Homemade Coconut Milk Ice Cream

August 13th, 2013 | Posted by Alison Spath in Short or Sweet

I’ve been making my own coconut ice cream at home for a couple weeks now.  I will totally eat regular, dairy ice cream – but I love coconut ice cream too.  So whether you can’t eat dairy or simply choose not to – or if you’re just nutty for coconut, let’s talk about this!

Homemade Coconut Milk Ice Cream

I must tell you upfront that coconut milk ice cream making is an art as much as it is a science.  There are also some pros and cons when it comes to making it yourself versus shelling out the bucks for a pint of the already-made coconut milk ice cream you can find in the grocery store freezer case.  For instance:

Pro: The recipe is very simple!

Con: You need an ice cream maker for this.

Everything You Need to Make Homemade Coconut Milk Ice Cream

I realize an ice maker isn’t an appliance that everyone has in their kitchen – even ours was a hand me down.  But now that we have one, I really like it!  Mostly because it means I can control the quality of ingredients and quantity of sugar too.  Dessert control freak much?  Yes, I admit it.

Homemade Coconut Milk Ice Cream

2 can of full fat coconut milk, refrigerated for at least four hours
1/4 c of sugar
1 tsp of vanilla

That’s it!

That refrigeration step is crucial for a really, really creamy coconut ice cream.  Thanks to a little trick I learned from from Angela at Oh She Glows:

Canned Coconut Milk for Homemade Coconut Ice Cream

If you refrigerate a can of full fat coconut milk for at least 4 hours, it separates.

Open Cold Coconut Milk Can for Coconut Cream

Fat on the bottom, “skim” coconut milk on the top. Flip the can upside down, open and pour out the liquid.

Coconut Milk

(I’ve followed Angela’s advice and save that liquid portion of the coconut milk for smoothies and cooking.)

Then scrape out the cream.  Glorious, glorious coconut cream!

Coconut Cream

Now don’t panic!  Yes, that’s full of fat but a.) fat is our friend and b.) we’re talking about a treat here, it’s gonna be OK.  Here, have some coconut milk ice cream while you compose yourself.

You can make an incredible, and-I-mean-incredible dessert topping with this coconut cream alone.  (seriously.  this stuff is life changing.  go read Angela’s Coconut Whipped Cream post for a step by step guide and other helpful info! GO!  go right now!)

After making coconut whipped cream to top some fresh, summer berries this year (in that case, no sugar is even needed!) I got to thinking I could put this creamy concoction into the ice cream maker to make a rich and creamy ice cold treat.

Pro: It’s awesome being right.

Con: This is no downside to me being right.

Use a hand mixer, blender or immersion blender to combine ingredients well.  I like using the hand mixer because the clean up is quick and I can scrape every last drop out of the mixing bowl with a spatula.

Whipped Coconut Milk

Here’s where some of that “art of coconut ice cream making” comes into play – if your cream base is especially thick – you might need to add a 1/8 c – 1/4 c of that coconut skim milk you set aside at the beginning.  You’ll need to use your best judgement though, keeping in mind how temperamental your ice cream maker is.  (I had one batch that was so custardy-thick my ice maker stopped churning after just a couple minutes!)

More pros and cons:

Pro:  You can use as much or as little sugar as you like.  I find a 1/4 c of sugar to be plenty, but you might want more or less, or perhaps use something like honey, maple syrup or stevia.

Con:  The texture of your finished product completely depends on texture of your coconut milk out of the can.  As I’ve come to discover, no two cans every seem to be exactly the same.  Sometimes it’s very smooth, other times it’s a little grainy (why does this happen?) which means your ice cream will be a little grainy too, and that’s sort of a bummer.

Pro: grainy or not, it is ALWAYS delicious!

Con:  but sometimes a little frustrating from a quality control perspective.

When your ingredients are well combined, transfer your coconut cream mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s directions from there.

Coconut Milk Ice Cream at in Homemade Ice Cream Maker

With my ice cream maker, it’s usually done and ready to eat in 15 – 20 minutes.

Homemade Coconut Milk Ice Cream

The other difference I’ve noticed (even with the same technique and same brand of coconut milk) is that if I transfer the leftovers (leftovers?!) to the freezer, sometimes it scoops out nicely straight from the freezer, and other times it’s pretty hard and I need to let it warm up for 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

Transfer Coconut Milk Ice Cream to Freezer Safe Dish

Again with the Art of Coconut Milk Ice Cream Making; you’ll have to figure out what works for you, your freezer,  your ice cream and your mouth.

