Quick & Easy Dinners: Coconut Milk Edition

I had never bought coconut milk until probably a couple of years ago.  Coconuts sure get a bad rep for all their saturated fat, but let’s not forget that it’s plant saturated fat, people.  Butter and coconut milk are two very different things.  My 30 second search reveals that coconut’s saturated fat is made up of medium chain and short chain fatty acids that the body can quickly turn into energy, instead of fat.  I wouldn’t suggest guzzling cans full of coconut milk, but I think I’d rather eat plant saturated fat as opposed to animal.


There’s a lot of different coconut products out there, so let’s briefly discuss the difference between them.  That way, if you decide to make either one of my dishes, you’ll be sure to get the right product!


Coconut water:  Clear liquid found inside young coconuts.  It is rich in potassium and electrolytes.  I like to think of it as nature’s sports drink.


Coconut milk:  coconut water and meat simmered together and then strained.  It usually comes in a can and there is usually a full fat and light version.  I usually go with the light one.


Coconut butter:  Ground up coconut flesh.  It acts and looks like coconut oil in that it stays solid below about 70ish degrees and is liquid above, but it is much thicker than  the oil.  Great in oatmeal!


Coconut oil:  Oil extracted from the flesh of the coconut.  Good for frying because it has a high smoke point and can therefore withstand fairly high heat.


Coconut cream:  Basically like coconut milk, except it has much less water.  It’s a thick paste and is used in desserts.


Ok, ready to cook with coconut milk?  I have used this the last two weeks to make some pretty fast and delicious meals.  I am usually a zombie at night after school and don’t really feel like cooking.  But, I’m in culinary school after all.  I can be resourceful!  Enter curried lentils and peas and curried chickpeas with broccoli and snow peas.  Sound hard?  Let me show how easy it is!


Boring bowl, delicious food.


Curried Lentils and Peas


  • 1/ 2 -3/4 cup red lentils
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • half a yellow onion, chopped
  • two cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon yellow curry
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
  • shake of cayenne
  • shake of paprika
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Saute onions until translucent.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
  • Add tomato paste and spices.  Frying the spices and tomato paste is important, as this is helping develop flavor.
  • Add lentils and peas and then water and coconut milk.  Simmer until lentils are tender.
  • Serve over grain of your choice.

See?  That wasn’t too bad.  It lasted me three servings too.  Red lentils are a great ingredient for a fast dinner because they cook so quickly.  You’ve also got some green in there with the peas.  The frying of spices and tomato past really adds a nice depth of flavor, like you cooked it for a really long time.  But, we both know it took you no time at all!  Tender lentils swimming in creamy coconut milk, a nice way to warm up on a cold November night.  Round two!



Curried Chickpeas with Broccoli and Snow Peas


  • half a yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large or two smaller garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon curry
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
  • shake of paprika
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Saute onions until translucent.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
  • Add tomato past and spices and fry with onions and garlic.
  • Add broccoli to onion mixture.  Then, add coconut milk and simmer until broccoli is cooked, but still retains some crispness to it.
  • Stir in chickpeas and snow peas.
  • Serve over your favorite grain.

I used wheat berries in both dishes, but that’s because I cooked them this weekend and pre-soaked them.  Wheat berries are not a quick dinner item, but quinoa, amaranth, millet or couscous would all be fast and healthy choices.  The coconut milk adds a creaminess and richness to these curries that one can not achieve with cow’s milk.  My dinner was done in about 30-40 minutes.


"Grow your own garden." I wish!


Does anyone else have a favorite bowl and spoon?  These are mine.  I actually washed this bowl from this morning’s oatmeal so I could use it again for dinner.  Silly, yes I am!


To those who say they don’t have time to cook, I challenge you to try making one of these fast curries.  I’ve been on a vegetarian kick lately, but you could certainly cut up chicken or beef and add it to these curries.  Shrimp would also be lovely too.


I made the BF do a photo shoot of me in full culinary school uniform and while back. I can’t make an Iron chef face to save my life, but it was fun!


So many buttons.


Chef's coat, name tag, collar, thermometer, pen, pencil, sharpie, chef's pants, non slip shoes. I love it!



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