Coconut is a common ingredient in kitchens across Asia, especially in India and Thailand. It’s also very common in parts of Africa, and one thing all these cultures have in common is that, at some point, they all realised that coconut tastes amazing with chicken.
Here we’ll share our favourite coconut chicken recipes, but before we do so, there’s something important we need to clear up first.
Coconut milk or coconut cream (or cream of coconut)?
This doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, but it’s all too easy to ruin a recipe by using coconut milk when you should be using coconut cream and vice versa. Even more so when you’ve accidentally bought cream of coconut instead.
So let’s look at the differences and what you can do if you’ve already bought (or added) the wrong ingredient.
Firstly, though, let’s begin by saying that if you’ve only got coconut water to hand then you’re in trouble. Coconut milk, coconut cream, and cream of coconut are all made with shredded coconut flesh that’s been simmered with water (and not always coconut water). Coconut water by itself makes for a refreshing beverage, but not the most delicious coconut chicken.
The differences are:
Coconut milk is made with 1 part shredded coconut flesh to 1 part water. It has more or less the consistency of cow’s milk you might buy from the supermarket.
Coconut cream is made with four parts shredded coconut flesh to 1 part water. As you’d expect, it’s much thicker and creamier (hence the name).
Cream of coconut is basically coconut cream with added sugar for use in drinks or desserts.
As you may have guessed, you can simply add more water to coconut cream to make coconut milk. You might also be able to do the same with cream of coconut, but only if a) you don’t mind the recipe being a fair bit sweeter (so maybe don’t try it with a recipe you haven’t tasted before), or b) the recipe calls for further sweeteners that you can simply leave out, relying on those in the cream of coconut to the work instead. It’s worth noting, however, if the sweeteners add more to a flavour profile than just 'sweet', as with palm sugar, for instance. Don’t expect cream of coconut to be a perfect substitute for coconut milk or cream whatever you do.
If you only have coconut milk when you need coconut cream, it may be that the “milk” has separated, with a thick creamier part on top and the thinner watery part beneath. If so, you can simply use the creamy top.
Famous for his Red Rooster restaurants and cooking for Barack Obama, Marcus Samuelsson is one of the most talented chefs out there. If you don’t believe us, try his coconut-fried chicken recipe and eat your words (as well as the chicken).
Crispy Coconut Chicken with Spicy Honey Orange Sauce