Homemade Cream of Coconut (a.k.a. Coco Lopez, for Pina Coladas)?
March 9, 2013 9:02 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have a recipe for making cream of coconut at home? Not coconut milk, not coconut cream, I'm talking about the syrupy sweet thick goopy stuff in the can that is used (as far as I know only) for making Pina Coladas.

So I have discovered that the Pina Colada can actually be a seriously tasty cocktail. Who woulda thunk it? Shaken and strained rather than frozen into a slushie, high quality pineapple juice instead of the little cans, good rum, proper Cream of Coconut rather than just using Malibu or that industrial waste product in the squeeze bottles. Currently I use 2oz of 10 Cane rum, 3oz of pineapple juice, and 2oz of Cream of Coconut / Coco Lopez. Make sure that at least two of those are well chilled. Put it all in a shaker, shake the daylights out of it, and strain it (important) into a glass (I use a big martini glass because that's what I have).

The texture is incredible and the coconut flavor is great, and I haven't been able to reproduce that with anything other than the Coco Lopez. I'd really like to be able to get away from using it. It's getting hard to find, it's kind of...industrial, and it just is what it is so I can't fine-tune it (I'd like to have some more fun continuing to fiddle with the recipe). I cook quite a lot, including some modernist / molecular stuff, so I would up for trying fairly exotic techniques / ingredients if anybody has any ideas.
posted by madmethods to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Theoretically, the canned "Cream of Coconut" products like Lopez, Roland, etc are sweetened, stabilized coconut cream (i.e. the cream that rises to the top when you make coconut milk). Lopez even states this directly: In his small laboratory in Puerto Rico, he developed the original Coco Lopez by blending the delicious cream from the hearts of Caribbean coconuts with the exact proportion of natural cane sugar.

I'd start by making your own coconut cream (by making coconut milk from fresh coconut and letting the cream settle out to the top -- many (but not all) canned coconut milks are stabilized in a way that prevents the coconut cream from separating) then experimenting with different ratios of simple syrup to coconut milk to get the right flavor.

Once the flavor's where you want, you'll have to work on the texture -- my general inclination is to use xanthan gum since it's easy to obtain and very versatile for thickening cold beverages. You may find that if you're putting it together fresh you don't need anything, and that the gel stabilizers found in Cream of Coconut are to keep the sugar and cream together rather than adding texture to the final product, though given the ingredient list on my can of Roland (two emulsifiers and three gelling ("stabilizing") agents) there's some pretty serious texture control going on in there. There is a recipe for "Caramelized Coconut Cream" in Modernist Cuisine that uses propylene glycol alginate as a stabilization agent in a sweetened coconut milk recipe that might be a good starting point.
posted by j.edwards at 9:30 PM on March 9, 2013

On an episode of the Sporkful, Rachel Maddow talked about piƱa coladas and Coco Lopez (she even autographed a can for a lucky listener). She revised the typical drink recipe, which I've been meaning to try: she substitutes 1.5 oz unsweetened coconut milk and 1.5 oz orgeat for the Coco Lopez and cream. It could be quite fun to make the orgeat yourself and tinker away from there.
posted by vespertine at 10:25 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Kara brand coconut milk (in tetrapaks) tends to have separated when opened - ironically, one has to mix it back together before pouring into curry. Perhaps try that as a way to skim the cream off the top?

Availability: I've seen this brand in supermarkets in Finland, Netherlands, Singapore and Kenya; not just speciality stores either.
posted by infini at 4:49 AM on March 10, 2013

I've always made my own! With a blender, mix coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk. I like the Trader Joe's coconut milk in the box, ymmv. You can mess with the proportions until you find a consistency and taste you like, but I just mix those two ingredients. Once you find the right proportions, it will store for a long time in a mason jar in your fridge, but you'll need to re-blend it before using each time. A sufficiently large mason jar can actually fit right on top of most household blenders, so no need to pour-repour.
posted by juniperesque at 7:57 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Interestingly enough, famed tiki historian Jeff "Beachbum" Berry says that Lopez is his preferred product in many tiki drinks. From his books:

Developed in 1954 as a labor-saving alternative to mixing sugar with coconut milk. Ignore other brands, such as Coco Real or Trader Vic's Ko Ko Kreme; Lopez was the first and is still the best. (If it congeals after opening, just agitate it with a spoon.)

I'm inclined to believe him since he has spent a lot of time researching and experimenting which tiki ingredients are better to make on your own and which to buy, even naming specific brands to avoid (i.e. most commercial orgeat and grenadine sucks, etc). If he prefers Coco Lopez, maybe that's a sign. Though you can still experiment if you wish!

I have a can of Coco Lopez in front of me and the ingredients read:

Coconut, Sugar, Water, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitan Monostearate, Salt, Propylene Glycol Alginate, Mono and Diglycerides Emulsifier(s), Citric Acid, Guar Gum, Locust Bean Gum

That's a ton of emulsifiers/thickeners--the reason why the texture is so great. There's also 20g of sugars per 1 fl oz serving. Also, I was able to find it easily on Amazon.

If you want to tinker with the recipe, use freshly squeezed pineapple juice, that will probably make a huge difference. Not sure if what you're using.

Here are some takes on the Pina Colada from the Bum's books that you could take inspiration from (frozen drinks but obviously that is not your preference, tweak at will):

Nada Colada

4 oz pineapple juice
1 oz Liko Lehua coconut butter*
8 oz crushed ice

Blend for up to 30 seconds. Pour unstrained into a tall glass.

* Liko Lehua coconut butter is a different animal from coconut cream, and even from other coconut butters. Unlike the latter, Liko Lehua actually contains dairy butter. It's meant to be spread on toast but we found that it makes for an incredibly rich, luscious Colada.

For an alcoholic pina colada, just add 2 oz light Puerto Rican rum to the above recipe.

He also has a version with 8 oz unsweetened pineapple juice, 2 oz Coco Lopez, 4 oz vodka, and 2.5 oz macadamia nut liqueur. This is a Hawaiian concoction circa the 1960s.
posted by kathryn at 8:06 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you want to try the method of blending coconut milk with condensed milk, you can make your own sweetened condensed milk. That link also talks about making a non-dairy version using (tada!!) coconut milk. So you might try that and see if it comes close to the taste/texture of the coconut cream that you want.
posted by CathyG at 10:23 AM on March 10, 2013

I wonder if something like coconut cream might be useful for this?
posted by bink at 11:51 AM on March 10, 2013

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