Coconut rice is a wonderfully fragrant addition to any Asian-style meal, and it’s easy to make too! Just simmer jasmine rice in coconut milk until the grains are light and fluffy then top with toasted coconut flakes for extra sweetness and texture.
The go-to rice for many Thai and Indian dishes
Grains like rice are a staple ingredient in various Asian cuisines, but they’re often bland and boring. It’s time to ratchet up the flavor and take this common side dish to the next level by infusing coconut milk with long grain jasmine rice. With very little effort you’ll have a bowl of rice that has nutty aromas, sweet flavor, along with a slightly sticky texture that pairs nicely with meats and vegetables.
The method for this recipe uses the standard way of cooking white rice on the stovetop. You’ll have a perfectly cooked rice ready to go in under 30 minutes from start to finish. This quickness will allow you plenty of time to focus on what you’ll be serving alongside these grains. Just be sure to toast up a few coconut flakes to sprinkle on top right before serving for extra flavor and crunch.
How to make coconut rice
Rinse the rice with cold water until the water runs clear. This reduces the amount of surface starches so that the rice isn’t too sticky after cooking. Add the rice, water, coconut milk, and salt to a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. This allows the grains to gradually absorb the water in about 15 minutes.
It’s important to not check the rice as it simmers or the cooking environment will lose steam and the enclosed temperature will become inconsistent. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit, undisturbed for 10 minutes to complete the absorption process. If you have an electric rice cooker, you can use this recipe in that vessel.
Choosing the right variety
Jasmine rice is a long-grain rice that originates from Thailand, and it’s the best type of rice for this dish. These fragrant, long grains are widely available at most grocery stores and when cooked they stay separate and fluffy. Their taste and texture compliment the coconut milk flavor perfectly.
As for alternatives, you can use long or extra-long grain Basmati rice. Otherwise, long grain brown rice can also be used, but because of their tough bran shell, increase the amount of water to 3 cups and cook for about 35 to 45 minutes or until tender.
How much water to use
To achieve light and fluffy rice that has a slight chew, use a ratio of 1-part jasmine rice to 1.5-parts liquid which in this case will be a mixture of water and coconut milk. This ensures that the grains become tender, but not mushy.
Enhancing the coconut flavor
The goal is to create a rice that delivers a noticeable coconut aroma and taste. Use a ratio of 2-parts water to 1-part coconut milk. I use canned unsweetened coconut milk as the dish isn’t supposed to be sweet like a dessert. If you do want to go that route, you can use a sweetened product, otherwise add 1 teaspoon of sugar, honey or maple syrup to the pot when simmering. Be sure to add a little bit of salt to season the rice and enhance the naturally sweet coconut flavor.
Toast the coconut flakes
Toasted coconut flakes add nice color contrast, crunch, and sweetness to the recipe. Simply toast them over medium heat in a nonstick pan while making sure to keep a close eye on the color change. Stir frequently to ensure even cooking. You can sprinkle some on top of the rice before serving for a nice presentation, then mix it in for a stronger flavor.
Storing and freezing
For unused rice or for meal prepping, let it cool completely to room temperature before storing it. Transfer to a plastic bag or airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or 1 month in the freezer. To reheat, transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cook on high power in 30-second intervals until heated through.
Need a main dish to go with your rice?
The benefits of rinsing the rice
This preparation step helps to remove excess starches on the outside of the grains which can cause the rice to overly stick together when cooked. I also find that rinsing gives a cleaner flavor by washing away any dirty impurities on the surface.
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- 2 cups jasmine rice
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
- ½ cup coconut flakes
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon chopped cilantro, optional for garnish
- In a fine-mesh strainer, rinse jasmine rice with cool water until it runs clear, drain well.
- In a medium saucepan add rice, water, coconut milk, and salt.
- Bring to a boil, stirring a few times to combine.
- Cover and simmer, reducing heat to low. Cook rice until all of the water is absorbed and grains are tender, about 15 to 17 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and let the rice stand for 10 minutes.
- In a medium-sized nonstick pan, toast shredded coconut flakes over medium-low heat until lightly golden-brown on both sides. Shake pan constantly to prevent coconut shreds from burning. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.
- Gently fluff the rice with a fork. Serve topped with toasted coconut flakes and cilantro.
- Serving Size: ½ cup
- Recipe Yield: 7 cups of coconut rice
- Light coconut milk can be substituted for a reduced-fat option.
- For sweeter rice add 1 teaspoon of sugar, honey, or maple syrup.
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