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What is Coconut Rice?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Coconut rice is rice which has been prepared with coconut milk instead of water, lending the rice a rich coconut flavor. It can be eaten on its own as a treat, or served alongside curries and other dishes. This version of rice is especially popular with Thai cuisine, although it also pairs well with Indian food and other cuisines from Southeast Asia. Caribbean food can also be greatly enhanced with the addition of coconut rice.

Many cooks like to use jasmine rice for coconut rice, because this light, aromatic rice takes on the flavor of the coconut very well. Other rice varietals can be used as well. Rinsing the rice first is recommended to cut down on the starch, which will ensure that the coconut rice is light and fluffy, and that the flavor of the coconut comes through clearly. Rinsing can be accomplished by running water over rice in a sieve, or by soaking the rice in multiple changes of water.

While the rice is draining after soaking, a mixture of coconut milk and water can be brought to boil in a cooking pot. While pure coconut milk can be used, many cooks prefer a blend, which will reduce the risk of burning. For an extra-rich version of coconut rice, coconut cream can be used instead of coconut milk. The ratio of liquids to rice should be two to one, with slightly less liquid for a more sticky coconut rice. Some cooks also add salt or sugar to their coconut rice, depending on how it is going to be used.

The rice is then added to the boiling mixture, stirred, and covered after the temperature is brought down so that it can simmer for 15-20 minutes before being uncovered, fluffed, and covered again for five minutes to allow the rice to rest. At this point, the coconut rice can be served. Some cooks add toasted coconut to their coconut rice at the table for extra flavor and a crunchy texture.

In addition to being served with savory dishes, coconut rice can also be used in desserts. A simple dessert of coconut rice covered in fruit and syrup can be quite delicious, as a variation on the classic Thai dish of sticky rice with mango. When using coconut rice in desserts, a small amount of sugar is usually added during the cooking process so that the rice will be sweet.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By ysmina — On Dec 23, 2013

I like coconut Basmati rice made the Indian way. It has more spices as well as coconut and nuts. It's very colorful, aromatic and my husband loves it too.

By ZipLine — On Dec 22, 2013

Steamed coconut rice is delicious. I make it when I have extra coconut milk at home. I like topping it with toasted coconut and I usually pair it with seafood like salmon. It makes a great, healthy meal with grilled salmon but it pairs well with other types of seafood as well.

I don't put a lot of coconut milk in my coconut rice. I usually put just half of what is recommended in a recipe because I don't want it to be the overwhelming flavor in the rice. I also don't add sugar, just a pinch or two of salt, that's it.

I need to look up more recipes with coconut rice. I might make some tonight, all this talk of coconut rice made me crave it!

By burcidi — On Dec 21, 2013

I love mango sticky rice and the rice is best when it's made with coconut milk and cream. My favorite Thai restaurant makes the best mango sticky rice. They cook the rice with coconut milk and then add a splash of coconut cream on top of the rice before serving it with sliced, ripe mangoes. It's a light dessert but it tastes amazing. The rice and mango are both fragrant and complete each other perfectly.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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