When you think about it, there are quite a few different types of milk out there that people will choose to use for a variety of reasons.
Some people will stick to having milk as a drink, while other people rely on milk for cooking. There are some types of milk that are commonly used when dairy is not an option for someone’s diet.
With that being said, this means that there are going to be quite a few different recipes out there that will call for specific kinds of milk. Depending on the specifics of the recipe, this may mean that you have to alter the milk you currently have to meet the recipe’s requirements.
A good example of this happening would be when you need to make whipped coconut cream out of your standard coconut milk.
When thickening liquids where the flavor is important, it becomes even more crucial to know what you want your end result to be.
There are some cases where you can preserve the coconut flavor that comes with coconut milk, but other times, you may simply need to add some cornstarch to the coconut milk as you would with just about any other type of liquid.
If you realize that you need to thicken the coconut milk you have, you are first going to want to think about what you want the end result of the milk to be. This is going to be important when determining how you go about thickening the milk.
Keep in mind that the more sensitive the recipe is to flavors, the more specific you are going to have to get about your solution to the problem.
Preserving the Coconut Flavor
In some recipes, you are going to want to do what you can to preserve the coconut flavor that sets this type of milk apart from all the other types of milk out there.
In these cases, you are going to want to try and use a thickening agent that complements the coconut flavor or has the same flavor. One of the easiest ways to thicken coconut milk while still preserving the flavor is going to be to use coconut flour.
Coconut flour is quite similar to many other all-purpose flour alternatives out there. It provides the same purpose as these flours, including being a natural thickening agent, meaning that you won’t have to worry about it affecting your coconut milk in any other way than the thickness of it.
Coconut flour is produced by grinding down the meat of the coconut into flour. It is a natural byproduct of coconut milk production, so you can think of using coconut flour as using all of the coconut. It tends to be a little bit more strongly flavored than other types of flour, but for thickening coconut milk, this is exactly what you want.
To thicken your coconut milk, you are going to want to do as you would with using any other flour to thicken up a sauce or broth.
You will want to take some of the milk out of a pan of milk, mix in enough flour to create a slurry, and then add that slurry back into the original batch of milk while slowly stirring it in and bringing it to a boil.
Thickening the Milk with No Regard to Flavor
If the overall flavor profile of the milk doesn’t matter to you, you have a few more options to work with to produce a thicker variant of coconut milk. You can choose to incorporate cornstarch, as this is a natural thickening agent that is also gluten-free.
You can also choose to create a reduction with the milk you currently have. Both of these solutions pose their own problems that you will need to find ways around.
Cornstarch may affect the way the coconut milk tastes when it is thickened, as corn and coconut are two very different flavors. You can mute this difference a little bit by also incorporating some water into the mix when you are preparing the slurry.
Aside from this, this kind of mixture is generally one of the easiest ones to work with and you will be able to thicken the coconut milk appropriately without much trouble.
You can also decide to do a reduction. Due to the nature of reductions in cooking, this is going to end up concentrating the flavor of the coconut milk immensely.
While there are certainly ways to bring that flavor back down to a more manageable level, it can create more overall work in the cooking process and not everyone wants to struggle with the trial and error that comes with trying to rectify flavoring.
Both of these methods work well in their own right and it will be up to the circumstances at hand to determine which method is going to work out the best for you. If you need a quick method that will allow you to thicken the coconut milk in a short matter of time, then going with the cornstarch might be the best solution.
If you have the time to fix the flavor changes that come with doing a reduction, you can control how thick the coconut milk becomes more easily.
Thickening Coconut Milk with Cornstarch
While it may not sound like a particularly appetizing combination at first, cornstarch has proven itself time and time again when it comes to being a thickening agent. Cornstarch molecules will work to soak up water and expand.
This expansion will create a thicker texture and will often leave a little bit of a sheen in whatever product you have placed it into. It is more commonly used to thicken sweeter liquids, but it can be used in savory situations.
To begin, you will want to use about one tablespoon of cornstarch per each bowl cup of coconut milk you are going to be working with. You will want to take the tablespoon(s) of cornstarch and add equal parts of the starch and cold water into a bowl.
From here, you will simply stir the two ingredients together until they create a soft paste. This will be the thickening slurry that you use.
Once you have the slurry, you will then want to begin whisking it into the coconut milk. You will want to bring all of this to a simmer so that you can cook out any starch taste that remains after whisking everything together.
Be careful not to overcook the mixture, as this can cause the cornstarch molecules to break down, leaving you with thin milk again.
Thickening the Coconut Milk with a Reduction
Reductions are incredibly easy to do if you have enough sauce to get the job done. For coconut milk, you are going to want to make sure that you have more than whatever recipe you are following calls for.
This will ensure that when you begin the reduction process, you won’t be left with too little of the thickened milk, as the reduction will take away some of the milk.
To begin, you will want to simmer the milk with the lid off so that the water in the coconut milk can evaporate naturally. Without the water acting as a thinner, the sauce is going to thicken up naturally.
As you stir the mixture together, you will be able to notice it thickening up, allowing you to have some degree of control over how thick your coconut milk becomes.
Do keep in mind that because of the natural process that comes with reductions, the flavor of the coconut milk is going to concentrate and become quite sweet. For some cooking purposes, sweetened coconut milk will work just fine, but it is a change in the flavor that you need to be aware of so that you can accommodate it in more savory dishes.
Typically, to reduce the sweetness, you will want to boil a potato or two in a minimal amount of water. Once the potatoes have been sufficiently boiled, you will want to mash them as finely as you can, preferably removing the skin in the process. The goal of this is to turn the potatoes and water into a slurry.
Next, you can add the potato slurry to the reduction. This will further thicken the sauce, add volume to it, and absorb a fair amount of the sweetness without creating much of a change in the texture and consistency of the sauce.
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.