piña colada

In the first world of first world-liest problems, a problem I would love to be having this very week when I’m shivering again (despite many suggestions of spring on the near horizon) is that when in my life I’ve been lucky enough to decamp to a tropical location for a vacation, and wish to do what one does on tropical vacations — I mean, aside from wearing such buckets of SPF that when I return people comment, “I thought you went to the beach?” — and that is ordering a piña colada. Possibly at a swim-up bar. In a hurricane glass with a tacky paper umbrella in it, a fluorescent maraschino cherry, and a creamy-tart balance that is unfettered vacation bliss with each sip. The problem is that they’re very often…. terrible, tinny and artificially-flavored. I mean, I drink it; I’m not a barbarian. But every time I do (daily, at 4:30pm, please), I vow that when I get home, I’m going to make a real and proper and perfect one to set things right again.

all you'll need

Well, give or take a couple weeks and half a dozen vacations over a dozen years, I’ve made good on my promise, taking a page from last summer’s frozen watermelon mojitos. I learned while making them that you could forego both the ice that waters down the flavor of the fruit, and the juice, which doesn’t have the intensity I crave, by starting with fresh fruit and freezing it in cubes. It doesn’t take that long and you will not be sad to have a bag of frozen pineapple chunks waiting for you whenever the piña colada craving strikes. While I start with fresh pineapple, don’t worry, I still use classic canned cream of coconut (a sweetened, thicker, syrupy delight that’s to coconut milk almost what sweetened condensed milk is to regular milk) as the second ingredient. I add a little lime juice, because I love it with coconut and pineapple, just enough white rum, and I blend it until it’s creamy and smooth and immediately — even in the cold of a NYC winter — causes a dewy condensation on the outside of the glass. No swim-up bar, no beachy horizon, but I do have a paper palm tree umbrella in my perfect-at-last drink, so I must be doing something right.

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Six Months Ago: Salted Caramel Pretzel Blondies
One year ago: Salted Peanut Tart and Perfect Meatballs and Spaghetti
Twos years ago: Quick, Essential Stovetop Mac-and-Cheese
Three years ago: Tomato-Glazed Meatloaves with Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes and Pomegranate Grapefruit Paloma
Four years ago: Belgian Brownie Cakelets, Broccoli Melts, and White Russian
Five years ago: Perfect Corn Muffins and Spaghetti Pangrattato with Crispy Fried Eggs
Six years ago: Stuck-Pot Rice with Lentils and Yogurt and Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew and Morning Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel
Seven years ago: Blood Orange Margaritas
Eight years ago: Double Coconut Muffins and Fried Egg Sandwich with Bacon and Blue Cheese
Nine years ago: Green Bean Salad with Pickled Red Onions and Fried Almonds and Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil
Ten years ago: Walnut Jam Cake, Ginger Fried Rice and Chocolate Souffle Cupcakes with Mint Cream
Eleven years ago: Whole Lemon Tart, Alex’s Mom’s Stuffed Cabbage and Toasted Coconut Shortbread
Twelve years ago: Pasta Puttanesca and Pear and Almond Tart
Thirteen years ago: Fusilli with Baked Tomato Sauce and Aloo Gobi.

Piña Colada

  • Servings: 2
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • Print

Fresh pineapple can range in sweetness, juiciness, and intensity so feel free to adjust these proportions to your tastes. I definitely think you could use a bag of frozen pineapple chunks instead of fresh here; I usually find them a touch more sweet.

  • 1 medium-large fresh pineapple
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) sweetened cream of coconut, from a can
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) white rum
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Prepare your pineapple:* Cut the tree-like top off and then one slice off the bottom, both to remove the skin and to create a flat surface underneath to stabilize the pineapple. Cut one clean 1/2-inch slice from the bottom and set it aside to garnish your drink later. Cut the skin off the rest of the pineapple in large strips, making sure to cut deep enough into the flesh to remove all of the skin. Quarter the pineapple and turn each quarter on its side. Remove the core from each quarter in one long cut. Cut the pineapple quarters into 1/2-inch slices. Cover a baking sheet or tray with plastic (makes for easier removal and no lost juice) and arrange pineapple chunks in one layer. Freeze until solid.

To make your drinks: Place 3 cups of pineapple chunks in a blender along with cream of coconut, rum, and lime. Blend until absolutely smooth and velvety. Taste, adjusting flavors as you wish. Pour into 8-ounce glasses and garnish with reserved pineapple. I added an extra drizzle of coconut milk on top, just because. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and paper umbrella, if you wish. Enjoy right away.

[* If you’re going to ask me if I’ve tried this, I have and would like those 15 minutes of my life back. If you’re going to ask me if I’ve tried this, no, but if you do, please report back.]

