For a Light, Fragrant Rice, Try Cooking with Coconut Water

updated Oct 8, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Cooking rice in tap water is just wasting an opportunity to add flavor. For 20 minutes (or more!) rice’s only job is to hydrate, soaking up the moisture and flavor of the liquid it’s in. Shouldn’t we be looking for easy ways to pack more flavor into our meals?

You may be wondering: Why not broth? Broth is also great, and we’ve recommended it before, but when you’re making a dish that needs a hint of tropical sweetness, look no further than coconut water — a lighter take on coconut rice.

Coconut rice is typically made with a sweetened mixture of coconut milk and plain water. But it’s not easy to make. As the rice absorbs the moisture, the sugars in the coconut milk stick to the outside of the rice, where they can easily burn. After suffering one too many pots of charred coconut rice, I was tempted to ban the dish from my kitchen.

Coconut water is different. Coconut water is the clear liquid trapped within young, green coconuts. It’s very sweet, but has far less sugar than coconut milk.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Cooking rice in coconut water is simple: Just replace the plain water in your recipe with the same ratio of coconut water and cook as usual. I often cook white rice using the simmer-and-steam method. For every one cup of white rice, I bring 1 1/2 cups coconut water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in well-rinsed rice with a pinch of salt and a pat of coconut oil or butter and simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed. When there’s no liquid left on the bottom of the pot, take the pot off of the heat and set aside to steam. Fluff the hot, coconut rice with a fork, and serve with grilled chicken or your favorite Thai dish, or make it a breakfast with fruit and toasted coconut flakes.