When it comes to desserts, being gluten-free and lactose-intolerant is tricky. Naturally gluten-free desserts, like chocolate mousse or panna cotta, have loads of cream, milk or butter. Dark chocolate is safe, but even that gets old after a while. Sometimes you just want something creamy, which is where this coconut custard comes in.
For those of us who can’t eat dairy, coconut milk is a lifesaver. It’s even richer than cream and is a lot better for you. Coconut milk is high in saturated fat, but it comes in the form of lauric acid, which has antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiprotozoal properties. Basically, it just helps you fight off infections and viruses—something you definitely need this time of year.
But what really matters here is taste. Because of its high fat content, dishes made with coconut milk are amazingly creamy and have a subtle nuttiness. They taste even better than real milk or cream, which can be bland or one-dimensional. And if you’re lactose-intolerant like me, it won’t leave your stomach in knots. Double win.
To make these custards, I simply substituted coconut milk for cream and used some cornstarch (gluten-free and a better thickener than flour) to get the right consistency. The custards come together in a matter of minutes and can be served warm or cold, making them a very versatile dessert. I topped them with caramelized bananas, but they’d also be great with kiwis, raspberries, or mango. Or you can just eat it plain, spooned cold from the fridge. I won’t tell anyone.
Hillary Pollak is a junior at New York University. She is currently in Copenhagen, where gluten-free cooking can get tricky when you don’t read Danish. Rugmel? Havremel?
Coconut Rum Custards
Makes 4 Servings
1 14 oz. can of coconut milk (full-fat!)
3 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons rum
Make an ice bath by placing a few handfuls of ice in a large bowl and covering it with cold water.
Warm the coconut milk in a saucepan over low heat.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch.
Once the milk starts to bubble at the edges, whisk a ½ cup of it into the egg mixture. Once it’s incorporated, pour this egg-milk mixture back into the coconut milk pan. Stir in the rum and cook over medium low heat until the custard thickens. It should coat the back of a spoon.
Once it is thickened, place the custard pan in the ice bath, stirring every few minutes until it has cooled.
Divide the custard among 4 bowls. Top it with some fruit, or just serve it plain.