I’m on island time, come on down: Coconut Ice Cream


Cool and creamy coconut ice cream is the fountain of youth for me.  It takes me back to a time when I was thin, tanned, and away from home for the very first time. It was 1985, and I was 17…

…and a senior in high school. I had been invited by my now-husband, but then-just-friend David, and his sister, Kim, to go to Puerto Rico for a month in January, presumably to study tropical island ecology. You see, their father, Fred, was a biology professor at Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire and every winter he took a group of students to Isla de Mona, a very small island off the west coast of Puerto Rico, where they studied the plants and wildlife of the island for 3 weeks.

Now, picture yourself at 17. Would you rather spend January in snowy, sub-zero New England bundled up like the Michelin Man, or go with a group of college kids to a tropical island where everyone is wearing bathing suits and sleeping in tents literally just yards away from the Caribbean Sea? Yeah, tough call. Surprisingly,  my parents were good with it and off I flew.

Ah, the stories I could tell you about that trip. BUT my mother reads this blog, so we’ll stick to the tamer tales.

There was a lovely cruise on Phosphorescent Bay, where tiny organisms in the water glow when disturbed, so the wake of your boat glows and water dripping from your hands looks otherworldly. We also spent New Year’s Eve dancing in the town square before heading to the island where we hiked, swam and fed saltines to the iguanas.

After 3 weeks on the remote island, we spent our last few days back in San Juan before flying home. During one sightseeing trip, we stopped on a corner where an older man was selling cups of coconut ice cream from a big trash can full of ice. The flavor was simply magnificent. Cold and creamy, it melted slowly in the heat of the day and was amazingly refreshing.  I’ve never had such wonderful ice cream in my life, and that taste memory stays with me to this day. I have to say, this recipe is the closest thing I’ve had to that ice cream in over 25 years.

Stroll with me down my memory lane and make Coconut Ice Cream.

First, mix together the coconut milk powder and hot water. I know this is a lot of coconut milk powder for one recipe, but think of it like you would the cream cheese for a really decadent cheesecake, or the bottle of wine for a special celebration. It’s not something you’re going to buy every day, but when you do, it’s OH so worth it.

Next, blend the secret ingredient into the cold heavy cream.  Yes, it’s pastry cream filling mix! It adds richness, creaminess, and a very satisfying mouth feel to any ice cream recipe. I think it helps thicken the ice cream base, too, and prevents the ice cream itself from melting into watery nothingness. I’m down on my knees a-beggin’ you to give it a try. And that means a lot – I’m NOT 17 anymore. Getting up again may take awhile.

Combine the coconut “milk”  with the pastry/ heavy cream. Add the sugar, coconut flavoring and shredded coconut, if using. Whisk until well blended. My hubby isn’t a big fan of the texture of coconut, so I run this through the blender at this point to break up the pieces a bit.

Refrigerate the mixture for several hours or overnight, until well chilled.

Set up your ice cream machine. I love my Cuisinart Ice Cream machine. Just freeze the core, then place it in the bucket. Add the dasher (the funky shaped plastic part that scrapes the sides and bottom) then the lid.

Turn on the machine and pour in the cold base. It’s important to turn the machine on first so that the cold base doesn’t freeze in a lump and make it impossible for the bowl to turn.

Set the timer for 20 minutes and go enjoy a good book or have a cup of tea.

The ice cream should be just about done at this point. It’ll be soft serve consistency, and quite dense.

Take a minute to admire the creamy goodness. Don’t wait too long, though; if the ice cream gets too soft before you freeze it again, it’ll be full of ice crystals.

Our nylon spatulas are great for scraping your machine’s core clean. They’re tough enough to handle the ice cream, but soft enough not to scratch the core.

Serve the ice cream immediately for a soft treat, or freeze for 4 to 6 additional hours to firm and ripen. I think this particular blend is better after additional freezing. Just allow it to sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes to make scooping easier.

Serve the ice cream topped with additional coconut, toasted or flaked or both. It’s also amazing with pineapple sauce. I’m dyin’ to try it with almonds and chocolate chips; that’s the plan for this weekend.