Homemade Coconut Milk Ice Cream

No matter which way you churn it, me and my mouth like this stuff.

Cost Comparison

From what I’ve gathered, the cost of making your own at home vs. buying something like So Delicious Coconut Milk ice cream is pretty much a toss up.  I’ll admit that at first I thought there was going to be a substantial cost savings to making your own coconut milk ice cream compared to buying a pint of coconut milk ice cream at the store, but now I’m not so sure.

At Wegmans, a pint (16 oz) of So Delicious is $4.99.  One 13.66 oz can of Thai Kitchen coconut milk is $2.49.  So yes, that’s nearly 27 oz for $4.98, but you do “lose” some volume because you pour out the liquid portion of the coconut milk (and that amount of liquid seems to vary slightly with each can).  I am sure I end up with more than 16 oz of coconut milk ice cream each time, but I don’t know exactly how much because I’ve yet take an exact measurement of my final product.  Then there is the (minimal) additional cost of the sugar and vanilla extract, plus the time and energy it takes to make it.  This is why I call the cost comparison a toss up.

In my mind, the best reason to make your own coconut milk ice cream at home is because you can do it with just three ingredients.  So Delicious uses agave nectar for sweetener (something I no longer prefer to consume) and if I’m going to eat sugar, I’d rather just use real sugar and call it a day.  They also use some thickeners and other extracts too, and if we can make it at home without those ingredients?  I’m all over it.

If you like to keep things simple and close to home, it’s hard to go wrong making your own coconut milk ice cream.  And a fourth or fifth might be completely called for if it’s something like cocoa powder, chunks of chocolate, a little peppermint flavoring, fresh berries, nuts or nut butter – whatever your taste buds desire.  Let your dessert control freak flag fly!


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33 Responses

  • Cindi says:

    Hi! Can’t wait to try it!!

  • I’m one of those people who would much rather buy ice cream than make it, because it seems like too much work, even though I willingly spend an hour laying phyllo dough for baklava. However, those new fun ice cream makers they have that are balls that you kick around to stir the cream look really fun! And I loooove coconut.

  • John Delia says:

    You can get heavy Thai coconut milk at Asian stores for $1.79. Most coconuts are organic anyway. John

  • Using coconut milk instead of dairy seems to give a different creamy taste. Good post.

  • Barb says:

    This looks wonderful. I was searching for a recipe to make my own coconut ice cream and came across yours. I’ve made dairy based ice cream before and have used a Tbs. of vodka to keep it from freezing up like a brick, It makes scooping it out easier.
    John Delia, have you found a brand of coconut cream that does not contain preservatives? I’ve been looking and have yet to find one.

    • Love the idea of adding a little alcohol to keep it from freezing solid!

      • Joan Mercantini says:

        I made coconut milk ice cream , without a machine, and really liked it. I added rum instead of vodka, had no vodka on hand. I put the remainder of the ice cream in the freezer and it is not hard as a rock. Would using vodka instead of rum make a difference?

  • Laura says:

    So glad I found this. I’m allergic to cow’s milk and love the So Delicious Coconut ice cream, but find the cost prohibitive. There are plenty of Asian food stores in my area where I can get the canned coconut cream at low prices -can’t wait to make my own now! Thank you!

  • Jessica says:

    How much ice cream does this recipe make? I can’t imagine the amount of coconut cream after draining 2 cans is more than 1 full can of ice cream. Maybe 2 cups at most?

    • The dish in the picture is a 1.5 qt (6 cups) – you get varying amount of coconut cream in each can each time, but I’d estimate I usually get about 3 cups with 2 cans of coconut milk. As I understand it, the ice cream maker stirs air into the mixture, so it seems to increase in volume during the ice cream making process.

  • kaur says:

    Thanks for this tip! I made coconut ice cream once before w/o refrigerating the coconut milk and it turned in rock consistency after freezing it.

  • ethel clark says:

    What is the difference between the canned coconut milk and the coconut milk that comes in a carton.

