Thirsty for the freshest Piña Colada around? Ditch the canned stuff and blend up a batch of DIY cream of coconut. A key ingredient in tiki drinks, coconut adds a tropical touch to summery island cocktails, and when you want fresh-from-the-tropics taste, canned coconut cream just won’t cut it. Thankfully, with a fresh coconut, a few simple tools and some everyday kitchen gear, you can prepare a batch of homemade cream of coconut that have you never looking back to cans again.
1 whole fresh coconut (about 2 lbs.)
¼ cup water
Pinch kosher salt
⅛ cup granulated sugar
⅛ cup maple syrup
Nail or corkscrew
2 small glass jars
1. Locate the three “eyes” at the top of the coconut. With a nail or corkscrew, carefully puncture a hole through the softest of the three eyes. Drain the liquid inside the coconut into a glass (you can strain this liquid and drink it alone over ice).
2. With a hammer, firmly but carefully hit around the coconut’s equator (imagine the pierced eye as the North Pole). Continue to rotate the coconut to hit around its entire circumference. After several rounds it will split in two.
3. Place the coconut in the freezer for 15 minutes. This will help separate the flesh inside from the hard outer shell. With a paring knife, gently remove the white coconut flesh; discard the shell. Using a vegetable peeler, remove any remaining shell fragments from the coconut flesh.
4. In a blender, pulse the coconut flesh with ¼ cup of water until it resembles a coarse pulp. Scoop the pulp into a cheesecloth-lined colander and strain into a large bowl. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth, and use your hands to wring the cheesecloth-wrapped coconut, extracting as much liquid as possible.
5. Pour the coconut liquid into a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Stirring with a wooden spoon, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and maple syrup. Pour into a clean glass jar and let rest overnight at room temperature to allow the cream of coconut to separate from the coconut oil. Scoop off the cream and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.
To check the freshness of a coconut, shake it close to your ear. If you hear the coconut water sloshing around inside, it’s good. If not, best move on to another. Once you’ve extracted all the cream in step 4, steep the cheesecloth-bound coconut in 1 cup of hot water for 5 minutes. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Cover and refrigerate this coconut “milk” to use in everything from iced coffee to cooking coconut rice. If you’re unsure about cracking open a coconut, watch this helpful video for additional tips.