Curry is a popular dish that is enjoyed worldwide due to its delicious flavors. Part of what makes curry so delicious is the added flavor that coconut milk gives it.
Coconut milk is a great way to make your curry creamy and tasty, and it comes in a variety of options including canned, creamed, and even in a plastic container.
So, what exactly is coconut milk and why should you use it?
What Is Coconut Milk?
Coconut milk comes from the flesh of the coconut. In order to make it, the coconut flesh is shredded and then pureed with the coconut water. Then it gets strained and the result is coconut milk.
Depending on the type of coconut milk that you buy, it can range in consistency. However, coconut milk is a great substitute for milk as it is creamy and just thick enough to use as a replacement.
Most of the time, canned coconut is used for cooking while coconut that comes in a box or a bottle is used for beverages or in cereal. When making curry, people typically tend to use canned coconut milk.
Why Is it Used in Curry?
There are several different variations of curry, but all recipes call for coconut milk. This is because you want it to have a nice flavor to it while also adding a liquid substance without it being too watered down.
Coconut milk adds a sweetness to curry that counteracts the spice, creating a nice balance. It also adds an extra nutty flavor to foods without it being too overpowering.
Common Mistakes When Using Coconut Milk
Now that you know why and how people use coconut milk in their curry, it’s important that you avoid making these common mistakes. The first one is to make sure that you are using unsweetened coconut milk instead of sweetened when cooking.
It can also be pretty easy to confuse canned coconut milk for coconut cream or sweetened condensed coconut milk, which contains milk and sugar in it.
This type of milk is typically used for baking or making beverages and shouldn’t be used for cooking. Coconut cream, on the other hand, is thicker and has less water in it. This is also used for baking.
Coconut milk is already sweet by nature, so you want to try to avoid buying anything that has an extra added sweetness to it.
Another mistake that you want to avoid making is to use full-fat coconut milk when the recipe calls for it and not trying to change it out for a light version. This is because not only will it affect the flavor of what you are making, but the texture as well.
After buying coconut milk, you’re going to want to make sure that you shake it up before you use it. Coconut milk tends to settle when it’s been sitting in the can and all the flavor tends to go to the bottom of the can.
Shaking up the can ensures that you are mixing the flavors in evenly.
Benefits of Coconut Milk
It should come as no surprise that coconut milk comes with many benefits. Coconut milk contains a lot of vitamins, iron, calcium, magnesium, and more. It also lends a helping hand to foods with a lot of spice in them, such as curry.
“The secret to a beautiful curry lies in balancing the heat and spice with the creaminess of coconut milk, and fresh coconut milk works brilliantly to accentuate the piquancy of Thai curries especially,” says chef Malini Sawhney.
Coconut milk has also been proven to help people lose weight, and can even prevent heart disease. Drinking coconut milk is a great way to avoid getting sick as it contains antioxidants in it that neutralize harmful substances in the body.
Research has found that coconut milk also contains lauric acid, which is known for its antiseptic properties. This acid helps the body fight infections and can even improve the effects of antibiotics.
If you are someone who has issues with their gastrointestinal health, coconut milk might be the solution for you. Because coconut milk contains zinc in it, it helps renew the cells that line the intestinal wall, which can in turn help with any digestive issues you may be having.
Coconut Curry Recipes
Now that you are well versed in the world of coconut milk and its benefits to curry, it’s time to learn how to make coconut curry on your own.
For this recipe you will need coconut or olive oil, a yellow onion, boneless skinless chicken, diced garlic, ginger, coriander, a can of coconut milk, shredded carrots, curry powder or curry paste, salt, pepper, spinach, lime juice, brown sugar, and cilantro.
To begin, add your oil to a heated-up pan or skillet. Once the pan is hot enough, add in your diced onions. Then add in your chicken breast and cook until all sides of it are even. Don’t forget to slice up your chicken into cubes before cooking.
Once that’s done, you’re going to want to add in more garlic, ginger, and coriander. Be sure to stir in your spices as much as you can. After you’ve finished that step, you can then add in coconut milk, carrots, curry paste, salt, and pepper.
After you have everything combined, bring your heat down on your stove and let the ingredients in the pot simmer. At this point, the liquid in your pot should start to thicken. When that’s done, add in your lime juice and spinach leaves.
During this time, you can also add in your brown sugar and any other spices that you think you need more of.
Curry is best served alongside rice, topped with cilantro and some lime wedges on the side. In order to store your curry, simply place it into an airtight container and put it in the fridge. There, it should last for about a week. If you want your curry to last longer, you can also freeze it.
If you are in a bit of a pinch, you can always try using this recipe that calls for just five ingredients and can be done in minutes. The ingredients needed are rather simple: one can of coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of red curry paste, broccoli or any other type of vegetable that you want to use, chickpeas, and cornstarch.
If you want, you can also add in minced garlic or onion to the mix. Be sure that when you start, you saute your vegetables first. This includes your broccoli or other greens that you may have used along with the onions and garlic if you choose to use them. Your coconut milk can then be added in.
Add in the curry paste and continue to whisk it in, also adding in your chickpeas while doing so. Next up, you are going to want to boil the mixture and add in your cornstarch.
If you’re worried about your sauce looking a little thin, don’t be. Your sauce will thicken up over time.
As you can see, coconut milk is the kitchen staple that you didn’t know you needed. It can be used in soups, smoothies, and, obviously, curry.
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.