July 12, 2010

Coconut milk instead of butter

I've written before about the virtues of coconut milk and oil: they're one of the most concentrated sources of life-sustaining saturated fat, and most of it comes from medium-chain fatty acids that your body burns right away, giving you an energy boost without the crash. Also, the predominant fat is lauric acid, which fights and prevents disease through several pathways, and is very hard to find at such high levels in any other food. It is very low in carbs, none of which is lactose, and for me that's the clincher since I'm mildly lactose-intolerant.

Dairy products also have some proteins that the human body doesn't process perfectly, some of which can lead to acne breakouts. Loren Cordain has a paper on his website detailing the mechanism as well as citing the empirical studies that show milk consumption leads to acne. I'd started to eat a lot more butter recently and noticed that, so coconut milk will make your life better on that score too.

The trouble is finding ways to work it into your meals, mainly because most of us have never cooked with it before and have no intuition for where it should go and what job it should do. Here are two incredibly simple ways I've found to work a good amount into my daily meals:

- As a base for a sauce to go with grilled meat. Throw some meat on the grill, and a couple minutes before it's done, put about 1/2 to 1 tsp of green curry paste onto the plate, pour 4 tbsp (or 2 oz.) of coconut milk over that, and mix it all around so that the paste is thoroughly distributed in the milk. Place the grilled meat on top, grind a bunch of sea salt on top of it, then flip it over to coat the other side in the sauce. As the juices from the meat run off into the sauce, stir it up a little to get them distributed too.

It takes almost no time, involves no extra cleanup (once you can eyeball how much curry paste and coconut milk are needed), and tastes fantastic. Much better than what I'd been using before -- pasture butter, salt, pepper, and cardamom. Plus it's cheaper. I've used the Thai Kitchen coconut milk, unsweetened, premium, first pressing variety (don't get anything with sweetener or reduced fat), and the Thai Kitchen green curry paste. Their recipe for the sauce also has you add sugar and fish sauce (which itself has sugar), so ignore that and just use these two ingredients.

- As a base for egg nog, custard, etc. I've done this without eggs and it's great, so it'll only be better once I add eggs in. Pour some coconut milk in a bowl (probably no more than a couple ounces), add a drop or two of vanilla extract, and shake in some pumpkin pie spice to taste (the type I got has cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves). Stir it up and drizzle it over some halved or slivered almonds. In the future I think I'll skip the almonds and just make it a drink by adding a raw egg yolk or two -- that'll make some great wake-up juice -- perhaps chilling it overnight to enjoy as a custard for breakfast. No sweeteners! If you drink, though, you might mix in some egg nog liquor. Like before, this takes no time and no extra cleanup.


  1. Ghee, also known as clarified butter, is another good option. It is prepared in a way that removes all the water, protein, and sugar, leaving only pure delicious fat.

  2. Thai-style curries are also really easy to make. Put the meat in a pan and cook it a bit, then dump in the coconut milk, curry, lemon grass and whatever vegetables you want, let simmer for 10 minutes and then you're done. It makes a simple, fast and really tasty soup-like dish that's incredibly filling and stores well for future meals.

    Thai's are artists with these dishes, but it's almost impossible to make it taste bad.


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