How to Cook Coconut Rice

How to Cook Coconut Rice


Coconut rice is a popular dish in many parts of the world, particularly in tropical places where coconuts are cultivated. Some coconut rice recipes are more savory than others, while other recipes are sweeter. Coconut flavors can be found in most tropical or Southeast Asian recipes and it’s uncommon to come across a Southeast Asian cuisine that doesn’t call for coconut or cream in some form.

You might have seen this at a restaurant or as a food blog reader. Interactions leave great impressions, so if you tasted this dish before and want to try making it, now’s your chance. There are plenty of recipes that call for coconut milk, but this easy coconut rice dish is the epitome of easy recipes. You can probably even make the best coconut rice on your first try.

This dish can be the ideal alternative for those occasions when ordinary or plain white rice is just not cutting it.

What is Coconut Rice Made Of?

Making coconut rice is the same as cooking any other varieties of rice side dishes, such as Basmati, Jasmine, long grain rice, or short-grain rice. The addition of coconut milk and a sprinkle of sugar and salt is the only apparent change in this recipe.

For dessert recipes, more sugar is added and additional sweeteners like coconut extract are used. In savory recipes, this dish is mostly paired or used with curry and fried meat.

Recipe: Coconut Rice

Coconut rice

This easy coconut rice recipe is just cooked rice with coconut milk, if you’ve never eaten it before. This easy recipe elevates your staple food to new heights, leaving you with a fluffy and aromatic dish with a strong touch of coconut flavor. 

It’s a delicious side dish you can pair with any Indian and Asian recipes, but it’s also delicious on its own! To make this recipe, simply follow either the stovetop or rice cooker method below.

Yield: 6 – 8 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes


  • 2 cups jasmine rice
  • 1 1/2 cups water (or coconut water)
  • 1 tsp sugar (organic cane is ideal)
  • 1 cup canned coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 1 tsp kosher or 1/4 tsp sea salt

Stovetop Method:

Cooking this recipe on the stovetop might be difficult for some, but this approach is pretty straightforward. Here’s how to make fluffy and perfect rice you can call your own stovetop cuisine:

  1. Rinse the jasmine rice well to remove excess starch. To begin, place it in a fine-mesh strainer or rice washer and run it under water until the water runs clear.
  2. In a large saucepan, add rice, coconut milk, water or coconut water, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium heat, let it simmer, and cover after the water has boiled. Make sure it’s only simmering and not boiling. This is so that the rice will not overcook.
  3. Lower heat to low and continue to simmer for 10 to 25 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed and the rice is soft. There shouldn’t be any excess water, but if there is any, drain it.
  4. Remove from heat when it’s fully cooked. Remove the cover, fluff with a fork, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the moisture to redistribute. This is done to avoid mushy rice.

Rice Cooker/Instant Pot Method:

While you can prepare rice on the stovetop, a rice cooker or an instant pot makes cooking the perfect coconut rice a breeze!

  1. Rinse rice using a strainer or rice washer.
  2.  If using a rice cooker, combine rice, coconut milk, water or coconut water, sugar, and salt, then cover and bring to a boil for 20 minutes. When cooked, let the cooker sit for at least 10 minutes after the timer goes off, then serve.
  3. If using an instant pot, add rice, coconut milk, water, sugar, and salt. Set the timer for 4 minutes on high pressure, then let the pressure naturally release for at least 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

Cooking Notes

Coconut rice with mango
  • Jasmine rice is ideal for this dish since the jasmine’s taste complements the coconut wonderfully. However, you may use any long-grain white rice, like basmati rice, if necessary. Brown rice and other types of grains like cauliflower rice are not recommended in this recipe since the cooking time and liquid ratio will change!
  • Add pandan leaves or kaffir lime leaves to add a bit of an Asian restaurant-style to this recipe. If pandan leaves are unavailable, kaffir lime leaves can be used. To utilize them, just knot them; this will split the leaves and release the flavor.
  • Serve with mango or sprinkle toasted coconut, shredded coconut, or chopped cilantro on top before serving for a more restaurant-like flare or if you’re serving this in the main dish method. For the side dish method, you can forgo the toppings and serve them with your main dish. This dish pairs perfectly with most South Asian or tropical recipes, so be creative!
  • You can add more coconut milk to make a creamy coconut milk porridge. Simply add an additional 1 to 1 1/2 cup of coconut milk, depending on your preference, and a few drops of vanilla extract. Boil and simmer in low heat. When cooked, sprinkle cinnamon powder on top and sweeten it with sugar for extra flavor. Simply adjust the amount of coconut milk if you want less liquid in the dish.
  • If you prefer dessert-like recipes, you can add coconut extract on top of this dish before serving.

If you’re craving your own twist or you simply want a taste of tropical cuisine, this delicious and easy coconut rice recipe is a perfect choice.

Not only is it great on its own, but it’s also great as a side dish to more savory recipes or even sweet recipes. If you’re a big fan of creamy recipes, you might not even stop eating them!

For other rice recipes, you can check out our blog.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Full fat vs. light coconut milk?

In this recipe, using full-fat coconut milk is recommended for intense coconut flavor. While mild coconut milk can be used, the ultimate result tastes more or less like plain rice due to the watering down of the milk. If you’re planning on using the dish for other savory or sweet recipes, you’re free to experiment.

Can you substitute coconut milk for water when making rice?

Definitely. Coconut milk makes grains stickier and adds a tasty coconut flavor to any recipe, so it’s an ideal substitute. However, you’ll still need to dilute the coconut milk with some water so it doesn’t get too oily and leave scum at the sides of the pot. For 1 cup coconut milk, 1 1/2 cups water should be used. Use coconut water for a more intense coconut flavor.

What recipes pair well with coconut rice?

The recipe is as adaptable as it is straightforward. A wide range of meals, from curried chicken to stir-fried veggies, go nicely with the side. Recipes you can pair with this dish include:

Chicken Recipes

Chicken adds a mellow flavor to the fluffy rice, allowing you to experiment with a range of spices. There are plenty of chicken recipes you can pair with this dish, but for a casual dinner, you can boil chicken breasts in yellow curry sauce and serve it over the dish.

Pork Recipes

Pork has a somewhat sweet flavor that pairs well with the mellow coconut flavor of this easy coconut rice dish. Recipes that call for shredded pork or pork chops are ideal.

Beef Recipes

The beef gives coconut rice a strong flavor, elevating the dish from mild to extra flavorful. The majority of beef recipes you can pair with this dish are curries, but you can also pair it with stir-fried beef recipes.

Seafood Recipes

The mild taste of coconut rice allows even the delicate flavor of fish to show through. Lemon-poached seafood recipes are the go-to if you’re looking for a light-flavored meal, but smoked fish recipes and spicy seafood recipes are also ideal.

Vegetarian Recipes

Vegetables are just as delicious as meat with coconut rice. Vegetable curry recipes are great for a strong-flavored meal. If you want something light, opt for stir-fried vegetable recipes or salad recipes.