Coconut milk is everywhere now.
You can find coconut milk that is specially designed to be added to your coffee, alongside coconut milk that is meant for Thai curries and soups.
If you have never tried coconut milk for yourself, you might be wondering how it tastes. Is it similar to cow’s milk or other plant-based milks, or is it something else entirely?
In this article, we’ll look at coconut milk: what it is, where it comes from, what it tastes like, and how you can best enjoy it for yourself.
What Is Coconut Milk?
Coconuts contain white flesh inside them, along with “coconut water” – a store of liquid that can help to keep the coconut, which is a seed capable of growing a new coconut tree, alive during its possibly precarious journey, floating across the sea to distant shores.
Coconut milk doesn’t really exist in nature – it’s something that humans invented.
When we blend together the flesh of the coconut including the fattiest parts (coconut cream) and the coconut water, what we get is coconut milk.
It contains all of the refreshing electrolytes from coconut water, as well as the flavorful flesh of the coconut.
What Does Coconut Milk Look Like?
Coconut milk looks an awful lot like cow’s milk!
At first glance, it is pure white with a similar creamy consistency. Coconut milk moves around in a glass the way 3% milk does.
If you look closely, however, you will notice that coconut milk is less “watery” than cow’s milk or even other plant milks. It almost looks like white paint.
Coconut milk that is specially created and altered to be a plant milk, and a replacement for cow’s milk, will be found in the area of the grocery store with other plant milks.
If you go looking for coconut milk for cooking purposes, you’ll have better luck looking in the Asian food section. Look for brands that have Thai or Chinese writing on them, and make sure they also say “Coconut milk” in English.
You don’t want to end up with coconut cream – or worse, just plain old coconut water!
What Texture Does/Do Coconut Milk Have?
Coconut milk can have a different consistency depending on the company that is producing it.
After all, coconut milk is something we create by mixing together coconut flesh and coconut water and doing this in different proportions leads to thicker or thinner results.
However, most coconut milk can be considered very thick and creamy. It’s easy to give yourself a “coconut milk mustache” if you drink it directly, because this fatty milk will cling to your skin.
The thick, creamy texture of coconut milk is responsible for the wholesome texture of various Thai curries.
Where Does Coconut Milk Come From?
Coconuts are tropical fruit, and all coconut milk comes from tropical or subtropical areas where coconut trees are common.
One of the most common sources of coconut milk in Thailand.
Not only is coconut milk an essential part of all Thai cuisine, forming the basis of most Thai curries and soups, but Thailand is also one of the world’s leading producers of coconuts and coconut milk.
The tropical environment in Thailand, in combination with rich soil and plenty of rainfall, allows farms to harvest hundreds of thousands of coconuts, and to export coconut milk in vast quantities for the rest of the world to enjoy.
Other leading producers of coconut milk include Vietnam and Indonesia.
Is Coconut Milk Healthy?
Coconut milk is very healthy and includes important nutrients that help your body in a number of ways. It is especially rich in manganese, offering more than the daily requirement in a single serving!
Coconut milk has plenty of other important vitamins and minerals too, including iron, folate, and potassium.
There are some studies suggesting that coconuts and coconut milk can help the body fight off infection and disease, reduce inflammation, and lower your “bad” cholesterol.
In studies, coconut milk was 54% effective in reducing stomach ulcers, suggesting that coconut milk can have a protective effect on your stomach lining.
However, there is also some concern about weight gain and saturated fat. Coconut milk derives more than 90% of its calories from fat, and much of that is saturated fat, which has been connected to atherosclerosis and heart disease.
You shouldn’t be too concerned about the fat in coconut milk.
Studies that compared coconut milk porridge to soy milk porridge found that coconut milk was effective in lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol rates significantly compared to soy milk porridge.
If you are concerned about your heart’s health, moderate your intake of coconut milk, but trust that these saturated fats are better for you than the kind of saturated fats you find in red meat, for example.
What Are The Dangers Of Drinking Coconut Milk?
Coconut milk can be high in saturated fat, which is a concern if you are on a calorie or fat-reduced diet.
There are some people who are allergic to coconuts. Coconut allergies are fairly rare, but if you ever get a reaction from the coconut flavoring in cookies or cakes, or dried coconut, you should avoid coconut milk just in case.
If you have gastrointestinal issues and are following a low FODMAP diet, it is good to limit yourself to just 1/2 cup of coconut milk a day, since there are some complex sugars in coconut milk that might be difficult for your body to digest.
Almost all coconut milk comes in cans, and some of those cans are manufactured using chemicals called BPAs, which have been linked to health issues.
If you are regularly consuming coconut milk, try to find a company with cans that are advertised as BPA-free.
How Do You Eat Coconut Milk?
Coconut milk isn’t really a drink like cow’s milk or some other plant milks.
You can add coconut milk to a smoothie or a mixed drink to give a creaminess and coconut flavor, but drinking coconut milk directly isn’t recommended.
