When I go home to India, one of the first things I do is gulp down some sweet coconut water fresh from my parents’ coconut trees. It’s the best thrust quencher for a hot day — full of electrolytes and incredibly hydrating. Luckily for me, even when I get back to the States, good, tasty coconut water is only a grocery store trip away. Unheated coconut water brands are my favorite, and they taste almost like they’re out of a fresh cut, tender coconut. My second favorite coconut water is the frozen kind you find in Asian markets, usually imported from Thailand. Either type of coconut water will work well for this recipe, and they are both sweet enough that you don’t have to add any sugar.
I love adding a touch of Thai chili to coconut water to make a hot and cool drink. It’s wonderfully refreshing after a workout or a hike on a warm day. Chili peppers are actually cooling to the body. It’s no wonder hot countries incorporate so much spice into their food!
I’ve used Thai chili for this recipe, but you can also use 1/4 of a jalapeño for a milder flavor. Whatever chili you use, just make sure you remove the ribs and seeds of the chili — this is where most the heat lies. I simmer the chili in a little water to extract the flavor and then stir it into coconut water, along with a squeeze of lemon.
— Unheated, raw coconut waters work the best. Look for brands that pressurize the coconut water, instead of heating them, like Harmless Harvest. Your next best option is frozen coconut water from Asian specialty stores.
— The two coconut waters I’ve suggested above are sweet on their own, so you don’t need to add extra sugar. However, if you like it sweeter, or are using a less sweet variety of coconut water, add sugar according to your taste, and stir until it’s dissolved.
— You can control the heat level in this recipe by changing the amount of time you boil the chili in water. The longer it boils, the spicier the drink will be.
Thai Chili-Infused Coconut Water
Makes 2 cups
1 Thai chili
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Sugar, according to taste (optional)
A pinch of salt
16 ounces (2 cups) chilled coconut water. See notes for suggestions.
1. Slit the chili in half lengthwise. Remove and discard the seeds and ribs.
2. Place one half of the chili in a small saucepan, along with 1/4 cup water. Bring the water to a boil and continue boiling for about 1 minute.
3. Remove the chili and discard it. Stir the lemon juice, sugar and salt to the chili water. Let the chili-infused water cool completely.
4. Pour in the chilled coconut water, stir, and serve immediately.
Photo credit: Sala Kannan