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Coconut Milk Won't Solidify? | StupidEasyPaleo.com

Coconut Milk Won’t Solidify? Here’s Why!

Coconut Milk Won't Solidify? | StupidEasyPaleo.com

Coconut milk won’t solidify no matter what you’ve tried?! It’s a common problem with a simple explanation.

With the growing popularity of Paleo and dairy-free recipes becoming more plentiful, you’ll probably run into dishes that call for the cream from a can of coconut milk as an ingredient (even my dairy-free Tzatziki Sauce andCucumber Mint Raita list it).

Usually, you’re supposed to put the can in the fridge for upwards of 24 hours, then be able to open the can and spoon the solidified cream off the top.

If you’ve ever followed those instructions only to open the can and find your coconut milk’s still soupy, it’s pretty frustrating (especially if you’re making something where a very thick texture is a requirement like coconut whipped cream). So what gives?

What is Coconut Milk?

When fresh coconut meat is grated down with water, the liquid yielded is call coconut milk. It’s a combination of the water and the different healthy fats in the coconut meat such as fast-burning MCT oil (medium chain triglycerides) and saturated fat.

When it’s prepared via blending, the fat component – often called coconut cream – gets suspended in the watery component, and it appears to combine. But when left to sit undisturbed, the coconut milk will separate into two layers much like a bottle of oil & vinegar salad dressing.

(Bonus science nerdiness: the fat is hydrophobic (water-fearing) and is rejected from the water layer.)

Normally, the top, semi-hard cream layer is what you’d scoop out and use for recipes.

Why Your Coconut Milk Won’t Solidify

One word: emulsifiers.

Emulsifiers are chemical additives which cause the fatty and watery layers to stop separating from one another, and if they’re in your coconut milk, you’ll probably never get that thick creamy layer at the top of the can no matter what you do.

(Another common way to get fatty and watery components to emulsify is by introducing air like you’d do when making homemade mayo.)

Common Coconut Milk Emulsifiers & Additives

1) Guar gum. This is a carbohydrate compound (polysaccharide) that comes from guar beans. It’s very commonly used to thicken coconut milk and cause it to stay emulsified. Often found in canned coconut milk.

2) Carrageenan. Derived from seaweed, this is another polysaccharide carbohydrate used to thicken coconut milk, though more commonly the type sold in paper cartons (not recommended because it’s often full of other junk).

3) Methyl cellulose or corn starch. More carbohydrates / polysaccharides used to thicken and emulsify coconut milk.

4) Sodium or potassium metabisulfate. Though not used as an emulsifier, this chemical additive’s put in coconut milk as a preservative / bleaching agent to keep the color white.

The Solution to Get Your Coconut Milk to Solidify?

Buy a brand that doesn’t contain emulsifiers and preservatives. Better yet, look for a brand that only has two ingredients: coconut and water. You can also make your own coconut milk at home.

Click here for my homemade coconut milk video tutorial.

Coconut Milk Won't Solidify? | StupidEasyPaleo.com

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59 Responses

    1. I just bought some Arroy-D cream. It doesn’t separate or harden so it must have added emulsifiers although it doesn’t list them on the package.

  1. I’ve been noticing cans of coconut cream showing up in my grocery store. Is this just the fatty portion that would solidify out of a regular can of coconut milk?

  2. It does surprise me! I found some canned coconut milk that had this hard white stuff all on one end, and took it back to the store! I will have to go buy that brand now that I know the one I get has things in it I really don’t want.
    Thank you!

  3. Uhhhhhgggggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I’m a victim of sodium metabisulphite !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! )&/&(&)&:&/&-&&@@@-:;!?’vmbd!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Sorry for the cussing…)

    I wish I had read this before I bought Chaudoc coconut milk!! :’-(

    Oh we’ll. Time to go with Real “Heavy Cream”. 😮

    Now… What to do with all this soupy coconut milk???
    Curry shrimp??? Hhhhmmmmm….

  4. Hey there – I know this is late, but I bought Golden Seal & that has no emulsifiers in them. Just coconut & water. The first two cans I bought worked AWESOME! Now, I bought 24 cans of it and 12/24 have not firmed up!! What gives??

    1. i too just bought Aroy-D 100% coconut milk, pee your recommendation. I folowed all the instructions, and was sooooo disappointed when it DID NOT solidify. I had to quickly abandon my recipe and come up with a quick substitue for a party. UGH!!!

      1. Arrroy D’s tetra pack coconut milk would separate but the canned one wouldn’t.

        As mentioned by Cheryl, Arroy D seems to have added emulsifiers in the canned coconut milk but left them out in the ingredients list.

    2. This has happened to me even if I use coconut cream with no emulsifiers. In my experience sometimes it doesn’t separate because The can was shaken before putting it in the fridge.

  5. Hey, just found your post since my can of Thai Kitchen coconut milk would not solidify and was wondering how I would use the tetra packs of the Aroy-D to make the cool whip? Can I just out them in the refrigerator and chill them overnight or would I need to so something different? Or should I buy their canned product?

    1. Hi Kim…unfortunately, there is no standard coconut cream percentage across manufacturers so I’m not sure. Even within the same brand, I’ve had cans that I got solidified cream from and some that I couldn’t get it. I’m not sure what % of fat the tetra packs are running at. I just used one and it was pretty watery. Wish I had a better answer for you!

