Tutorial: Lemongrass & Coconut Milk Soap Recipe

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Lemongrass + Coconut Milk Soap Recipe & Tutorial
Lemongrass + Coconut Milk Soap Recipe & Tutorial

Soapers who make vegan friendly handmade soap often get a little stuck in their soapmaking. Without additives like honey, milk, or silk, it can be a little trying to get a nice creamy addition to a recipe.

Even though animal milks are off the table, plant milks aren’t!

Enter Coconut Milk!! Coconut milk makes incredibly creamy and silky vegan soap, and is one of my favorite water replacement additives. Time for a…

Lemongrass + Coconut Milk Soap Recipe and Tutorial!

I was a little inspired by thai food in this tutorial, and chose to use lemongrass, ginger, and coconut milk as the main components.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Soap Formula Used

  • 12 ounces Coconut Oil
  • 10 ounces Rice Bran Oil
  • 6 ounces Avocado Oil
  • 6 ounces Shea Butter
  • 2 ounces Castor Oil
  • 4.9 ounces Sodium Hydroxide
  • 5 ounces Distilled Water
  • 5 ounces Coconut Milk

Essential Oil Blend Used

  • 34 grams Lemongrass Essential Oil
  • 8 grams Fresh Ginger Essential Oil

Colorants Used

  • 1 teaspoon Dill (Cut/Dried)
  • 1 teaspoon Wheatgrass Powder

PREP WORK: Weigh out all your ingredients. Mix up your lye solution. I add my coconut milk (or other alternative liquids) to my oils directly and use a 50% lye solution with sodium hydroxide and distilled water. This helps prevent any color changes or burning of sugars in alternative liquids.

A note on coconut milk: Not all brands of coconut milk are created equal! Try to snag one that has little to no additional ingredients. It’s hard to find one without a thickener (like guar gum), but some also include preservatives, emulsifiers, and more. As a general rule of thumb, the more additives in the coconut milk, the more likely you are to run into acceleration.

Prep your colorants. I add my essential oil blend to my main soaping pot before beginning.

Once you are ready to get to work, bring your soaping oils, coconut milk, and lye solution to an emulsified state (not quite trace).

Measure out the coconut milk!
Measure out the coconut milk
Add the Coconut Milk to the Soaping Oils
Add the coconut milk to the soaping oils
Add the concentrated lye solution to the oil + coconut milk mix.
Add the concentrated lye solution to the oil + coconut milk mix
Stickblend the lemongrass + coconut milk soap until emulsified.
Stickblend until emulsified

ADD A DASH OF COLOR: I chose dill as a natural colorant for this soap because of it’s shape. It’s like miniaturized lemongrass (visually and that’s all!)

I poured a quarter of my raw soap into a separate container and colored it with wheatgrass powder. Wheatgrass is a lovely muted green. However, it does fade over time to a very muted sage brown.

Add the cut and dried dill to the lemongrass + coconut milk soap
Add the cut and dried dill to the lemongrass + coconut milk soap
Pour of quarter of the batch into a separate container for coloring.
Pour of quarter of the batch into a separate container for coloring
Stir the wheatgrass powder into the separated soap portion.
Stir the wheatgrass powder into the separated soap portion

SWIRL IT: I’m using an in-the-mold swirl on this batch (ITMS).

It starts off by pouring half of the main raw soap into the mold. Next, I randomly pour the wheatgrass colored portion in the mold. And then top it off with the remainder of the main batch. I pour from a moderate height to encourage the pour to break through the layers of raw soap in the mold.

As you can tell by the photos, the soap was thickening rapidly due to the coconut milk. (The ginger essential oil also contributes to this!) This is why it’s important to initially mix to an emulsified state rather than trace. And any further mixing is done with a spatula.

Pour half the main pot of soap into the mold.
Pour half the main pot of soap into the mold
Pour most of the wheatgrass colored soap into the mold.
Pour wheatgrass colored soap into the mold
Top off the lemongrass + coconut milk soap with the remainder of the raw soap!
Top off the lemongrass + coconut milk soap with the remainder of the raw soap

THE FINISH LINE: Once it’s all in the mold, it’s time to pretty it up. I textured the tops by dragging the corner of my spatula from the outside of the mold towards the middle on both sides. I finished it up by sprinkling a little wheatgrass powder over the top.

Once you are all done, insulate your soap. Unmold after 12 to 24 hours. Cut and cure!

