So I’m kind of obsessed with coconuts. They are the ultimate Super Food in my opinion (although cacao comes in a close second!). Every single part of the coconut is useful for something and nearly every product made from coconuts is incredibly healthy for your brain and body (refer to my article on coconut oil to get the idea). My favorite coconut product is coconut oil (“aceite de coco” in Spanish). I literally use it for EVERYTHING! I cook with it, I bake with it, I put it in my raw food recipes, I use it as lotion, I shave with….well you get the picture.
So naturally now that I find myself living in Caribbean Costa Rica (aka: “Coconut-Landia”) I needed to learn how to make this incredible elixir for myself. Sounds easy enough, right? Well sort of…people in Costa Rica definitely know how to make coconut oil and you can buy it at almost any road side stand on the highway –but the traditional method of making the oil requires cooking it –which changes the taste and color of the finished product. Although the nutrients in coconut hold up well at high heat, this method kills the beneficial enzymes that live in raw coconut oil. Depending on what/how you are using your coconut oil, this may or may not be important to you.
After doing a little research, combined with a lot of trial and error I finally figured out how to make raw coconut milk and hence raw coconut oil. You have no idea how excited I was when I obtained my first batch of pure, white, unprocessed, raw coconut oil…I did my happy dance around the kitchen again and again –it was a beautiful moment.
Ok, let’s get to it. Here is my tried and true recipe for making your own raw, organic coconut milk and oil –whether you are living deep in the jungle or in the comfort of your Martha Stewart-esque suburban kitchen (provided you have access to coconuts or dried coconut flakes). No juicer or fancy kitchen appliances needed. Just ingenuity.
What you’ll need
Fresh mature coconuts (brown on the outside) OR dried organic coconut flakes
Blender or Food processor or BOTH (*optional)
Cheese grater (if you don’t have a blender or food processor)
Fabric for straining (i.e. cheesecloth or an old cotton pillowcase)
Clear sided bowl (so you can see the milk separate)
Jug or other Container(s) for storing milk or oil
The yield depends on a lot of factors, including how big your coconuts are and how strong your hands are (for squeezing). But generally, three coconuts will yield about 1 ½-2 cups of really thick coconut milk/cream and about half of that can be turned into oil (~200mL).
How to do it
Step 1 – Collect as many mature coconuts as you can find (or buy them). The yellow or yellowish-green coconuts are best for their meat once they have turned brown and fallen off the tree. Although, if you are buying them, the coconuts in the store will already have the outer husk removed and look like a little brown hairy ball –this is the type you want. If you aren’t living anywhere near a town where you can find or buy whole coconuts, you can use dried organic shredded coconut flakes (raw is preferable and NOT the defatted flakes). If you have the whole coconuts, open them up (using a meat cleaver, hatchet or machete), remove the meat and wash it. If you are not going to use the meat immediately, refrigerate (or freeze) it in an air-tight container.
Step 2 – Now this step has a couple different options: a) You can use a food grater and grate the meat (on the smallest part of the grater) into a bowl; OR better yet…
b) If you have electricity and a food processor, just chop up the coconut into chunks and feed it into your food processor, (OR if you have a really strong blender go right to Step 3) and process until semi-fine (or very fine if using a blender).
Step 3 – You can omit this step if you are using a hand grater and go directly to Step 4. If you have a blender, transfer the coarsely ground coconut meat from your food processor into the blender with just enough water to allow your blender to further blend the meat into a very fine grind. The best idea is to have a few batches of the food processor meat ready and keep adding the meat to the blender until you can hear it starting to work harder, and the mixture becomes visibly thicker. Careful not to over work your blender. You don’t want too much excess water if you can help it. Blend for a few minutes.
