Abstract A nondestructive method to determine the density of coating has been proposed in this paper based on the ultrasonic reflection coefficient phase spectrum (URCPS). A model was set up first to represent the ultrasonic waves reflected from a coating system at normal incident, and the relation between the extremum of URCPS and the coating density was established to provide the principle of determining the density. The ultrasonic method was validated on a series of ZrO2–7 wt.%Y2O3 (YSZ) coatings with various density. The specimens were prepared by electric beam physical vapor deposit (EB-PVD). After deposition, the specimens were irradiated using high-intensity pulsed ion beam (HIPIB) at different ion current density of 100 and 200 A/cm2 to change coating density. The coating densities of as-deposited and post irradiation by HIPIB were derived to be 4940–5030, 5200–5320 and 5390–5470 kg/m3, respectively. The relative error between the coating density measured by the ultrasonic method and Archimedean principle ranging from 2.53% to 6.11%, indicates that the proposed ultrasonic quantification method provides a reliable nondestructive way to determine coating density.