From Types to Techniques: All About Coconut Rice

On the surface, coconut rice can seem like such a simple dish. After all, aren't the two main ingredients right there in the name? In reality, though, this dish has a rich history that spans continents. As such, there is far more to it than meets the eye.

So, don’t just rush ahead to the recipe first. Take the time to understand the various types of coconut rice made around the world. By appreciating the finer points of these dishes, you will find one that is particularly suited to your taste buds or meal. In turn, you will be able to enjoy a far better culinary experience.

Let’s get started!

What is Coconut Rice?

Before going any further, let’s answer an important question: what is coconut rice?

Well, as mentioned, there are a number of different types of coconut rice. For the most part, though, coconut rice refers to a rice dish that is made with coconut milk and water. In some instances, these are the only three ingredients. In other cases, other herbs or spices may be added.

So, how is coconut rice eaten? Well, it is typically eaten in the same way as traditional rice dishes. It can be eaten with curry chicken, veggies, seafood, and numerous other dishes. In short, it can serve as a side dish for a wide variety of foods.

Where is Coconut Milk Rice From?

Coconut rice may be associated more with some cuisines than others. However, this dish can be found across the globe. This is because both coconut and rice is indigenous to a number of countries. As such, coconut rice is a natural product of these traditional ingredients.

Just some of the places that make coconut rice are:

  • India
  • Sri Lanka
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Thailand
  • Colombia
  • Venezuela
  • Panama
  • Puerto Rico
  • The Caribbean

While these coconut rice dishes do share some similarities, they can differ quite a bit as well. For instance, in much of Latin America and the Caribbean, the rice is cooked with coconut milk and shredded coconut. In Venezuela, sugar and spices make it into a dessert known as arroz con coco.

In Thailand, the rice includes sugar and salt, but the dish is meant to be eaten with savory or tangy foods to help balance out the sweetness. In India, Malaysia, and Indonesia, the rice can be slightly spiced, but tends to be a milder base for meals.

coconut rice with veggies

How to Make Coconut Rice – Breaking Down the Ingredients

The actual process of making coconut rice is simple enough. What you need to be aware of, though, are the ingredients that go into this dish. It is these that can make or break a recipe. Here is a breakdown of the main components:

The Rice

Virtually all recipes will call for a type of rice known as long grain rice. Most of the Asian and Caribbean dishes will require basmati, while the Thai dishes are best cooked with Jasmine rice. You should be aware that the rice you choose can alter the texture of the recipe.

This is because Jasmine rice tends to have a gummier texture than Basmati. Not to mention, each kind of rice has to be cooked in a particular way. Apart from this, though, there shouldn’t be too much of a difference between the rice types.

The Coconut Milk

As you are probably aware, there are various kinds of coconut milk. Coconut rice recipes require coconut milk for cooking. Also, make it a point to select the full-fat version as it offers a better taste and fat content. Don’t use low fat milk as you will be adding water to the recipe and this will cause the flavor to be diluted even further.

Now, you may be wondering if you can use coconut cream for rice. Yes, it is possible, but you will need to use a smaller quantity and add even more water to the recipe to dilute the coconut cream. As a whole, you will be better off using coconut milk, though.

Related Reading
An Overview of the Best Coconut Milk Brands (Your Non-dairy Substitute)
Your Guide to Uncovering the Best Canned Coconut Milk

How to Make Coconut Rice in a Rice Cooker

Many people cook rice in a rice cooker than on a stove. Thus, you may be trying to figure out if you can make coconut rice in this manner as well – yes, you can. You don’t really have to alter the recipe either. As long as there is enough of liquid to cook your rice, you should end up with the same results.

Of course, if you are planning on adding herbs or aromatics to the rice while it is cooking, then a rice cooker may not be the best option. When cooking rice in a cooker, you will have to wait until the rice is done, before adding the aromatics or other ingredients to it.  

cooking coconut rice in a rice cooker

Best Coconut Rice Recipes

Here are some of the top coconut rice recipes you can try out for yourself:

Thai Coconut Rice


Yields 3 cups

  • ¾ cup of water
  • ½ cup of coconut milk
  • 1½ tbs. of sugar
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 1 cup of jasmine rice


Step 1: Add Base Ingredients to Pan

In a pan, add the water, coconut milk, sugar, and salt.

Stir to combine.

Step 2: Heat Ingredients

Over medium heat, heat the ingredients.

Cook until the liquid is warm and the salt and sugar have dissolved.

Mix well to combine ingredients.

Step 3: Add Rice

Add the rice and stir to break up any clumps.

Cover and cook on medium heat until the liquid begins to simmer.

Reduce the heat to low and cook until all the liquid is absorbed.

Once done, remove from heat.

Fluff and serve while warm.

Jamaican Rice and Peas


Serves 6

  • 2 tbs. of vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1½  tbs. of grated ginger
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1 can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½  Scotch bonnet or habanero chile, seeded
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced


Step 1: Sauté Aromatics

Add the oil to a large pan and heat.

Add the onion and the ginger and cook over medium heat until the onion is softened.

Step 2: Add Rice and Beans

Add the rice to the pan and cook, stirring until all the grains are coated with oil.

Add the kidney beans and chiles.

Stir in the coconut milk and water. Season with salt and pepper.

Step 3: Cook the Rice and Beans

Cover the pan and cook over low heat.

Cook until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.

Remove from heat, fluff, and stir in the scallions. Season further with salt and pepper.

Coconut Garlic Rice


Serves 3

  • 1 tsp. of oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of coconut milk
  • 1 sprig of coriander leaves , finely chopped 
  • Salt, to taste


Step 1: Cook the Garlic

Heat the oil in a large pan.

Add the garlic and cook until the garlic begins to brown.

Don’t let the garlic burn or blacken.

Step 2: Add the Rest of the Ingredients

Add the rice, coconut milk, water, and salt.

Stir well and cover.

Step 3: Cook the Rice

Lower the heat and cook until all the liquid is absorbed.

Take the rice off the heat.

Fluff and toss with coriander leaves.

This is your ultimate guide to making coconut rice. As you can appreciate there is quite a bit to learn about this dish, including the different techniques available to you.

If you enjoyed this post, you should head over to our Pinterest page. We have tons of other coconut recipes for you to try out.

Riya Borah
Nutritionist Educator | Riya Borah is a nutritionist educator and her job involves guiding people towards a healthier lifestyle. Growing up in India, Riya was aware of just how much coconut was used on a daily basis. This encouraged her to research the properties of this versatile drupe. It opened her eyes to both the limitation and possibilities of coconut. Her aim is to now educate as many people as possible about the best ways to utilize coconut in their own lives.
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