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Feb 27, 2011 02:08 PM

Cracking coconut cream

I made a Thai green curry for the first time today. The recipe called for cracking the coconut cream--that is, simmering the coconut cream until the water evaporates and the oil separates from the solids. I used coconut cream out of a box.

I encountered a problem: no oil ever separated out. I continued to simmer the coconut cream until parts of the thick coconut mass started to brown every so slightly, yet still no oil separated out. At that point I decided to remove it from the heat and add a bit of grapeseed oil for frying the curry paste.

The recipe still came out delicious. If you have thoughts on what went wrong, I'd love to hear them. There isn't much good information on this subject online.

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  1. I do not know the why only that I have the same problem with canned Coconut milk. I just use coconut oil to saute my curry paste and it gets that nice toasty coconut smell that is the whole point of using the coconut cream.

    6 Replies
    1. re: chefj

      When I use coconut milk for a Thai curry I make sure I don't shake the can. When you open it the thick cream will be on the top. this is scooped out and used to fry the curry spices. The liquid is then added after the curry has cooked in the cream.

      1. re: scubadoo97

        Yes I know but the cream never breaks for me.

        1. re: chefj

          I have a feeling my problem was due to the "stabilizers" in the box I used.

          1. re: sushigirlie

            May be the same with canned coconut milk. But the Coconut oil solution has worked great for me.

            1. re: chefj

              Sounds like the end product worked well by both methods and they are simpler, faster and less energy use. Win-Win.

            2. re: sushigirlie

              Aroy-D Coconut Milk Box is made and packaged without additives. The cream, which is about half the contents of the coconut milk container, settles out on top making it easy to harvest. I have found this to be the easiest to crack. Goya coconut milk cracks even better but has a dull smell and taste.
              Thai kitchen makes the most fragrant coconut milk but only cracks when I add 2 tbs of oil, and even then the non oil is weirdly gummy.
              Most important to me is when I use the non additive cream from the coconut milk the final curry has separation, oil on top water on bottom and when I use a stabilized coconut milk product coconut the result is emulsified, towards a thin mayo consistency.
              A suggestion, don't be afraid if the amount of liquid in the wok is very, very small and allow for a small bit of darkening towards the middle of the process.

      2. Cracking coconut cream seems like a pain in the ass. Rather than go through the rigmarole, can you not just cut out the middleman and just use good coconut oil?

        4 Replies
        1. re: biggreenmatt

          That's what I said above, it works fine for me.

          1. re: chefj

            Thanks. I'm starting to play with Thompson's book. It's quite the trip.

              1. re: chefj

                Sorry, mate.


                Difficult stuff but magnificent. The pad thai I made tonight beats anything we have in Toronto, hands down- which is as much a commentary of how good Thompson is as it is how bad Thai food is in Toronto.

        2. Hi there, I realize it has been 2 years since you posted this, but just in case you never got a good answer to this. Basically some coconut milk, especially the ones in cans, have been treated to prevent the oil from separating, and that's why it's not happening for you. The breaking, in my experience, only works with freshly made coconut milk and certain pre-made ones that are 100% coconut milk, no added stabilizers or emulsifiers, and that has not been processed. Usually those ones have better flavour as well. Aroy-D brand in the carton works well for this (Aroy-D in the can doesn't). Always check the ingredient list! I make Thai cooking videos on YouTube, and here's an episode where I explain all this, hope it helps you:

          3 Replies
          1. re: PailinsKitchen

            Do you need to separate the solids from the water first before breaking it like how its done with cans?

            1. re: takadi

              That is done by the Cooking. Water evaporates and the Oil breaks out of the Solids.
              You start with just the Thick(much more fat) Milk that is on top.

            2. re: PailinsKitchen

              Hi Pailin, I finally got around to making some panang curry with the tetrapak Aroy D brand you recommended and it worked like a charm! Almost a little too easy, it happened so fast that I was surprised, since other brands I used often have been reduced to ashes by the time I was able to coax out any oil. The cream and milk as is is quite different from the other brands too, very delicious and sweet coconut flavor without that weird canned aftertaste. The end product made from the cracked cream tastes different too. The curry is more "textured" and satisfying...other curries made with milks with stabilizers has a smoothness and almost sliminess to it that comes from cooked hydrocolloids like cornstarch or xantham gums

            3. Great discussion found here - - seems like the simplest thing to do is to use coconut oil and then add the coconut milk later. I did eventually get mine (Chaokoh brand) to crack after about 8 minutes on medium low but next time I think I will just use coconut oil to fry the spices and then add in the coconut milk from the can all at once.