Instead, the best way to enjoy coconut milk is in curries and soups, especially those flavored with Thai curry pastes.
Coconut milk is full of saturated fat that absorbs the spices and amplifies the flavor. If you have never tasted a Thai green, red, or yellow curry, you are missing out.
There are also plenty of uses for coconut milk in desserts – from popsicles to coconut cream ice cream, shaved ice with coconut milk, and baked desserts that use coconut milk or sticky rice as a base.
How Can I Store Coconut Milk?
The best way to keep your coconut milk fresh is to keep it in the can it comes in until you are ready to use it. Canned coconut milk can last for years, or almost indefinitely.
Check the expiration date to make sure, but you’re probably safe to throw a sealed can of coconut milk at the back of your cupboard and forget about it.
Once you open a can of coconut milk, however, it has a relatively short shelf-life.
Coconut milk will start to erode the inside of the metal can that contains it once it is opened, so if you don’t use the full amount in whatever you are cooking, pour the remainder into a glass or plastic container and cover it carefully before putting it in the fridge.
Your coconut milk should last 3-5 days like this.
Coconut Milk Nutritional Information
|Per 1 cup (240g) coconut milk according to Healthline.com|
|Vitamin C||11% of the RDI|
|Folate||10% of the RDI|
|Iron||22% of the RDI|
|Magnesium||22% of the RDI|
|Potassium||18% of the RDI|
|Copper||32% of the RDI|
|Manganese||110% of the RDI|
|Selenium||21% of the RDI|
Quick Table: Coconut Milk Recipes
|Secretly Healthy Chocolate Frosting Shots With Coconut Milk||273||5 minutes|
|Clean Eating Curried Sweet Potato Soup With Coconut Milk||203||55 minutes|
|Vegan Quesadillas With Homemade Coconut Milk Cheddar||262||35 minutes|
You’ll never believe this delicious dairy-free dessert is secretly healthy! These “chocolate frosting shots” use coconut milk to deliver some serious chocolate flavor.
If there is anyone in your life who swears they don’t like coconut milk – this is the recipe to try.
Total Preparation Time: 5 minutes
This wholesome soup made with coconut milk will warm both your heart and your body. The richness and sweetness of the sweet potato along with the thick and creamy texture of coconut milk make the perfect wintertime soup.
This comforting meal is delicious and unique, but it’s also very good for you! Sweet potatoes are packed with nutrition, vitamins and antioxidants, and coconut milk provides a healthy basis for a lot of flavor.
Total Preparation Time: 55 minutes
Coconut milk has a richness and creaminess that is useful for many things – including making vegan cheese!
This recipe shows you how to use coconut milk to create gooey, cheesy grilled cheese that might not convince dairy lovers out there, but will more than do the trick for vegans and vegetarians who are looking for a fix.
These quesadillas are delicious, and are the perfect example of how far coconut milk can take you.
Total Preparation Time: 35 minutes
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Coconut Milk Taste Like Real Milk?
Coconut milk tastes somewhat similar to cow’s milk, with some key differences.
They are alike in that they are thick and creamy with a relatively neutral flavor, and also have some sweetness and saltiness mixed in for good measure.
However, there are some major differences too, and it would be wrong to say that coconut milk and cow’s milk are the same.
Coconut milk has a strong coconut taste, and also doesn’t contain many of the compounds in cow’s milk that make it so indigestible for humans (lactose, for example).
If you are used to drinking cow’s milk, you’ll definitely be able to tell the difference when you taste coconut milk.
That might not be a bad thing! Coconut milk often serves a different function from cow’s milk, and when you are trying to replace cow’s milk as a drink or an addition to tea or coffee, it probably makes more sense to reach for a practical plant milk like oat milk or almond milk.
Is Coconut Milk Sweet Or Sour?
Coconut milk has a natural hint of sweetness that isn’t overpowering.
Most of the time, coconut milk is served unsweetened, so you taste only pure coconut milk. This is perfect for cooking, but is part of the reason that coconut milk intended for drinking is often sweetened.
The light natural sweetness of coconut milk is barely noticeable – just like the sweetness in cow’s milk – until you add some extra sugar to make it obvious.
Is Coconut Milk High In Sugar?
There is already plenty of suspicion about coconut milk because of its high levels of saturated fat. Is there also a lot of sugar in coconut milk?
If you buy unprocessed coconut milk that is intended for cooking, rather than flavored coconut milk intended for drinking, you will find that there are no additional sugars added, and barely any naturally occurring sugars.
This is great for people with diabetes because it means they can enjoy a lovely Thai curry and not worry about their blood sugar spiking afterward.
Consumption of coconut milk never causes spikes in glucose, and is generally safe for diabetic people.
There is definitely a natural sweetness in coconut milk that can be amplified by adding sugar, but in its purest form, coconut milk is very healthy with no sugar added and minimal natural sugar.
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