Coconut Rice

By Ann Fulton

Light, fluffy, and delightfully fragrant, coconut rice is a cinch to make and offers a delicious upgrade to curries, stir fries, salmon, and more.
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Light, fluffy, and delightfully fragrant, coconut rice is a cinch to make and offers a delicious upgrade to curries, stir fries, salmon, and more.

 

Coconut rice offers a quick and easy upgrade to a range of cuisines, and the process is not that much different than making a pot of basic white rice.

A few tips will ensure the rice is perfectly cooked, while optional add-ins and toppings allow you to customize to taste and deliver a restaurant-worthy side dish at a moment’s notice.

For those who may be so-so on the flavor of coconut or cooking for those who are, rest assured that the flavor is mild, not overpowering. That quality is what makes this rice a lovely complement to such a wide range of foods. (More on all the ways to serve this rice coming soon.)

The process is easy. Replace half the water used to cook the rice with coconut milk. Using all coconut milk creates a sticky, heavy end result. We want our rice to be light and fluffy.

From there, you can add optional ingredients and toppings. If I had to narrow it to two, I’d choose lime zest and cashews. The flavor of lime plays well with the coconut, and the crunch of the salty cashews makes the dish extra satisfying.

Fresh cilantro, toasted coconut, thinly sliced chili peppers, scallions, and/or a squeeze of lime juice are other worthy options. When used in tandem, the full array of toppings adds visual, flavor, and textural appeal that transform the simple side dish into something truly special.

The use of Jasmine rice provides a lovely aromatic quality; its taste is nutty with a hint of floral, and the delicate grains boost the light-and-fluffy factor. That said, basmati, which is similar but slightly less floral, or a standard long grain white rice may be used.

An adaptation for using brown rice is also provided. Medium and short grain rice varieties cook up stickier, but if you’re seeking that texture, by all means give them a try.

The simple seasonings make the core flavors pop, so I recommend using the tiny amount of sugar and salt. And again, the toppings elevate the rice into something truly special, both visually and in terms of flavor and texture, so I encourage you to add at least one or two of them, if not all. The toppings will also lend an eye-catching touch when entertaining.

Lime zest enhances the lime flavor without adding more sourness, elevating the flavor of the rice in the process.

Lime zest is optional, but it will add another layer of flavor to the rice and can be done quickly and easily with an inexpensive zester. I love mine, but it is old; the current model of the same item can be found HERE

Light, fluffy, and delightfully fragrant, coconut rice is a cinch to make and offers a delicious upgrade to curries, stir fries, salmon, and more.

Did you know? You can freeze coconut milk! Nobody likes to waste half a can, so if you don’t have plans for it, freeze the leftover and use for another batch of coconut rice in the weeks ahead. Coconut milk may be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. It may separate, so stir well before using.

Do I need to rinse rice before cooking? I’ve gone back and forth on this one over the years, and after much testing, I have settled on “no.” While rinsing does remove excess starch, which in theory can make the rice stickier, the following method produces rice that outshines batches I’ve made with rinsed rice.

The exception would be if you purchased rice from a bulk bin. In that case, rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer and drain very well. This will rinse off any dust or debris. Then, when measuring the water, use 2 tablespoons less to account for the moisture that remains on the rice.  

Why is my rice sticky/mushy/hard/watery, etc.? If you’ve had any of these issues, all the answers, tips, and troubleshooting can be found in this post on Perfectly Cooked Rice.  

What does coconut rice pair well with? Coconut rice is delightful with Thai and South Asian dishes as well as Caribbean, Hawaiian, or any tropical cuisine. (Think curries, lentil dishes, and stir fries). I also love it as an alternative to Cilantro Lime Rice

Simply prepared chicken, pork, shrimp, and fish also take well to this rice. Salmon is a personal favorite. The aromatic quality of the rice adds something special to basic fare, so you need not reserve this dish for the occasional curry night.