Thanks for wandering down memory lane in the Tropics with me. I’d love to hear your stories; be they ice cream related or island related, it’s all good.

Please make, rate and review our recipe for Coconut Ice Cream.

MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...


  1. Lish

    I was planning on making coconut ice cream today, to serve sunday at a barbecue, so I was thrilled to see this blog. In addition, I actually have all the ingredients. And it sounds to rich and amazing, so I am really looking forward to making it. Thanks for sharing your memories and your ice cream expertise.
    Thanks Lish! If there are going to be a lot of folks at the BBQ, you might want to make 2 batches. It’s going to go like wildfire! Have a great time. ~ MaryJane

  2. SMJ

    I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, so I know exactly the flavor of the coconut ice cream you are talking about. Perfect on a hot, humid days. Have you ever had coconut flan? That is another wonderful thing to make, coconut flavor with caramel and creaminess all in one. As a matter of fact, although you have several recipes for creme brule, you do not have any flan recipes. I have some to share if you would like.
    I did eat plenty of flan while in PR, and loved every bite. I haven’t made it in years, but would love to have some recipes to get going again, and of course add to my list of great things to blog. Send ‘em along to maryjane.robbins@kingarthurflour.com. Many thanks ~ MaryJane

  3. KimberlyD

    When can I come over and have a bowl? LOL! This is about the only time I wished I had an ice cream maker! I haven’t bought one for I am affraid I would be making home made ice cream all the time! LOL!
    KimberlyD, you are welcome to share a bowl anytime. Just give me 24 hours notice and we’ll have a batch ready to go! ~ MaryJane

  4. Danièle C.

    This is the perfect recipe to try out my new Cuisinart ice cream maker! And I’ve always said “you could put coconut on just about anything and I’d eat it!” Have you ever tried making ice cream with soy milk? I would love to make some that my nephew could eat…

    Also, the whisk you show in the photos at the beginning– the one with the spiraled doodad in the middle. Where did you get that? It might save my marriage, as my husband LOATHES cleaning whisks when I’m done baking (that’s our deal– I bake, he cleans up what I don’t).
    Hi Daniele,
    I haven’t tried soy milk ice cream yet but I really should as I have a milk allergy! Thank goodness for meds. I wonder how it would be for richness without much fat? If anyone out there uses soy, we’d love to hear from you.

    For the whisk, I’m pretty sure it was a sample sent to us by a vendor. It’s funny, some of us in the kitchen love it, and some really don’t. Susan Reid and I are big fans. If you try to find it online (sorry we don’t carry it) I’d try “yellow silicone whisk” or such. ~ MaryJane

  5. Wei-Wei

    Yum, I love coconut flavoured stuff! I actually really hate shredded coconut (can’t taste much and the texture… ugh) but coconut flavoured desserts are so rich and fragrant and delicious. This looks great! :D

    I hope you give it a try Wei-Wei. It really is supremely delicious. ~ MaryJane

  6. Marina

    Coconut milk powder is not something I am familiar with. I don’t suppose you can substitute an amount of actual coconut milk? Thanks!
    Because I love the coconut milk powder so much, I haven’t bought ‘real’ coconut milk in ages. I wouldn’t go with a lite coconut milk, it’s the fat that gives you the great flavor and mouth feel for creamy ice cream. Let us know how it goes. ~ MaryJane

  7. Doris

    I have tried making ice cream with coconut powder before but it didn’t come out smooth. I could taste the texture of the powder in there like raw flour. I will give this recipe a try and see if it comes out different. Oh by the way MaryJane , if you get SMJ’s coconut flan recipe, please do a blog on that. I would love to make it. Thanks
    Hi Doris,
    I think using the hot water helps dissolve the powder well, and the pastry cream really makes a difference with the texture. Sounds like flan is going to have to go on the “must -do” list.
    ~ MaryJane

  8. Laura

    I absolutely love coconut ice cream, from a place in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. I can taste it now… mmmm. I don’t really like the texture of coconut either, but love the flavor.