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73 comments on piña colada

  1. Deanna

    Just what I need after a long week! Was I the only person convinced Wednesday was Thursday leading to lots of disappointment the weekend was further away? (And I think you mean a bag of frozen pineapple chunks, not watermelon)

  2. Michelle

    Did you really mean to say you could use a bag of frozen watermelon chunks? Thought this called for pineapple . . .

  3. Sarah R.

    What would we say is the minimum time to freeze pineapple to make this work? I’ve got all of these ingredients on hand but I’m gonna need to consume this delightful bev ASAP after work today.

    1. deb

      Really depends on your freezer but under an hour? They should be at least semi-solid at 30 minutes. A metal tray and one layer of fruit definitely help.

  4. RayLene

    I love piña coladas, but am turned off by the list of ingredients (thickeners and preservatives) in most widely available brands of coconut cream/cream of coconut. Does anyone have an alternative that works well in piña coladas, whether a particular commercially prepared brand/product or a recipe?

    1. deb

      I feel certain that you could make your own from coconut milk and sugar, reduced quite a bit, as you would if you were making sweetened condensed milk.

      1. Evan

        You can easily make your own Creme of coconut if you can’t find it. Just reduce a can of coconut milk down a bit (I simmered for 30 minutes) with sugar or maple or honey (I did to taste but it should be sweet as you are making syrup). Add salt and a little lemon juice and you are good to go.

    2. Lindsay

      There is such a thing as sweetened condensed coconut milk. My run-of-the-mill grocery store shelves it in the “international” section near the Thai foods. The only ingredients are coconut, water and cane sugar. I use it in tres leches cake.

    3. Raylene

      Belated thanks to you all for your suggestions. I’ll do some experimentation now that I have so much time on my hands…

  5. Karen

    I’ve tried that method, and it does work…but there’s something about popping a cleaned piece of pineapple into your mouth. Even better if it’s coated in Tajin.

  6. Susan

    This can also be made with Vodka in the same proportion as the rum and it’s called a “Chi-Chi” You barely can tell the difference..

    1. deb

      Just skip it. You might find it benefits from a tiny splash of vanilla or a little grated nutmeg to compensate for the deeper flavor lost but I have little doubt this will be an excellent virgin smoothie.

  7. colbyseider

    The footnote at the bottom of your post confused me:
    “* If you’re going to ask me if I’ve tried this, I have and would like those 15 minutes of my life back. If you’re going to ask me if I’ve tried this, no, but if you do, please report back.”


  8. Marcia

    Mmm.. will have to try. Once on a tropical trip with my kids there were unlimited
    Snacks and nonalcoholic drinks bars for kids. My eldest loved the virgin pina coladas, but found out that 7 was the magic number that made you regret the last 6. There was an ice cream station too, but more about that some other time.

  9. JP

    Do you mean/think you could use canned pineapple chunks, frozen for this?
    Sometimes I wish I could forget about food and get all my calories from drinks like these (virgin though!)- so good! Thanks!

    1. deb

      I mean, one of the best piña coladas I ever had involved a can of crushed pineapple, juices and all, dropped into a blender. But I didn’t build this recipe with that in mind. If you use it, I’m sure you’ll need much less pineapple since it’s sweeter and already pretty close to juice — maybe closer to the classic proportions of 3 parts pineapple to 1 part each cream of coconut and rum.

      1. Veena

        Just a comment to say that I stole your “frozen fruit as the base” idea. Thank you, that is genius! Instead, I made a skinny version with frozen pineapple and coconut flavored sparkling water and it’s delicious! Will the real, full fat version soon.

  10. So for those of us too lazy or too thirsty to buy a fresh pineapple and cut it up, if buying frozen or buying pre-cut fresh pineapple cubes, 3 cups makes 2 servings? And is 2 servings enough if I am going to bother making cocktails at home? (Those look like small glasses). Thanks for this recipe. It looks like the perfect antidote for not having gotten somewhere tropical this winter.

    1. deb

      I didn’t test it with bags of frozen pineapple, but I do think it’s chopped smaller so 3 cups might be a little more than 3 cups of fresh pineapple that you chop yourself.

  11. MB

    Pulling the pineapple chunks apart is also not worth the effort, or mess. Stick with the method you’ve been using is my 2 cents!

  12. Thea

    Made this last night, I was looking for a recipe to use up the pineapple sitting in the fridge! I couldn’t find cream of coconut in the store (in Australia) but they had a tin of sweetened condensed coconut milk so I used that. It was delicious!

  13. Julie Lawson

    Will try! I make mine with light coconut milk, frozen pineapple and rum. Less sweet and thinner, but refreshing.