  6. Hello Steph,
    I know this question comes pretty late, but I also bought coconut milk that won’t solidify. There are supposedly no emulsifiers, and the two ingredients are coconut extract (80%) and water. I’m guessing it won’t solidify because the coconut was chemically treated in the process of “extraction” and there is some residue in the milk. I’d love to hear your theory.
    Thank you! And another thank you for this website! 🙂

      1. Hi Steph,

        Thanks for your reply. The brand is Santa Maria, Creamy Coconut Milk packed in carton. As far as I know it’s only available in Europe. Funny thing, the regular SM milk in a can, with emulsifier and stabiliser (and less actual coconut in it) separates and solidifies beautifully.
        I’m desperately searching for a non-canned, no-additives variety, and this seemed like a good choice. I just expected a supposedly all-natural product to separate, just like home-made milk.

                1. Ah! I was going to suggest a brand because I thought you might be in the UK (I lived there for a few months last year) but Finland is something different altogether) 🙂

  7. I’ve made my own coconut milk from raw coconut right out of the shell and sometimes the cream has risen to the top nice & thick, but this time it’s staying runny (although it is separating) . Only coconut & water were used in it’s making. Maybe it depends upon how fresh the coconut is??

    1. Hi Dawn,

      Yes, it could depend on the coconut. When you have a less fatty coconut, try playing with the amount of water you use to help keep the creamy consistency.

    1. Hi Chelsea….I really wasn’t able to find one that was high-quality. Sorry I can’t be of more help but perhaps someone else can chime in.

  8. Aroy-D has been UHT treated – which is why it stays emulsified. Not sure how I feel about that. Their coconut milk is certainly divine.

    1. Ah I didn’t realize that. Learn something new every day. It’s probably better to be UHT treated than to have chemical emulsifiers, no?

      1. I totally agree there. I imagine some of the health gets messed up in the process, but I tell you: it makes a remarkably delicious ice cream. 🙂

  9. just leave the lid slightly open in the fridge.

    I did this by accident one day and my coconut milk formed into a whip cream like texture.

  10. Hi, I’ve tried getting coconut cream out of my homemade coconut milk but it wont work. I’ve done 4 parts of water and 1 of cocnut. Any ideas? Thanks so much. Kisses from Argentina 🙂

  11. i just bought the natural value brand because it has no guar gum (just coconut & water). but i have the opposite problem. all of the old brands i used to buy (thai kitchen or whole foods brand) would solidify beautifully in the fridge. this natural value brand will not??? so confused. it’s been in the fridge for a week. it’s not the light version. any thoughts?

  12. Can you freeze coconut milk in the freezer to get it to solidify quicker? Or will that just mess it up?

  13. If anyone lives near a Sprouts Market, I have had GREAT results with their store brand coconut milk. It always separates and solidifies and it’s cheaper than I can find elswhere as well.

  14. I made my own coconut milk with a 1:2 ration of dried, shredded organic coconut to purified, heated water. I blended in a nutribullet and strained through a nut bag. Once this mixture is chilled in the fridge I get about an inch of thick solid “stuff” at the top. It won’t integrate by shaking and I actually need to crack through it (kind of like a shell) to get to the milk. What is this and why does it happen?

    1. Ever heard the phrase “oil and water don’t mix”? That’s what’s going on in this situation. By blending the coconut with water and then refrigerating it, you’ve allowed the layers to separate. The fat is on top and the water is on the bottom. Store-bought coconut milks often use emulsifiers to allows the fat and water to mix again. Your best bet would be to warm it up a little.

    1. No. If you make your own coconut milk at home from coconut meat and water, the fat will float to the top and the watery components to the bottom. Mixing them temporarily suspends the fat.

  15. I just bought a case of Native Farms Simple coconut milk. No emulsifiers, just coconut and water. Not one of them separated! I buy it specifically to make coconut whipped cream and desserts, so it’s really disappointing. If it’s the emulsifiers that keep it from separating, why would this happen?

  16. Hi – for those in the UK, I recently bought a can of Waitrose Organic coconut milk. When I opened it, I thought it had maybe gone off as about 1/2 to 2/3 of the tin was solid cream! It does have (organic) guar gum in it according to the label.

  17. Hi. I made coconut yogurt and the first time it was perfect. The semi hard creamy fatty goodness was perfectly separated. However the next batch had a very rock hard solid fat layer on top of the semi soft layer. I went ahead and mixed it in my yogurt but of course now my yogurt is grainy. Was this a bad can of coconut milk? I had not experienced this before.

  18. I buy 365 brand of organic (full fat) coconut milk from Whole Foods. I never had a problem with it firming up in the frig until the last year or so. I’ve been getting some dud cans. I got 2 last week. The problem is that I need to frost a birthday cake and don’t have firm coconut milk to use to make frosting. Agar agar doesn’t really work on cold liquids, only things like soup and gravy. I h ave my doubts about corn starch, but I’ll use it if nothing else works.
    What else can I do???

  19. I bought a can of coconut milk without Guar gum. Will I still need to separate the two liquids to make coconut whipped cream?

  20. I have been buying Target’s Good and Gather organic coconut milk and it’s been so thick, just fantastic for whipping. But then I bought a few new cans and they won’t harden or separate. I’m so disappointed! But sometimes that brand works great! Almost the whole can is coconut cream. I’ll keep trying!

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Hi, I'm Steph!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more, not less: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.

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