Lately I have been big into experimenting with making my own dairy free milk substitutes.  I know what your thinking, "why not buy almond milk or coconut milk from the store, they have those now!"  Well have you ever looked at the ingredient list for those products, too many weird ingredients and chemicals for something that you would expect to be just what it says it is.  The taste of those products are also less then desirable to me.  Sure they are extremely convenient, but sometimes better tasting food takes longer to prepare and it's totally worth it.  Coconut milk is one of those things! 

    I was generally using homemade raw almond and hemp milk in places where I wanted cows milk and then one day I got the courage to try coconut milk.  I referenced this recipe from an absolutely beautiful Raw food blog, Rawmazing.  After a few tries I found that I like to use 2 coconuts with 4 cups of warm water to make my coconut milk.  If you are brave enough, this recipe requires 5 major tools:  A high speed blender, a large kitchen knife, a corkscrew bottle opener, a peeler and cheesecloth.  And, if you want to make the coconut powder you will need to have a dehydrator.

    Just remember that making coconut milk is difficult at first, there always seems to be some sort of fatality such as bent forks or knives in the aftermath.  It is also extremely messy, so don't attempt this after just cleaning your whole kitchen.  After making it a few times you will get much better at opening up the coconuts, however sometimes they are stubborn and you have no choice but to break out the hammer and take a few whacks outside on some pavement (I find it is actually quite good for stress relief).  So why should you attempt such a hard and messy project?  If you are brave enough to give it a try you will find out why.

Raw Coconut Milk

makes 4-5 cups

2 mature coconuts - when picking out your coconuts make sure they feel heavy for their size and you can hear the water sloshing around inside
4 cups of warm water - keep it below 115° F or use cold water if you want it "RAW"

    The first step is to drain the coconuts of the water inside.  You could save the water for drinking but mature coconut water is very bitter so I just discard it.  To do this use a corkscrew bottle opener in one of the three dark indents on the top of the coconut.  Use it just like you would to open a bottle of wine.  You might even hear a release of air as you puncture through to the center of the coconut.  Shake out the water.

    Next you need to crack open the coconut.  Sometimes all you need to do is hold the coconut in one hand and whack it with the back of a large knife in a vertical direction as seen in the picture below on the left.  If one spot doesn't seem to work rotate it in your hand and whack it in a few different places to find the sweet spot.  Whacking it in a vertical direction will actually make it crack in a horizontal fashion as seen in the picture below on the right.  Once you get a good crack you can carefully pry it open with your fingers.  If whacking doesn't work get out your hammer, go outside and smash it on the sidewalk or driveway, again being really careful about where you are placing your hands and fingers!

    Sometimes you can get really lucky and when cracking open the coconut you might be able to get the nut to release from the shell in one big piece as seen below on the left.  If you aren't lucky enough to have that happen then insert the tip of your knife (you might not want to use your expensive wedding registry knives for this) in-between the shell and white meat and slowly and gently apply pressure and try to pop the meat out of the shell.  Normally it comes out in a few chunks but it can be a little frustrating, so again if you want to, just get the hammer!
    Next you have to peel the skin off the chunks of meat.  The best way to do this is with a normal kitchen peeler as seen above on the right.  After you peel off all the brown skin you can rinse off the meat in some water to get all the brown specks off if you want.

    Place the chunks of coconut meat from two coconuts into a high speed blender like a Vitamix with 4 cups of warm water.  Run the blender for a few minutes, gradually increasing the speed until it reaches its highest setting.  You'll know when it is ready because it will be milky white and really thick almost like a chunky smoothie.  Drain the milk through cheesecloth into a large bowl or measuring cup.  Squeeze all the milk out with your hands until the pulp inside feels dry and crumbly.  *You could try using a nut milk bag as seen below but I found that it let a lot of the pulp through, so that's why I recommend using cheesecloth.

Note:  Store your coconut milk in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a few days.  (I use re-purposed glass milk jugs with a tight seal or you could use a mason jar).  Sometimes sitting in the refrigerator will make the fat begin to separate from the milk a little, but just give it a shake to incorporate everything together again before you use it. 

