My friend wants to make coconut milk separate so that she can use the cream for whipping. Can anyone suggest a way of accomplishing this?

Edited to add: I asked her to confirm that it was full-fat and she said 'yes, I'm not that dumb'. She's storing it at room temperature (rather hot lately in NYC lately) but is going to try chilling it to see what happens.

  • I don't know about how well it whips up, but canned coconut milk is usually already separated just from sitting. Is that not enough?
    – Cascabel
    Jul 17 '12 at 15:02
  • I think that's her problem. It isn't separating in the can. Jul 17 '12 at 15:06
  • is she keeping it cold? I think it separates when the coconut fat solidifies, but I'm not sure enough to make it an answer. But try a fridge, it might help.
    – rumtscho
    Jul 17 '12 at 15:29
  • My coconut milk has always separated a good amount even when it was stored in fairly warm places (probably >80F a lot of the time in the summer). It might inform the answers if you mentioned what kind of coconut milk it is (not low fat/light, I hope), and how she's storing it.
    – Cascabel
    Jul 17 '12 at 16:05
  • 2
    I have purchased some brands of coconut milk that won't separate even upon chilling. Some contain emulsifiers and stabilizers that will inhibit the separation. I would recommend looking for one without these; in all likelihood, switching brands should work (i.e. regular full fat Taste of Thai brand didn't separate after 3 hours in freezer, organic did)
    – mfg
    Jul 17 '12 at 20:05

Put the can in the fridge overnight or for a few hours. After it's sufficiently cold the cream will be on top and the water on the bottom. Just make sure not to shake the can when you remove it from the fridge!

(In a pinch pop it in the freezer but not for too long or else the can will warp due to the water expansion.)

  • Addressing the comments on the original post, I am assuming @James means full fat coconut milk, which is what I always use for making coconut whipped cream or vegan ice cream. I have only experienced (rarely and not consistently) separation at room temperature when my cans have been sitting in my pantry for months.
    – lemontwist
    Jul 17 '12 at 19:07
  • America's Test Kitchen gave the same recommendation in an NPR article : npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/07/24/334424736/… : "With a little more experimentation, we came up with two tips for success. First, the creamy part of coconut milk isn't always separated from the watery part; we found that refrigerating the can for a few hours helps form two distinct layers. ..."
    – Joe
    Jul 27 '14 at 23:01

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