This recipe for Coconut Rice yields perfectly cooked and tender grains that are not sticky or gummy in the least. Fragrant, fluffy and so simple to make, it is a lovely side dish to serve with stir fries, curries, stews, or grilled meat and fish.
Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, I grew up eating rice every single day. There were other sides served at the table, but I always went for the rice. If it were up to me, I would likely still eat rice every day. I also love everything about coconuts and I grew up eating many foods either flavoured, or made, with coconut. Surprisingly, the combination of coconut with white rice was not one of them. Safe to say for the past few years I have been making up for lost time…and then some because I absolutely love coconut rice.
Wonderful with an infinite number of dishes, I love the slight richness and fragrance that infuses the rice when cooked with coconut milk. When done right, it’s fluffy, gorgeously fragrant, with a very subtle nuance of coconut. Divine.
About Coconut Rice
There are endless recipes for coconut rice that vary depending on the country and culture. In the Caribbean, beans or guandules (pigeon peas) are usually added to the rice and coconut milk. In some Latin American countries, such as Colombia, they cook down the coconut milk before adding the rice. You can variations of coconut rice in many other parts of the world where both rice and coconut are grown such as Southeast Asia, South America, Central America, East and West Africa, and the Indian sub continent.
The version I share here is a staple in Thai cuisine. It is prepared simply by cooking coconut milk with white rice, giving the rice a light, but beautifully fragrant coconut flavour. Subtly sweet and nutty, this coconut rice goes well with just about anything you can think of. Serve it with any Thai dish such as stir-fries, curries, or any seafood, or grilled meat and vegetables.
Ingredients And Notes For Coconut Rice
This easy coconut rice recipe is made with only 4 ingredients; rice, coconut milk, salt and water and the amount of time spent on preparation—from rinsing the rice to serving—is minimal. That said, as simple as making coconut rice is, there are a lot of variables that could affect the results. This section will go over the ingredients you will need, as well as notes on what is best to use.
1) The rice
Long grain rice is best for coconut rice but not all long grain rice are created equal. Regular long grain rice will need a little more water than Jasmine or Basmati rice, for example. Any long grain rice will work for coconut rice but this recipe calls for Jasmine rice, which has distinct floral notes that are heavenly when combined with creamy coconut milk.
When purchasing Jasmine rice, try and find a brand that is imported from Thailand and has the Thai Hom Mali certification. This certification guarantees the rice is of the highest quality and has gone through rigorous inspections. Costco sells a 25 pound bag of Jasmine rice that has the certification and is also a delight to cook. Basmati rice will also work for coconut rice, but again, make sure it is a good quality rice so it doesn’t clump up while cooking.
2) The coconut milk
This recipe uses full-fat coconut milk in cans, not the ones that come sold as “beverage” in cartons. I don’t recommend using light coconut milk which is basically watered down coconut milk and has no flavour. I almost always have cans of coconut milk in my pantry and you could say I have tried my fair share of brands throughout the years. Aroy-D is my absolute favourite for its creamy texture, high coconut content, and clean ingredients. However, I have not been buying this brand, or any brand coming from Thailand, once I became aware of these pretty horrifying practices (trigger warning; disturbing animal cruelty).
I realize nothing is perfect, almost all products, or stores where I purchase said products, come with a whole lot of controversies. For now, however, this is the choice that makes me comfortable. I have been really happy with this brand which seems to have more ethical standards, and you can find it very well priced at Costco.
3) Water and the best coconut milk to water ratio
Coconut rice is made with coconut milk and water. Using all coconut milk would result in very sticky rice with an overwhelming coconut flavour. In fact, the ratio and amount of each liquid is super important for achieving rice that is fluffy, and not too strongly flavoured. After trying many (many) versions I think I have finally landed on a recipe that results in rice that is perfectly cooked, with a lovely and delicate coconut flavour.
For two cups of rice I use 2 cups of water and 1 cup coconut milk. For 1 1/2 cups of rice, I find 1/2 cup coconut milk and 1 1/2 cup water works perfectly.
