Coconut milk is typically used in Asian cuisines such as Rendang, Laksa, curry and so many others. It is also a commonly used ingredient for traditional deserts. Being a South East Asian myself, we’ve had coconut trees in the backyard – a norm in most households here – which is often considered exotic for non-tropical dwellers.

Coconut is just life to us – from the refreshing water and succulent flesh to the husks that can sustain fire for a camper’s cold night – and there can’t be anything that doesn’t go right with it. For this reason, I thought: would coconut be suitable for coffee? Have people done this before?

Apparently, I am late by a few years – probably decades – for the hype of adding coconut milk in coffee. In fact, the origin of this recipe comes from a city in East Java, Ngawi in Indonesia and it is known as Kopi Lethok which has only 3 ingredients. It is not that weird, after all.

After a pleasant result with Vietnamese coffee with eggs previously, I just had to keep my mind open for this one too.

What You Need

  • Ground coffee or instant coffee (Any kind that you’d like) for 3 cups
  • Coconut Milk (preferably pure 100% coconut milk with no added preservatives and no added sugar) *
  • Sugar (optional)
  • Boiling pan
Photo via CCO

*The amount of coconut milk that I used was an estimate of 1/4 to 1/3 of 500ml because the coconut milk itself is very thick. Most recipes use a whole can (450ml to 500ml) – which is fine – but I would add water to the mixture and more coffee.

I personally used boxed coconut milk that has no added sugar; no artificial preservatives; gluten free; no colouring; and finally, no cholesterol. If you live the vegan life, this is safe for you. It is suitable for making drinks too.  

Whatever you choose to buy, I would recommend a high-quality coconut milk even if the price is more expensive than what you would usually buy. It’s even better if you can get fresh and homemade extracted coconut milk. Quality over quantity, people!

How to Prepare

  • Brew your ground coffee as per usual. You can use instant black coffee in this recipe too.
  • In a pan, pour in the coconut milk and let it boil.
  •   Add in your brewed coffee.  
  • Add sugar to taste and stir.
  • Pour straight into your favourite mug and enjoy!

The Verdict

Photo: Syaza Izzah Morni

I must say it tastes decent. The texture is – as you would expect with coconut milk – extremely thick and creamy. The aroma is overpowered by the coconut milk. The aftertaste reminds me of white coffee – a Malaysian coffee roasted with margarine. As much as I love coconut, the overall taste is a medium yay for me. The main reason is that, the coffee didn’t taste as strong as I would have preferred it to be. Despite a slight disappointment with the taste, I didn’t experience any crash and had a good boost of energy. It’s perfect for a long busy day or for a tropical-themed party – if that ever crosses your mind.

Contrary to my belief that coconut milk is mostly bad; it has various health benefits. After all, the health benefits are subjective and dependent upon the dishes that you would cook or use coconut milk with. If you are lactose intolerant, coconut milk is a perfect substitute to cow’s milk. On the other hand, dishes like Rendang, is already cooked with other saturated fats such as vegetable oil and therefore, is not a healthy choice of food especially those on a strict diet. Keep in mind that moderate consumption is always the best choice.

There are other ways you can add coconut milk into coffee too. Making your own coconut creamer is an alternative to the recipe above. You can do this by blending coconut milk with a little amount of sugar and vanilla essence. This can be refrigerated and be used for several days.

As a disclaimer, I’ve never tasted authentic Kopi Lethok before, so I can’t say if this recipe does any justice to the original one. I am definitely adding that to my list when I visit Indonesia one day. As far now, I think I’ll stick to my regular cup of coffee and only use coconut milk when I need that extra energy kick.



Syaza is a freelance writer whose life revolves around coffee, cats and heartwarming stories.