen. This takes between 3-5 hours, but to stay on the safe side you can leave them in the freezer overnight. This ensures that the whole cube is frozen, not just the top bit.
Once the cubes are completely frozen, you can then transfer them into freezer bags or containers. You’ll need to do this quickly so that the cubes don’t start to thaw. You can keep the cubes in the tray if you want, but it may be easier to transfer them into a container so you have your ice-cube trays available.
Now place your bags of cubes in the freezer until you need them.
Method 2: containers
This method takes less time but is not as convenient as freezing your coconut milk in cubes, as it means you have to defrost the entire portion.
Because of this, it’s best to freeze the precise amount you’ll need, or if you’re unsure, freeze smaller amounts, such as a half or quarter of a cup.
Pour the coconut milk into containers, leaving some head-space as the milk will expand when frozen. If your coconut milk is the carton variety, you can freeze it in its original packaging as long as it isn’t full.
Once you’ve done this, simply label with the date and transfer to the freezer. And that’s it.
How to defrost coconut milk
There are multiple ways to defrost your coconut milk, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.
The best way to thaw most frozen food is overnight in the refrigerator. Coconut milk will take between 3-5 hours to thaw in the fridge, but bear in mind that this largely depends on the size of the cubes. If they’re large, they may take longer. Ideally, you should leave them overnight to defrost, and if you require the coconut milk for a special occasion, plan ahead and defrost beforehand so you have everything ready.
You can also thaw coconut milk in cold water. This doesn’t take long: simply place the container or bag in cold water and it should be defrosted in a couple of hours.
If you’re short on time, you can defrost your milk in the microwave. It’s best to do it in short bursts, making sure you stir in between until the milk is fully defrosted.
If you’re using the coconut milk in a cooked recipe, such as in a curry or soup, you can simply throw it in frozen – if you’ve frozen it in cubes. You’ll just need to add on a few extra minutes to the cooking time to allow for the milk to melt into your recipe. Be sure to stir the thawed coconut milk well to improve the texture.
You can also run the frozen or thawed coconut milk through the blender. This will help create a smoother consistency and ensure the milk hasn’t separated.
Factors to consider before freezing coconut milk
When you freeze coconut milk, it tends to separate when thawed. This results in changes to the texture and taste, as the solids separate from the liquids and it can feel slightly grainy.
Thankfully, there’s an easy way to fix this. Simply run the separated milk through the blender to bring its consistency pretty much back to normal.
It won’t be quite as fresh as when you drink it straight from the store, but thawed coconut milk is more than fine for adding to recipes.
Different brands of coconut milk will freeze differently, so you may have to try out a few to see which one works best for you.
Your favorite brand may not be the one that freezes well and tastes as good when thawed as it does fresh!
If possible, think ahead about how you might use the milk.
You’ll rarely need a large proportion of it, which is why we love the ice cube method, as it allows you to take as much as you need without defrosting the entire lot.
Think ahead and plan accordingly. It’s best to thaw coconut milk overnight to ensure it’s properly defrosted, so try to do this the day before you need the milk.
If you do forget, or you’re simply short on time, you can of course use the other methods such as cold water or even more conveniently – the microwave.
If you can use coconut milk fresh, it’s always best to do so, as this is when it tastes its best. If you must freeze it, there’s plenty of ways to do this but just be aware that it will alter the texture, and maybe the taste, too.
However, thawed coconut milk is ideal for adding to a range of recipes, for example, the drink variety works well as a substitute coffee creamer or can be added to pancake mix or smoothies, while the canned one can be added to curries or used in baking.
The easiest way to improve the taste and texture of thawed coconut milk is to blend it until it’s nice and smooth again.