If you only use coconut milk from time to time, you’ve no doubt been wondering: can you freeze coconut milk?
Avid nut milk consumers don’t care if they freeze it because they use it long before it goes bad. However, if you rarely drink or use coconut milk, a whole packet might be too much for you before it spoils. Then you start thinking about freezing the leftovers.
The same is true when you buy canned coconut milk for curries and other Thai or Indian cooking recipes. For some reason the amount in a single can and what the recipe calls for never match, leaving you with only a third or a quarter of a cup. And if curries aren’t on the alternate-day menu (which probably aren’t the case), you need to do something with the leftover milk. And since open canned coconut milk doesn’t keep very long, freezing is a good idea.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple yes or no answer to the question of whether you can freeze this product. It depends on how you intend to use it and what quality standards you set for the product. In short: it’s complicated.
In this guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about freezing coconut milk. We discuss when freezing makes sense and how to do it. We also cover thawing and refreezing in case you have leftovers after defrosting.
Can you freeze coconut milk?
Answering this question is difficult. For both the drink and the fatty canned version used for cooking, manufacturers do not recommend freezing the product ( SI ). That’s because freezing and thawing changes the texture and arguably the flavor of the product. Despite this, many people freeze it anyway and are quite happy with the result.
Freezing and thawing coconut milk changes its texture, and the flavor changes somewhat. The solids separate from the liquids and the liquid becomes grainy. This is what coconut milk drink looks like right after defrosting:
Yes, it doesn’t look all that bad, and it looks way better than thawed almond milk. But it’s still a far cry from the smooth texture of fresh coconut milk.
Luckily, most of the texture change can be fixed by running the thawed liquid through a blender. After mixing, the drink will look like this:
And here are all three options side by side:
As you can probably see, mixed and fresh don’t look all that different, except for the foam on top. The taste is also probably a bit different (I’ll leave it at that because it’s hard to describe).
I found it ok to drink the mixed variety straight from the glass. If fresh coconut milk was a 10 for flavor and texture, I’d say the thawed and blended coconut milk would be a 7, maybe even an 8. Obviously, those are just my personal feelings.
Read Also: Can you freeze honey?
Different brands of coconut milk freeze slightly differently, so you may be more or less fond of your favorite brand. If you have to freeze coconut milk frequently, consider trying a few brands and sticking with the brand that gives you the best results.
So you already know that freezing this nut milk for drinking straight from the jar is unsafe. Luckily, you can use coconut milk in a variety of ways, including smoothies, baking, cooking, and as a coffee creamer. And in all of these cases, the slight change in texture and flavor in the end product doesn’t make that much of a difference. So if you’re using it for any of those purposes, feel free to freeze it.
Can you freeze canned coconut milk?
Since an unopened can of coconut milk stays unopened for years, there is no need to freeze the entire can. But if you’ve used up as much as you needed for the curry or tom kha soup and you have some leftovers that you don’t clearly plan on using for the next few days, freezing seems like the best option.
Everything I wrote above about the coconut milk drink applies to the canned variety. Freezing and thawing changes the texture, but you can fix this by blending it together before use ( CI ).
Freezing coconut milk
Below I go through two ways of freezing coconut milk. If you don’t have any solid plans on how to use them, take the dice. This method is more versatile as it allows you to thaw as much as you need. However, it takes a few minutes more active time.
On the other hand, if you know exactly how you’re going to use that frozen and thawed milk, you might want to consider freezing it in containers. The freezing process is super easy, and once you’ve thawed the contents of the jar, it’s ready to use.
Whether it’s a coconut milk drink or the canned variety, both freezing methods are an option.
How to freeze coconut milk in cubes
This method is perfect if you don’t want to worry about portion size. It takes a little more effort, but in most cases it’s definitely worth it. Here’s how to do it:
- Prepare the ice cube trays. You can use ice cube bags if you want, but the trays are reusable and more eco-friendly. Take trays if you can.
- Pour the coconut milk into the shells.
- Transfer the shells to the freezer and keep them there until the coconut milk cubes are frozen. Depending on the size, it will take at least 3 to 5 hours for the cubes to freeze. Keep in mind that the top of each cube will freeze quickly, but that doesn’t mean the liquid underneath is also frozen. To be on the safe side, I tend to leave the shells in the freezer overnight.
- Transfer cubes to freezer bags or freezer containers. Try to do this as soon as possible. This way the cubes don’t start to thaw. Of course, you can leave the shells in the freezer, but it’s usually more convenient to dump the cubes in a container and have the shells ready to freeze another batch.
- Place the bags or containers in the freezer.
Now you can easily scoop up a few cubes to add to your recipe or defrost a few for a smoothie.
How to freeze coconut milk in containers
This method requires little time and effort. It’s best to know how much coconut milk you need to thaw at one time so you can portion the liquid accordingly. If you are unsure, choose smaller portions, such as half a cup or even a quarter. Or simply freeze coconut milk in cubes so you don’t have to worry about portion size and leftovers after thawing.