Recipes that pair well with coconut rice:

As another idea, I sometimes serve a hearty soup over rice (like some people do with chili). It’s also a great way to stretch leftover soup. Curried Butternut Squash & Red Lentil Soup, Classic Butternut Squash Soup, Long’s Yellow Tomato Soup, Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup, Ginger Curry Lentil Soup with Sweet Potatoes, and Immunity Boosting Green Soup all pair well with coconut rice. 

Light, fluffy, and delightfully fragrant, coconut rice is a cinch to make and offers a delicious upgrade to curries, stir fries, salmon, and more.

Those who’d like to play up the coconut flavor may like topping with toasted coconut. Thinly sliced scallions and red chili peppers provide vibrant color, and the latter contributes a touch of heat as well. 

I’d love to know if you try this recipe. Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo @fountainavenuekitchen on Instagram and Facebook. Your feedback is always appreciated.

Coconut Rice
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 13 minutes + 10 minutes rest
Total Time: 28 minutes
Yield: ~3 cups
Light, fluffy, and delightfully fragrant, coconut rice is a cinch to make and offers a delicious upgrade to curries, stir fries, salmon, and more.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (180g) jasmine rice (see notes for substitutions*)
  • ¾ cup (180ml) canned full fat coconut milk**
  • ¾ cup (177ml) water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I use Morton’s)
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) granulated sugar
  • Optional: zest of one lime; ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro; ¼ cup chopped salted cashews; 2-3 tablespoons toasted coconut; 1-2 thinly sliced red chili peppers; 1 thinly sliced scallion
Instructions
  1. Add the rice, coconut milk, water, salt, and sugar to a large saucepan or pot with a tight-fitting lid and set over medium high heat. When the water is bubbling gently across the surface, stir once to loosen, and then turn the heat to low and cover with the lid.
  2. Cook on low for 12 minutes (see notes if substituting a different rice) without stirring or removing the lid, after which time the water should be absorbed (tilt the pot to check) and the rice should be tender.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat, and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, stir in the optional lime zest, and/or cilantro, and then fluff with a fork. Top with coconut, cashews, red chilies, and/or scallions as desired, and serve hot.
Notes

*Don’t have jasmine rice? The light, fluffy quality of aromatic jasmine rice is wonderful in this recipe, but white basmati or basic long grain white rice may be substituted as needed. When using those varieties, check after 13 minutes.

*Prefer brown rice? Long grain brown rice may be used and will contribute a nuttier, somewhat earthy flavor. In this case, increase the coconut milk and water by 2 tablespoons each and cook for 35 minutes.

**Details on the coconut milk:

  • I recommend regular over light coconut milk for this recipe, as it imparts the best flavor and moisture into the rice. In a pinch, light coconut milk may be used, but the flavor will be less pronounced.
  • Avoid using all coconut milk, as it tends to make the finished rice too thick. That said, this will be less of a factor if subbing light coconut milk. Still, half water/half full fat coconut milk produces a lighter, fluffier, delicious rice.
  • Make sure to stir the coconut milk before measuring to reincorporate the thick, creamy layer that often separates from the thin coconut water.

Do I need to rinse the rice? I do not and find the rice turns out just as light and fluffy as compared to a rinsed batch.

To toast coconut if using as a topping: Preheat the oven to 300℉. Spread the coconut flakes in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and place in the oven. The flakes toast quickly and won’t take more than 5-10 minutes. Check every minute or so after the first 5 minutes. Once there is a light golden color across the surface, stir the coconut and toast for another minute or two to ensure even color. Watch closely at this point, as coconut can go from golden to burnt very quickly.

Leftovers, storage, and reheating: The cooked rice will keep well in the refrigerator for 4-5 days – just be sure it’s airtight. If leftover rice seems at all dry, sprinkle lightly with water before reheating and/or cover with a damp paper towel when warming in the microwave. The cooled rice may also be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw before reheating.

Scaling up: You may double the recipe, but I do find that the deeper the rice is in the pot, the more difficult it is to cook it perfectly. I have had good success, however, with 1½ x the recipe.

You can freeze coconut milk! If you don’t have plans for it, freeze and use the remaining amount for another batch of coconut rice in the weeks ahead. Coconut milk may be frozen for up to 3 months. It may separate, so stir well before using.

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