Coconut Ice Cream

I wasn’t exactly sure what to call this frozen treat.  Among the contenders: coconut ice cream, coconut sorbet, coconut sherbet, haupia ice cream, haupia sorbet and haupia sherbet.

I know that there are rules for what constitutes an ice cream, sherbet and/or sorbet, but it seems like they’re pretty widely ignored.  So I just went with what seemed like the most straightforward term to describe this rich and creamy frozen dessert.

The recipe relies solely on canned coconut milk as its liquid base.  So if you’re not a super fan of straight coconut milk, you’re probably better off swapping up to half of the coconut milk for half-and-half or even heavy cream to help mellow out the strong coconut flavor.

But for those of you who love coconut milk, this ice cream will be right up your alley.  If you’re familiar with Hawaiian and/or tropical desserts, it’ll probably remind you of haupia.  It uses the same basic ingredients– coconut milk, cornstarch and sugar– but instead of turning the ingredients into gelatin-like squares, you end up with a dazzling white frozen dessert.  Although you can surely eat the ice cream plain, a sprinkle of toasted coconut adds a lovely touch of color and texture.


Coconut Ice Cream

Yield: 6-8 servings

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 4+ hours


* Two 15-ounce cans full-fat coconut milk, divided
* 3/4 cup sugar
* pinch salt
* 2-1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
* dried, unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted (optional)


Combine all but 1/4 cup of the coconut milk, sugar and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 1/4 cup of coconut milk until smooth. Add to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and can coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Cover and chill at least 3-4 hours, or up to 24 hours.

Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Serve with a sprinkle of toasted coconut, if desired.

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19 Responses to “Coconut Ice Cream”

  1. #
    Mindy — July 26, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Holy mother, I need an ice cream maker!!!!!!!


    • CATE — July 27th, 2012 @ 8:09 am

      Agreed! I initially worried that mine would just sit in the pantry all the time and I wouldn't use it very often. I was so wrong :)


  2. #
    Eileen — July 26, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Wow, this sounds amazing! I bet it would be the perfect end to a massive Thai feast. :)


    • CATE — July 27th, 2012 @ 8:09 am

      Thanks Eileen :)


  3. #
    girlmeetspaleo — July 29, 2012 at 12:11 am

    gorgeous photos!!


  4. #
    Anonymous — July 29, 2012 at 1:01 am

    YUM! This looks SO GOOD! I may have to buy an ice cream maker!


  5. #
    kankana — August 2, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Looks like we both love coconut! I shared a coconut ice cream last night :) Loving your version .. and the styling is so neat!


  6. #
    peachtopie — August 3, 2012 at 1:45 am

    Oh my goodness. I love coconut. Your photos are mouth-watering!


  7. #
    Katherine — February 24, 2013 at 11:06 am

    This didn’t freeze in my ice cream maker.


  8. #
    corrinakuhar — June 12, 2013 at 12:02 am

    Great recipe, Cate! Loved it the ice cream. I found the recipe on BuzzFeed.


    • Cate — June 13th, 2013 @ 11:39 pm

      So glad you liked it! :)


  9. #
    Kay — June 14, 2013 at 1:41 am

    Looks good, but why the corn starch? can it be made with out for a healthier recipe?


  10. #
    Christi — July 21, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    When you say the coconut milk is divided, do you mean that you’re only using the creamy part of the milk (i.e., scraping off the top part)?



    • Cate — July 24th, 2013 @ 6:06 pm

      Sorry for the late reply Christi- when I say divided, I just mean that you don’t use all of the coconut at the same time when making it. You’ll notice that at the beginning, 1/4 cup is saved for a later step of the recipe.

      I normally shake up cans of coconut milk prior to opening it so that everything is mixed up- unless of course I’m trying to get just the cream part. Hope it worked out for you :)


  11. #
    alix — September 13, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Nice! Tho you mentioned in the parent link you can do without the ice-cream machine. whats the alternative process?


  12. #
    janet pesaturo — September 17, 2013 at 3:07 am

    Hello! Thanks for the recipe and beautiful photos. I’ve been experimenting with coconut based ice creams, and find that when I warm the coconut milk, even just over low heat, it gives the final ice cream a funny after taste (or maybe it’s just a slightly stronger coconut aftertaste, but in any case, people don’t seem to like it as much). Has anyone else found that to happen? So I have taken to just dumping all ingredients right into the food pro, without cooking or warming anything. (I don’t do the cornstarch thing, but I do substitute corn or tapioca syrup for some of the sugar, and that helps prevent crystallization.) I end up with an ice cream that’s slightly less smooth than ice cream made with a cooked base, but I think the flavor is better. Other people’s experiences?


  13. #
    Bill — September 19, 2013 at 11:08 am

    When using sugar and an ice cream machine, it comes out just fine. But substituting Stevia for the sugar, it freezes solid.
    I hope replacing sugar with corn starch will cure that.


  14. #
    Mark Abenstein — June 29, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    It is not necessary to heat the coconut milk. Just mix it well and you will have the right consistency to make ice cream, in an ice cream maker.

    Another tip is to keep your coconut milk in the in your fridge. Turn your tins upside down and open the bottom of your tins. The coconut water will rise to the top, which you can pour off. You want only the coconut solids. Again, just mix the solids well. They will liquify, thus,making it unnecessary to heat.


  15. #
    Aina — October 12, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Epic and amazing! Tastes like the cocnut “ice cream” we had on the beach in Thailand long ago. Thank you for this!


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