My friend Eleanor started a podcast recently called The Drinking Sensei. She holds lively discussions with friends and experts on different alcoholic drinks and topics. So when I stumbled across a recipe for a new-to-me drink, the Coquito, it made me think of her. She loved the concept, and asked me to join her for a podcast episode with a dairy-free coquito recipe! You can listen to the podcast right here ↓ and enjoy the delicious recipe below!
Dairy-Free Coquito is like a Puerto Rican Eggnog, Only Better
Coquito means “little coconut” in Spanish, but in this case, it refers to a traditional Puerto Rican drink, that’s often served for the holidays. Although, it’s enjoyed by many throughout the year.
I adapted this recipe from The Novice Chef. Her authentic Puerto Rican recipe was the one that sparked my interest most. Both Eleanor and I used this recipe – she made a dairy version and I made a dairy-free one. In fairness, I made quite a few changes on my first batch. That’s reflected in all of the options I’ve listed! The dairy-free version that Eleanor tried from my kitchen was cut with more milk beverage, so it was milder than her dairy version. I didn’t remember that until after the podcast, naturally. My dairy-free version also had more spices in it.
This really is a fun, to taste recipe, for people who enjoy the creaminess of coconut. The flavor isn’t in-your-face coconut, despite the ingredients, thanks to the rum, vanilla, and spices. But still, it is a definite hit with coconut fans.
Dairy-Free Coquito Ingredients & Options
As mentioned, this is a very flexible recipe, that you can adjust to taste. Really, it’s hard to go wrong! But here are some tips to guide you as you perfect your favorite recipe.
To Egg or not to Egg?
As many of you know, eggs are not dairy. And some people do make Coquitos with egg. The self-proclaimed “traditional” Puerto Rican recipes that caught my attention were each egg-free. But in recipe comments, I discovered various Puerto Ricans with strong opinions for eggs and against them. So it’s up to you! We went with the egg-free and vegan version, but you can blend 2 pasteurized or tempered egg yolks to this recipe, if you want. Quite frankly, we just didn’t feel like fussing with eggs, and without them, this dairy-free coquito has a longer freshness life in the refrigerator.
Dairy-Free Sweetened Condensed Milk
I use my own recipe, which is cheap, easy, and works perfectly in this dairy-free coquito. Even if your lite coconut milk makes a condensed milk that’s a little thin, it still works great in this. You can substitute a can of sweetened condensed coconut milk, but keep in mind that most brands are very high in fat, and will set up even more when chilled.
Cream of Coconut
This is NOT coconut cream. Cream of coconut is a boiled down, sweetened coconut milk product that actually looks pretty gross when you open it. Don’t worry, all of those bits will blend in. The two most popular brands are Coco Lopez and Goya, and they’re often sold with the mixers near the alcohol. If you don’t want to use this ingredient, or can’t find it, you can omit it and make a double batch of my dairy-free sweetened condensed milk instead.
Remember, this is the real coconut milk – the canned stuff. It is not coconut milk beverage – the stuff in cartons that you drink. The thickness and richness of your dairy-free coquito when chilled relies heavily on this ingredient. If your coconut milk isn’t a good batch, with a bunch of coconut cream in it, it won’t set up as rich and creamy. If this happens, you can use the Ultra-Rich version (add 1/4 cup pure coconut cream) to bring some more creaminess in.
You can use white rum, but we did love the holiday taste of dark rum. We used Koloa Kaua’i Dark Hawaiian Rum and it was excellent. We all agreed it was best with 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of rum. We tried 1 cup, which didn’t taste quite as balanced. Feel free to adjust the amount to taste, but it is typically a somewhat strong drink, meant for sipping. And in reality, it has less than a shot per serving.
I tried it with unsweetened almond milk and oat milk beverages, both were good. Coconut milk beverage would of course work too. I was futzing with the recipe quite a bit, and added a full cup of milk beverage at one point. I liked it this way, it thinned it a little and cut the sweetness and alcohol a touch. But you can adjust to taste. Start with 1/2 cup and add more as desired.
Special Diet Notes: Dairy-Free Coquito
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, optionally nut-free, soy-free, vegan, and vegetarian.
- 14 ounces dairy-free sweetened condensed milk
- 1 (15-ounce) can cream of coconut (I used Coco Lopez)
- 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk (regular, full fat)
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon, to taste, plus additional for garnish (optional - I forgot in my photos)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1½ cups dark rum, or to taste
- ½ to 1 cup unsweetened dairy-free milk beverage
- Pour the dairy-free sweetened condensed milk, cream of coconut, coconut milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg in your blender. Puree until smooth, about 1 minute.
- Pour the mixture into pitcher or large bowl (with a lid) and stir in the rum and milk beverage.
- Cover and refrigerate for several hours before serving. It will keep for up to a month in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (If you used a good quality coconut milk (with a lot of cream), it will set up a bit as it chills. If this happens, just whisk it and scoop into the glasses. It will quickly liquefy quite a bit at room temperature.)
- Pour or ladle about ½ cup of the dairy-free coquito into a small cocktail glass. Sprinkle with a small pinch of cinnamon, if desired.
Coquito Ice Cream Option: Make the Ultra-Rich Version above, and reduce the rum to ½ cup to 1 cup. A full cup of rum will make it very creamy, but it will taste very spiked (Tony liked it that way). Using just ½ cup will make it less rum forward.