Coconut Cream vs. Coconut Milk: What’s the Difference?

Last Update: June 12, 2024

If you’re following a dairy-free, vegan, or Paleo diet, you may already be familiar with a variety of milk alternatives. But there are two in particular that deserve a spot in your regular rotation: coconut cream and coconut milk [1]. Sourced from the subtly sweet flesh of raw coconuts, these pantry staples easily swap in for cow’s milk or cream in both sweet and savory recipes—without sacrificing richness. But what exactly is the difference between the two? And how can you make the most of these versatile essentials? Here’s a closer look at coconut cream versus coconut milk and why you’ll probably want to stock up on both.

What Is Coconut Cream?

COCONUT MILK VS COCONUT CREAM Essentially, it’s the texture and richness that differentiates coconut cream from coconut milk. Coconut cream is thicker and made by simmering raw, grated mature coconut flesh in water. The cream that rises to the top is then collected (there’s often a layer of coconut cream on top when you crack open a can of coconut milk, too). Another method of producing coconut cream is one you can try at home—just chill a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge until the contents thicken. There’s also a type of coconut cream that starts with coconut simmered in heavy cream rather than water, but it’s not Paleo- or vegan-friendly.

What Is Coconut Milk?


Like coconut cream, coconut milk is made by simmering raw, grated mature coconut flesh in water, but with a slightly different coconut-to-water ratio. But here, the consistency is more similar to cow’s milk. Coconut milk is often the base of many curries and sauces, particularly in Thai cuisine [2].

How to Make Coconut Cream

There are several methods for making coconut cream from scooping the top of a can of full-fat coconut milk and leaving to set in the fridge to making it from scratch using four parts raw shredded coconut to one part water. Note: When sugar is added to the mix, the result is referred to as “cream of coconut.”

If you accidentally purchased coconut cream when you meant to buy coconut milk (or vice versa), don’t fret! You can use either of these as a substitute for each other.

To make coconut cream from coconut milk

Leave the can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight. In the morning, you’ll have a layer of coconut cream at the top of the can.

To make coconut milk from coconut cream

Mix 2 tablespoons of your coconut cream with about 3/4 cup of water. You can add more or less depending on the consistency you’re going for.

How to Make Coconut Milk

A traditional coconut milk recipe calls for one part shredded coconut to one part water—you can either combine the coconut with near-boiling water and leave to simmer, or blend the two together in a blender. Then strain the mixture through a nut bag or cheesecloth, and collect and save the milky liquid.

Coconut Cream Q&A

Here’s a quick rundown of some common questions on this versatile ingredient.

How Long Does Coconut Cream Last in the Fridge?

Be sure to refrigerate coconut cream after opening and keep it covered. Most brands that don’t include preservatives suggest using the cream within three days of opening [3].

How Do You Make Coconut Whipped Cream?

Looking for the perfect topping for your next vegan dessert? Whip together vanilla extract and powdered sugar with chilled coconut cream for a delightfully fluffy treat.

Is Coconut Cream Vegan?

Yes, traditional coconut cream made from coconuts and water (or 100 coconut milk) is vegan [4].

Coconut Milk Q&A

Here’s what you need to know about coconut milk.

Is Coconut Milk Dairy-Free?

Yes, traditional coconut milk is made with just coconut and water and is therefore dairy-free [5].

Is Coconut Milk Paleo?

In most cases, yes. Coconut milk that doesn’t contain dairy or added refined sugar is considered Paleo-friendly.

Can You Freeze Coconut Milk?

Absolutely. In fact, coconut milk is a popular ingredient in smoothies because it adds a tropical flavor and healthy fats. If you want to thicken your smoothie and enjoy a delicious frozen beverage, consider freezing coconut milk into ice cubes before tossing them in the blender.