Coconut Powder

makes about enough to fill one pint mason jar

Leftover coconut pulp from making coconut milk (two mature coconuts)

    Take the leftover coconut pulp and spread it out evenly on a dehydrator tray lined with a nonstick drying sheet as seen below.  I ran my dehydrator overnight at about 105° F.  Test the pulp to see if it is dry by pinching it between your fingers.  Next you place the dried pulp in either a blender, food processor, or coffee/spice grinder and process it for a few seconds.  You basically just want to grind it up into a powder or into what I think looks like snow.  Keep your coconut powder in a sealed container such as a mason jar and store in your pantry. 


01/07/2013 11:21pm

This is amazing! I don't think I've ever even attempted breaking open a coconut. I'll bet this tastes 100x better than the coconut milk we buy at the grocery store.

01/07/2013 11:50pm

Once you taste homemade coconut milk you will never be able to have the stuff from the store. And yeah I never thought it would be so easy to open a just takes some practice (and on occasion a hammer)

03/05/2013 8:30pm

Try cracking d coconut wit d coconut water it in, so tat i wud b easy to crack it open (Tats wat my granny tel me offen )..
keep it in ur left hand n keep a bowl below u hand n crack it wit d hammer n rotate it n hit it on d other side n hit it til it opens wen it opens water wil directly go into d vessel..:)
dnt waste d coconut water even u can add it to the coconut for blending it while taking coconut milk..
even if d coconut water doesnt taste good sumtimes u can just add 1-2 tsp of sugar have it even u can keep it in d fridge n have it chill either ways it taste gud...:)

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04/19/2014 7:44am

To open a coconut really easily and fast, just knock with a hammer on the three lines which you can see on the outside of the shell, which run from top to bottom, until it cracks. It usually happens really fast, as the lines are harder than the rest of the shell. It will break in a horizontal manner which is quite good. Bon appetit !

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01/08/2013 3:08pm

This looks awesome. I have had the "coconut experience" and they are tough to crack and peel. Do you think it would help to soak the coconut with that inside peel in water overnight?? Just thinking because when you have coconut on the islands everything is much more moist and easier to handle. I am going to try this!!! THANK YOU!

01/08/2013 5:57pm

I agree it is difficult to peel. I've never heard of soaking the meat to release the coconut skin, I have however seen plenty of people making their milk with the skin on. BUT your idea does intrigue me! If it works let us know, and I'll be sure to give it a try when I make my next batch.

01/14/2013 6:38pm

Can the homemade raw coconut milk for coffee in place of dairy creamer, I mean does fresh coconut milk curdle upon heating .

01/14/2013 10:04pm

Homemade raw coconut milk will not curdle if you add it to hot coffee. (You might see some pulp bits floating around but that won't affect the taste) I even like to use my homemade coconut milk to make hot chocolate, by heating it in a saucepan with some dark chocolate and sweetener.

01/15/2013 9:28pm

Thanks for the info . I always make coconut milk at home and make Indian coconut rice with it. Next time I will use it in coffee.

01/17/2013 8:20am

Peeling the coconut is not necessary if you have a powerful blender. Otherwise, that step seems like a good idea. Additionally, since it doesn't require any extra effort, one shouldn't forgo the absolutely more nutritious raw coconut milk. You might also want to consider using 5 cups of water to make 6 cups of creamy milk...I like even numbers ;-). Enjoy everybody.

03/02/2013 4:54am

Sounds so simple! My family went through gallons of coconut milk...until I heard about the dangers of carrageenan. Is it possible to freeze your recipe? I'd like to make it in bulk, otherwise I'll be cracking coconuts everyday for the rest of my life.

03/02/2013 10:52am

Hi Keryn, I have never tried to freeze my coconut milk before because it never lasts long enough in our house either. I tend to think that it would be fine, but maybe you should try making a batch and freeze a small portion of it and see how it goes. Next time I make some I'll try it too, because that is a really good question that even I would like the answer to. Thanks so much! -Sandra

03/06/2013 6:12pm

So as you would have bought countless coconuts, I was wondering if you could tell me how they are supposed to smell. I have searched online and can't be sure. I bought my first coconut and opened it. The water smelled like pinesol cleaner to me. I didn't smell coconut at all. Is that what it is supposed to smell like? The meat is white and smells faintly of the "pinesol cleaner smell". It does have a bit of a coconut smell. Safe to eat or not? Thanks

03/06/2013 6:49pm

Hi Suzy, The mature coconut water definitely doesn't smell that great, which is why I discard it. It might have a "cleaner" smell to you because it is very bitter. The meat at first will smell the same way because it has been sitting in the water (this is another reason why I rinse the meat before blending it).