  • tina says:

    Went to make coconut ice cream and couldn’t remember the recipe I used and came across this one which seems very close to what I did before so thanks for the recipe! Of course I went to make it and realized someone forgot to put the freezer part of the ice cream machine in the freezer when it was washed last time… so now I’m not making ice cream until tomorrow! :(
    It makes so much sense for me to make, rather than buy, coconut milk ice cream. Where I live (Ontario, Canada) So Delicious and other brands’ coconut ice cream varies from around $5 (when on a major sale) to the typical price of $7 for a tiny little container. And canned coconut milk goes on sale all the time so I never spend more than $1 per can. Crazy how much of a price difference certain products have in different areas!

  • Tam says:

    Thanks for this recipe! I loved the thorough instructions. I made it exactly as written and have made other coconut ice cream recipes (dairy allergy). I had the following comments about it: To readers who may have a cuisinart ice cream maker as I do, it seems to be a common problem that coconut milk ice cream will not get more firm than pourable soft serve. That has been my experience no matter how long I freeze the container, no matter what recipe I use. Just sayin’ so no one thinks your recipe is to blame. When made as written I found this recipe WAY too fatty. There is “rich” and then there is “frozen lard”. It could be variations in different cans of milk or maybe I just like mine “lighter”. I made another batch using both WHOLE cans of the coconut milk (just slightly chilled), 1/4 cup sugar and a tablespoon of vanilla. PERFECT. Two best takeaways from your recipe- perfect amount of sugar for me, most recipes call for way too much. The premixing step is vital whether you use the fat only or or the whole can. This prevents getting those lumps of frozen fat in the final product which I had in the past.

    • Thank you for your feedback Tam, “frozen lard” made me laugh out loud! I too have tinkered around with the coconut cream/milk proportions and it seems to come out a little different each time. Some cans have more “cream” than others and I too have thinned it out while trying to figure out how to make it scoop-able from the freezer. I do love the way we can each tweak this to our own tastes and am so happy you came back to share yours! Very glad to know you found some helpful takeaways from the recipe.

  • Hannah Daniel says:

    Hi! I just made your recipe. While I found that the texture was divine…it was a little underly sweet. It just tasted like frozen whipped cream. I would suggest to double to triple the sugar if you are not used to having things underly-sweet. For me, I would have doubled it, but my husband said to quadruple it! Just taste it before you put it in the mixer ! Also, Tam’c comments about the Cuisinart Mixer were most helpful!

  • Beth says:

    Thanks for the recipe! For anyone with Trader Joe’s stores in your area, they sell cans of pure coconut cream…really great for non-dairy cooking.

  • Leslie says:

    I’ve been trying and failing miserably at coconut ice cream! I am going to try your method of losing the water and see if I can get this right! I made a low sugar/stevia blend version with vanilla, cardamom and some unsweetened shredded coconut. It was delicious but hard as a rock once frozen in the freezer :(

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  • Veranoenvermont says:

    What is the yield?

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  • Carrie says:

    I have coconut milk in the carton , can I still make this ice cream? If not , what can I make with coconut milk? It doesn’t seem to have much flavor.?

    • Coconut milk in the carton is not the same as coconut milk in the can… the milk in the carton has been processed and homogenized. You could potentially use coconut milk in the carton any place you might use regular milk. You could use it in a smoothie, most recipes that call for milk or even on cereal. (But for this ice cream recipe, you will need the coconut milk in the cans.)

  • Thanks, this is an interesting technique. Pinned it. I’ve developed a different technique for super smooth coconut milk ice cream that has great mouth feel and is never grainy. You don’t have to separate the coconut milk, so there’s no wasting the liquid: http://ouroneacrefarm.com/chocolate-coconut-milk-ice-cream/

  • Elora Tarlo says:

    How do you keep the ice cream from going rock hard in the freezer? I guess alcohol helps but is there anything else?

    • Elora, in my recipe, both the alcohol and the tapioca syrup keep it from getting rock hard. And the added coconut oil help keep it smooth. Mine is definitely not rock hard. It is scoopable out of the freezer and nice and smooth. If you want to leave out the alcohol, I would add an extra tbsp of tapioca syrup (can substitute with corn syrup, but not HFCS)

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  • Heather Hicks says:

    Ok I have a lactose problem but LOVE an occasional ice cream. I love homemade ice cream and we make it with PET milk, regular milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. My question is how similar in taste and consistency would this recipe be??

  • Shanny says:

    Hi! I have been looking around for simple no need too much ingredient coconut ice-cream for hubby. Thanks so much for making my life easier! Lol… Just so I see correctly on your photos, does it says 433 ml on the cans? Thanks! Will try this out next week when I do my monthly food shopping at the Asian shop here. :)



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