Vegan Life > Recipes > Beverages > Vegan Coquito Recipe

Vegan Coquito Recipe

December 3, 2023

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Coquito is a traditional Puerto Rican Christmas drink made with coconut milk, condensed milk, and rum; infused with warm hints of cinnamon and vanilla. In this vegan version, we swap the dairy with condensed and evaporated coconut milk, replicating the sweet flavor and rich, creamy texture.

Three glasses of vegan coquito topped with cinnamon; cinnamon sticks and a bottle of coquito are in the background.

While many Americans think of eggnog when they think of Christmas drinks, I have to admit I've never even tried it! I have, however, enjoyed my fair share of coquito: the creamy Puerto Rican coconut drink flavored with cinnamon and vanilla, and spiked with white rum.

Since the traditional version contains condensed and evaporated milk, I haven't been able to partake in this Christmas goodness since going vegan. But with sweetened condensed and evaporated coconut milk both available (and even able to be made at home), I decided to make a vegan version.

A top-down view of three hands holding three glasses of vegan coquito; a stack of cinnamon sticks is to the side.

Canned condensed and evaporated coconut milk make for easy preparation, but if you don't have access to these vegan alternatives where you live, don't worry! As long as you can get canned coconut milk, you can still make this recipe! See the section below called "How to make vegan coquito without evaporated or condensed coconut milk."

Steph's Tips

  • The most important part of this recipe is refrigerating your coquito overnight before serving. This allows the flavors of the spices to infuse throughout the entire drink.

  • Before you use your spiced water, make sure it's completely cooled and the solid spices have been strained out.

  • Shake up your cans before opening to ensure there's no separation.

  • I recommend checking that your rum is vegan before buying it. Barnivore.com has a pretty thorough list of vegan alcoholic beverages and brands; they've personally verified with each company whether or not animal products are used in the production process.

  • Everyone's version of coquito is a little different. Check the section below on variations to make this recipe your own!

Ingredients and Substitutions

The ingredients for vegan coquito with labels.
  • Full-fat coconut milk: This is the coconut milk that you'll find in a can, not in a box. Coconut flavor and creamy texture is the most important part of coquito, which literally means "little coconut." Make sure you shake up the can before opening it because canned coconut milk tends to separate.

  • Sweetened condensed coconut milk: This is a replacement for the condensed dairy milk that's usually found in traditional coquito. It's basically coconut milk with sugar added and water boiled off. If you can't get this, you can also use sweetened condensed oat milk, or you can make it yourself. (See instructions below).

  • Evaporated coconut milk: This is a replacement for the evaporated dairy milk that's in coquito. Like sweetened condensed coconut milk, it has had much of the water boiled off, but it has no sugar. You can also use evaporated oat milk here, or make it yourself. (See instructions below).

  • Vanilla extract: Not strictly necessary, but adds more flavor. I recommend using real vanilla extract, as it has many more complex flavor notes than artificial vanilla.

  • Salt: Even though it's a tiny amount, the salt makes a huge impact on the flavor. It adds depth and amplifies the flavor of the spices and coconut.

  • White rum: This is the traditional alcohol used in coquito. It has a light, sweet flavor that pairs with coconut and spices beautifully. Dark rum or spiced rum can also be used, but it's more common to see those rums in the Dominican version, known as ron ponche. Since not all rum is vegan, be sure to check barnivore.com to find out whether the rum you want to buy contains or is made with animal products. I have seen some spiced rums containing honey.

  • Cinnamon sticks: For a sweet, earthy flavor. Make sure you're using whole cinnamon sticks and not cinnamon powder.

  • Cloves: For a warm, peppery flavor. Be sure you're adding whole cloves and not clove powder.

  • Ginger: Adds a warm, spicy flavor to the coquito.

A top-down view of five glasses of vegan coquito on a platter, with a hand taking one from the upper left.

Vegan Coquito Variations

Coquito is a drink that people usually put their own spin on. Different families also have different traditional ways of making it. Here are some of the adjustments you can use to make this coquito your own:

  • Adjust the sweetness: Add agave or maple syrup to taste to make your coquito sweeter.

  • Alcohol-free: Replace the rum with plant milk to make a non-tipsy version. You can add the plant milk directly with the other ingredients instead of waiting until just before serving.

  • Create your own blend of spices: While I've never seen a coquito without cinnamon, the other spices are all up to your taste. You can add other spices or leave out some of the spices listed in this recipe. In addition to cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, nutmeg and star anise are popular coquito spices as well.

  • Adjust the thickness: If the recipe is too thick for your taste, add some plant milk until you reach a consistency that you like. If you're adding rum, keep in mind that the rum will also thin the coquito. For a thicker coquito, add more evaporated coconut milk.

  • Ron ponche: Use dark rum instead of light rum to make coquito's Dominican cousin, ron ponche.

