Split coconut and a bowl of coconut milk

During our time with Aroma at Casa Linda Cooking School in Kochi, we enjoyed a lesson in making Fresh Coconut Milk. Let’s face it. Most of us get our coconut milk from a can.

In South India, that would be a blasphemy. Coconut milk here is always a “pressing concern”. That is, coconut milk is always freshly pressed from the coconut itself. It never comes from a can.

While we might have a challenge getting fresh coconut to make coconut cream or milk from scratch, in Kerala it’s easy. In fact, the Malayalam word Kerala actually translates to “land of coconuts” in English.

Coconuts grow in such abundance that coconut milk or cream is a key ingredient in a large variety of Keralan dishes. It is a staple for the culture. Naturally, it’s an important life skill to know how to make coconut milk. In this post, we’ll share a lesson in making fresh coconut milk with our friend Aroma Dipu.

Karen’s first impression

A lesson in making Fresh Coconut Milk Recipe

2 to 3 cups


1 coconut for fresh coconut milk


  1. Crack the coconut in half. You can use a hammer and nail, or if you have one and are experienced – a machete!
  2. Use a special South Indian coconut grater to remove the white flesh inside if you are fortunate enough to have one. Otherwise, chip the flesh out with a hammer and screwdriver and use a box grater or food processor to shred the coconut flesh.
  3. Add enough water to cover the grated coconut in the bowl of a powerful blender (like a Vitamix) or food processor and blend on high for about one minute.
  4. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and pour the coconut and water mixture into it. Press and squeeze the coconut through the sieve collecting the milk in the bowl below. This batch is what is known as first press coconut. It is comparable to coconut cream.
  5. Set it aside and use it in recipes that call for first press coconut milk or coconut cream.
  6. Return the pressed coconut to the blender, add another cup of water and blend and strain again in the above fashion. The milk collected is second press coconut milk and would be comparable to canned coconut milk. Note: You can likely get a third press as well.

Additional notes:

Keep the different kinds of coconut pressed milk separate as you will use the first, second, and third presses at different times and stages of recipes in South Indian cooking.
Outside of tropical regions, it may be difficult to find fresh coconuts and most of us do not have the proper South Indian coconut grater. We suggest buying coconut cream, coconut milk, and lite coconut milk and use them as first, second and third press respectively when a recipe uses that terminology.

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