The basics of making homemade coconut milk is straightforward enough. Combine shredded unsweetened coconut or coconut flakes with hot water, blend, then strain. As long as you follow this formula, you are going to wind up with coconut milk. How good that coconut milk tastes will come down to three variables- the coconut itself, the ratio of coconut to water, and the device you use to blend it with.
First up is the type of coconut to use. I always use shredded unsweetened. Unsweetened shredded coconut is sometimes hard to find at mainstream supermarkets. Whole Foods sells the “Let’s Do Organic” brand, which is great, but pricey. A better bet, assuming you have a Whole Foods near you, is getting the shredded coconut they sell in their bins section by the nuts and candies which is just as good but a fraction of the price. Desiccated Coconut Flakes are something that is also recommended, but they are harder to measure and because they have less moisture produce a somewhat blander tasting end product, so I never use them.
As far as blending devices go, you want to use either a Vitamix or a Blendtech. If you are frugal like me, look in to the second hand Vitamix market. That’s where I got mine. Vitamix builds solid machines, and my Vitamix 3600 Plus from the 1980’s that I got 2 years ago is still chugging along like brand new. Friendly tip for second hand Vitamix shoppers- the 4000 model was a significant upgrade from the 3600, but the very first wave of the 4000 model machines were actually called the “3600 Plus”. Not many sellers know this, and consequently you can pick up a 4000 model machine at a 3600 model price if you hunt out the 3600 Plus.
The final thing you have to consider when making homemade coconut milk is the ratio of shredded coconut to hot water. 1 cup shredded coconut per 1 cup hot water is the standard for producing really thick, rich coconut milk perfect for ice cream or curries. 1.5 cups coconut to 2.5 cups water is about as diluted as you want to go if you are aiming to replace the taste and texture of canned full fat coconut milk. 1:4 is a ratio more suited to coconut milk for drinking or perhaps as a liquid for smoothies.
My go-to Coconut Milk Recipe: