Faced by too many choices of coconut milk in the supermarket aisle? Here’s a complete guide to lead you to selecting the right coconut milk product for your needs.
What is Coconut Milk?
Coconut milk is a white liquid, made by mixing grated coconut flesh with water. Pure coconut milk is 100% vegan and lactose free. It has many uses,
Coconut Water, Coconut Milk, or Coconut Cream?
What’s the difference between coconut milk, cream, or water? And how about other liquid coconut products?
Coconut milk is an opaque white liquid, with a consistency similar to cow’s milk. It’s made by adding hot water to grated or shredded coconut flesh. It usually has a fat content between 5% and 20%.
Coconut cream is extracted by squeezing grated coconut flesh. It is thicker than milk, and has the consistency of single cream. It also has a higher fat content, between 20% and 50%. It is frequently used to add thickness and creaminess to curries or soups, or similar dishes.
A mixture of coconut milk mixed with other ingredients, frequently rice and water. This is a lighter drink for everyday use.
Coconut water is the juice found in a coconut, normally taken from young fruit. It has a sweet and natural flavour, most commonly drunk on its own as a refreshing drink.
Coconut oil is the fat that’s extracted from coconut flesh. It’s a solid at temperatures below 25C/ 78F. it can either be extracted from coconut milk, or from the flesh itself.
Types of Coconut milk
Coconut milk is available in a number of different styles. These include:
Canned coconut milk
As fresh coconut milk has a limited shelf life, canned coconut milk is a great store cupboard staple. Use within 2 days once opened. This also applies to coconut milk in cartons.
Unsweetened coconut milk
Some coconut milk has added sugar, so it’s a good idea to check the ingredients. Especially if you want to add coconut milk to a savoury dish, it’s best to use unsweetened coconut milk.
Light coconut milk
Light coconut milk contains more water than the normal coconut milk. It has a lower fat content and a lighter taste.
Powdered coconut milk
Coconut milk is also available as a powder, another way of having a longer shelf life. It’s an especially useful way of adding coconut flavours to a dish.
Coconut cream is extracted from the coconut flesh. Some creams are stabilized with guar gum or similar – it you wish to avoid this, then again, check the ingredients.
Block coconut cream
Block coconut cream is a solidified concentrated coconut fat. You can simply add water for it to be coconut milk or cream. You can also grate it directly to the dish you are cooking.
Difference between green and brown coconuts
Coconuts are the fruit of a coconut palm tree, with a thick glossy green outer skin covering the well known hard brown shell.
Young coconuts sold for coconut water and softer, jelly like meat are sold whole, with the green outer husk. Mature coconuts have the husk removed, and are sold with only the hard shell.
Making coconut milk
For fresh coconut milk, you’ll have to make it yourself. Don’t worry, though, it’s very simple!
In order to extract coconut milk at home, you will need to blend together grated coconut with hot water until well combined. Then place the contents on a piece of cloth or cheese cloth and when it is not too hot, squeeze out the coconut extract on a strainer.
Adjust the thickness of the milk by adding more water as required. You can also add sugar or syrup for sweetness. The milk will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
What are the benefits of coconut milk?
Coconut milk is low in carbohydrates. Because of its saturated fat content, it may not suit most low-fat diets.
It has no added sugars, and is lactose free. So this is perfect for those with lactose intolerance.
Some people who have tree nut allergy or who are allergic to almonds, cashews, and walnuts, also have coconut milk allergic reactions.
Drinking coconut milk
You can drink coconut milk, but you may find it too rich. If so, you may prefer to drink either coconut water or coconut drink.
Cooking with coconut milk
Coconut milk has many used in the kitchen, especially in Asian recipes. It’s also great to add to smoothies. Here are a few of my favourite coconut milk recipes.
- Coconut rice pudding, a delicious variation on the traditional favourite.
- I do like a smoothie, and my strawberry and coconut smoothie. This can be made with either coconut milk or coconut milk drink.
- Coconut & maple apple porridge is a favourite way to start the day.
Storing coconut milk
Fresh coconut milk has a short life, and should be stored in the fridge and used within a couple of days. Similarly,
Coconut milk comes in cans and cartons. These should be opened and used before the expiry date. Once opened, make sure to use the leftovers for a week if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can also freeze coconut milk for a month.
If you have a fresh homemade coconut milk leftovers, also store it in an airtight container or glass in the fridge for 5 days or in the freezer for a month.
Coconut milk substitutes
- Almond milk. A good coconut milk substitute is the almond milk. It has a neutral taste, but because of the low fat content it will not give your dish the same creamy texture.
- Soy milk. There are sweetened versions so watch out because it may drastically change the taste of your recipe.
- Oat milk, If you need coconut milk substitute for lattes or coffees, you can use oat milk since it can withstand high heat and will not curdle. It is naturally sweet too.
- Dairy milk. Don’t forget dairy!
Final thoughts on coconut milk
Straight from the coconut meat, coconut milk is delicious and so versatile. So rather than reaching for the yoghurt to add to a dish, next time try coconut milk instead.