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Difference Between Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream: The Definitive Guide to Navigating Coconut-Based Culinary Delights

Always ensure to check the labels when purchasing coconut products to ensure they align with your dietary and culinary needs. And remember, the world of coconut offers a creamy canvas to enrich your culinary creations, so explore and enjoy!

By Cookist
  • Consistency and Texture: Coconut milk has a light, fluid consistency; coconut cream is thicker and richer.
  • Culinary Applications: Coconut milk enhances various dishes and beverages; coconut cream often enriches desserts and specific savory dishes.
  • Production Process: Coconut milk comes from strained blended coconut meat and water; coconut cream is the skimmed, separated layer from chilled coconut milk.

Coconut, a staple in many kitchens, offers a variety of products that can elevate any dish, from savory to sweet. Two of its derivatives, coconut milk and coconut cream, are often used in culinary arts worldwide, yet many still find themselves puzzled over their differences and appropriate uses. This article aims to demystify these coconut products, offering insights into their distinctions, applications, and even some handy tips for your culinary adventures.

Understanding Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream

At a glance, coconut milk and coconut cream originate from the same source: the humble coconut. However, their consistency, flavor, and culinary applications set them apart.

  • Coconut Milk: This is derived by simmering or blending coconut meat with water and then straining the mixture to produce a smooth, milky-white liquid. It's widely used in Southeast Asian, East African, Latin American, and Caribbean cuisines, offering a slightly sweet and creamy texture to dishes like curries, soups, and beverages.
  • Coconut Cream: This is essentially coconut milk but with less water, resulting in a thicker consistency. It is obtained by chilling coconut milk and skimming off the cream that rises to the top. It's not sweetened and is often used in both savory and sweet dishes, such as curries and desserts.

Navigating Through the Coconut Aisle

When shopping, you might encounter various options like full-fat coconut milk, "lite" coconut milk, and even coconut cream, each serving different purposes in cooking.

  • Full-fat vs. "Lite" Coconut Milk: Full-fat coconut milk is richer and has a higher fat content, making it ideal for cooking as it can simmer without breaking. On the other hand, "lite" coconut milk is a watered-down version, which might be suitable for lighter dishes and beverages.
  • Coconut Cream vs. Cream of Coconut: Be cautious not to confuse coconut cream with cream of coconut. The latter is sweetened and is typically used in desserts and cocktails like piña colada.

Substituting and Making Your Own

In a pinch and bought the wrong product? Don’t worry, you can substitute and even create one from the other!

– To make coconut milk out of coconut cream, mix 3 tablespoons of coconut cream with 1 tablespoon of water.

– To make coconut cream out of coconut milk, refrigerate a can of full-fat coconut milk overnight, then skim off the cream that solidifies at the top.

Culinary Creations with Coconut

Coconut milk and cream find their way into a myriad of dishes, enhancing them with a lush, tropical flair.

With Coconut Milk: Think beyond curries and consider adding coconut milk to your smoothies, coffee, or even using it to elevate a simple rice dish.

With Coconut Cream: Explore the realms of dairy-free whipped cream, indulge in creamy coconut ice cream, or add a rich texture to your savory curries and soups.



Understanding the nuances between coconut milk and coconut cream can significantly impact your culinary results, ensuring you achieve the desired flavor and texture in your dishes. Whether you’re simmering a hearty curry, blending a tropical smoothie, or whipping up a decadent dessert, choosing the right coconut product will bring you one step closer to a perfect dish.

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