Texture the top of the lemongrass + coconut milk soap before putting it to bed.
Texture the top of the lemongrass + coconut milk soap before putting it to bed
Lemongrass + Coconut Milk Soap
Cured Lemongrass + Coconut Milk Soap

The lemongrass + coconut milk soap recipe featured in this tutorial is a Modern Soapmaking original. It is palm-free & vegan friendly. It uses a 7% superfat and a 33% lye solution strength. Feel free to adjust as necessary!

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  1. Lindsay Stoddard says

    I made coconut milk soap yesterday. I got frustrated trying to find a pre-made coconut milk that didn’t have a bunch of additives so I made my own with distilled water and unsweetened coconut flakes in the blender. I strained out the solid bits and it worked great in my soap!

  2. says

    Coconut milk is one of my favorite additives, and usually the only milk I use in my soap batches (besides the occassional bit of cream). Even though I am not a vegan soaper (silk!), I prefer it to animal milks. Your soap looks lovely 🙂

  3. leah says

    Did you run this through a lye calculator? When I did it’s saying I need almost 12 oz of water which is more than double your requirements.

    • says

      Yes, I would never post an unsafe formula. 🙂

      The coconut milk is part of the “water” total, even though it is added to the oils to prevent color change. The water in any formula is the carrier for the lye, and the strongest lye solution that can be used is a 50% solution (versus the 28% that most lye calculators use.) The water and lye in this formula equates a 50% solution, with the addition of coconut milk, it becomes a 33% solution.

      The stronger the solution in a formula, the shorter the cure time because there are less liquids to evaporate in the final bar.


    • says

      The percentage of lye solution is the strength and ratio of lye to water. Most beginners start at a 25 too 28 percent lye solution. A 50% solution is 1:1 lye to water (50% of the solution is lye).

      • Sarah says

        That math is too much for me. The lye calculation please. What do you mean by 1:1 lye ratio? Please how do you calculate that? Is there a way one can do that using a lye calc?


  4. Robyn says

    I’m too nervous to write a recipe without using soapcalc. I like the idea of a shorter curing time though. Is it okay to just reduce the amount of water to match the amount of lye recommended by the calculator? Will that give a hugely accelerated trace?

    • says

      If you use the same amount of water as your lye, it will give you a 50% solution. Any water discounts will accelerate trace, especially a 50% solution. You can change the solution strength by using Soap Calc on any recipe. This particular recipe uses both coconut milk and water for the entire water portion, it’s just split between phases.

      • Robyn says

        Wow, quick answer :). Thanks Kenna – I made a coconut milk soap recently using coconut water with the lye and coconut milk with the oils. It accelerated like the proverbial speeding bullet and I had to jam it into a mould cursing and swearing (me, not the soap…). It turned out, predictably, with air pockets and also clear veins that I think are glycerine? It actually feels like it will be a nice soap though. Just not pretty.

        • says

          I don’t tend to deal with acceleration too much, but I soap at room temperature which helps a lot. I also barely use a stickblender, a lot of soapmakers tend to overdo it with their SBs. As you can see in the photos, even at room temp there was mild acceleration. 🙂 Good luck!

          • Cheryl says


            I was wondering if you have ever did a video of making this. Step by step. I know it is a lot to ask but I am asking anyways … lol … do you make any soaping video’s on Youtube?


      • Sarah says

        Thanks Kenna. Got my answer on the lye ratio. Thanks. Yes I will love a shorter soap cure curve.

        Thanks thanks

  5. Nicole says

    Hi Kenna,

    Thanks for the great recipe. Can I sub the coconut milk for powdered coconut milk or will it alter the soap?


  6. Sylvia says

    Hello, I am a soaper from Holland and there is no recipe for milk soaps here what so ever! I really want to make a coconutmilk soap but everywhere i look there are only ounces, if i convert it i do not trust it so much. Could you help me with a recipe in grams? And Castoroil is not availeble here so what other oil could i use for that?

    regards Sylvia

    • Paula says

      If you input the amounts into SoapCalc’s lye calculator in ounces it will show you the percentage. You can then enter these amounts to the calculator and it will tell you what you need in grams. I’m sure there’s an easier way but this is how I did it. I live in France and have ordered a lot of my supplies on eBay. I’ve only just started making soap so I haven’t yet located any suppliers in the area I’m in. Will have to if I plan to sell in the future.

