Thai-Style Coconut Milk Gelato

Growing up, I lived in the same zip code as the most famous old-fashioned ice cream store in Bangkok, ไอศครีมทิพย์รส, that, for more than four decades, have sold all kinds of Thai-style ice cream, the most popular of which is the fresh coconut milk ice cream (ไอศครีมกะทิสด). Every time our whole clan got together, we ordered from them by a truckload.

This mildly-sweet gelato is as close as it gets to that Thai-style coconut ice cream of my childhood. The texture is silky smooth and creamy. It never develops icy crystals and scoops easily right out of the freezer. I don’t remember which of my aunts came up with this recipe, but it has been with us since before I was born.

It is a gelato, really. No eggs are involved. No need to make a crème anglaise base. Mix. Heat. Stir. Cool. Churn. Freeze. Eat. Don’t you just love that?

5.0 from 2 reviews
Thai-Style Coconut Milk Gelato ไอศครีมกะทิ ตามแบบไอศครีมทิพย์รส
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Modern Thai
Serves: makes nearly a quart
  • 2 13.5-ounce cans coconut milk (approximately 3 cups total)
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup nonfat dry milk
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  1. Mix everything together in a medium saucepan.
  2. Bring the mixture to a very gentle boil over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally.
  3. Once the sugar and gelatin have dissolved (no need to boil), remove from heat and let cool completely over an ice bath.
  4. Churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze for 3-4 hours.
  5. Serve Thai-style with roasted peanuts or your favorite toppings.

22 Responses to Thai-Style Coconut Milk Gelato

  1. ♥peachkins♥ January 13, 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    wow! creamy coconut-milk!

  2. Jenn January 14, 2010 at 7:06 am #

    Mmmm…I don’t care how cold it is right now. I’d love some is this right now. Coconut milk equals delicious goodness.

  3. KennyT January 14, 2010 at 7:22 am #

    Coconut ice-cream makes people happy! Your gelato cheers me up!

  4. 5 Star Foodie January 14, 2010 at 2:21 pm #

    Wow, this gelato sounds super silky and delicious! Would love to try !

  5. Kelly @ EvilShenanigans January 14, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    Oh yum! I love Mexican coconut ice cream, but this sounds so much better because I can make it myself!

  6. pigpigscorner January 14, 2010 at 7:55 pm #

    ooo silky smooth and deilcious!

  7. Quasi Serendipita January 14, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    You know, I may buy an ice cream maker just for this…

  8. Leela January 14, 2010 at 11:51 pm #

    Go for it, QS. It’s worth it.

  9. Tangled Noodle January 15, 2010 at 4:43 am #

    Smack dab in the middle of winter, I want a bowl of cool coconut milk gelato! I’m so glad I can find Chaokoh brand – I recall the post about your preferred coconut milk.

  10. OysterCulture January 15, 2010 at 9:38 pm #

    Oh my, if I had not just squeezed some blood oranges for sorbet, I know what I’d be making for dessert. This looks wonderful, thanks so much for the inspiration. I may have to make it later this weekend. Thanks for the inspiration.

  11. Mel- January 16, 2010 at 6:16 pm #

    oh Drool 🙂 looks lovely, Leela <3

  12. Janice January 17, 2010 at 12:41 am #

    Love coconut gelato! making me crave this in the cold rainy weather

  13. wendyywy January 23, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    thanks for this recipe.

    I had been wondering how to make the coconut milk not to crystalise w/o eggs, cos it taste totally different when coconut milk is mixed with eggs, just like the pumpkin custard 🙂
    It’s gelatin!!!! thanks again.

  14. Anonymous January 27, 2010 at 11:20 pm #


    I would like to try out this recipe as my good friend loves coconut ice-cream. Is non-fat dry milk the same as milk powder? Thanks for sharing.

    warm regards, purplegirl

  15. Leela January 28, 2010 at 12:15 am #

    Purplegirl – Can’t verify whether that is true everywhere in the world, but at least in the US, nonfat milk powder is generally referred to as milk powder. But even if the dry milk powder you use is not nonfat, I think it’s fine. The idea is to increase the milk solid concentration to boost creaminess and prevent iciness.

  16. Anonymous July 29, 2010 at 12:05 am #

    I’ve tried making it and it came out so delicious. It reminds me of the taste when I was at that Ice cream shop in Bangkok.
    Thanks a lot 🙂

  17. Leela July 29, 2010 at 12:18 am #

    Anonymous – Thanks for the report! Glad you liked it. 🙂

  18. Madeleine February 2, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    This is a terrific recipe! Definitely one of the best coconut ice creams or gelatos I’ve ever had. The flavor is great and I love the texture. I’m very curious to experiment with cornstarch and gelatin in other recipes now too. Several years ago the NY Times published an article about cornstarch ice cream and I’ve always meant to try it, but their recipe doesn’t have any gelatin in it and I think you’re really on to something with that:

    I used Aroy-D coconut milk. I used to always buy Chaokoh but lately I’ve been buying Aroy-D because it has no stabilizers. The next time I make this I’m going to go to a Thai grocery nearby that I just learned about because their fresh coconut milk is highly recommended. It will be soon because this batch is not going to last long!

  19. ChefCohen May 29, 2014 at 10:56 pm #

    Made this yesterday and got to eat it today after ripening it overnight. Quite amazing-rich, creamy and totally coconutty. I’ll definitely make this again – it’s super easy. The peanuts as topping add a great texture/flavor contrast. Can’t wait to try other recipes on your site! Thanks.

  20. Scott Hochstetler June 24, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    Just got your book for Father’s Day and I’m making two new things (curry noodles with chicken and mushroom/oyster sauce stir fry) tonight for guests–that’s how much faith I have in you!! 🙂 Absolutely love your blog and, having grown up in Thailand myself, it’s my go-to website whenever I cook Thai.

    I really want to try your ice-cream but I have a dairy-sensitivity. Any possible substitute for the nonfat milk powder?


    • Leela June 24, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

      Scott – Thank you!

      No, not that I know of. Sorry. Nonfat milk powder provides the protein needed in this recipe to achieve the desired texture. To make this recipe dairy-free, subbing out one ingredient just won’t do; the entire recipe needs to be reformulated.

  21. michael August 31, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    Hi what is non fat dry milk? Is that a powder or fresh milk in a bottle?