Coconut Rice Salad With Spicy Peanut Dressing—Summer Camping Luxury

Coconut Rice and I have been battling for years. I LOVE coconut rice, done well. But it’s been hard for me to get right. It often turns out gummy and sticks to the bottom of the pan. A pot of coconut rice put my marriage on the line when on a bike tour once. My partner and I decided to make it one night for dinner on a backpacking stove (yes, we were ambitious). I got mad at him for not watching the rice and letting it burn, and he got mad at me for being crazy. Epic fight over coconut rice. But still, I persisted in getting it right. Finally, six years later, I’ve got it down.

The trick is to separate the coconut cream from the coconut water. You know how you open a can of coconut milk and part of the can is solid coconut cream and the rest is watery? Well, scoop out the cream and set it aside. Cook your rice as you normally would, adding enough water to the coconut water to make the necessary amount of water for cooking the rice. Then at the end of cooking, stir in the coconut cream.

Note that some brands of coconut milk do not have that separate coconut cream layer. I used Thai Kitchen and it was very easy to separate. This post offers a nice comparison of coconut milk brands. If you open your can of coconut milk and find that it’s not separate, just go ahead and use the whole can for cooking plus enough water to make 2 3/4 cups liquid.

Now that you’ve got the coconut rice down, how about we use it in a salad topped with peanut dressing? This Coconut Rice Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing is positively addicting. I made it for a day trip to Leo Carrillo State Beach (California) a couple of weeks ago and it was the perfect easy salad to eat after some serious sandcastle building.

Recipe adapted from Host the Toast’s Thai Cashew Coconut Rice Salad.

Dirty Gourmet is three women—Aimee Trudeau, Emily Nielson, and Mai-Yan Kwan—who came together after a bike tour across Canada. They put together a big variety of camp meals, many of which can be found in their cookbook of the same name, with lots of different cultural and taste influences.


1. Rinse the rice well, until water no longer looks starchy. Drain well.

2. Open the can of coconut milk and scoop out the thick later of coconut cream, setting it aside. Pour the remaining coconut water in a large liquid measuring cup. Add enough water to the coconut water to measure 2 1/2 cups.

3. In a large pot, combine the coconut water and water mixture with the rice and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. Stir once during that 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the reserved coconut cream. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.

4. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Combine peanut butter, water, lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar and sriracha in a medium bowl. Whisk well. You may need to add a little more water to thin if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings.

5. Once the rice is cool, add the bell peppers, cucumber, carrots, green onions and cashews.

6. Serve cold, drizzled with the peanut dressing.

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