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7 Unexpected Ways to Use a Can of Coconut Milk

04/01/2015 12:43 pm ET | Updated Jun 01, 2015

BY ANNA STOCKWELL

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Romulo Yanes

I always have a can of coconut milk in my cupboard. Yes, I use it to make curries, but you probably already do that, right? There are more ways to put that can of coconut milk to work for you though--ways that will turn the humble can of coconut milk into a permanent staple in your pantry.

1. MAKE A CREAMIER PUREED SOUP
Any pureed vegetable or bean soup can be made creamier, richer, and more delicious by the addition of coconut milk.

2. ADD FLAVOR AND MOISTURE TO CAKES
Use coconut milk as the liquid in a cake to add a nice richness and coconut flavor.

3. MAKE DAIRY-FREE ICE CREAMS AND CUSTARDS
Whether you need a dairy-free ice cream or custard for the lactose intolerant or just want to feature tropical flavors, coconut milk makes a great custard base to turn into ice cream or flan. You can sub in canned coconut milk instead of milk in most custard recipes.

4. INFUSE GRAINS WITH FLAVOR
For any rice or grain, swap out half the water for canned coconut milk to infuse the cooked grain with a nice subtle coconut flavor. While you're at it, add some aromatics to your cooking liquid if you want to deepen the flavor: cinnamon sticks, lemongrass stalks, curry leaves, or lemon rind all work great with coconut milk.

5. ADD TO FRUIT FOR AN ALMOST INSTANT DESSERT
A little sugar and a quick chill over an ice bath or in the freezer can turn a can of coconut milk into an ideal accompaniment for fresh fruit or berries. Anything you'd serve with a pour of heavy cream, go ahead and try with coconut milk instead.

6. TURN IT INTO DULCE DE LECHE
You'll need two cans for this one, and it's sure to become your new favorite ice cream topping or filling for sandwich cookies.

7. USE AS A BRAISING LIQUID
Try braising any fish in coconut milk. Salmon is especially nice, and shrimp works great too. Or, use it as a cooking liquid for hearty greens like collards or kale to add fat and flavor without bacon or butter.