Coconut Cream Nutrition

Here’s a rundown of the nutritional benefits of coconut cream, based on what you’ll find in a can of Thrive Market Organic Coconut Cream:

  • Calories: 130 per ¼ cup
  • Fat: 13g
  • Saturated Fat: 12g
  • Carbs: 2g
  • Dietary fiber: 1g
  • Sugars: 1g

Coconut Milk Nutrition

Here’s a look at the nutritional benefits of coconut milk, based on what you’ll find in a can of Thrive Market Organic Regular Coconut Milk:

  • Calories: 100 per ¼ cup
  • Fat: 10g
  • Saturated Fat: 10g
  • Carbs: 1g
  • Sugars: 0g

Coconut Cream Products

Fill your fridge with these coconut cream member favorites!

Thrive Market Organic Coconut Cream

Our organic coconut cream isn’t just vegan and Paleo-friendly—it’s also ethically sourced and a good source of nutrients like healthy fats, B vitamins, and vitamin E.

Let’s Do …Organic Heavy Coconut Cream

You can easily use this vegan, gluten-free heavy coconut cream to make dairy-free whipped cream—whip up a batch to top off your next sweet treat.

Coconut Cream Recipes

These must-try recipes are the cream of the crop!

Raspberry-Coconut Ice Cream

Blend up a dairy-free frozen treat with frozen raspberries, coconut cream, vanilla extract, ground cardamom, and maple syrup.

Orange Coconut Crepes

Here’s a dish with some French flair. Simmer Paleo-friendly coconut wraps in orange zest, ghee, raw honey, and basil and top with a dollop of coconut cream.

Coconut Creme Brulee

Give this traditional dessert a Paleo spin by swapping in coconut cream and combining it with egg yolks, vanilla bean, and coconut sugar.

Coconut Milk Products

Stock up on these coconut milk must-haves.

Thrive Market Organic Regular Coconut Milk

In sweet or savory dishes, our coconut milk adds a luscious silky texture and mild sweetness without dairy, added sugars, or preservatives.

Native Forest Organic Coconut Milk

This certified organic, vegan milk is pure and simple—try it as a soothing ingredient in a DIY facial cleanser.

Let’s Do…Organic Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk

If you enjoy whipping up a vegan pie or cheesecake, you’ll want to keep a can (or two) of this sweetened, dairy-free milk—made with just coconut, water, and cane sugar—in the pantry.

Coconut Milk Recipes

Our coconut milk recipes cover everything from coffee to dessert. Here are a few favorites.

Coffee Chia Pudding

Perk up plain chia pudding with freshly brewed coffee, rich macadamia milk, and creamy coconut milk.

Iced Coconut Mocha Macchiato

This refreshing, energizing sipper pours espresso, coconut milk creamer, coconut milk, coconut sugar, and chocolate syrup over ice.

Dairy-Free Creamed Spinach

You might be surprised to learn this comforting creamed spinach is totally dairy-free thanks to coconut milk, dijon mustard, and nutritional yeast.

Conclusion: Coconut Cream vs. Coconut Milk Nutrition Facts

When it comes to adding a rich and creamy touch to your culinary creations, coconut cream and coconut milk are two popular choices. Let’s delve into the nutritional facts of these coconut-based products to help you make an informed decision for your next culinary adventure.

Coconut cream packs a punch with 120 calories per ¼ cup [6], while coconut milk offers a slightly lighter option at 100 calories for the same quantity [7]. If you’re aiming to manage your calorie intake, coconut milk might be the preferred choice.

Moving on to fat content, coconut cream takes the lead with 13g of fat compared to coconut milk’s 10g per ¼ cup serving. Both are sources of healthy fats, making them great additions to various dishes. If you’re looking for a richer flavor and texture, coconut cream might be your go-to.

For those mindful of their carbohydrate intake, coconut milk and coconut cream both offer about 2g of carbs per ½ cup serving.

In the sugars department, both options provide a low-sugar alternative, with coconut cream being entirely sugar-free and coconut milk containing 1g.

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Jillian Gordon

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