  14. Amy Zontek-Carney

    Okay so I made your strawberry milk recipe today (4yo was asking about pink milk) and then added some of that to these pina coladas. Definitely recommend!

  15. AUDREY

    Rahul, you can also cater to someone’s taste by doing something the way they like it. And housewives cater for their families all the time!

  16. hatuly

    Don’t even try the pineapple prep method shown in the second * “this” link. It is a complete waste of time.
    It seems to work only on a specific type of Asian pineapple not available in most countries. My husband and I tried this on a couple of pineapples, it was lesson in frustration and a complete failure. The pineapples didn’t separate at all, not even a little. All we got for our efforts were sore fingers and a big mess. Stick with the true and tried method that Deb describes, it’s the quickest and best way.

  17. theveganword

    Yum, looks great! Here (Spain) I can get coconut cream but it’s unsweetened. Do you have a suggestion of how much sugar to add to start with if I use unsweetened?

    1. deb

      I’m not positive but it’s pretty sweet. You could also add it to taste to the blender. I should add that cream of coconut isn’t really like coconut cream, if that coconut cream is like the one we can get here, too. It’s more syrupy; closer to sweetened condensed milk.

  18. Virginia

    We tried this last night — I made 2/3 of the recipe, making one very small piña colada for my spouse and one generous one for me. I used a combination of my own frozen pineapple and frozen pineapple chunks from the store. The texture was dreamy, but I found the flavor a little tart and pineapple-forward for my preference. (My spouse, however, thought the sweetness level was perfect.) I added a little agave nectar to my glass to make it a bit sweeter. If I make this again I may increase the proportion of Coco Lopez or look for some other way to amp up the coconut component. Nevertheless, there is no such thing as a bad piña colada, especially on a chilly March evening! I look forward to many happy experiments with this recipe in the coming months.

        1. deb

          I actually ended up freezing these (no, I don’t finish my cocktails when taking pictures at 1pm unless I want my day to end right then and there) and they were the most perfectly-texture sorbet I have ever made or eaten. The combination of the fat from the coconut, the fiber from the pineapple (keeping the sorbet smooth and not icy), and the alcohol, keeping it from being too solidly set, made a few days of heavenly small boozy sorbet servings.

  19. lmfb

    I love this!! Might I recommend you try rubbing the rim of the glass with lime juice and then adding a rim of Tajin. mmmmmmmm

  20. Dalnapen

    Hi Deb! Read your ‘Cup of Jo’ interview. Dang girl, you look beautiful (love your hair)! And the children are all growing so fast–can’t you slow those kids down a bit? And LPL* may not eat anything for you, but she’s growing so tall just the same! Please share more of how you’ve taken off extra baby weight, and your secret for life/workout balance. Also, do you eat meat anymore, or have you reverted to your vegan days? I’m so proud of you and inspired! Thanks for sharing your life with your fans. Keep up the good work!

    *Lil’ Pippi Longstocking…

    1. deb

      Wow — thank you. I’ve never been vegan; I didn’t eat meat from the time I was 13 to 28. I don’t believe in work-life balance; some weeks are more work, some are less. (I’m still waiting for someone, anyone to ask my husband about his work-life balance.) I work out 5-6x a week; I don’t think anyone or everyone needs to and I realize I have more flexibility in my schedule than most people. But it’s mostly for my brain; keeps me calm and (relatively) sane.

  21. maro

    I have leftover coquito from the holidays — i feel like the mashup is just screaming to happen. Lockdown ‘Ladas? Pina Co-lockdowns?

  22. EllyK

    Sitting here trying to decide how much drinking counts a “not a healthy coping strategy” during this insanity. Can I count this one as a smoothie? Can I bring one to school tomorrow since NYC teachers are still on the job? These are the big questions.

  23. This couldn’t be better timed. Last July my sister got married in Jamaica and it was glorious and I drank a lot of Pina Colada. In January my mum passed unexpectedly, so a glass of this is the perfect way to take me back to better days of happiness and laughter when I’m feeling a bit glum. Thank you!

    I’m off to try and brave the supermarket to try to buy pineapple and coconut. Everyone is so focused on toilet roll, hopefully I’ll have no problem :)

  24. Lizzy

    I made this and I liked it. Then I had half a can of coconut left and I made it again with strawberries instead of pineapple because that’s what I had on hand. Turns out that’s spectacular, and I recommend it heartily!

  25. Jen

    For anyone out there like me who *always* has the wrong canned coconut product on hand somehow, wanted to flag that I made this with coconut cream (the unsweetened stuff, same amount by weight) and added 1oz. (also by weight) of golden syrup. I haven’t made it with cream of coconut so I can’t say how it differs, but I *can* say it’s delicious!

