Creamy Coconut Milk Rice Pudding

March  7, 2013

Every other Thursday, Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw shares satisfying, flavorful recipes that also happen to be vegan.

Today: Gena shares a bright, creamy rice pudding and discusses the many uses of coconut milk.

Remember a few weeks ago, when I said that cashew cream is a “secret weapon” in the vegan kitchen arsenal? Well, here’s another one: coconut milk. Like cashew cream, coconut milk is incredibly rich in natural fats, so it’s wonderful for replacing the heavy creams in many a dessert, bisque, or curry. Better still, coconut milk can be found at almost any grocery store, and using it is as easy as opening a can.

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Not to be confused with coconut water -- which is made from the water of young Thai coconuts -- coconut milk is made from pulverized coconut meat and comes in both full fat and light varieties. When you open a can of full fat coconut milk, you’ll probably notice a thick layer of cream on top. This portion is richer in fats than the rest, and can be skimmed off and used in recipes that demand something especially rich. If you shake the can, the cream disperses into the rest of the liquid, and the resulting coconut milk can be used in soups, stews, or—as you’ll soon see—a creamy rice pudding. 

A little coconut milk goes a long way in recipes; often, a few tablespoons will suffice. Fortunately, coconut milk freezes well in a tightly sealed plastic bag, a freezer-safe container, or ice cube trays.

Coconut milk is especially popular in Southeast Asian and Caribbean recipes, but its potential in your kitchen doesn’t stop there. Here are a few ways that you can incorporate it into your home cooking:


Better breakfast. Use coconut milk in your favorite hot cereal for a warm and comforting morning treat. You may want to try using half coconut milk and half water—a little goes a long way. Use this quinoa breakfast bowl as inspiration!

Coconut lassi. Blend 2 cups of mango, a teaspoon of vanilla extract (or the scrapings of 1 vanilla bean) and a cup and a half of light coconut milk together. Add a pinch of cardamom and a tablespoon of organic sugar for something sweeter.

Coconut milk curry. Use coconut milk—light or full fat—in your favorite curry recipe. I like adding extra firm tofu to mine, along with vegetables, green curry paste, tamari, garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Dairy-free whipped cream. Skim the cream off of two cans of coconut milk, add a few tablespoons of organic powdered sugar, and use a hand mixer to whip the mixture up into light, creamy perfection.

Soup. Replace regular milk in any creamy soup recipe—butternut squash, potato, cream of broccoli—with coconut milk. You’ll be amazed at how little you miss the dairy.

Molten chocolate. Coconut milk elevates hot chocolate to new heights, and it’s easy to prepare at home: simply heat a can of coconut milk in a small saucepan and add an ounce of good dark chocolate to the mix. Sweeten as desired, and swoon.

The following rice pudding, kissed with ginger and citrus, is my current favorite use for coconut milk. Rather than adding the coconut milk to cooked rice, I cook the rice in a mix of coconut milk, water, and orange juice. The result is a subtly sweet, impossibly creamy creation, with ginger and cinnamon adding a hint of spice. You can serve it warm or cold. If you do keep it in the fridge for a few nights, you can reheat it on the stovetop with a few extra tablespoons of coconut milk. Enjoy!


Coconut Milk Rice Pudding with Citrus and Ginger

Serves 4

1 can (13.6 fluid oz.) full-fat coconut milk
1 cup water
3/4 cups orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup long grain basmati rice
2 to 4 tablespoons maple syrup, to taste
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon orange zest

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).

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Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.


albert January 14, 2014

i love the long grains rice it makes a wonderful presentation.
LeBec F. March 21, 2013
barclay, so glad you love them.
Amanda R. March 14, 2013
This looks absolutely divine. I have been a fan of Choosing Raw for years and was delighted when a friend forwarded this link to me and saw your contributions here. Yay for the 'New Veganism'!
LeBec F. March 12, 2013
p.s. lemon juice and coconut not a good pairing.
Barclay March 21, 2013
"not a good pairing" is your opinion. I can rattle off 25 raw vegan recipes that use both and taste amazing.
LeBec F. March 12, 2013
cuvee, personally, i would suggest "milk or cream(unless you're vegan), and lime zest or cardamom or cinnamon."
Cuvee March 12, 2013
I'm not a big fan of orange juice, or creamcicles. Can I use lemon juice instead? How much would you recommend?
MsMarm March 11, 2013
This looks delicious - and another chance to get the kids to eat healthy brown rice. So what needs to be modified to use brown rice? and what kind of brown rice? Thanks!
Elodie B. March 11, 2013
Lovely! I just love coconut milk but never thought of using it in lassi and as a substitute to cream in whipped cream. Thanks for the recipes!
Cheryl B. March 10, 2013
This recipe looks wonderful and reminds me of rice pudding I had a few years ago at a restaurant in Philadelphia. While the chef wouldn't give me the recipe, he said it was basically a sweet risotto with arborio rice and coconut milk. Could arborio rice be used here in place of long grain basmati?
greatbleuheron March 8, 2013
I just came over here from your other blog, Gina, to ask if this recipe would work with black rice. I look forward to hearing how yours turns out!
Gena H. March 8, 2013
Well, now you've all inspired me to make this with black rice! Stay tuned :)
LeBec F. March 8, 2013
Aside from the well thought out flavor of the recipe, I find this very well written and thorough.Most impressive. Black rice and/or taro cubes in coconut milk is a popular sweet in Thai and Malay restaurants here in Boston; I love the toothsomeness of the black rice, and it has another trump over the basmati here: when chilled,black rice doesn't get that dry/grainy/hard texture that basmati does.
SeaJambon March 7, 2013
We have both gluten and dairy-intolerance in the family, so I've long been making traditional rice pudding (raisins; cinnamon) with coconut milk and it is rich, creamy and FABULOUS! Truly a wonderful comfort food anytime of the year. Love having a new take on the tradition!
revelinginraw March 7, 2013
With the coconut and oj, it must be reminiscent of a creamsicle! I second the above comment that this would be great with black rice, too.
Lisa T. March 7, 2013
Wow. Thanks for the inspiration. My sister-in-law is dairy- (and many other foods) free and will love some of these!
Rinchen March 7, 2013
This would be great with black rice. I make my own coconut milk for gado gado by pouring hot water over dessicated coconut and straining oater.
AntoniaJames March 7, 2013
Looks delicious, but how much rice do you use? And what kind do you recommend? Thanks! ;o)
Marian B. March 7, 2013
Sorry about that! The recipe has been updated -- 1 cup long grain basmati. Enjoy!