What Is Coconut Milk?

Last Update: July 20, 2023

Rich, tropical, and versatile—any guesses? Coconut milk! Not only is this ingredient a kitchen chameleon (you can use it for everything from Thai curry to dairy-free ice cream), it accommodates a variety of diets, such as paleo, vegan, and ketogenic. It’s a no-brainer addition to your pantry. Today we’re taking a closer look at what coconut milk is made of, the best canned coconut milk, and family-friendly coconut milk recipes.

What Is Coconut Milk?

Coconut milk is just what it sounds like: “milk” made from coconuts. (Though it’s technically it’s not milk since it doesn’t come from cows, it falls into the dairy-free, milk-adjacent category). Coconut milk is a popular ingredient in a variety of global cuisines, like Thai and Caribbean cooking.

How Is Coconut Milk Made?

Simmering raw, grated coconut flesh in water is the basic recipe for making coconut milk. Many homemade recipes call for soaking one part shredded coconut with one part hot water before straining, but the final consistency will depend on how much water you ultimately use.

Health Benefits of Coconut Milk

Curious what this ingredient offers from a nutritional standpoint? Here are the details from a can of our Thrive Market Organic Regular Coconut Milk.

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

Yes, there’s a lot of fat in coconut milk. While this ingredient may not be considered a “health food” by nutritionists, coconut milk has a few attributes that may make it work for your diet. First, coconut milk is low-carb. If you’re following a program like keto, coconut milk could be a smart choice to get your fat intake. Plus, it’s a non-dairy alternative for anyone who doesn’t want to drink cow’s milk (or has an intolerance). For plant-based dietitian Julieanna Hever, it’s all about moderation. “Coconut milk is amazing for cooking, in small doses,” she shares.

How to Use Coconut Milk

There are a handful of ways to incorporate coconut milk into your cooking. Take a look at our quick list below, and keep scrolling for the best coconut milk recipes to try.

What is coconut milk used for in cooking?

Here are just a few of the ways you can incorporate coconut milk into your regular recipe rotation.

  • Curry
  • Coconut milk ice cream
  • Soup
  • Smoothies
  • Non-dairy cheese
  • Lattes
  • Iced beverages
  • Baked goods
  • Vegan pasta sauce
  • Coconut milk whipped cream
  • Breakfast porridge

The Best Coconut Milk Brands

Stock your pantry with coconut milk and you’ll be set for dinner (or dessert).

Thrive Market Organic Coconut Milk, Regular

Our rich and silky coconut milk is made from only two ingredients: water and organic coconut extract. Thrive Market member Melissa from Tex. shares says it’s her favorite coconut milk to cook with!

Native Forest Organic Simple Coconut Milk

For Native Forest, “simple” means their coconut milk recipe doesn’t contain guar, an additive used to thicken foods. Made from organic coconut and purified water, this liquid is perfect for adding to curries, baked goods, and more.

Modest Mylk Unsweetened Coco-Nut Mylk Base

For making your own coconut milk at home, it doesn’t get any easier than Modest Mylk. Just add water to this nut milk base to transform it into a dairy-free beverage in just 60 seconds.

Pacific Foods Original Unsweetened Coconut Non-Dairy Beverage

This unsweetened coconut milk beverage is a dairy-free addition to your at-home lineup. It’s made with raw organic coconuts and doesn’t contain any fillers, sugars, or additives.

Healthy Coconut Milk Recipes

Get excited—coconut milk works easily in a variety of recipes.

Coconut Milk Coffee With Cashew Butter

Start your day with one of our favorite dairy-free lattes. Just blend up a scoop of cashew butter with your favorite brewed coffee, coconut milk, and cacao powder.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

You’ll love this batch of paleo-friendly and gluten-free muffins, studded with chocolate chips and infused with shredded zucchini. They freeze well, so save a few for busy mornings!

Vegan Chocolate Cake Recipe With Coconut Milk

This stunning cake is the perfect recipe for chocoholics. Every bite is decadent, moist … and vegan! The recipe uses gluten-free flour and makes a creamy frosting from coconut milk and cocoa powder.

Turkey and Pesto Stew with Mushrooms

Make this one-pot dish anytime you need a little extra comfort. Every bite has bits of filling turkey, sweet potatoes, and nourishing greens like kale and spinach. A splash of coconut milk makes the recipe extra creamy, sans cream.

Coconut Milk Rice Recipe

Here’s an easy vegan dessert you can make in the Instant Pot. Rice pudding is vegan, gluten-free, and keto, and uses pantry-staple ingredients like maple syrup, raisins, cinnamon, and arborio rice.

Dairy-Free Creamed Spinach

Need a healthy side dish? Try dairy-free creamed spinach! This quick recipe features rich coconut milk, Dijon mustard, and nutritional yeast for plenty of flavor.

Coconut Milk Dessert Recipe

Popsicles are always a hit, and we love this recipe featuring cherries, honey, and thick coconut cream.

Paleo Coconut Milk Latte

The coconut milk latte ingredients for this tasty beverage are refreshingly simple: coconut milk, honey, and matcha tea.

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Nicole Gulotta

Nicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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