  • Lime zest: Take some inspiration from the Venezuelan and Trini version of coquito (ponche crema), and boil some lemon or lime zest together with your other spices for a touch of citrus flavor.

A close-up view of a single glass of vegan coquito.

How to make vegan coquito without evaporated or condensed coconut milk

If you can't get canned evaporated or condensed coconut milk where you live, don't worry! Evaporated coconut milk is just coconut milk with some of the water boiled off, while condensed coconut milk is similar, but with added sugar. Here's how to turn cans of coconut milk into the exact amount of evaporated and condensed coconut milk we need for this recipe:

You'll need 4 13.5-oz (400 mL) cans of coconut milk, plus 1/2 cup of sugar. (This only replaces the condensed and evaporated milk, so you'll still need one more can of coconut milk for this recipe; 5 total cans).

Combine 4 cans of coconut milk and 1/2 cup of sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat and whisk until well combined. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, then turn down the heat to simmer. Allow the mixture to reduce down to about 3 1/4 cups (780 mL), stirring frequently. This could take more than 30 minutes (the exact time will vary depending on the size and type of saucepan you're using, and the type of stove you're using).

Once it's reduced, allow it to cool at room temperature for 15 minutes, then transfer to a glass container to chill in the refrigerator.

After the mixture has chilled, it's ready to use as a replacement for the evaporated and sweetened condensed coconut milk in the recipe.

Three glasses of vegan coquito in a line, with a bottle of coquito in the background.

How to Serve and Store Coquito

The most common way you'll see coquito presented is in a tall glass bottle with a slim neck that's convenient for pouring. These bottles usually have an attached stopper at the top which makes them easy to travel with when you're visiting friends and family.

After the coquito is poured into a glass or cup, you might want to sprinkle some ground cinnamon on top. If you have the time and occasion to get a little fancier, you can dress it up with some shredded coconut, cinnamon sticks, or star anise.

If you have any leftover coquito, it will last several days in the refrigerator in an airtight glass bottle. I don't recommend freezing.

Vegan coquito being poured from a glass bottle into a glass.

More Vegan Christmas Recipes

Vegan Coquito Recipe

Yield1.5 liters

Prep Time5 minutes

Cook Time10 minutes

Total Time12 hours

Ingredients

Spiced water

Garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Combine your water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and ginger root in a medium saucepan, then bring to a boil. Maintain a low boil until the water has turned deep brown and reduced to about 2 cups (about 10 minutes), then remove from heat.

    Spiced water in a pot after boiling, with spices still inside.
    After boiling, your water should be a rich brown color.
  2. After the water has cooled slightly, strain it into a glass container (filtering out the spices), cover, and refrigerate to chill.

  3. Once your spiced water has thoroughly chilled, add it to a blender together with your three types of coconut milk, vanilla extract, and salt, and blend until smooth.

    A top-down view of blended coquito in a blender pitcher.
  4. Place your coquito in the refrigerator and chill overnight (12 hours). You can leave the coquito in the blender pitcher, or transfer it to another glass container.

  5. Add rum to your coquito (if using) and mix well. If your coquito is still in the blender pitcher, you can return it to the blender to mix. Use a funnel to pour the coquito into tall glass bottles and enjoy!

Notes & Hints

If you can't buy canned sweetened condensed or evaporated coconut milk, check the blog post for instructions to make your own.

For an alcohol-free coquito, replace the rum with an equal amount of plant milk; you can add this in with the other ingredients, no need to wait until the end.

Make sure you start a day in advance! Refrigerating the coquito overnight is critical to allow the spices to infuse into the coconut milk.

There are many ways to make coquito; feel free to adjust the amount of rum, add sugar, or change the spices in the spice tea. Star anise and nutmeg are other popular spice options.

Be sure to shake up your cans of coconut milk before opening.

If you have any leftover coquito, it will last several days in the refrigerator in an airtight glass bottle. I don't recommend freezing.

Nutrition Data

Serving Size: 1/10 of recipe; Calories: 284Fat: 18 g.; Saturated Fat: 16 g.; Cholesterol: 0 mg.; Sodium: 105 mg.; Carbohydrates: 15 g.; Fiber: 0 g.; Sugar: 13 g.; Protein: 2 g.; Vitamin A: 0 mcg. RAE; Vitamin B12: 0 mcg.; Vitamin C: 0 mg.; Vitamin D: 0 mcg.; Calcium: 1 mg.; Iron: 1 mg.; Potassium: 174 mg.; Zinc: 0 mg.

Note: This data should be used only as an estimate. Please see the nutrition section of my terms and conditions for more information on how this data is calculated.

Four vegan dishes: Creme Brulee, Detroit-style pizza, General Tso's Tofu, and Lemon Tart

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Vegan Coquito glasses on a platter with a bottle of coquito in the background.
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