4) Salt and optional sugar
Sugar is often added to Thai coconut rice but I find the natural sweetness of coconut milk to be plenty sweet so I don’t add it. If you enjoy a sweeter version, feel free to add 1 tablespoon of coconut, brown, or regular sugar. Salt however, is pretty essential to season the rice properly and I use 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
Best Tips For Fluffy Coconut Rice
Rinse the rice
I know, it’s a pain. But it must be done. Not just for coconut rice but any rice – unless you’re making risotto. There are so many reasons to rinse rice that I am not even going to say it’s optional. Yes it adds about 5 minutes to the rice-cooking process but basically, for a perfectly fluffy, non-mushy, non-gluey, non-clumpy pot of rice, it’s important to wash the rice to get rid of excess starch. Particularly for coconut rice, where you’re introducing coconut milk which can be somewhat sticky, you really need to rinse the rice.
I give the rice about 3-4 rinses and I show you the step-by-step of how I do it down below. Once you wrap your head around the process and do it a few tines, it will feel very natural and you won’t give it a second thought. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Allow the rice to rest (and no peeking!)
Once the rice is covered, do not lift the lid until it has finished cooking, and has rested 10 minutes off the heat. Steam builds up in the pot and this moisture is what will continue to cook the rice while it rests. Lift the lid too soon and all that steam will fly out without giving the rice a chance to absorb it. Resist the urge to peek and you will be rewarded with grains of rice that are tender and perfectly cooked.
Use a heavy saucepan
Rice will cook more evenly in a heavy saucepan that isn’t too big or too wide. I recommend a 2 or 3 quart capacity saucepan that is a little taller, rather than wider. If you can, use the same pot for cooking rice every time so you become familiar with how much heat the pot holds and distributes.
Bring liquids to a boil, then cover and simmer
This is the method I use to cook any rice but for coconut rice it is especially important to allow the liquids and rice to come to a boil, then cover and reduce to a low simmer. Covering the pot, then bringing the liquids to a boil before simmering, will result in clumpy rice that could potentially stick to the pot.
How To Cook Coconut Rice (Step-By-Step)
This simple coconut rice recipe is for the stove top. I do not own a rice cooker so unfortunately I can’t provide instructions. However, from exploring other rice recipes cooked in a rice cooker, I am confident these exact proportions would work in a rice cooker.
Here is the step-by-step to cook coconut rice:
Rinse the rice:
To do this, place the dried grains into a 4 cup measuring cup, or large bowl and fill with cool water from the tap. Turn off the water and swish the grains around with your hand as though you were washing them.
Pour out the starchy water as best you can without spilling any rice. Fill with water again and repeat until the water is much clearer, about 4 times total. Note that the water does not have to be crystal clear.
If you used a bowl or measuring cup, pour the grains into a large fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl and let drain for a few minutes. Alternatively, you could just use the fine-mesh strainer to rinse the rice.
Cook the rice:
Add the coconut milk, water, and salt to a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil (uncovered) while stirring gently a few times. Reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan and cook for 18 minutes. Without uncovering, transfer the pot to a cold burner and let sit on the stove for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes of rest, fluff the rice with a fork and enjoy!
Optional garnishes for coconut rice
I enjoy coconut rice plain but occasionally I like to top it, or infuse it, with some fun ingredients. Here a few of my favourites:
- toasted coconut
- lime zest and lime wedges
- thinly sliced green onions
- pickled jalapeño peppers
- fried shallots (so good!)
- herbs such as chopped cilantro, chives, mint or Thai basil
What To Serve with Coconut Rice?
- Quick Asian-Flavoured Beef with Rice
- Salmon Cakes with Lemon Yogurt Sauce
- Blackened Fish with Mango Avocado Salsa
- Jerk-Spiced Chicken with Grilled Pineapple Salad
- 2 cups (360g) Thai jasmine rice, rinsed and drained very well
- 2 cups (455g) cold or room temperature water
- 1 cup (227g) canned full-fat coconut milk (shake can before opening)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Combine the rice, water, coconut milk, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring a few times to prevent sticking. Reduce the heat to low, stir one more time, then cover the pot. Cook undisturbed for about 18 minutes. (See notes on cooking time.)
- Without uncovering, transfer the pot to a cold burner and let sit on the stove for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, uncover, fluff the rice with a fork, and enjoy!