I made coconut rice yesterday with a simple recipe (coconut milk, water, tsp sugar, pinch of salt, rice, all in the rice cooker).

I was a little bit underwhelmed by the output; the rice was cooked perfectly, but lacking in the the flavour and aroma area.

My coconut milk can was a bit old (passed expiration date), but smelled OK and tasted OK; do it loose flavour over time?

Is the rice supposed have a subtle flavour or should it be more "in your face" ?



  • Did you stir the can of coconut milk? In cans, the coconut "cream" usually settles to the bottom of the can so you need to stir it.
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 12:39
  • Yep, did my daily exercise by vigorously shaking the can.
    – Max
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 12:43

3 Answers 3


Coconut has a very mild flavor that is easily drowned by other things. In my experience, coconut rice does not end up tasting very strongly of coconut, although it is richer and slightly sweeter. I notice that many recipes call for salt and sugar, which are both flavor potentiators. Perhaps you could try these.

At the end of the day, though, I fear you may have to use natural flavor, often falsely labeled as an "extract." (I have not been able to extract real coconut flavor well, and I've never found a commercial product that does, either.) Unfortunately, for some ingredients, this seems to be the only way to get the flavor I have come to expect from restaurants. Another such ingredient is pistachio.

  • 1
    What about adding dessicated coconut? Not tried it myself.
    – GdD
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 13:35
  • 2
    I have tried dried coconut--not much luck. One time, I tried making a simple syrup with sugar and coconut. I got a slight coconut flavor that was blown away by anything I put it in. Toasted coconut always confers more flavor than raw coconut, FWIW. Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 13:54
  • 2
    Toast the coconut and rice in a bit of oil before cooking, add some depth of flavor
    – GdD
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 14:17
  • Thanks. I will try different recipe variations, and different kind of coconut milk and different kind of rice.
    – Max
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 1:17

When I visited Malaysia and Singapore, the nasi lemak I tried had very little taste of coconut - many of the people I traveled with even got surprised when they heard the rice was cooked in coconut. The name literally means 'fatty rice', which indicates that the coconut milk is added only to make the rice fatty, i.e. more sticky. When I made it myself, the taste actually resembled a less sweet Nordic rice porridge, which you might have had a variant of.

If you want a more interesting aroma, you could add pandan leaf, if you know where to buy it (probably East Asian groceries). I've heard that bay leaves might give a similar taste, but a single leaf didn't give much of a change when I tried it. Substituting your rice with basmati rice is also an option.


Use a can of cream of coconut.. put it in the pot on high, continue to stir it, it will thicken and carmelize wait until it turns a brown color. Then add a can of coconut milk .. continue to stir. Then add water and salt and make the rice as you normally would. It’ll taste like coconut then. My mother made that often when I was growing up:) enjoy.

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