In today’s world, there are many, many different milk alternatives that you can work with based on your own specific dietary requirements. There are alternatives made from plants, nuts, and animals aside from cows, with each milk alternative having its own benefits over others.
Naturally with this many alternatives out there, there is going to come a time when you feel as if you do not know how to work with one, or you may pick up a new one only to realize that it isn’t to your taste. Thankfully, many of the milk alternatives out there are relatively easy to alter and work with.
Take a milk alternative that is used considerably in other cooking recipes, such as coconut milk. Coconut milk is an integral part of cuisine in certain parts of the world, especially around Thailand.
No matter if you are trying to make a Thai dish that everyone in your family will appreciate or you are trying to make use of your leftover coconut milk, you may come across a situation where your coconut milk isn’t to your taste.
Coconut milk, for what it is worth, is functionally just coconut juice that has been given the name “milk” because of its milk-white appearance.
As with many fruit juices, many people disagree on exactly how much sugar should be in the drink, with some people wanting to have no added sugars whatsoever, and with other people finding that too many brands of coconut milk are not sweet enough.
Because of this type of situation, you can expect that there will be a time when you realize that the coconut milk you are working with is not sweet enough for your tastes, whether that is cooking a Thai dish or simply having cereal in the mornings.
Coconut milk is one of the many types of milks out there that are fairly easy to alter and change into something new. This means that you won’t have to worry too much about having to invest in new ingredients or having to spend a lot of time over the stove trying to fix what is left of your coconut milk.
In fact, more often than not, you can simply add some plain sugar to unsweetened coconut milk to make everything better. Do keep in mind that there are some solutions that are a bit easier to work with and better for your health than adding just pure sugar though.
Finding Ways to Sweeten Coconut Milk
Sweetening coconut milk is honestly as simple as finding a sweetener of your choice, whether that is honey, sugar, or even an artificial sweetener and cooking it together with the coconut milk if you are making it into a condensed version.
If you are not condensing the milk, then all you need to do is stir the sweetener of your choice together with the coconut milk that you are going to use until the mixture is smooth and the taste is exactly as sweet as you want it to be.
There are many, many sweeteners out there that are compatible with coconut milk, as coconut milk is not that difficult of a liquid to work with, by all accounts.
Some of the sweeteners that you can choose from include agave nectar, (pure, natural) maple syrup, coconut nectar or coconut sugar (to retain that coconut taste), standard table sugar, and artificial sweeteners.
All of these sweeteners can be used both when you are making condensed coconut milk and when you are just mixing it into your own current bottle of milk to try and get it a little bit sweeter.
The only difference between sweetening (and condensing ) coconut milk and sweetening your standard coconut milk is that one is done over heat, much like you would do a reduction, and amplifies the added sweetness by cooking it into the coconut milk rather than just adding it.
On the other hand, uncondensed milk can be sweetened by just mixing the milk and the sweetener of your choice together until it is a smooth mixture.
The results of condensing and sweetening the milk will be far more noticeable than just mixing sugar into your standard coconut milk, so the option you choose depends both on what a recipe may call for and what your personal tastes in sweetness are.
What Is Condensed Coconut Milk?
Depending on what recipe you may be working with, you may notice that you need to make condensed coconut milk. Condensed coconut milk is a little bit different than the standard unaltered coconut milk that you can find in stores.
You can choose to condense the milk on your own or you can choose to purchase a store-bought container of condensed coconut milk, which will often be right beside where the standard coconut milk is in whichever store you go to.
As a rule of thumb, condensed coconut milk tends to have added sugars and sweeteners in it while uncondensed milk will not. If you are trying to stay away from added sugars and you want to have full control over which types of sweeteners you can add to your milk, it may be a better option to purchase uncondensed milk and you can condense it yourself in the comfort of your own kitchen.
Condensing coconut milk is an incredibly simple process and it is not unlike making a reduction for sauces.
To begin, you will want to pour the coconut milk into a small saucepan and you will want to have that saucepan on a medium-high heat setting. You should keep it here until it begins to boil, which generally takes about five minutes.
Be mindful that you do not allow it to bubble over, as this can happen quite quickly once the first few bubbles begin. Remember to whisk the coconut milk regularly to ensure that it doesn’t burn.
Once it has begun to boil, you will then want to bring the heat down to a simmering level. This is where you will add a sweetener of your choice to make sweetened condensed coconut milk.
You will want to whisk the milk completely and thoroughly until all remnants of the sweetener you added have dissolved and the milk looks to be one unified liquid again.
You will want to keep the coconut milk at this level between 30 and 45 minutes, or until the liquid content has been reduced by about half, whichever comes first.
As with reductions, this process will not only enhance the flavor of the coconut milk, but it will also strengthen the sweetness of the sweetener that you added in the previous step, as it is cooking into the rest of the milk and condensing into a more densely flavored amount of coconut milk.
From here, you will want to take the milk off the heat and allow it to cool completely before you plan on putting it in anything.
This is going to be the best way to sweeten your coconut milk, as it gives you full control over how much sweeter it is and what the sweetener of your choice is going to be so that you can stay happy and healthy.
Before you know it, you will have your perfect batch of condensed, sweetened coconut milk that you will be able to share with friends and family all around the holiday season, making your favorite dishes and learning how to make new ones along the way.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.