Last Update: December 21, 2023
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 . 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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s a quick rundown of some common questions on this versatile ingredient.
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 .
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.
Yes, traditional coconut cream made from coconuts and water (or 100 coconut milk) is vegan .
Here’s what you need to know about coconut milk.
Yes, traditional coconut milk is made with just coconut and water and is therefore dairy-free .
In most cases, yes. Coconut milk that doesn’t contain dairy or added refined sugar is considered Paleo-friendly.
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.
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:
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:
Fill your fridge with these coconut cream member favorites!
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.
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.
These must-try recipes are the cream of the crop!
Blend up a dairy-free frozen treat with frozen raspberries, coconut cream, vanilla extract, ground cardamom, and maple syrup.
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.
Stock up on these coconut milk must-haves.
In sweet or savory dishes, our coconut milk adds a luscious silky texture and mild sweetness without dairy, added sugars, or preservatives.
This certified organic, vegan milk is pure and simple—try it as a soothing ingredient in a DIY facial cleanser.
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.
Our coconut milk recipes cover everything from coffee to dessert. Here are a few favorites.
Perk up plain chia pudding with freshly brewed coffee, rich macadamia milk, and creamy coconut milk.
This refreshing, energizing sipper pours espresso, coconut milk creamer, coconut milk, coconut sugar, and chocolate syrup over ice.
You might be surprised to learn this comforting creamed spinach is totally dairy-free thanks to coconut milk, dijon mustard, and nutritional yeast.
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