Coconut milk vs coconut cream: what’s the big difference?

Coconut Milk vs Coconut Cream

We are huge fans of anything coconut here at home.

But do you also know why and when it can be useful to choose between coconut milk vs coconut cream?

We can all agree that both are a delicious condiment to use in the kitchen.

Which one do you buy or use the most?

We love to cook with it, Thai curries especially where a splash of coconut milk or cream gives the curry sauce a nice creamy consistency and a deeper taste.


How coconut milk is made

Coconut milk is made from the pulp, or rather the fiber of the coconut.

The whitish grey fibers are ground into a pulp, and then water is added. Simmer this mixture for a while over low heat. After that, the milky liquid is poured through a type of cheesecloth to separate it. The coconut pulp stays inside, and the coconut milk pours down.

Coconut milk is in fact nothing more than fresh coconut and water.

Reminds us of that cooking class in Chiang Mai years ago where we made a quick coconut milk ourselves, what an eye opener!

Coconut milk vs coconut cream

So what’s the difference?

Main thing is the ration between the amount of coconut and water, that is what determines the creaminess.

If you use a lot of water, the end result will be very liquid and less creamy and you will get coconut milk.

If you add just a little water, the coconut milk will be very creamy and thick. That is coconut cream.

No surprise that the coconut cream has a more pronounced coconut flavor and a higher fat content.

So which one should you use and how much?

It is totally up to you, plus it also depends on what dish you are preparing.

You don’t need as much coconut milk cream to make a curry as you would use for a soup.

Which one do you use the most? Let's compare coconut milk vs coconut cream and find our what you can use them for in the kitchen!

What to make with coconut milk and coconut cream? What is coconut milk used for? What is coconut cream used for?

In addition to curries and other savory dishes, coconut milk and cream can also be used in sweet desserts to make ice cream, cakes, cookies and so on.

Use coconut cream in desserts that require thick cream, or as a dairy free and lactose free substitute for heavy cream and ice cream.

Are both healthy?

Coconut milk is completely plant based and certainly fits into a healthy diet.

Just make sure to pay attention when you buy coconut milk or cream.

Not always but often it can contain a range of additives that don’t belong there such as stabilizers, emulsifiers, artificial coloring and even added sugars.

Go for the purest coconut milk or cream possible.

Can I use coconut cream instead of coconut milk?

Yes, coconut cream can be a substitute for coconut milk if you add water.

How do you thicken coconut milk into cream? Can I turn coconut milk to cream? Does boiling coconut milk thicken it?

There are a few ways to do that.

Our favorite ways is to put the coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight. That will make the coconut fat separate from the water and solidify on top. With a spoon scoop the solidified coconut cream from the top and use it in your cooking. You can use the remaining coconut water in soups or cakes and such.

You can also boil coconut milk.

Gently simmer it uncovered so that the water in the coconut milk evaporates naturally. Without the water the milk is going to thicken up until it reaches your desired consistency.

To speed that process up, you can use a thickening agent like cornstarch or all-purpose flour. However that might change the texture and mouthfeel of the dish you want to add it to afterwards.

Which is better coconut milk or coconut cream?

Although coconut milk vs coconut cream look similar, they are quite different when it comes to nutrition.

Coconut cream contains significantly higher amounts of carbohydrates and sugar compared to coconut milk.

Can you substitute coconut milk vs coconut cream?

Coconut milk and coconut cream are mostly interchangeable in recipes such as curries and soups.

If you prefer a richer flavor and creamier thicker texture, use coconut cream.

How much coconut milk do I substitute for heavy cream?

You can add just the same amount.

Coconut milk is a 1-to-1 substitute for heavy cream in the kitchen, it will just add an extra coconut flavor to whatever you are cooking or baking.

Whipped coconut cream is also a vegan, dairy free topping substitute for whipped cream.

Is coconut cream healthy? Does coconut cream raise cholesterol?

Adding coconut milk or cream to your diet from time to time can reduce your bad cholesterol levels and raise good cholesterol.

Coconut cream is high in healthier saturated fats, which our body will burn and transform into energy and less likely detect and store as ‘fat’ like for instance dairy fat.

Coconut milk and cream are healthy, but again in moderate quantities.

Does coconut milk taste like coconut cream?

Yes, because they are actually the same, no matter if one is creamy and the other is much thinner.

Which one do you use the most? Let's compare coconut milk vs coconut cream and find our what you can use them for in the kitchen!

How long does coconut milk last?Can coconut milk or cream go bad?

Yes, opened coconut milk cans and cartons do go bad. Once opened, keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze it for later. That is what we do!

Unopened, sealed containers of coconut milk and cream can last several months.

You can store fresh, homemade coconut milk in the fridge for up to five days. Just keep it in an airtight container.

Does coconut cream need to be refrigerated? Does coconut milk need to be refrigerated?

You don’t need to keep unopened containers of coconut milk or cream in the fridge.

After opening, leftovers need to be kept in the fridge in a sealed container straight away.

Can you eat coconut cream without cooking? Can you drink canned coconut milk raw?

Yes you can, no need to heat it up first.

Whenever we make a Thai mango sticky rice, we like to add a spoonful of coconut cream to the dessert straight from the tin or carton.

Can you drink canned coconut milk just like that?

Yes, no harm it that. Just don’t exaggerate or use it as a full substitute for your daily glass(es) of milk.

Learn how to make mango sticky rice, probably Thailand’s most popular dessert! Sugary coconut milk rice with sweet mango...

Can you put coconut cream in coffee?

Absolutely, you can definitely use coconut milk or cream as coffee creamer.

It will only add that extra coconut flavor, but why not if you like it!

However you should warm the coconut milk or cream first before adding it to your cup or it might curdle in hot coffee.

If you are trying to find a good plant based milk substitute to use with coffee besides soy milk or almond milk, coconut milk is a great choice.

Which is healthier coconut milk or heavy cream?

Coconut milk has significantly less cholesterol than heavy cream.

Some health benefits of coconut milk and cream that heavy cream doesn’t have at all: it lowers blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels.

What happens if you drink coconut milk everyday? What are the side effects of coconut milk?

Coconut milk and cream can be part of a healthy diet, but not surprisingly eating too much if it can have negative side effects.

Coconut milk and cream are high is calories and fats. So consuming lots of it can result in weight gain.

Is coconut milk a laxative?

Yes, and that is because it is high in dietary fiber.

So coconut milk can cause digestive problems after eating it. Meals with unsweetened coconut milk in it can easily contain up to 20% of our daily dietary fiber intake.

Negative side effects can be diarrhea or gas.

How about you?

Coconut milk vs coconut cream, which one do you prefer?

What are your favorite recipes to make with it?

Let us know in the comment below!

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