How to Make Perfect Coconut Rice
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Follow this easy coconut rice recipe for perfectly cooked fluffy rice every time, with white or brown rice.
Next time you’re thinking about making another pot of plain rice and feeling just a little bored with the same-old same-old, switch things up and try this easy coconut milk rice recipe instead.
I make this coconut rice on the regular — it’s a delicious compliment to so many dishes.
It took some trial and error to come up with the perfect ratio of coconut milk, water and rice.
But I finally hit on a method for cooking tender but distinct grains that aren’t mushy or unevenly cooked, with just the right amount of sweet-savory flavor.
You can make this with long grain white rice and coconut milk, as well as long or short grain brown rice and coconut milk — see the recipe notes below for the complete how-to.
What’s the best rice to use for coconut rice?
This recipe is pretty versatile, and you can easily use one of a few different types.
If your pantry is anything like mine, it’s typically stocked with multiple varieties of rice, so I’ve adapted the recipe over time so that it works perfectly with different kinds.
- Fragrant long grain rice like basmati or jasmine rice (white or brown) is my top pick for coconut rice. Both varieties have an irresistible nutty aroma and elegantly shaped slender grains. Jasmine can be a tad starchier, which is absolutely delicious for a lightly sticky Thai-style coconut rice.
- Short grain brown rice makes a healthy coconut rice (gotta have those whole grains, right?). The cooking time is about 15 minutes longer.
What to serve with coconut rice
Coconut rice is flavorful and mellow, and goes well with so many dishes, especially saucy ones with bold spices.
It’s also good to add to stews and soups to make a more hearty meal – I love to add coconut rice to my Thai Red Lentil Soup on a cold day!
These are other dishes I recommend to serve it with:
- Curry Chicken with Cauliflower and Chickpeas
- Thai Basil Chicken
- Korean-style Gochujang Chicken
- Ginger-Lime Sticky Chicken
Because coconut milk adds both fat and flavor with a touch of natural sweetness, it’s the perfect landing pad for some of our favorite dishes.
It lends a welcome balance to spicy, flavorful dishes with Indian, Thai and South Asian seasonings.
How to make coconut rice
First, rinse your rice. Rinsing removes excess dusty starch on the surface of the grain, and helps make a fluffy cooked rice with distinct shape.
Put it into a mesh colander in your sink and run cold water over it for a minute or two, using your fingers to stir it around. Shake the colander to drain out all the water.
Choose a heavy saucepan with a lid, with a 2 or 3 quart capacity (this is the one I use).
For perfect rice, you want it to cook evenly, so it’s key to use a pot that’s not too wide or large.
Otherwise, the liquid will evaporate before the rice becomes tender.
Heat the pot with a little oil, then toast the rice grains for a minute or two to help seal the grain. This step ensures the rice stays firm and not gloppy when it’s done.
After cooking, the rice needs to steam for about 10 minutes off the heat. Leave the cover on!
Best coconut milk for coconut rice
While the coconut milk adds just a subtle coconut flavor, you want to seek out the right kind.
Get canned, unsweetened coconut milk that is not light. Light coconut milk is mostly water with a little coconut milk added, and in my opinion is a waste of money. Go full fat!
Shake the can before opening, or stir it well before measuring to mix the cream layer on top with the rest of the liquid in the can.
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Perfect Coconut Rice
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil or neutral vegetable oil
- 1 ½ cups (277 g) jasmine or basmati rice, rinsed in a mesh strainer under cold water
- 1 ½ cups (375 ml) water or coconut water
- 1 cup (250 ml) canned unsweetened coconut milk (not light)
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar or coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 whole green cardamom pods (optional)
- Chopped fresh cilantro, mint or basil leaves
- Sliced avocado
- Sesame seeds
- Chutney or hot sauce
- Heat the oil in a 2 or 3 quart saucepan over medium heat until hot. Stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring to coat the grains.
- Pour in the water, coconut milk, sugar and salt. Stir well to combine. Toss in the cardamom pods, if using.
- Bring to a boil, then immediately turn the heat down to low. Cover the pan and cook 15 minutes (or until all the liquid is absorbed) Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit covered for 10 minutes.
- Fluff the rice gently with a wooden spoon and serve with or without garnishes or as a side dish.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Shake the can of coconut milk before measuring to be sure the cream at the top is incorporated.
- Substitute natural (unsweetened) coconut water for the plain water if you like, for extra layer of subtle sweetness and flavor.
- Cooked coconut rice can be frozen for up to a month.
- To make brown coconut rice: Add 10-15 minutes to the cooking time for a total of 25-30 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes.
Hey, I’m Karen
Creator of Familystyle Food
I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.