The summer season recalls sandy beaches, palm trees, and fresh fruits. In the Philippines and much of Southeast Asia, that means coconuts – lots of it. No wonder local cuisine is abundant with coconut milk recipes. Below, you’ll find several Filipino, Indonesian, and Thai favorites featuring this rich yet healthy plant-based liquid gold. Plus, one trendy drink that can make your summer sweeter!
7 Coconut Milk Recipes to Make for Summer
As of 2021, the Philippines is the second-largest producer of coconuts in the world, just behind Indonesia. That means you have access to high-quality coconut milk whenever you want. Out here, coconuts are always in season. Here’s your sign to make more coconut dishes!
1. Filipino-style chicken curry
Wherever you go in your worldly travels, you’ll find some form of curry in the local cuisine. In the Philippines, the most beloved curry recipe is a spin on ginataang manok. It’s known simply as “chicken curry” – a favorite of busy home cooks since it’s easy to throw together.
The dish consists of whole chicken cut into serving pieces, coconut milk, curry powder, and minced aromatics. You can use a packet of Knorr Ginataang Gulay Mix to further amplify the flavors. Curry powder gives the dish a deep, earthy flavor, while the gata makes it rich and creamy. It’s a comforting ulam that Pinoys enjoy year-round.
2. Beef rendang
Rendang daging is an Indonesian dish of slow-cooked beef in coconut milk and spices. To make an authentic rendang, you must simmer your spiced meat and coconut milk mixture until all the liquid evaporates. The resulting beef should be so tender that it melts in your mouth.
Make it as hot as you can handle! Fun fact for heat lovers: eating spicy food during the summer can effectively cool you down since it triggers sweat production. Make full use of fresh chilies by slicing them finely and keeping all the seeds intact.
3. Cheesy garlic coconut prawns
This seafood dish is best for beachside kamayan. For maximum enjoyment, head to your wet market suki and get your hands on their freshest prawns! Carefully butterfly each shellfish, scoop the meat, and sauté it with garlic, onions, and mushrooms until pink.
Everything cooks in a rich sauce of ginataang gulay mix and cream. After you stuff the mixture back into the prawn shells, there’s only one step left: top it with lots of melty cheese. You can finish it in the oven or pop it on the grill to get a nice char going.
4. Pork satay with peanut sauce
Summertime in the tropics is never complete without a backyard barbecue. But are you tired of the usual Pinoy-style pork skewers? Lay down sticks of satay on the grill instead. This healthy coconut milk recipe is flavor-packed thanks to the vibrant ginger-garlic marinade. The dip is a simplified version of the classic sauce, made with peanut butter, ginataang gulay mix, and leftover marinade.
5. Traditional kakanin
Filipino kakanin are some of the most satisfying post-swimming merienda. You can always trust these sweet, carbo-loaded rice cakes to give you enough energy for a second dip. Most traditional recipes, like maja blanca, sapin-sapin, and suman, use coconut milk in some form. As a result, they all taste faintly of sweetened buko – the flavor of Pinoy summers.
6. Starbucks-inspired “Pink Drink”
If the “Pink Drink” sounds familiar, that’s because it’s all over your social media feed. The pastel-pink drink is part of Starbucks' refresher line, launched locally in July 2022. It’s a creamy blend of coconut milk, a fruit-flavored base, and freeze-dried strawberries. You can recreate it at home with berry juice or passionfruit tea. Some say it tastes just like pink Starbursts! Try it to find out for yourself – make your inner child happy.
7. Kluai buat chi
When people think of Thai desserts, mango sticky rice is the first thing that comes to mind. But the cuisine has much more to offer, like this simple, made-for-summer treat. It features ripe bananas in coconut milk, simmered until tender. Once cooked, add salt and palm sugar to the mixture, then let it chill before serving over crushed ice.
Which coconut milk recipe are you adding to your summer (meal) plans? Take the sun-soaked season as an opportunity to play around with refreshing new flavors!