I absolutely adore coconut milk. Thick and creamy (look at that frothy goodness!), lightly sweet and coconutty, minimal carbs, and full of healthy fat- it's fantastic!
Do note that I mentioned it is FULL of healthy fat! Like, really full. While it is healthy, it's easy to consume a large amount of it without realizing the caloric consumption. Be aware that for every quarter cup of coconut milk (this will vary widely with homemade coconut milk as the amounts of ingredients and how much fat/fiber remains in the pulp will not be consistent), you'll be getting approximately 14g of fat.
The fat in coconut milk is healthy, though, because it is a type of saturated fat called medium-chain trigycerides (fatty acids), specifically lauric acid. The consumption of this type of fatty acid has actually been shown to increase energy expenditure (i.e. burning calories). If these fats replaced other fats in your diet, calorie for calorie, these fats would lead to more weight loss. So it does not mean that if you have an extra 50g of coconut fat per day that you're going to lose weight, but if it took the place of other fat in your diet, this fat would promote greater weight loss.
If you want to cut down the fat content of the milk, the coconut cream actually floats to the surface of the milk once it cools, so you can skim it off. Alternatively, if you want ALL the fat, then skim it off and whip it for coconut whipped cream!
By making the coconut milk yourself, you're avoiding the sugar and extra ingredients (carageenan, guar gum, xantham gum, etc.) present in most coconut milk products, plus avoiding the leaching of BPA lining in cans, or polyethylene (PET) from Tetrapaks. These are common offenders for all the "alternative" milks (such as almond, soy, hemp, etc.). I believe the other milks are nearly as easy to make, as well! But on that note, coconut flakes can be very affordable, so it's definitely the cheapest of the alternative milks.
And it gets better!! The pulp strained from the milk is coconut FLOUR! You can dehydrate the pulp to make the flour, or just use directly in a recipe if you're like me and can't be bothered to dehydrate it. I have used it in this recipe specifically and it worked beautifully, and is SO delicious! (I also subbed half the honey for a scoop of Vanilla "Dream Protein" so I increased the protein content dramatically and decreased the sugar!). Since it's still soaking wet it's obviously a bit different than using coconut flour, but if you find recipes that also call for other wet ingredients, I feel like it would still work fine. Let me know if you experiment!
Homemade coconut milk is absolutely delicious, subtle and satin-like, fresh and light- I didn't think it could taste so different from store-bought! You can use coconut milk in your coffee and tea, soups, curries, baked goods, to make coconut kefir, and more. I would highly recommend you give this a try, and please let me know how it goes for you. My favourite use for coconut milk will be coming soon to a blog near you!
Homemade Coconut Milk Instructions:
Put unsweetened, full-fat coconut flakes (aka shredded coconut) and hot (not boiling) water into your blender in a 1:2 ratio of flakes:water. Blend for about 1-5 minutes (less for the intense Vitamix, much longer for grandma's hand-me-down blender). Strain and press out all the milk. That's IT! Now for some details...
I tried using a "soup bag" to strain and the coconut was so fine that it just clogged up the holes and wouldn't strain. Cheesecloth is supposed to work well, and of course nut milk bags are perfect. I use the metal filtering device from a broken teapot and it works perfectly, especially because then I can press my muddler against a firm surface to get all the coconut milk out. You don't need to use a muddler, but some broad instrument that will press the coconut milk out.
If you're more prepared, you can soak the coconut flakes for a few hours, this would soften the coconut even more so you could blend it even finer.
The coconut milk doesn't keep for a particularly long time, maybe about 5 days in the fridge. So I have frozen it in ice trays if I make more than I need.
Like I mentioned above, the fatty "cream" will float to the top, so you can skim that off once it has been refrigerated, or keep it in and mix together once it's warm again. You may see tiny flecks of coconut in your coffee/tea/soup etc if you leave this in, depending how well it has been strained.
Personally, I love it straight-up by itself, but if you're not appreciating the bare coconut milk then I'm sure it's lovely with vanilla extract, and you could add a hint of natural sweetener or sea salt if you need it.
Now, for a more visual explanation:
First, blend the coconut flakes with the water.
Prepare your straining device, I used a tea strainer in a cup!
Pour pureed coconut through strainer.
Use some sort of pressing device (I used a muddler, it was perfect) to squeeze out any excess milk.
And there you have it, folks! If you see the lighter layer on top, this is the coconut cream that will later solidify in the fridge.
Enjoy, and let me know how you experiment with your own coconut milk!