Today I want to give you my findings on a topic of interest to anyone who enjoys Asian cuisine: Can you freeze coconut milk?
Well, the short answer is: of course you can. You can freeze anything. But what we really want to know here is: can you freeze coconut milk without harming its quality? And the answer to that question is: sort of.
The first time I froze coconut milk I did it on the instincts of a cheapskate. For those of us who aren’t cooking Asian meals on a daily basis (read: most of us), the leftover coconut milk from a can (which, frustratingly, almost never matches the quantity a recipe calls for) can’t simply be stowed in the fridge. It’s going to spoil before you get around to it.
At the same time, I wasn’t going to throw perfectly good coconut milk out when I had a perfectly good freezer right next to me. “Like hell! I’m goin’ for it!” was, I believe, my line of thought.
I didn’t care what the outcome would be, and at worst, at least I’d find out for myself if it was a total disaster. Out of curiosity and just prior to freezing, I tried researching the subject in my cookbooks and online and found little. This definitely called for the awesome power of Science and Cheapness combined.
So here’s what I’ve found from repeated experiments: coconut milk easily freezes in tupperware into an opaque white block, as you’d expect. It has a quirk on thawing, though — it stays solid much longer than you’d expect the equivalent block of ice to do. If you put it in the fridge to thaw, it may take several days. Overnight thawing in the fridge will result in a still-near-solid block.
You can help things along with a microwave set on defrost, stirring occasionally, but it will pass through an interesting “slush” phase. Finally, you will end up with a watery, grainy fluid. Some of the coconut milk solids are no longer emulsified. Here’s what it looks like in a pan:
The thing is, you can still use it just fine for purposes that don’t depend on coconut milk’s texture or consistency; the flavor seems to be preserved. For the purpose of coconut rice, for example, it works great. The fluid gets sucked up into the grains of rice and the solids adhere to the outsides and seem to become creamy again.
I’d guess if you were mixing it into other dishes with lots of ingredients, the texture change would probably be unnoticeable. However, for items like Thai Iced Tea, thawed coconut milk is probably a loss. So you’ll have to use your own judgement.
Has anyone else had any experience freezing and thawing coconut milk? If so, what were your results?