      • says


        I use grams for soap making. They’re more accurate when weighing than ounces. I enter the oil amounts into Soapcalc in percentages and the soap weight in grams, just as Paula says. When you click calculate and print, the resulting PDF file will show pounds, ounces, and grams (maybe kilos too). I often highlight the values I’m using, especially with a new recipe) so that I don’t get confused. I round _down_ to the nearest gram on the lye amount and _up_ to the nearest gram on oil/butters and write down the actual rounded and weighed amount next to the Soapcalc weight. Have never had a lye heavy soap this way.

        All the best, Janie

  7. Christine says

    hi kenna loved yr soap have made it let see how it comes out. The colour of the soap in yr pics seems lighter then mine. Let see how it comes out. Thank u.

  8. Christine says

    hi kenna. Made yr soap last nite it’s gorgeous and smells wicked. The colour of yr soap in yr pics seem more lighter then my mine just wondering once it cured would mine get lighter. Also can I substitute butter milk for coconut milk Sorry for a silly question as I am a first time soaper and loving it. Thank u in advance.

  9. Holly says

    You don’t have a problem with discoloration or rancid smells with the coconut milk? I always freeze my goats milk into a slurry at the least before adding my lye to it slowly making sure to keep it cool while doing it. This doesn’t have that problem? Do you insulate it when you’ve gotten it into the mold or do you keep it cool?

  10. david ferrara says

    Hi Kenna Thanks for this! 🙂 how about adding an exfoliant to this recipe? or would i just want to go with a totally different recipe with different ratios? thanks 🙂

  11. Marie says

    Hi, I’m really wanting to make soap but I’m confused on your recipe, your soap formula doesn’t say anything about lye in there. Does that formula make lye or do I have to buy lye?
    Sorry it might be a stupid question but like I said I have never done this before!

  12. Amy says

    Marie. Sodium hydroxide is lye. Holly. I’ve found if you read through all the comments, many of your questions will be addressed. Kenna stated, and typically soaps cool unless noted specifically.
    Kenna, while I didn’t use this recipe, I used the 50:50 split method. Initially, everything looked great, though my base was darker than I’d have liked. However, it darkened considerably over the following week. More importantly, it developed some random white spots. Not a lot, and while they didn’t zap, they felt sharp. Could this be lye? As a note, I did put in fridge for 24 hours as I was worried about coconut milk burning, & I thought preventing gel would avoid this. Is my soap safe? Should I buy ph strips?
    Thank you so much for sharing your info!

    • says

      The random white spots could be stearic spots, which is what happens when the oils get too cool before saponfiying and fractionate (the heavier fatty acids settle out.) If they didn’t zap, I would assume that’s what they are. If you dig one out of your soap and rub it between your (gloved) fingers, it will feel like a waxy bead. Without seeing the bar myself, it’s hard to be sure. Yes, please, invest in high pH range strips or a pH meter!

      Mine stayed the same color as the photo, but different batches of oils, milks, and other ingredients will change the final color of any soap.

      Thank you so much for answering some of the other questions. 🙂

  13. Lauren says

    Hi! I am looking to use this recipe for my other batches, I truly love how moisturizing this soap came out. I want to try doing 48 ounces, I put this recipe in a lye calculator and the lye and water amounts were different than what you provided, so I am not sure how to recalculate this recipe for 48 ounces. Can you help?

    Also, I want to color using activated charcoal and rose clay, how to you recommend that incorporate these into my soap? Dissolve in 1 tablespoon of aloe vera juice for each colorant and then deduct 2 tablespoons of water from the recipe?

  14. Tuck says

    When using the coconut milk have you ever had problems with the milk scorching. I made a batch of soap with the coconut milk and it looked great when I poured it into the mold, but when I took it out 24 hours later it had a very bad smell to it. what do you do to prevent this. I have read that putting it in the frig. for the 24 hours that it hardens helps. I really want to start using Coconut milk in my soaps but don’t want to ruin any batches of soap.
    I plan on trying this recipe for lemongrass and coconut milk soap this weekend. It looks great.

  15. Kimberly says

    Hi Kenna,
    Thanks for the recipe! I tried this yesterday with some friends and got an interesting result. All of our soap boxes are leaking slightly. I used the same lining technique that I have used in the past and the same box so I don’t think that could be it. The changes that I made were 1) I tripled the recipe for 3 boxes instead of one, 2) I substituted sunflower oil for avocado oil 3) I replaced 0.5 oz of the coconut milk with water since I only had a 13.5 oz can (so 1.5oz water substitution total). The coconut milk that I used did not have any of the ‘gum’ preservatives but it did have an extra ingredient or two that I can’t remember. Anyway, my soap may still be salvageable but any insight into why the leaking has occurred would be great.



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