Coconut milk rice is a one pot traditional rice pilaf made with fragrant rice, aromatic spices and coconut milk. This simple & quick dish not only sets your taste buds tingling with delight but also surprises you with amazing flavors. Make it either on the stovetop or in the instant pot with my easy recipe. This coconut milk rice is a meal in itself but you can also pair with an Indian Raita or any curry for a complete meal.
Rice dishes are a universal favorite in Asia much like the pasta in other parts of the world. Coconut and rice feature prominently in Asian cuisine in countries and regions where coconut and rice are found in abundance.
About Coconut Milk Rice
Coconut milk rice is an Asian rice dish where rice is cooked primarily with coconut milk. There are numerous ways this dish is made and every Asian country or region has their own version. You will find coconut milk rice being made with spices, veggies, herbs and sometimes even with sugar.
While the recipe shared here is essentially South Indian and popular in the coastal regions, the Thai and SriLankans have their own versions of coconut milk rice. There are again sweet and savory versions too.
The simplest is the Thai version that’s made by simply cooking Jasmine rice with coconut milk, water, salt and a small amount of sugar.
This Indian coconut milk rice has some whole spices added to it for a unique aroma and some veggies for nutrition, making it a wholesome meal. Basmati rice is simmered in coconut milk along with sautéed veggies and tempered whole spices, to create a rich and creamy meal with a taste that lingers long.
While the dish may seem similar to an Indian Pulao or pilaf, this dish is actually different in taste as you cook the rice in coconut milk instead.
Coconut milk rice makes a nice addition to dinner and even the school or office lunch. Swap the savory spices and oil for sugar and butter and you will have a light and sweet snack ready for the kids.
How to make Coconut Milk Rice (Stepwise Photos)
1. Add 2 cups rice to a bowl and rinse it well thrice. Drain the water and soak it with fresh water for 20 mins. Meanwhile chop 1 carrot, 6 green beans and slit 1 to 2 green chilies.
2. Optional to make homemade Coconut Milk: Grind 1 cup chopped coconut pieces or grated coconut with 1.5 cups water. Strain and extract the milk. Use 1.5 cups coconut milk only for this recipe. Set this aside. Alternately you can use store bought milk.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil or ghee in a pot or pressure cooker. You may skip this step if you don’t want to use nuts. Add 20 split cashews and fry them until golden. Remove them and keep aside for garnish
4. Reduce the heat to minimum. To the same pot or pressure cooker, add the whole spices
- 1 Bay leaf
- 2 inch Cinnamon pieces
- 4 green cardamoms
- 6 cloves
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds or shahi jeera
5. When they begin to sizzle, add 2 teaspoons ginger paste or ginger garlic paste. You can also use grated ginger.
6. Saute for 30 to 60 seconds until it begins to smell good. Make sure the stove is set to lowest heat.
7. Add green chilies, green beans, carrots & green peas. Saute for 2 to 3 mins.
8. Pour 1½ cups coconut milk and 2 cups water. Add ¾ teaspoon salt as well. Mix well and taste the milk. Add more salt if needed. The milk has to be slightly salty.
9. While the milk comes to a boil, drain the rice to a colander. Add the drained rice.
10. Give a good mix.
11. Cover the pot or pressure cooker.
If using Pressure cooker: Regulate the flame to medium, pressure cook for 1 whistle.
If using cooking in a regular pot: Regulate the flame to low and cook covered until the rice is tender and fully cooked. Check if the rice is under cooked and there is no more moisture, splash some warm water and cook further until soft and tender. Later let the coconut milk rice rest in the pot for another 10 mins.
12. When the pressure releases naturally, open the lid and fluff up the coconut milk rice.
Garnish with fried cashews. You can also toast the coconut in a pan until golden and garnish your coconut milk rice. We served it with this Cucumber raita. You can also serve this with kurma, korma, dal or any curry.
- Rinsing rice: It is important to rinse the rice well to get rid of excess starch on the surface. This surface starch mostly makes the rice sticky, lumpy and mushy.
- Soaking rice: It is always better to soak aged basmati rice as this helps the grains to soak up some moisture and expand the rice grains to fluffy texture.