  9. Lee

    I am stumped as to why someone would purposefully use powdered coconut milk instead of just a can of real coconut milk. Another stumbling block is the pastry cream mix – why purposefully add something that contains fully hydrogenated oil(i.e. trans fat) to their homemade ice cream? To me the purpose of making ice cream at home is so that I don’t have to subject myself and my family to unhealthy ingredients. God made coconuts and cows that give cream. We have messed it up along the way tinkering with it.
    Well, we are big fans of “to each his own”. I hope the concept of the coconut ice is something you might want to try, picking the ingredients that suit your lifestyle and tastes. ~ MaryJane

  10. Fran

    Mary Jane, I recently ate an an Asian restaurant that served coconut ice cream in halved coconut shelves. Now that was a nice touch and added to the ambiance as well, However, I suspect your ice cream tastes better , since the waiter told me they sell these frozen coconuts already stuffed with ice cream in a lot of oriental markets. The pictures you took even show off the creaminess. I have just bought a tiny 8 oz ice cream maker with the freezer can and it looks perfect for single servings and slushies. Maybe it would be a good choice for a nice pina colada ……have a great day. Fran
    oooohhh, I hadn’t thought of using this in a Pina Colada! I bet it would be great. Rum and I are not friends (due to same trip) but I can go rumless. Thanks for the great idea!
    ~ MaryJane

  11. SMJ

    MaryJane – You should be receiving an email with some flan recipes. Enjoy!
    Got ‘em and doin’ the happy dance, thanks again!!! ~ MJ

  12. Paul from Ohio

    So, MJ, an island tale too! I had mine in 1985 when I got my scuba diving certification on the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands. No coconut ice cream, but ahhhhhhhhhthe water and white sand and boy that was food for my soul. Terrific storey for an awesome looking ice cream – maybe caramel as a topping? Wonder which ice cream machine to add to my kitchen machines? Can’t wait to try it.
    Caramel, coconut and chocolate pieces, it’s a must try. When is my next day off??! ~ MaryJane

  13. SusieCruisie

    Definitely making this! Doesn’t the shredded coconut sink to the bottom? I usually add any “loose” ingredients when there about two minutes to go in the cycle.
    Surprisingly, I haven’t had trouble with the coconut sinking. I think it’s light enough to stay suspended in the liquid. Either method would work just fine for getting the shreds in though. ~ MaryJane

  14. Maribel

    The pina colada idea is great for the coconut ice cream also; just add the pineapple (in juice or flavor form) and rum (or rum flavoring) and I bet it will be a pina colada ice cream blast! I’m also from Puerto Rico, and I make a great coconut flan on a regular basis, as well as a killer coconut-cream cheese flan. If you decide to blog about it I’ll send you the recipes. They can also be transformed into pina colada, pineapple, lemon, lime, guava, tamarind, pumpkin or mango flan as well, just by using the base recipe and exchanging the flavoring ingredients. Have fun and let me know!
    Yes, yes YES, send the flan recipes. I recently picked up some tamarind paste but haven’t used it yet, and have some neat pomegranate powder I’m dying to try too. It’ll be a FLAN-tastic blog! ~ MaryJane

  15. Sherri

    Oooh, now I’m torn. I was all set to try out a recipe for Lavender Honey ice cream that I stumbled upon on another adventurous cooking blog…but now that I see this, I’m not sure which to make. Especially since this is a no-fuss no-custard recipe, and I *love* coconut! Maybe I’ll have to make both. :) Hey, maybe they’ll even go well together, who knows?
    My vote is always for making both! Can’t have too much of a good thing. Just phone up your BFF and get together for an ice cream fest. ~ MaryJane

  16. Rachael Sooklall

    My name is Rachael and that ice cream looks really good. I am from the island of Trinidad and I make coconut ice cream. I make it from the coconuts that grows there. It truely is a treat and sooooooo good!
    Hi Rachael,
    Thanks for coming over to the blog and welcome. We’d love to hear more about your homemade coconut ice cream. Are you willing to share the recipe? Pretty please? ~ MaryJane

