For when your recipe calls for half a can of coconut milk
Coconut Milk is a staple in my pantry. Fresh coconut milk is hard to come by in the Midwest (although here is a tutorial on how you can make your own from dried coconut--pretty similar to our Oat Milk recipe) so I usually buy canned. My current favorite variety is the Organic Simple Coconut Milk from Native Forest because there are no thickeners or preservatives. I try to buy a few cans when I see it on sale and then I save any leftover using the Coconut Cube method outlined in this post!
Benefits of Coconut
Coconut has become a golden child of the health food world because of its versatile culinary properties and its nutritional benefits. Different parts of the coconut and different coconut products have different nutrients (for example coconut oil versus coconut water) but coconut milk specifically is a good source of manganese which appears to be important for bone formation, blood sugar control, and protection against free radical damage.
Coconut milk is also very high in fat, which can be a good thing for largely plant-based diets that might be lacking in fat. (But also a reason to not go too overboard with your portioning.) Adding some coconut milk to a plant-based meal full of veggies is one way to make sure that you'll be full longer (fat triggers satiety hormones) and to make sure that your body can absorb the other fat-soluble vitamins that are present in the meal (like Vitamins A, E, and K). For those curious about the high levels of saturated fat in coconut milk you can read more about potential positive benefits here and negatives here.
Culinary-wise, coconut milk can:
- provide richness and creaminess
- substitute dairy in savory and sweet recipes
- make pudding, whipped cream, and other traditional desserts
- provide silkiness and body to curries and soups
- make smoothies more filling and decadent
- counteract acidity like lemon juice or tomato
How to save leftover coconut milk
Often recipes will only ask for a few tablespoons to a cup of canned coconut milk because of how rich it is. By dumping the whole can in to avoid leftovers, you could throw off the balance in your dish.
So I use a ice cube tray like this one* to freeze the extra coconut milk and then pop in the freezer. Bonus points if you want to measure out 1 tablespoon or 2 tablespoons per cube, that way you'll know exactly how much is in each cube.
Pop the tray into the freezer and wait for it to set. Then pop out the cubes and transfer to another container for the freezer for storage. Now you have Coconut Cubes!
How to use Coconut Cubes
These coconut cubes can be used anywhere that a recipe calls for coconut milk. Since they are so high fat, they melt quickly and can be added frozen straight to your dish while it's cooking.
Here are some ideas of how to use Coconut Cubes:
- add 1-2 to a fruit or green smoothie
- add 2-3 in a creamy soup like squash or carrot
- stir 1-2 into a curry instead of yogurt at the end
- add 1 to a cup of homemade hot chocolate or chai while its simmering on the stove
- add 1-2 to a blender with fresh pineapple cubes and rum for an easy pina colada