- Kind of Rice: For this post I have used aged basmati rice. If you are using any other rice, you will have to follow the same process and use the amount of water as you would to cook it plain. If using jasmine rice you may cook it directly with 1:1.25 cups of water in a cooker. If cooking in pot, you may add little more.
Ingredients & substitutes
Coconut milk: This recipe can be made with coconut milk from the carton or freshly extracted from fresh or frozen coconut. I have found the coconut milk from can too thick for this recipe. If you still want to use it, reduce the quantity and substitute with water.
We usually make this with fresh homemade coconut milk which includes the thin and the thick milk. Thin milk is the second extract and thick milk is the first extract.
Rice: Any non sticky variety of rice works well. We usually use the short grain rice or the aged basmati rice. Any kind of fragrant rice too works wonderfully well. Just ensure you rinse the rice well to avoid a mushy texture .
Spices: We use whole spices to infuse the aromatic flavors to the coconut milk rice. This makes a lot of difference to the rice but you may skip them if you do not have. I use bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms, cumin & optionally star anise. You can use whatever you have in hand.
Mix veggies are optional in the recipe and can be skipped. You may just add a single veggie too like peas. Traditionally we use soaked chana dal but sometimes I use mixed veggies like carrots, peas, beans and corn. This way I ensure that we do not miss our daily quota of vegetables.
Nuts: I have used cashew nuts here for garnishing which you can skip completely or even include some raisins if you desire.
Toasted coconut: To make this coconut milk rice fragrant with subtle aroma of coconut you can also garnish with some toasted coconut.
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 2 cups Basmati rice (or any rice, refer notes)
- 1½ cup coconut milk (fresh or from carton, 1 cup for IP, refer notes)
- 2 cups water (½ cup more to cook in pot, 1½ cups for IP)
- 2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste or ginger paste
- 1 to 2 green chili slit
- 1 medium carrots chopped (optional)
- 1 cup green peas frozen or fresh (optional)
- 6 green beans chopped (optional)
- 2 tablespoons oil (or ghee or butter)
- ¾ teaspoon salt (more to adjust)
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 green cardamoms
- 6 cloves
- 2 inch cinnamon piece
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Optional for garnish
- 10 cashew nuts (20 split)
- 4 tablespoons coconut flakes or grated coconut
- Add rice to a bowl and rinse it well thrice. Drain the water.
- Pour fresh water and let it soak for 20 mins while you prepare the other ingredients. Later after 20 mins, drain the water completely.
How to make Coconut Milk Rice
- Add oil or butter to a pot or pressure cooker. Fry cashews on a medium heat until golden. Remove to a small plate and set aside for garnish.
- Reduce the heat. To the same pot, add whole spices and fry for 30 seconds, until they turn fragrant.
- Add ginger garlic paste and saute for a minute without burning, until it smells fragrant.
- Add slit green chili, chopped vegetables and saute for 2 to 3 mins.
- Pour the coconut milk along with the water and add salt. Taste and adjust the salt.
- Drain the water completely from the rice and add it to the pot. Mix well and cover with the lid.
- Cooking in pot: Let the rice cook on a low heat until all of the water is absorbed and is fully tender but not mushy. If the rice is undercooked, sprinkle some warm water and cook until soft. Turn off the heat and let the coconut milk rice rest for 10 mins. Later fluff up with a fork.
- Pressure Cooker: Cook on a medium heat until you hear 1 whistle. When the pressure drops, open the lid and gently fluff with a fork.
- Optional: Toast the coconut until golden. Garnish coconut milk rice with toasted coconut and cashews.
Instant pot Coconut Milk Rice
- Press Saute button on the instant pot and pour ghee to the steel insert. Add the whole spices.
- When the spices begin to sizzle, add ginger garlic and stir well. Add green chilies, cashews and vegetables. Saute for 2 to 3 mins.
- Add 2 cups drained rice, 1½ cups water, 1 cup coconut milk and salt. Give a good stir. Taste test and add more salt if needed.
- Secure the instant pot with the lid and position the steam release handle to sealing. Press the pressure cook button (high) and Set the timer to 6 mins.
- When the IP finishes, let the pressure release manually for 7 to 8 mins. Later do a manual pressure release. Gently fluff up the coconut milk rice with a fork.
- If you want you may toast the coconut separately and garnish.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
This Coconut milk rice post was first published in November 2014. Updated & republished in February 2022.
I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills.
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