  17. Gina C-P

    Hello from Nassau, Bahamas where it’s a hot and steamy 91oF/32oC! Your coconut ice-cream would really hit the spot right now. My backyard is loaded with coconut trees, even had some cats “singing” in them a while back. Love this site!:)
    Thanks Gina,
    We’d love to be with you right now, the white sand beaches and tropical breezes. How many bakers do you have room for?? :) ~ MaryJane

  18. Angela

    Ahhh your flaked coconut is always so gorgeous. I’ve got to get an order in at some point. My island coconut story? When I was 12 my parents took me to the carribean on summer vacation. We stopped by this little out of the way shack off of one side of the beach where a man was making fresh pina coladas. He had plenty of pineapple but whenever he ran out of coconut his son would run over and pick one up off of the ground from the tree areas and bring one over and they would crack it on a rock. Sooo good that adding rum would have been a waste.

  19. ATL Cook

    I love coconut, but would add black walnuts to this recipe. Love them, and have a memory from long ago of DGP picking out black walnuts to make fudge, pie, cake, and ice cream. Haagen Daas has black walnut; Walmart. I go down the aisle and pray they do not have it–snatch it up when they do!

    YES, to soy milk ice cream. Also, I found Coconut milk–a non dairy milk substitute. I noticed that they also have 4 different ice “cream” products too. I detect a very faint taste of coconut in it. Mmm good over my cereal and will make great hot chocolate this winter.


  20. Nenegoose

    Your coconut icecream recipe sounds wonderful and yummy. I live on the island of St. Croix, and when I read about your–long-ago–adventures on Puerto Rico my thoughts were with you.
    I would love to make your coconut icecream at home, but there are a few obstables that I have to overcome first:
    1.) I do not own an icecream maker. Is there a way I can make this recipe without one?
    2.) Is Bird’s puddding powder an adequate substitute for pastry cream filling mix. I have the former but not the latter.
    3.) Can I use coconut extract/flavoring for the extra strong coconut flavoring? Just use more of it?
    Thank you very much for your expert help.

    Hi there
    1) I don’t think this recipe will come out well without an ice cream maker.
    2) Bird’s custard powder is probably pretty close to pastry cream mix, although I’ve never used it. Worth a try.
    3) Yes, coconut extract can be used. It isn’t as strong so you’ll need a bit more. Add slowly though, so that you don’t add too much. It’s easy to add more, but impossible to take it out once it’s in.

    Hope this helps. ~ MaryJane

  21. Jessica

    Coconut ice cream…where have you been all of my life? This looks so good…and not coconut “flavored” but with REAL coconut! Yippeee!!!

  22. Mina

    Mary Jane,
    Thanks for the recipe and the awesome photos! I just received an ice cream maker as a gift and was unsure of the consistency I was getting. Coconut, one of my favorites- yum!

  23. Alissa

    This looks great. My favorite is tropical flavor — pineapple, coconut and passion fruit and sometimes mango. I’ll have to play with this ice cream. By the way, I noticed in the one ice cream you used vodka to keep it from freezing completely solid. I’m thinking of trying this with a bit of passion fruit (yes, it’s my favorite) vodka added. What do you think?bd /> It would be worth a try. Have fun with it. Mary@KAF

  24. AJ

    Ahh, another delicous post. Seriously friends, if you haven’t considered
    the “freeze-the-bowl” ice cream makers-give it a go. My daughter-in-law
    found one at a yard sale next door. My son was the first to make a batch
    and we’ve been doing something every week. Plus, with all the yummy
    fat-free fruit sorbets out there (remember PJ’s sorbets?), not to mention
    that heavenly fat- free CHOCOLATE!!! sorbet. I feel a bunch more KAF
    frozen goodness ideas coming…

    I agree, AJ – I’m an inveterate cheapskate, but have almost talked myself into an ice cream maker… It’s SO easy, and as you say, sorbet (and frozen drinks, and yummy frozen yogurt) are lower-fat substitutes for a full-fat ice cream – which, of course, is also VERY tempting… :) PJH

