We propose and demonstrate a novel technique, which we term bifocal optical coherence refractometry, for the rapid determination of the refractive index of a turbid medium. The technique is based on the simultaneous creation of two closely spaced confocal gates in a sample. The optical path-length difference between the gates is measured by means of low-coherence interferometry and used to determine the refractive index. We present experimental results for the refractive indices of milk solutions and of human skin in vivo. As the axial scan rate determines the acquisition time, which is potentially of the order of tens of milliseconds, the technique has potential for in vivo refractive-index measurements of turbid biological media under dynamic conditions. (C) 2003 Optical Society of America.