Once you blend the coconut meat in your blender and open the top you will get a definite strong yummy coconut smell. (If the "cleaner" smell is still there at this point then you might want to discard it and try another one)

Just make sure the coconut doesn't have any other issues that might not look right...I have gotten a few bad coconuts that were a light shade of "pink" and didn't look right at all.

Hope this helps!

Dr. Stephen Vadas
06/25/2013 3:22pm

I just have to make a comment here. If the coconut is fresh, the water inside will be sweet and smell fresh and taste great. We live in south Florida and have several coconut trees and use them all the time. If the coconut is older, such as many of those found in supermarkets, the water will have fermented to some extent and taste bitter and smell bad. If you hear air escaping from the coconut when you make a hole in it to drain the water, it has already fermented. In freshly picked coconuts, you never hear air escaping when you open it. I am not aware of any method to tell if the coconut has already fermented - other than making sure that it has plenty of water in it by shaking it - the water evaporates as the coconut gets older. I hope this discussion helps. I love reading all the comments here!

03/20/2013 10:30am

I wanted to say that this is such an appealing website! Also I am currently living in Micronesia and I started a coconut export business. Raw coconuts that is straight from the islands. Nothing big just very small and local, depending on how much and where I've sent it as far as Ohio! it took a week and a half but coconuts don't go bad unless its been cracked open already. And been sitting for more than 3 weeks. Other than that they are still good, we still use it here in Micronesia. Live healthy!!!

03/20/2013 11:31am

Thanks Joyleen, Do you have a website for your business! I would love to take a look, because sometimes I question the freshness of coconuts that we get on the east coast of the United States. I have even seen that some places will sell already cracked coconuts so that people think it will be easier to open, but they always look rotten.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

03/28/2013 11:03am

hi this is probably a very annoying question but im looking at nutritional values and the raw coconut meat is high in carbs fat and cals when measured in weight, once strained how would this transfer? i just know id get through a lot of it. i have terrible candida and allergies and all the cartoned have awful fillers in them that cause me problems.thanks x

03/29/2013 1:05am

Hi Tasmin, I do not know the answer to your question unfortunately. I am not a nutritionist or health professional. I hope you can find the answer to this. Sorry I couldn't be more help. -Sandra

03/26/2014 10:54am

hi tamsin, I am a nutritionist and maybe you have found out by now that coconut milk is high is lauric acid which is excellent for keeping candida under control, as for the fat? it actually helps to burn the brown fat in our bodies. hope this allows you to enjoy the milk much better:)

04/05/2013 7:46pm

Hi! Thanks so much for this post! I am looking forward to making my own. But I have two questions:

1) Organic? Do I need to look for organic coconuts? Or is it implied that they are organic? Or does the thick outer shell mostly protect them from any nasty stuff they could be using in the growing process??

2) What do you use the coconut powder for??? I've NEVER heard of it, but love the idea of using the "whole plant" so the speak ;)


04/06/2013 10:36pm

Hi Tanya, at the stores that I shop in there are no organic coconuts. I don't believe coconuts are a crop that they use pesticides on but I could be wrong. When faced with the option of organic or not...I personally always chose organic produce.

One of the things that I use the powder for is a coating on raw protein bars....If you look in my recipe index in the "Juice, Smoothies and Snacks" section, click on the Chocolate Walnut Cherry Bars and you can see how I use the coconut powder. It can also be used in baking, but if you go to the trouble of making it raw then you should use it in a raw recipe. (It would also be great dusted over lemon bars instead of sugar)

Thanks for your questions! -Sandra

07/30/2013 11:41pm

You can use coconut powder in anything that calls for dried milk, like a dairy free white chocolate

