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Coconut Milk, Cream, Water… What???

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Coconut milk is confusing.

You will find that once you start cooking from various Paleo websites, everyone calls for different types of coconut milk. It may be confusing at first, but once you start trying different recipes and start experimenting a bit, I promise it will all make sense! This will be a quick and easy breakdown of different ways to use different types of coconut milk.

There are two main ways that you can purchase coconut milk: in a carton or in a can. Both have their perks and are used differently in certain recipes. If you are used to cooking with dairy milk, they could be compared to skim milk and heavy whipping cream or even whipped cream.

22Carton of Coconut Milk
The cartons of coconut milk that you can purchase is a replacement for your skim dairy milk. There are many different flavors that you can purchase, which is really where you need to read the labels. I typically stick with the unsweetened coconut milk (along with almond milk), as there are less added sugars and chemicals and interesting ingredients. For any recipes that would call for a typical dairy milk, you can use a carton of coconut or almond milk as a 1 to 1 replacement. The only thing to remember with coconut milk, as with skim dairy milk, it is simply watered down so it has less calories and a lower fat content. What’s the issue with this? We drink coconut milk for it’s healthy fat!

Can of Coconut Milk
Cans of coconut milk can be compared more with your heavy whipping cream, yogurt (consistency), or whipping cream. There are a few different ways that you can use a can of coconut milk, depending on what your recipe calls for. If you have ever opened a coconut milk can without really knowing what to expect, I’m sure you were confused on what you found. When coconut milk sits like this, it separates the cream from the water. You will find that the top half of the can is a thick cream and the bottom half looks like water. Whether your mix the can before opening or not depends on the end use of the milk.

  1. Out of the cupboard, you can shake up the can and open it to use it as is. This is straight, thick coconut milk that would be compared to your heavy whipping cream consistency. We use canned coconut milk like this over gluten free granola or  over fruit. Once it is mixed and open, you can refrigerate it (and you should if you have extra), it will thicken a little more and be more similar to yogurt.
  2. If your recipe calls for a coconut cream, put your can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight in order for the cream on the top to thicken. Once you are ready to use it, open the can and scoop out the cream with a spoon into a different bowl. Be careful not to get the water while you are scooping. This cream is used for an array of different recipes, but is a fantastic replacement for whipping cream. Simply whip the cream with either a hand mixer or immersion blender and top your pancakes with them! You can also make some sour cream replacement with this type of coconut cream as well!
  3. Once you separate the cream from the water, you will have the coconut water left over to use as you please! You will find this isn’t as common in recipes, but is great to add to smoothies or simply drink plain!

01150CFCoconut milk is becoming more and more popular as people are becoming more aware of issues and intolerances with dairy milk. There are plenty of different options when it comes to cartons or cans of coconut milk. Remember to keep an eye out for the ingredients along with the fat content. When it comes to the cans of milk, go for the full fat if you are hoping for any separation between the cream and the water. If you buy a can of low-fat, there are good chances that there will be no separation and it will simply be watered down just like a carton. I do not have a favorite brand of carton milk, but my favorite canned milk is Thai Kitchen. If you buy one and find you don’t like the taste, keep trying different brands. They do all taste different enough that it could just be the brand and not coconut milk in general that you dislike.

Have you seen a recipe call for a different type of coconut milk or cream? Do you have a favorite recipe that calls for coconut cream, milk or water?

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