Coconut Milk Uses, Substitutes & Health Benefits

If you thought milk was good for you, just wait until you learn about coconut milk. It’s packed full of nutrients.

December 10, 2018
Coconut Milk Uses, Substitutes & Health Benefits

Travel to Thailand or Southern India and you can’t help but notice an abundance of coconut trees. It’s no wonder then that these flavors also find their way onto your plate. Coconut milk especially adds a refreshing tropical taste rich in sweet, nutty flavor to many Thai and South Indian curries, soups, and desserts.


What is Coconut Milk?

Coconut milk isn’t actually milk at all. It’s just the name for the liquid you get when you simmer together coconut flesh and water. The milk part of the name is a nod to its milky white color. Flavor-wise, it’s sweet, nutty, and floral; it tastes nothing like cow’s milk.


Difference Between Coconut Milk, Crème & Water

Coconuts provide a lot. For centuries, cultures have taken a single coconut and transformed it into a number of useful cooking and drinking liquids. Although similar, these coconutty liquids have some important differences you need to know about.  

Coconut Cream vs. Coconut Milk

If coconut milk is the equivalent of cow’s milk, coconut cream is the equivalent of heavy cream. It has a much thicker consistency. To make it, you simmer together four parts shredded coconut meat and one part water. To make coconut milk however, you go with only a one-to-one ratio. Opt for coconut crème if you’re substituting out heavy cream or making desserts.

Coconut Milk vs. Coconut Water

Coconut water on the other hand is the actual liquid that comes out of a fresh coconut. Just crack open a coconut and take a sip. The younger the coconut, the more coconut water is inside. More mature coconuts have more coconut meat, so they’re better used for eating or making coconut milk. Free from carbs and protein and full of electrolytes, coconut water makes a refreshing sports drink.


Substitutes for Coconut Milk in Curry and Other Recipes

Not a fan of how coconut milk tastes? Allergic to coconut? Or simply looking for alternatives for your favorite Thai or Indian recipes? We’ve got you covered. You can still get that sweet flavor and creamy texture from a number of coconut milk substitutes. Whether you’re aiming to make Thai chicken satay, red chicken curry, or South India’s coconut curry.

  • Soy Milk: This low-fat coconut milk substitute comes in liquid and powder form. Choose the powder form if you need to create a thicker consistency.
  • Fat & Liquid: Coconut milk is essentially just water and fat. For every one cup of coconut milk needed, add ¼ cup of oil and ¾ cups of water.
  • Yogurt: Plain flavored regular or Greek yogurt will give your recipes the desired thick and creamy component.
  • Spiced Milk: Warm up milk on the stove, add in spices like cinnamon or curry, and stir until you get a nice creamy consistency.
  • Nut Milks: Opt for plain nut milks with little to no added sugar. Mix in cornstarch or gelatin to thicken it up if needed.
  • Pureed Silken Tofu: It may seem a little odd, but pureeing tofu can give it a creamy texture similar to coconut milk.
  • Heavy Cream or Evaporated Milk: Use one cup of heavy cream or evaporated milk for every one cup of coconut milk needed.
  • Cream Cheese & Skim Milk: A ½ cup of low-fat cream cheese and a ½-cup skim milk equals one cup of coconut milk.
  • Condensed Milk: Substitute out one cup of coconut milk for ¾ cups of condensed milk.


Health Benefits of Coconut Milk

If you thought milk was good for you, just wait until you learn about coconut milk. It’s packed full of nutrients that help your body fight and prevent disease. Some even call it one of the world’s healthiest foods. Here are just a few of the coconut milk health benefits:

  • Improves Your Heart Health: A healthy heart is a happy heart. Coconut milk is a valuable source of lauric acid. This fatty acid improves cholesterol levels. The magnesium in coconut milk helps improve circulation and lower blood pressure too.
  • Lose Weight: Coconut milk contains a lot of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) fatty acids. Don’t let the word “fatty” fool you. MCTs are healthy fats that help you feel full so that you don’t overeat. They’ll increase your energy expenditure too, so you’ll burn more calories throughout the day. Just don’t over indulge. Despite all of the health benefits, coconut milk still has a fairly high calorie count.
  • Prevents Fatigue: Tired of feeling tired? Like coconut water, coconut milk contains electrolytes. Drink some coconut milk when you need an energy boost or feel dehydrated. The MCTs inside will also give your brain a boost.
  • Soothes Your Digestive System: The healthy fats and electrolytes found in coconut milk can nourish your digestive lining, make your gut healthier, and even help prevent irritable bowel syndrome. All of this nourishment can prevent stomach ulcers too.


Recipes with Coconut Milk

You can drink coconut milk, but it works better in recipes. For centuries, Thai and South Indian cooks have used coconut milk as the basis for sauces, curries, and soups. In those regions, coconuts are easy to come by and pair nicely with other local flavors. 

Coconut serves as the base of Tom Kha Gai Soup, a Thai dish full of sweet potatoes, lemongrass, and sweet coconut notes. Thai dishes also use coconut milk to balance out heat, such as in the spicy yet sweet Thai Red Chicken Curry. In South India, you’ll find coconut curry, which still has some heat, but more so highlights the sweet and nutty flavors of the coconut. Chicken curry, coconut milk rice, and coconut chutney, are just a few of the many other coconut oriented dishes found here.


Where to Buy Coconut Milk

While many grocery stores and specialty ethnic markets do sell coconut milk, locating it within the store is another story. Avoid the hassle of meandering through aisles and hoping to stumble across some. Instead, order organic coconut milk right here on Nomads Marketplace. Our one-stop shop lets you find everything you need to make that delicious coconut chicken curry or Tom Kha Gai soup.  Shop Now.


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Jharna on December 19, 2018

Thanks for the information! I had no idea that coconut milk aids in weight loss with its ability to make you feel full. It’s great to know that coconut creme can be used as a vegan alternative for heavy cream. I also learned from this post that coconut milk could aid in relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Very informative!

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