  26. These are super tasty but we found the pineapple overshadowed the coconut. Second round, we switched to Malibu rum and added more coco lopez but the extra cream of coconut made it sickeningly sweet. I’m thinking next time we’ll swap some of the frozen pineapple for ice cubes

    1. Carolyn

      I made virgin versions of these tonight and they were absolutely perfect. I actually greatly dislike a strong coconut flavor and have never liked any pina colada I’ve ever had because of this, and the all reasons Deb mentioned, of course. Well, these were perfect. The pineapple I used was very ripe so carried the sweetness wonderfully and the coconut was subtle but definitely present. The whole thing was super tasty, and the kids loved our non-alcoholic version! Next time we’ll try with rum (we were out and didn’t have an acceptable substitute). Perfection, Deb. Thank you!

  27. We made these last night and LOVED them. We couldn’t find sweetened cream of coconut but did find sweetened condensed coconut milk which I think is the same thing (not totally sure though). It was in the baking aisle, not in the aisle with the regular coconut milk.

  28. Dale

    Has anyone used Trader Joe’s Organic coconut cream? I’m thinking of adding a little brown sugar if it’s not sweet enough.

  29. Katie

    Hi Deb, I made this recipe yesterday and they were fantastic! Just what I’d imagined a proper pina colada to taste like (we made some last week with pineapple juice and I was a bit disappointed) and perfect for pretending lockdown is a holiday! Love your blog, writing and recipes – thank you for keeping it up because it’s always a lovely read :)

  30. Deb Quinn-Chen

    I’ve been trying to make a Pina colada as good as the ones in Hawaii but somehow never quite succeed. I think it is because there is nothing as good as a ripe Hawaiian pineapple. Wondering if roasting the cut up pineapple before cooling and freezing might up the sweetness and deliciousness? I might try it with the pineapple my husband bought to make drinks but wonder if you have done this or heard of this? Thanks and hope you are surviving the SIP!

    1. deb

      No, I’m unfamiliar with roasting a pineapple. For me, I really want that fresh flavor so I wouldn’t do it here. If your pineapple is on the bland side (one we got two weeks ago was) you might find you need more sweetness or acidity to get the right flavor.

  31. Jenny

    I couldn’t find Coco Lopez in my grocery store (looked several places) and so used that squeeze bottle Coco Real stuff you find in the mixer aisle. I’m sure the real thing would have been nicer, but the intense pineapple/coconut flavor made this a delight, and so easy. I will probably try it again next week. Thank you!

  32. Kristi G

    Looks delish and yes I cut up a fresh pineapple recently and have it in my freezer. Perfect Labor Day weekend cocktail to celebrate the end of summer!

  33. Kate

    In January 2020, my husband and two other couples that we’ve known since BK (before kids), swapped the stark coldness of upstate NY for a hot, breezy resort in Punta Cana to celebrate my friend’s 40th birthday. We were all childless for 4 days for the first time since our kids were born 8+ years ago. The amount of juggling to be away from 4 school aged kids & 2 in daycare among 3 families for us all to go was insane. But so worth it. It was glorious. We paid no attention to the clock, and laid around drinking frosty, creamy frozen drinks while reading books and people watching.

    I cannot tell you how many times since we’ve said how thankful we are that we went.

    Last weekend, five of us got together outside to celebrate the anniversary of our trip and our friend’s 41st birthday. These pina coladas were a huge hit. I made a quintuple batch (my blender held 2.5 batches) using 2 pineapples; it was enough for the five of us to each have 2 good sized drinks.

    Thanks for helping us bringing some light to a dark, cold winter (it was 15 degrees – we all wore winter hats in the hot tub & my ponytail froze!).

  34. Amanda

    This was posted originally on my first work from home day… seems like such simpler but scary times lol (Seattle locked down EARLY). In those early days… there was a lot of cocktails, including this one.

    That being said, I make this a lot, and my only improvement is better rum than Bacardi… there are so many good ones out there (which my friend does brand work for so I get the “cast offs” to use up)

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  38. Laura

    I just want to bring everyone into the fold here. An amazing Pina colada is made even more amazing by blending in fresh mint. I order them this way after indulging on them from the four seasons in Costa Rica on our honeymoon. You won’t regret it, and, you’re welcome lol. :)

  39. Britt

    My sister and I are obsessed with these, we make them every chance we get. One night we put her kids to bed, made a batch of these, and watched Moana for the full tropical feel :)
    I find mine always end up a little thick, so I add in a cup of coconut water to loosen it up a bit without effecting the flavor.
    I did make once with canned pineapple out of lack of other options, and it was still good, but a bit disappointing if you’ve had them with frozen pineapple.
    If you’re not making these then you have my sympathies.