Why You Should Be Freezing Your Leftover Canned Coconut Milk

Recipes with coconut milk often require only a small amount, which leaves the rest of the can unused. There are many creative ways to use coconut milk, but those leftovers only last so long. Whether you enjoy making smoothies, blended cocktails, or curry, freezing leftover coconut milk means it'll be available when you want some — and you won't have to open a new can.

Coconut milk can last in the refrigerator for about a week in an airtight container. If you freeze it, it lasts months — but you should be aware of a few things. Coconut milk isn't extracted directly from a coconut, which is how coconut water is made. Rather, coconut milk is made by blending water with grated mature coconut flesh, then straining out the solids. Commercial coconut milk also typically includes added stabilizers or emulsifiers.

Since coconut milk is a blended creation, it will separate when left standing long enough, and that includes when it's frozen. The fat or "cream" will rise to the top, leaving liquid and sediment at the bottom. However, you can use a handheld blender to mix the cream and water back together. Be aware that thawed coconut milk may have a grainier texture than coconut milk that was never frozen. You may not want to use it if the texture can make or break the dish.

How to properly store and freeze coconut milk

Whether you store coconut milk in the refrigerator or freezer, make sure to remove it from the can before storing leftovers. Science Notes warns that the can may leach some of the metals, which can negatively affect the flavor. Additionally, it's tough to fully cover the top of a can so no air gets in.

When freezing, you have a few options. If you want small single portions, you could pour the coconut milk into flexible ice cube trays and then seal it in a zip-close freezer bag. That method is perfect for smoothies, small portions, or cocktails, and you won't need to deal with any grainy textures since you don't need to thaw it out before using it. When in doubt, blend your leftover coconut milk with fruit and sugar to make an easy 3-ingredient soft serve.

To freeze larger portions, pour the leftover coconut milk into a container or freezer bag, leaving room for it to expand. Seal it and freeze. To thaw, move it to the refrigerator a day or two before you need it. Finally, stir or use an immersion blender to unite the layers. Use thawed coconut milk within a day or two.