Fluffy coconut rice eluded me for years. And finally, I’ve cracked it! The trick is to use the oven rather than the stove. The coconut rice comes out super fluffy, not gluey and mushy. It’s just like you get at restaurants.
Truly fluffy coconut rice eluded me for years. I felt like I tried every variation possible, but when I lifted the lid, I’d stare at dismay at into a pot of mushy rice, thick with coconut milk scum. Usually with unevenly cooked rice grains – some hard, some overly soft – and almost always with a scorched base.
The making of my cookbook gave me the excuse I needed to commit to cracking coconut rice, once and for all. 30+ tests later, I’m so happy to say my team and I have cracked the secret code.
And every since then, I’ve never looked back. Fluffy coconut rice every. single. time WITHOUT FAIL!
The secret to fluffy coconut rice – BAKE IT
The trick to fuss-free fluffy coconut rice is to bake it rather than cook it on the stove. The coconut rice comes out perfectly fluffy every time, and no scorched pot!
How to make perfect coconut rice
Rinse the rice – this is a must to remove excess starch. I don’t do this when cooking normal white rice. It’s essential for coconut rice because coconut milk is thicker than water so it can make the rice a gluey mess. Just rinse the rice until the water is pretty clear. It will never be 100% clear.
Soak rice for 1 hour – this essentially gives the rice grains a bit of a head start in the water absorption phase. This is critical to ensure the rice cooks through evenly because coconut milk is thicker than water which makes it harder for the rice grains to absorb the liquid.
Can’t just use coconut milk – it’s just too thick, the rice can’t absorb it properly. It needs to be diluted with some water. I find the perfect flavour / rice texture is achieved by using 1 can (400ml/14oz) coconut milk with 1 cup of water (just over 2 1/2 cups) for 2 cups of rice.
Bring coconut milk and water to boil first – This is quite key as well! We need to heat the liquid before adding into the rice in a baking pan to get the cooking process started as soon as the rice is in the oven.
If you just pour cold water and room temperature coconut milk over the rice, it takes a good 10 to 15 minutes for the liquid to heat up in the oven during which time the rice is just wallowing in lukewarm liquids which causes it to bloat and cook unevenly.
Bake, covered with foil, for 40 minutes at 200°C/400°F (180°C fan). By covering the rice, we are essentially making steam rice just like you do on the stove. Except, we don’t to worry about scorching the base of the pot and the heat distributes much more evenly through the rice so it cooks through evenly!
Rest 15 minutes – Take the pan out of the oven and rest, covered in foil, for 15 minutes. This step is essential so do not skip it or shortcut the resting time. During the resting time, the rice will finish cooking through evenly and the wetness on the surface of the rice grains will be absorbed, leaving the rice fluffy.
And that, my friends, is the secret to fluffy coconut rice.
It’s a lot of words. But don’t worry, actually cooking it is super duper simple. Just pop it in the oven and leave it to do its thing!
How to rinse rice
I find it easiest to rinse rice in a bowl. Just pour the rice in a bowl and fill with water, then swish it around. Drain (just pour the water out best you can, no need to use a colander), then fill with water again and repeat 4 to 5 times until the water is pretty clear.
The water will never be completely clear! My rule of thumb is 4 to 5 refills of the bowl.
BONUS coconut milk powder option: There’s another way to make fluffy coconut rice on the stove using coconut milk powder. The result is not quite as fluffy as using the oven and the coconut flavour is not quite as intense. But it’s still very good, much better than stove-top using coconut milk, and a good option for those times when you don’t have an oven.
I’ve popped that extra recipe below the coconut milk recipe (ie scroll to bottom of post). It’s an extra because coconut milk powder isn’t as common as coconut milk. While I always have coconut milk on hand, I don’t usually have powder!
How to make Thai / Asian Coconut Rice
To get a true Asian restaurant coconut rice, the secret is to add pandan leaves. If you can’t find pandan leaves, kaffir limes leaves also add a similar fragrance.
This is what pandan leaves looks like. It’s sold at some Harris Farms in Australia, as well as Asian stores.
To prepare them for use, just knot them – this breaks the leaves, releasing the flavour so it infuses into the rice.
What to serve with coconut rice
Coconut rice is a rice dish that is used in cuisines such as Caribbean, Tropical (Hawaiian!) as well as South East Asian foods such as Thai and Malaysian foods.
But don’t let “rules” restrict you. Use it as you wish – and I promise you, it’s so delish, you can even eat it plain, straight out of the pot!
Hope you enjoy! – Nagi x
Coconut Rice will go great with…
Restaurant Style Coconut Rice (Coconut Milk)
- 2 cups jasmin rice (Note 1)
- 400 ml / 14 oz coconut milk , full fat or light (Note 2)
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp white sugar (Note 3)
- 1/2 tsp cooking / kosher salt
Asian Restaurant Style flavour – use ONE:
- 3 pandan leaves , knotted
- 3 kaffir lime leaves , crushed in hand
- 1 tbsp desiccated coconut , toasted, to garnish
- Preheat oven to 200°C / 400°F (180°C fan).
- Rinse rice in water until the water runs pretty clear. (Note 1)
- Soak & drain – Drain rice then soak in water for 1 hour. Then drain in a colander and leave to drain well for 5 minutes.
- Rice in pan – Place the rice in a 20cm / 8" square pan (metal or ceramic). Add pandam or kaffir, if using.
- Heat coconut milk – Heat coconut milk, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Bake 40 minutes – Working quickly (to minimise heat loss), pour hot liquid over rice, stir quickly to spread rice evenly. Cover with foil then bake in the oven for 40 minutes.
- Rest 15 minutes – Remove the pan from the oven. Take a quick peek to ensure the liquid has been absorbed (tilt pan to check). There will be coconut cream on the surface – that's normal. Rest rice, covered, for 15 minutes. Do not shortcut this!
- Fluff with rubber spatula. Garnish with toasted coconut, if using, then serve. Marvel at fluffy rice!
Fluffy Coconut Rice – Coconut POWDER
- 1 cup jasmine rice (or long grain) (see notes)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 packet coconut milk powder (1.75 oz / 50 g) (see notes)
- 2 kaffir lime leaves , crumpled in your hand OR 3 pandam leaves, knotted – OPTIONAL, for Asian restaurant style
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp desiccated coconut , toasted, to garnish (optional)
- Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over high heat. Place lid on.
- When it comes to the boil (watch it, you don’t want it to boil over), turn down the heat to low / medium low so it is simmering gently.
- Leave it to simmer for 12 to 15 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed.
- Remove from heat and rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Fluff with fork. Garnish with toasted coconut, if using, then serve.