I’ve heard from a lot of people that making coconut whipped cream has proven to be a serious challenge – often times they can’t get the coconut milk fat to separate from the water, even after the can’s spent a good 24 hours in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, this has little to do with your cooling chamber and a lot to do with the stabilizers used to keep the coconut milk fat suspended in the liquid; the ingredients in some cans just won’t allow the two to separate.
Stabilizers aside, the other culprit is too much air – which you can avoid by picking up the can of coconut milk and giving it a gentle shake. If you can hear the liquid sloshing around, you need to put it back on the shelf – chances are this can is a dud as far as making coconut whipped cream is concerned. What you need to listen for is a small pocket of air that moves around, making a soft gurgley sound. This method has proven to be effective in finding cans of coconut milk that encourage milk fat separation. In other words, it’s never let me down. Not once.
If you don’t feel confident in your ability to differentiate between sloshing and gurgling, Thai Kitchen will be your best (and safest) bet. In my experience, it’s the only brand of coconut milk that has consistently produced good quality whipped cream. If you’re rolling your eyes because their cans are lined with BPA – I knooow. It pains me, but I suck it up and buy it because I’m not a fan of buying $2 cans of coconut milk that yield separation only 50% of the time. Which is what usually happens when I bring home Native Forest coconut milk with high hopes of turning it into whipped cream. When in doubt, buy a few different cans and experiment to see which brand works best for you. But for the love of Buddha, do not try to speed up the process by freezing the can. You’ll be left with a solid block of coconut milk and a half-exploded can. Not that I know from experience, or anything.
Update: The issue with Native Forest coconut milk appears to be the source. Milk sourced from Thailand typically separates, while the milk sourced from Sri Lanka usually does not. Also, I used Whole Foods brand coconut milk for the first time and it is superior to every canned coconut milk I’ve ever used – including Thai Kitchen. The milk fat is super dense and there appears to be more of it per can, compared to other varieties. If you can get your hands on it, go that route.
Notes: My favorite thing about this recipe is that it’s super customizable and can take on whatever flavor your little taste buds desire. Strawberry? Muddle some strawberries and mix them in. Lemon? Squeeze in a bit of juice and add some zest for an extra kick. Peanut butter? A few scoops of the natural creamy stuff makes for a delicious peanut butter cream. Chocolate? I think you know what to do. You could also go crazy and add some whiskey and a bit of caramel sauce. And then use the boozy whipped cream to smother your favorite chocolate bundt cake. Or you can enjoy the creamy white stuff, in its simplest form, atop your favorite caffeinated beverage, with fresh fruit, or with strawberry-coconut shortcakes (which are coming soon). I’ve found 2 tablespoons to be perfect, but feel free to add as much or as little sugar as you’d like. Oh, and vanilla bean in place of the vanilla extract = ace.
VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE: A 43˚F refrigerator makes for ideal coconut whipped cream conditions. As in, coconut whipped cream that is so perfectly soft it can be made with a whisk instead of a hand mixer, yet firm enough that you can scoop it out of the can without having to worry about losing it to the water.
COCONUT WHIPPED CREAM
1 can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated for 24 hours
1-2 tbsp powdered cane sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Open the can of coconut milk and scoop the top layer of white, fatty goodness into a decent sized mixing bowl (discard the coconut water or save it for smoothies). Blend the chunks of coconut milk with a hand mixer on high speed for 15-20 seconds, just until the mixture turns to liquid. Sift in the powdered sugar (amount depends on how sweet you like it) and mix until combined. Add the vanilla extract and blend on high speed for 1-2 minutes, until light and creamy. Whipped cream is best served immideately, but can be stored in an air tight container for up to three days. It will harden in the fridge, so when ready to serve, simply blend with a hand mixer on high speed until creamy again.
Yield: about 1 1/4 cups