Coconut rice is a popular side dish in Southeast Asia. It has a delicate, fragrant aroma and a mildly sweet flavor.
That’s why these cultures know what to serve with coconut rice!
They go all out with textures and flavors, often pairing it with spicy curries and bold stir-fries that compliment the delicate sweetness of the dish.
But here’s the kicker:
Thanks to the abundance of both rice and coconut crops in all equatorial regions, you can also see coconut rice pop up in South American and Nigerian cuisines!
We made sure to include recipes from those regions, as well.
So here’s a list of delicious coconut rice side dishes that go amazingly well with it, as well as a couple of coconut rice desserts I know you’ll love!
What to Make with Coconut Rice: 15 Great Pairings with the Fragrant Rice
Knowing what goes with coconut rice can be a bit of a challenge.
That’s why I rounded up some of the most popular (and most mouthwatering) coconut rice sides you can possibly dream of!
Here we go:
1. Beef Rendang
Rendang is a recipe that uses coconut milk as well as a bunch of warming spices to yield a bright, spicy, and sweet, dry curry.
This curry is different from Indian curries because the thick, caramelized sauce sticks to the meat, making it one with the sauce.
The result is a delicious, unctuous beef dish that goes super well with coconut rice!
2. Asian-Style Vegetable Stir Fry
This is a simple yet wonderful side dish for coconut rice. It also has the additional advantage of not taking all day to cook!
All you need to do is round up all the leftover veggies you have in your refrigerator.
I always seem to find a stray carrot, a bunch of scallions, and a couple of red peppers to boot.
Add a half-cup of frozen corn, peas, or green beans, and you have yourself a colorful base for the dish.
As for the stir fry sauce, I like to add two parts soy sauce, one part sriracha, and a splash of Asian fish sauce.
3. Coconut Grilled Chicken (Ayam Percik)
This grilled chicken recipe is pretty different from anything you’ve had before.
It uses a few ingredients you don’t find every day in the grocery store, but the result is so astounding that you’ll wish more people knew about it.
The aroma is super fragrant because of the lemongrass, and the flavor is spicy from the chilies and sour from the tamarind.
If you can’t find candlenuts and galangal, you can substitute them for a splash of oil and an equal amount of dried ginger powder.
4. Nasi Lemak
Nasi Lemak is a traditional Malaysian dish. It’s very simple, combining coconut rice with a spicy chili sauce called Sambal, as well as a protein of some sort on the side.
Dried anchovies are the most common side protein for Nasi Lemak, and an element of crunch is added with the fried peanuts and cucumber slices.
The result is a rainbow of colors, flavors, and textures that makes you want more.
It’s no wonder this is considered Malaysia’s national dish!
5. Coconut and Pineapple Vegetable Curry
This vegan curry is every part as warm, delicious, and comforting as any meat-based curry out there.
It uses coconut milk as well as pineapple chunks to create a fruity yet deeply savory curry that pairs extremely well with coconut rice.
6. Hawaiian Pineapple Chicken
I love how savory and sweet this chicken is!
Using pineapple juice in the marinade tenderizes the chicken perfectly.
Additionally, the soy sauce, ketchup, and brown sugar make for wonderful caramelization that pairs so well with coconut rice.
Just make sure to leave the chicken in the marinade for no longer than 24 hours, or the enzymes in the pineapple juice will turn it mushy.
7. Thai Beef Stir Fry
I love everything about this dish! The flavors are sweet, spicy, and nutty — all of which go perfectly with the buttery sirloin strips you add to the mix.
The sauce is thick and glossy and coats the starch of the dish so well.
And while the recipe asks for spaghetti, we all know coconut rice is an upgrade here!
8. Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Cà ri gà)
“Vietnamese curry” is a pretty rare occurrence in our lexicon, but curries are a huge part of the food culture in Vietnam.
This chicken curry is deeply flavored with fish sauce, lemongrass, and coconut milk.
And to make it reach its full potential, you can add chili oil for maximum flavor.
9. Thai Shrimp Curry Stir Fry (Goong Pad Prik Khing)
We established earlier that curries don’t have to be saucy. Much like the Rendang curry, this Thai shrimp curry is a sticky, glazed stir fry.
It’s a completely different deal from Thai coconut milk curries.
This one is fragrant, spicy, and has a ton of bold flavor.
10. Colombian Seafood Stew (Cazuela de Mariscos)
This was such an easy choice for this list. I mean, who wouldn’t want a pot of rich, creamy seafood stew bubbling up next to their bowl of coconut rice?
And the best part is:
You garnish it with a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley and cilantro, which aren’t only pretty, but they’re also a delicious fresh touch.
Of course, if you’re one of the people who taste soap in cilantro, feel free to substitute it with all parsley or some chives.
11. Colombian Whole Fried Fish (Pescado Frito)
I’ll be the first to admit I was a little intimidated by the whole-fish frying thing.
However, the result isn’t like anything else I’ve tried before.
The fish remains juicy and flaky on the inside, and the skin gets all crispy.
The coconut rice pairs perfectly with the flavors of freshly fried fish.
12. Spicy Thai Basil Chicken (Pad Krapow Gai)
This Thai basil chicken is dangerously addictive. I’m serious here.
There’s something about the deeply strong, savory flavor you get from the fish sauce and oyster sauce that not much else can replicate.
And the kick you get from the spicy Thai bird’s eye chili, paired with the sweet herbaceousness of the basil, keeps you going back for more.
13. Nigerian Coconut Rice with Smoked Mackerel
This beautiful dish from Nigeria is a festive affair. Gorgeous colors and bold flavors, pairing the coconut rice with smoked mackerel and spices.
It’s a well-rounded dish with so many complimentary flavors, and the chopped-up bell peppers add a lovely, confetti-like touch!
14. Mango and Coconut Sticky Rice
This is a popular dessert you would order at your favorite Thai restaurant at the end of a spicy meal.
Steamed sticky rice forms pillowy clouds covered in the creamy coconut sauce.
The mango provides a delicious, tangy-sweet accompaniment, and that’s what tropical dreams are made of!
15. Arroz Con Dulce
This Puerto Rican coconut rice dessert is a comforting, warmly spiced, creamy dream of a dessert.
It’s the opposite of the cool, tropical mango sticky coconut rice, but it’s just as delicious.
I find this aroma reminds me of the holidays, but feel free to try it out to find what it reminds you of!
Knowing what to serve with coconut rice will help you make the most out of this delicate, fragrant, and super versatile rice dish.
Most cultures that have coconut rice on the list of their traditional dishes opt for savory, spicy curries and stir-fries to go with it to make the most of its sweetness and creaminess.
What to Serve with Coconut Rice: 15 Exciting Sides
- Beef Rendang
- Vegetable Stir Fry
- Grilled Chicken
- Nasi Lemak
- Vegetable Curry
- Pineapple Chicken
- Beef Stir Fry
- Chicken Curry
- Shrimp Curry Stir Fry
- Seafood Stew
- Fried Fish
- Basil Chicken
- Smoked Mackerel
- Sticky Rice
- Arroz Con Dulce
- Choose your desired coconut rice side dish recipe.
- Gather and organize needed ingredients.
- Create a tasty coconut rice side recipe to complete your meal!