  25. Shellie

    Looks yummy! Everytime I see a recipe for coconut ice cream, I get excited for a moment, hoping that it does not use dairy. I am allergic to cow’s milk. Unfortunately, I have not found one that does not include some dairy. I have been a fan of King Arthur Flour and the Baking Sheet for some time now and am ready to ask my first question on the blog…. can anyone help me modify the coconut ice cream recipe to use only coconut milk? I love sorbets, but they just don’t provide the creamy mouthfeel to satisfy a good ol’ fashioned ice cream craving in the middle of summer! Thanks in advance! Several years ago, I had a product when visiting called MimicCeme. It was made from almonds and had none of those nasty trans- fats or hydrolized stuff. It had a wonderful cream mouth feel and should work well in ice cream. It didn’t whip for whipped cream, but other than that it acted, tasted and felt like cream. I have tried to get Price Choppers in my area to carry it as the web site says that some Price choppers do carry it, but haven’t had any success. Maybe you can find it in your area. Good luck in your search. Mary@KAF

  26. AJ

    As a member of a medieval re-enactment group I’m very familiar with “almond milk It was used extensively by medieval cooks…it’s not hard to make and happily is not hard to store and keeps well. I’ve not heard much about it being available commercially but it might very well be. Google “almond milk” and see what you find.

  27. Anne

    Wow! It’s been high 90s and humid here around Charlotte, NC – that ice cream looks like it would be sublime and a great way to cool the taste buds! Thank you for your great recipes.

  28. Susan

    The MimicCreme (don’t forget the “r”) works well in a lot of applications. They also make a sweetened version and have recipes for “ice cream”. I have made cream of mushroom soup with the unsweetened stuff as well as scones and other items and no one has guessed the cream was not really cream. I can’t stand soy and can’t use milk so this is a blessing. Hannaford used to carry it in my area of upstate New York but now I find it at a healthfood store.

  29. Lish

    I took your advice and made a double batch for my BBQ and received an astounding number of compliments and have no ice cream left. A good friend told me that it was like heaven in a bowl. Absolutely hands down best ice cream I have ever made.
    Woo hooo! That is the sign of a great party and a great dish. David and I are all set to try the Almond Joy version this week with extra coconut, chocolate chips and slivered almonds. YUM! ~ MaryJane

  30. Nenegoose

    I posted a comment on 6/25/10 at 9:22 pm with a few questions regarding your coconut icecream recipe. Somehow it must have been overlooked, because I see you answering and responding to later comments. Would you please go back to my first comment and let me know how I can create this wonderful-sounding icecream with my limited resources. Thanks.
    I’m so sorry that your questions weren’t answered when your comment was put up. I’ve added comments to your original questions. Thanks for the heads up. ~ MaryJane

  31. Gert

    I was wondering if you could use instant vanilla pudding mix to replace the pastry creme filling mix? I just recently purchased a new ice creme maker and am so anxious to try this recipe.
    Thanks for all the wonderful recipes over the years.

    Thanks for asking! Using instant vanilla pudding mix may give a different taste and texture to your Coconut Ice Cream than the results we got in our test kitchen with the Pastry Cream Filling Mix. This will be an experiment we’d love to hear the results of! Irene @ KAF

  32. ogoshi

    This ice cream looks awesome. So sorry i can’t make it, i don’t have coconut powder, pastry cream mix, or an ice cream maker.

    How about sorbet? All you need is fruit, a pan, a spoon, and a freezer…

  33. bibiswas

    If I wanted to recreate this recipe with home made pastry cream filling – how do I do it? I realize it is going to be a few extra steps – but just imagining fresh coconut milk and freshly prepared pastry cream put together in ice cream is a lovely thought. Will the pastry cream recipe from KAF (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/pastry-cream-recipe) work here? Thanks for any inputs on making this “from scratch”.
    This is not actually an ideal recipe for use with homemade pastry cream. I would still use the recipe, but you can omit the filling mix if you don’t have it. ~Amy


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