Coconut milk is more popular than ever as a healthy alternative to dairy. It is a delicious ingredient to various Thai, Balinese, and other Southeast Asian recipes. You can also use coconut milk as a versatile addition to your cooking, allowing you to add a tropical flare. Unfortunately, it is common to encounter curdled coconut milk, leaving you with a viscous half on one side of the bowl, and a watery half at the bottom.
Whether you want to use coconut milk in your morning coffee or are trying a vegan recipe, chances are you probably wondered how to fix coconut milk separated while in the can or freezer. On the other side, your dilemma could be fixing curdled coconut milk in your dish.
Don’t fret! We’ve got you covered.
Why Does Coconut Milk Separate?
Coconut milk separates because of the difference between the oil and water content in the coconut. As it is an emulsion of oil and water, the two liquids are held together by naturally occurring emulsifiers and thickening agents including proteins. These help stabilize the coconut milk emulsion.
However, when coconut milk is heated, the protein molecules change their shape and ability to interact with water and oil, a process known as denaturing. The protein releases oil and water and contracts into tight chains that are visible as white curds.
Fixing this can be tricky (we know!) but trust us, after reading this post your kitchen no longer needs to be a science lab!
Fixing Coconut Milk Separated in Can
Tired of coconut milk separating out in your can when you use it? You aren’t alone! This happens to a lot of people! It can be frustrating, especially when you are trying to make your favorite dish with coconut milk.
The good news is here are a few quick fixes to coconut milk separated in can:
- Remove the lid from your can of coconut milk and whisk or shake vigorously for about 10 seconds until it is evenly combined again.
- For best results, you can also try blending the mixture in a blender to re-emulsify it.
Fixing Frozen Coconut Milk Separated
When coconut milk is frozen, the cream separates from the water. The cream will rise to the top of the can, leaving the clear coconut water at the bottom.
So if you’re making a yummy coconut smoothie or a refreshing vegan ice cream but finds your coconut milk frozen in the fridge, simply thaw it and mix well. Another option is to blend the mixture in a blender and re-emulsify it.
Stirring is necessary when thawing frozen coconut milk. If you don’t, the ice crystals will settle in the bottom of the can and make your coconut milk very watery. But how long does opened canned coconut milk remain safe to eat in the refrigerator after it has been opened?
Coconut milk that has not been opened can be stored unrefrigerated for several months. Once opened, however, coconut milk must be refrigerated and consumed within five days. To lengthen the shelf life of your coconut milk after opening, keep it in an airtight container and tightly cover it not just with the lid but also with some plastic wrap or aluminum foil on top.
Fixing Coconut Milk Curdled in Curry
If you’ve been cooking curry for a while, you might have experienced something that many others have: curdled coconut milk. When this happens, you will notice the texture changes from smooth to chunky and semi-solid. Coconut milk curds may look unpleasant, but they do not alter the taste or texture of the dish in a big way.
To get rid of curdled coconut milk when cooking, simply follow the steps below:
- Add the milk to your cooked meat or vegetables after you have sautéed them.
- Reduce the heat to low and do not let the mixture come to a boil once you have added coconut milk.
- Stir the dish while it is cooking to avoid curdling, using a spatula that you can easily slide across the bottom of the pan.
Alternatively, you can also use cornstarch to break down the lumps; it acts as an emulsifier.
- Begin by mixing one tablespoon of cornstarch with 400 ml (roughly 1 quart) of coconut milk.
- Make a thin mush by adding some of the coconut milk to the cornstarch, mixing well, and then stirring into the curry.
- Keep stirring and cooking for about 10 minutes so that the floury taste is completely gone.
Fixing Coconut Milk Curdled in Soup
Coconut milk is a great substitute for dairy in recipes. It has a rich, creamy texture and a sweet, nutty flavor that works well with many different types of cuisine.
When adding coconut milk to soup, curdles often form as the natural proteins of the coconut break down. To avoid curdling, it’s best to stir the milk or cream frequently as it heats. This keeps the protein molecules from clumping together and forming lumps.
You can also follow the cornstarch method above and adjust the consistency of your coconut milk according to your preference. There are simple methods to solve your coconut milk problems. For separated coconut milk, all you need to do is to vigorously whisk it. For curdled coconut milk in curry or soup, simply stir continuously. By doing these, you will be able to transform your dish from watery to rich and creamy, just like before!