Step 4 – Have a cotton pillowcase, cheesecloth (or similar fabric) ready over a large clear bowl. Pour the coconut/water mixture from your blender into the cloth for straining. Twist the top of the fabric to create a little sac filled with the mixture. Keep twisting the fabric from the top down to put pressure on the little sac –like when you are trying to get the last bits of toothpaste out of the tube. You will start to see the milk pouring out of the cloth. Get your strong hands ready and really start to squeeze the sac to get out every last drop of milk. There is always more than you think so keep squeezing until no drops are left. Repeat this Step until you have used up all of the coconut meat that you blended. Each time, set aside the coconut pulp in a bag or container for future use.
Step 5 – Pour the contents from the bowl into a jug (preferably a glass one) and place on your refrigerator. It is ready to use immediately if you want a milk that is not super thick. To get a thicker milk and/or cream, let sit for about an hour at least.
Step 6 – Once the thick portion of your “milk” has risen to the top of the jug, carefully skim the “cream” off the top with a ladle or by using a piece of tubing to siphon the layers more precisely, being careful not to get too much of the lighter liquid on the bottom. If you just want the thickest, best coconut milk you have ever tasted, then you are done at this step. Refrigerate the milk and enjoy! To make coconut oil, continue on to Step 7.
Note**If you want your milk a little less rich, mix some of the lighter liquid (the stuff on the bottom) with the cream. You can also add a tsp of guar gum or non-gmo lecithin to keep it from separating if you like.
Step 7 – To make Coconut Oil, transfer the thickest portion of your milk (the cream) to another bowl or container (preferably glass), with a lid (not air-tight). Leave the container in a semi-warm place (like a window ledge or on top of the fridge or near the stove or… well you get the idea…) for 24-48hrs. You will start to see the milk beginning to ferment, with little bubbles forming throughout. It feels a bit like a grade school science project. Once you see some of the oil bubbles start to separate out from the liquid, you are nearly done. To help the process along and let the bubbles escape, you can put the container in a bowl of warm (not boiling) water. After a few minutes you should see the oil floating on the top of the now fermented liquid.
Step 8 – Put the separated mixture in the fridge. After an hour or so take it out and scrap the hardened coconut oil (on the top) off the bottom layer, which should be at least partially still liquid. Transfer the oil to another container and let it warm back to room temperature. You may get some bits of the bottom liquid in the oil, until you have perfected your technique, but that’s ok because you can re-separate it again later. Once the oil is again liquid you may see “bits” in the bottom of the container. You can again refrigerate it, which will make it easier to remove the last little bits and clarify the oil.
Yeah! You’re done! You can now use your coconut oil for all your health and beauty needs! Remember coconut oil can be stored at either room temperature or in the fridge if you want it harder like butter. Enjoy!
***A note about the “waste” products:
The coconut pulp or fiber that is left in the straining cloth after squeezing out all of the milk can be used for a lot of things. If you have a food dehydrator, dehydrate it further to remove any excess moisture and use it in any recipe that calls for dehydrated coconut flakes or fibre. Or you can dry it and further pulverize it in a coffee grinder to make a low fat coconut flour for gluten free baking. Or mix it with your animals’ food –it will still retain a lot of the nutrients and anti-parasitic/anti-viral properties of fresh coconut and it’s a great non-grain source of fiber for animals that don’t tolerate grains well. Or use it in my recipe for Raw coconut cinnamon rolls or Raw coconut-almond toast
The lighter liquid that separates out from the coconut cream is mostly water, but don’t toss it out, you can use it for all sorts of things. My favorite way is to use it is to cook quinoa or brown rice – I just use it instead of water. You can add it to soups or other recipes that call for plain water to add a little flavor and nutrients. Or as I said before, you can use it to thin out your coconut cream if you want a lighter finished product. If you still can’t think of anything else to use it for, trying giving it to your pet, my dog likes to drink it instead of plain water!
The fermented “milk” that you created while making your oil can be discarded OR you can use it as a culture for yeast-free baked goods. I’m sure there are other uses for it, but I’m still in the process of figuring out what they are. So let know if you come up with any more good ones!