04/16/2013 11:36pm

Less than two weeks ago we (hubby and I) were sitting under the warm Fijian sun gazing at swaying palms, white sand and blue water when I decided that I would like to make kokonda. (Essentially this is a dish of raw fish 'cooked' in lime and then dressed with coconut milk). What to do when the local store doesn't sell tinned coconut milk but you're surrounded by coconut palms? To the rescue comes the lovely Fijian gardener Poasa. He fetches two coconuts at the right stage of maturity along with his coconut scrapping tool, requests a bowl, gets a coconut positioned just so and gives it a whack on the side of the concrete footbath in front of our bure (beach hut). Viola, the coconut splits in two, he catches all the juice in the bowl and then, sitting on the paddle or handle part of his scrapper he proceeds to 'grate' out all the flesh. Easy! I asked him if this is how they do it at the resort restaurant "No", he replies "They have electric scrappers there". Haha, of course they would (and as a dedicated Kitchen Gadget Girl I immediately covet one - even though I have no idea what they look like, where one would purchase such a thing, how to use it, the fact remains ... I want one!). Only joking, back to the making of the coconut milk. He then shows us how to simply lift up handfuls of this grated coconut flesh from the bowl containing both the juice and flesh and squeeze it over another bowl until the stuff in your hand feels essentially dry. That's it. That was all there was to the making of a product which I've used frequently over the years but, apart from the name, shares very little with the product which I get at home in New Zealand from a can or carton. Words like luscious, silken and rich spring to mind. I dipped a spoon in to take a taste and swear I could have eaten the entire bowl! I made my kokonda and also a delicious chicken curry using this beautiful, fresh produce, both were wonderful. We are lucky in that we are only a three hour flight to the South Pacific and we prefer self-catering accommodation. For future trips we will be making or purchasing our own coconut scrapping tool to take with us to enjoy natures wonderful bounty.

PS - yes it will separate into two 'layers' when stored in the fridge (at least that's what happened to mine). I'm guessing that this represents the so called 'cream' as opposed to coconut 'milk' since these products are sold separately here. I didn't let it worry me, just stirred it back together and carried on with what I was making.

05/31/2013 9:55pm

How often should you drink fresh young coconut water?

07/02/2013 3:55pm

For an easy and less messy way of removing the outer shell. Put the undrained whole coconut in the freezer for 1 hour. No longer. Then take it outside and smack it in the middle. My shells usually break right in half and the inside of the coconut slips right out in one piece.

08/07/2013 1:34pm

Making fresh coconut milk is both rewarding and satisfying. Not even to mention the huge flavor difference between what you make fresh and what you get canned.

I have tried so many different brands of coconut milk and I still have not found one that comes anywhere near the awesomeness of fresh. Taste aside, it is even harder to find one without preservatives and stabilizers. I honestly don't even know why something that has been canned needs a preservative, I thought that was the whole point of canning.

The leftover coconut powder can also be used in recipes calling for coconut flour. It is an interesting way to substitute regular wheat flour out of recipes. You can make muffins, breads, pie crusts and even cookies using coconut flour. I actually use it all the time to make my kids birthday cakes so I can feel like I am feeding them something that is really good for them as opposed to something that is just a sweat treat.

If you are looking for recipes that I use myself involving coconut flour and coconut milk, please visit my site at . All recipes are dedicated to using the delicious coconut in all its forms!

09/05/2013 6:59pm

I lived in Thailand for quite a number of years and remember that making the coconut milk for the curry was generally the role of the grandmother or one of the other older aunties. If you go to a Thai store (in New Zealand but I assume anywhere in the world) you will be a buy one of the little graters they use. I doubt that it has changed in centuries.

If you don't have the time to make your own and don't like the taste of the coconut milk in the cans there is a really good coconut milk powder available from Natural Abundance. None of the usual additives you find in Supermarket coconut milk powder. Follow the link and you will be able to see the product

08/28/2013 1:50pm

I love making all kind of milk. I was raised up making coconut milk. It can be a little stubborn, so I do understand what you're saying to "whack" it!
And you're right. It calls for patience!

Dr. Stephen Vadas
08/28/2013 4:11pm

Ia Orana,
Here in Papeari, Tahiti, we use the electric scraper. Here is one website that sells a simple one.
Here is another website that sells one like we use here, but we usually make our own that looks just like this one. This is best when making a lot of coconut milk for poisson cru or other dishes.
Hope this helps.
Manarii Tane
PK 52
Papeari, Tahiti, French Polynesia

01/23/2014 1:30pm

Hi! Thank you so much for posting this amazing recipe and methods! I think I am already becoming a fan of your website! Can you please give some pointers on how to shop for old coconuts? I mean, are they just in the same coconut pile in supermarkets? And just feel by weight and go for the heavy ones?? There is no special category of "old coconuts" at the supermarkets, correct?? Any things I should pay attention to when I try to pick these coconuts??

Thanks again!

07/08/2014 10:41pm

i think you should not empty the coconut at the beginning instead you should try to break it with water inside. place the coconut in one hand and hit it with the backside of a knife when the crack occurs pour out the water into a container.

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