Once you figure out the portions, here’s how to approach freezing:
- Pour the milk into containers. Be sure to leave some headspace as milk expands as it freezes. It’s fine to freeze coconut milk in the carton it came in, as it won’t be full.
- If necessary, label the containers with the name and date.
- Place the containers in the freezer.
That’s it. The whole process shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Once the liquid freezes, it looks like this:
How do you thaw coconut milk?
There are at least a few ways to thaw coconut milk.
- Overnight in the fridge. The classic: Put the cubes or containers to be thawed in the fridge in the evening, they will be thawed in the morning. If the cubes are quite large, thawing can take longer, so plan accordingly and start the process even earlier.
- In cold water. Place the container or freezer bag in cold water. It should be ready in a few hours.
- Microwave. If you’re in a hurry, the microwave is probably for you. Thaw it in small increments, stirring between each session once it begins to thaw.
- Throw it in frozen. If you need coconut milk for a cooked recipe (like a soup), you can throw it in frozen. Be sure to add a few minutes of cooking time to allow for thawing and boiling of the liquid.
Whichever method you choose, be sure to give the thawed coconut milk a good stir, or even better, puree it with an immersion blender. This will improve their consistency.
How is separated thawed coconut milk fixed?
As I’ve mentioned a few times, when mixed with a blender, the consistency of the separated coconut milk comes back to pretty much normal. It won’t be as good as fresh coconut milk, but definitely good enough to use in recipes where texture isn’t the most important thing in the recipe.
See one of the earlier sections for some photos of fresh, thawed, and blended coconut milk.
How is thawed coconut milk used?
In case you’re wondering how to use the frozen and thawed coconut milk, here are a few options:
- coffee creamer
- Baking (cookies, cakes, there are hundreds of recipes for lactose intolerant people that use coconut milk instead of dairy milk)
- Smoothies (coconut milk is often used as a liquid base, but using frozen coconut milk cubes instead of ice cubes is also an option)
- Cooking (pancakes are probably the most popular for the drink type and curry for the can type)
Can you refreeze coconut milk?
Sometimes I feel like most people think that freezing is the worst thing you can do when it comes to food storage and preservation. But in reality it’s not that bad if you do it right. And correct usually means either thawing the food in the fridge before freezing it or cooking it through before freezing it a second time. It’s all about preventing or minimizing the growth of bacteria, and either way, that’s a decent job of doing it.
If you know you could end up with leftovers from your thawed coconut milk that you won’t be able to use in a day or two, always thaw it in the fridge. That way you can safely refreeze the rest. Of course, freezing changes the texture and flavor even more, so freezing is more of a last resort. In other words, for best results, freezing the liquid only once is optimal.
How long does coconut milk last?
Generally, there are four types of coconut milk: ambient temperature, refrigerated, canned, and homemade.
The first is the most popular (when it comes to coconut drinks) because as long as it’s unopened it lasts for months, and you can keep it in the pantry. It usually stays fine for at least a few weeks after the date on the label. Once you open the bottle or carton, the label usually recommends consumption within five days, to a week.
Coconut milk sold refrigerated will keep until the expiration or sell by date on the label, maybe even a few days after that. And that date is about a week or two after they were made, so their shelf life is limited. Once you open them, you should use them within a few days.
Canned coconut milk will keep for years unopened (note the date on the label) and a few days after opening.
Last but not least, there is coconut milk that you prepare yourself. Depending on who you ask, it’s recommended to consume it within 3 to 5 days as it doesn’t contain any preservatives.
Here is a quick reference table:
|Coconut milk (refrigerated, sold unopened)||Best before date + 1 – 2 months|
|Coconut milk (sold unrefrigerated, opened)||5-7 days|
|Coconut milk (sold chilled)||Best before date + 3 – 5 days|
|coconut milk (homemade)||3 – 5 days|
|Canned Coconut Milk (unopened)||Best before date + 3 – 6 months|
|Canned Coconut Milk (opened)||3 – 5 days|
So if you already know you can’t use that nut milk again before it spoils, freezing is probably your only option. Before you freeze the liquid, make sure it’s still drinkable.
How to Tell if Coconut Milk is Bad?
Checking whether your nut milk is spoiled or not is similar for all nut milks. That means it’s pretty much the same for them as it is for almond milk. Here are some of the common signs of expired coconut milk:
- Unopened carton or can is puffed up
- Smells sour or sour instead of fresh and coconuty
- Changed color or discoloration on the surface
- Changed taste (actually depends on personal preference)
- Lumps or separation of content (this applies to fresh coconut milk drink only)
Thawed coconut milk is always separated. The segregation in canned coconut milk is also pretty standard and nothing to worry about. If you give them a good stir or pick up the hand blender for a minute or two, you should be fine.