Pudding for One Is the Solution to the Problem of Leftover Coconut Milk

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Photo: Gagarova Olga (Shutterstock)

Invariably, whenever I use coconut milk I end up with half a can more than I need. I will need a half can of coconut milk at some point in the future, but because life is cruel, it will always be two days after the leftovers have gone bad in the fridge. And the cycle repeats. To finally put a stop to the madness, I decided to use up my leftover coconut milk by making small-batch coconut pudding with seasonal fruit compote.

Most pudding recipes yield around 4–6 servings. That’s great if you happen to have that many pudding eaters around, but sometimes you want a personal pudding, or maybe just pudding for two. By design—since I’m aiming to use up my extras—this recipe calls for only around 3/4 of a cup of coconut milk. Small batch desserts are the way to go if you’re tired of preserving leftovers on a daily basis. You can top it with basically any any fresh seasonal fruit, or do what I did, and turn fresh fruit into a delicious compote (which will also allow you to use up anything that’s squeaking past its prime).

To make this dessert, I went about cooking pudding in a fairly traditional manner, but substituted in my remaining coconut milk for the usual whole milk. The sugar, eggs, and cornstarch get mixed up together before the hot milk is slowly added to prevent lumps from forming. Take it easy when adding the steaming milk to the egg and sugar mixture—you’re introducing hot coconut magma (nearly 200 degrees Fahrenheit) to eggs that coagulate at around 145°F, so you want to do it slowly. This process is called tempering.

Once you have tempered the mixture and put it back on the stove, whisk constantly until it thickens into a lovely pudding. Cover it and cool in the fridge, or leave it at room temperature if you’ll be eating it soon and you like warm pudding. While the pudding cools, whip together a quick fruit compote with seasonal berries or stone fruit. I used cherries because mine were overripe and beginning to feel like mini water balloons.

The following recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of pudding—enough for two desserts or one exquisite indulgence. The milk is inherently rich in coconut fats, giving it a luxurious, pastry cream-like texture. It’s comforting and satisfying, and if you like coconut, you’ll be enamored by its subtle, but unmistakably coconut-y flavor. It’s complete pudding perfection that also happens to be dairy-free.

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Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

Summer Cherry Coconut Pudding

Pudding Ingredients:

  • ½ can coconut milk (about 6.5 ounces)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of cornstarch
  • ⅛ teaspoon of salt

Cherry compote ingredients:

  • 12 cherries (pitted)
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • ½ tablespoon of sugar
  • Squeeze of lemon (optional)
  • Cornstarch slurry (1 teaspoon cornstarch + 1 tablespoon of water)

Pour the coconut milk into a small pot. (If the fats have separated from the water, let the milk reach room temperature and give it a whisk to make the milk more homogenous.) Don’t heat the milk yet.

In a small bowl, stir the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together until evenly mixed. Take two tablespoons of room temperature coconut milk out of the pot and put it into the small bowl with the cornstarch mixture. Add the egg yolks to the bowl and whisk until everything is thoroughly blended and the cornstarch is fully dissolved. (You will soon temper the milk into this egg mixture.)

Heat the coconut milk over medium heat until small bubbles start forming on the edges and it begins to steam. You don’t want it to boil, so keep an eye on it— it’s a small amount of milk and it only takes a minute or so to get up to temperature. Turn off the heat and slowly stream a small amount of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking quickly as you do so. Continue to add a bit more hot milk while whisking until about ¾ of the coconut milk has been added to the egg yolk mixture. I can’t stress the importance of whisking enough here—it’s what will keep the eggs from cooking into scrambled eggs.

Put the pot of remaining milk back on the stove and whisk the egg mixture back into it. Now everything is in the pot. Turn the heat on medium and whisk constantly until it thickens to a pudding consistency—about five minutes over heat. Pour into a bowl and cover to cool at room temperature or in the fridge.

To make the cherry compote, add the pitted cherries, sugar, and water to a small pot. Cook over medium heat until the cherries break down slightly and release their juices. While the cherries are hot and the juice is boiling, add the cornstarch slurry while stirring. Continue stirring constantly as the mixture thickens. The juice should be loose but not runny, and just thick enough to coat a spoon. Mix in the optional squeeze of lemon juice to brighten it up.

If you intend to eat the cherry and coconut pudding later, cool everything, covered, in the fridge. If eating the dessert warm, do so immediately, spooning the cherry compote over the pudding. Give it a slight mix to make a dramatic cherry swirl.

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