How to Choose the Right Coconut Milk for Cooking Thai Curry | Mekhala Living

What’s spicy, well-balanced, and filled with umami?

Thai food!

Indeed, Thai cuisine has topped the charts as one of the hottest trending food styles in the world. There are plenty of places to get your Thai fix in the U.S., making it really hard to miss.

Now, why is Thai cuisine such a game-changer? For starters, it’s healthy. Of all the cuisines in the world, Thai food is probably the most well-balanced in terms of herbs, spices, meat, and vegetables. It’s light, nutrient-dense, and considerably less fatty.

But if there’s something that truly sets Thai cuisine apart, it’s the ingredients that go into each dish- a careful mix of bold, zesty, and zingy aromatics tied together by a delicious broth. And, of course, coconut milk.

A Quick Guide to Coconut Milk and Its Use in Thai Cuisine

You’d be hard-pressed to find a Thai recipe that doesn’t include coconut milk. Both coconut cream and milk are staples in Thai cuisine, often used as a base for soups and curries.

Choosing the right coconut milk can make all the difference to your dish. That’s why we’ve compiled this quick breakdown on the various types of coconut milk available out there, how to use them, and factors to consider when picking this rockstar ingredient.

Types of Coconut Milk

Clean coconut milk is made by grinding or grating dried coconut, boiling it with water, and straining it. It’s entirely dairy-free and plant-based.

Typically, coconut milk is classed into three groups: canned, fresh, and homemade.

A. Canned Coconut Milk

Canned coconut milk often contains added stabilizers and preservatives to boost its shelf life. It has a consistent flavor and texture, although the fat content might vary depending on what you opt for (light or full-fat).

One of the biggest reasons people reach for canned coconut milk is convenience. You’ll find it in most Asian grocery stores, neatly tucked away in the dairy section. It’s a great choice when you’re short on time or don’t have the means to make your own coconut milk.

B. Fresh Coconut Milk

As mentioned, fresh coconut milk is made by grinding the flesh of mature coconuts and squeezing it through a cheesecloth or nut milk bag. It usually does not have any additives.

Fresh, natural coconut milk has a much more vibrant coconut flavor. It’s naturally sweet, creamy, and delicious- the holy trifecta.

But fresh-squeezed coconut milk isn’t entirely without fault. It takes trial and error to find reliable Asian coconut milk sellers. Additionally, storing fresh coconut milk is tricky since it spoils easily. You must use it right away or keep it refrigerated.

C. Homemade Coconut Milk

This one is for serious connoisseurs. While prepping coconut milk at home does give you complete control over the thickness and flavor, it takes a ton of time and elbow grease. Then again, it’s a labor of love, and the flavor payoff you’ll get can make it all seem worthwhile.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing Coconut Milk for Thai Curry

Ready to pick up your coconut milk? Here are a few quick tips to choose the right one for your dish.

A. Check the Ingredients

The first thing you should do when picking coconut milk is check the ingredients. Ideally, you want a coconut milk brand that only uses coconut and water. Avoid brands that contain added preservatives, thickeners, or sweeteners.

B. Consider the Fat Content

Coconut milk is high in calories in fat. If you want a healthier option, go for a lite coconut milk brand that is low in fat. However, the fat content does affect the milk’s texture and flavor, so it’s best to opt for full-fat coconut milk when you’re making something creamy.

C. Check for Additives

Some coconut milk brands use thickeners like guar gum or carrageenan. While these additives are generally considered safe, they can cause digestive issues for some people. If you have a sensitive stomach, be sure to pick a preservative-free brand.

D. Taste Test

Finally, nothing beats a taste test. If you are still unsure about which coconut milk to choose, buy a few cans and taste them one after the other to see which one suits your palate. Look for a smooth and creamy texture and a mild coconut-y flavor.

How to Use Coconut Milk in Thai Curry Recipes

Cooking with coconut milk is both an art and a science. There’s no ‘correct’ way to use it: the techniques vary based on who’s behind the stove.

For example, to make a good pot of Thai Green Curry or Red Curry, you’d have to stir-fry some of Mekhala’s Thai Green Curry Paste or Thai Red Curry Paste until it’s fragrant. Add the coconut milk next and stir gently till the oil floats on top.

For Yellow (Massaman Curry), add our Thai Yellow Curry Paste to the pan and cook it till it’s fragrant. Add the protein and brown it on all sides. Next, pour the coconut milk into your curry and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind.

  • Shake or Stir Before Use: Coconut milk tends to separate or solidify in the can. Give it a good shake to mix the milk up before use.
  • Adjust Consistency: If you want to use coconut cream instead of coconut milk, refrigerate it overnight. The thick cream will rise to the top and allow for easy scooping.
  • Dilute or Concentrate: Add some water to the coconut milk to dilute it if it’s too thick. In case you want a stronger flavor, reduce the milk by simmering it gently to evaporate some of the liquid.
  • Avoid Boiling: While coconut milk can stand gentle simmering, boiling it vigorously will force it to separate. Always keep the heat on medium when working with coconut milk.

Recipes Featuring Coconut Milk

There’s nothing like a can of coconut milk to turn simple ingredients into a wonderful meal. Don’t believe us? Check out these recipes with coconut milk!

A. Creamy Tom Yum Pasta

Tom yum and pasta? Now that’s what we call the best of two worlds. Give your regular pasta dinners a wonderful Asian twist with our delicious Tom Yum Paste and a generous splash of coconut milk. Nothing like rich tom yum pasta to lift your spirits!

B. Creamy Vegan Thai Tamarind Ragu

Juicy, tangy, and oh-so-delicious, this vegan Thai tamarind ragu might just become a household favorite! And the coconut milk fat makes this one entirely dairy-free. Of course, you can always substitute the meatless crumbles with whatever you have in the pantry.

C. Simple Hearty Winter Curry

Sure, this Thai coconut curry has winter in the name, but it’s perfect for any season! This recipe is creamy, smooth, and packed with aromatics and greens for the right balance of flavor and nutrition. Be sure to make some extra- you’ll be doling out second helpings for sure!

The Bottom Line

You can never go wrong with a can of coconut milk in your pantry. It’s one of those gifts that just keep giving. If you enjoy cooking Thai food, we encourage you to experiment with different versions of coconut milk and curry pastes till you find a combination that works for you. Just follow the tips mentioned in this post, and you should be golden!

Mekhala’s wide range of authentic and 100% plant-based products features exciting Asian flavor combinations. All our ingredients are handpicked, natural, and vegan-friendly- so you have nothing to worry about! Use our Thai curry pastes to whip up delicious dishes of your own!

Order on our website or use our store locator to find a Mekhala retailer near you today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share on social media: