Early on, when I used to cook for any of my vegan friends, I would spend hours vacillating over which milk to use. There was a variety of delicious plant and nut-based milk, but I couldn’t seem to settle for one. However, later I developed a love for coconut milk. But, and not infrequently, it would be sold out at the grocery store, or one of my friends would complain about its taste. Therefore, I made a habit of keeping a coconut milk substitute at hand.
Coconut milk is perhaps the most widely loved plant-based milk after soy milk. It is tasty, easy to find, and very versatile. Moreover, coconut milk has a lot of health benefits too. Thus, I, too, have developed a taste for its delicacies. However, the focus of today’s blog will be on coconut milk alternatives in cooking (and baking, of course).
But before we begin, let’s do a little overview of coconut milk, its benefits, uses, and recipes.
Overview on Coconut Milk
So we will begin with the most important question; what is coconut milk? We all know we can’t milk coconuts. They are not like the world’s favorite Australian cows. Then how do we obtain this rich, creamy, and shocking white liquid? The truth is that coconut is simply a strained puree made from shredded coconuts and water.
Coconut milk is an excellent way to lend a rich and exotic taste, creaminess, and body to various dishes like soups, greens, and curries. It is an ingredient to use in different smoothies and shakes too.
Coconut milk typically comes in canned form. If you open this tin, you’ll find a thick almost-solid cream on top of it. This coconut cream is the richest and tastiest part of the equation. It contains more fat and protein than the opaque and murky solution below, aka the milk.
Uses of coconut milk:
There are numerous uses of coconut milk. Some of them are:
- It is used in facial masks and beauty products.
- It is used in hair masks.
- It is used to make ice creams.
- It is used in smoothies and cocktails.
- It is used in soups and curries.
Benefits of coconut milk:
Coconut milk has a boatload of benefits that make it so popular among fitness freaks. Some of its most popular and widely researched health benefits are:
- It is lactose-free: coconut milk does not contain any lactose, unlike animal-based milk. Therefore, coconut milk is a great option for lactose-intolerant people.
- It has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antimicrobial properties: coconut milk is rich in anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antimicrobial acid is lauric acid. This acid is converted into an extremely beneficial compound called monolaurin. This compound prevents a lot of diseases and infections.
- It helps reduce stomach ulcers: studies show that coconut milk reduces the size of ulcers in the stomach. This is because it boosts the production of mucous in the stomach. Moreover, it also helps in reducing inflammation due to ulcers.
- It aids in weight loss: unlike other kinds of milk, it contains medium-chain triglycerides. These MCTs are linked with weight loss. They are also great for reducing waist size. In addition, it also helps in balancing out unstable gut bacteria. Unstable gut bacteria are also linked with weight gain.
Coconut milk recipes:
Coconut milk is a great ingredient to have in the recipe. You can prepare a lot of tasty dishes with it. Some of my favorites are:
- Aubergine curry with lemongrass and coconut milk
- Nasi lemak
- Aromatic chicken, coriander, and coconut curry
- Virgin pina Coladas
Coconut Milk vs Cow’s Milk:
|Nutrition in Coconut Milk per cup||Nutrition in Cow’s Milk per cup|
|45 calories||102 calories|
|4.5 g||2 g|
|0 mg cholesterol||12 mg cholesterol|
|25 mg sodium||107 mg sodium|
|0 mg potassium||277 mg potassium|
|0 mg oxalate||1 mg oxalate|
|130 mg calcium||305 mg calcium|
Are there any non-dairy substitutes for coconut milk?
There are a lot of substitutes for coconut milk available on the internet. However, only a few are truly suitable. Below I’ve listed the most versatile and foolproof substitutes you can use for cooking and baking.
1. Soy Milk
As mentioned earlier, soy milk is the most popular vegan-friendly milk in the market these days. It is tasty, healthy, and relatively easy to find too. Moreover, it is extremely versatile. Therefore, you can use it in a large variety of dishes without worrying about messing up the taste.
Soy milk is rich in iron and proteins. Soybeans are used as a protein source by vegans and vegetarians worldwide. Soybeans are almost always fortified with a handful of nutritions it lacks naturally, i.e., riboflavin and calcium. Soy milk requires only soybeans and water for its production.
Soy milk is created in an aseptic environment. This means that the milk is produced without any contact with fresh air. This is due to soybeans being low acidic. A low acidic environment serves as an excellent bacterial breeding ground.
Thus to preserve the quality of the milk, no fresh air is allowed to contact the mixture after a certain point. Next, the beans (clear hylem type) are steamed and split in half. The hull is vacuumed, and only the beans travel to the next stage. Next, the soybeans are roughly ground and then ground with water again to a much finer texture.
A centrifuge removes the insoluble particles, and the milk enters its aseptic stage. Later, the milk is passed to a homogenizer. The homogenizer breaks down fat so that it does not separate from the milk. Finally, the milk is cooled, sealed, and shipped to the targeted location.
Soy milk has a slightly lower fat content than coconut milk. However, you can easily swap it part for part in a recipe. Make sure to buy unsweetened soy milk, as the sweetened one can change the taste.
In addition, if you like your dish to have a coconut-like taste, please consider adding coconut flavoring to your recipe. Soy milk is an excellent coconut milk substitute for baking.
2. Almond Milk
Another vegan-friendly milk that has taken the world by storm that you can also use as a coconut milk substitute in soup is almond milk. This milk has a long list of awesome health benefits and uses.
Almond milk is easier to make than soy milk as it is not quite as sensitive. Commercial almond milk is made by grinding almonds with water. Usually, the almonds are peeled beforehand. However, some manufacturers skip this step too.
The almond and water mixture is passed through a 200 mesh sieve and added to a storage tank, where it is then sanitized. After sanitization, the milk is cooled and packaged. However, you can create almond milk at home.
This process is pretty easy. All you have to do is soak the almonds for approximately 12 hours before grinding. This will activate the enzymes on its surface and make the peeling easier. Next, you have to grind the almonds and add drinking water.
I use one part of water for every ten parts of almonds. After you have ground the solution, take your finest sieve (really, just your everyday tea and coffee strainer) and strain the liquid. If you don’t want to waste almond pulp, you can omit this step. However, only skip if you are cooking textured foods, as it is a big NO for baking.
When used as a substitute, almond milk fails to provide the same creaminess as coconut milk. This is because it is way lower in fat content than coconut milk. However, this problem can be easily fixed with a little coconut water.
I use almond milk as a substitute for coconut milk in 1:1. In addition, if my recipe allows it, I also add a little lemon juice (15 ml) for every cup (240 ml) of coconut milk replaced.
3. Cashew Milk
Cashew milk is creamy milk made from cashew nuts. I find it a suitable coconut milk substitute for curry. This substitute is also dairy-free and a great choice for people who adhere to a plant-based diet. Cashew milk is made in the same way as almond milk.
However, unlike almonds, cashews are first shelled and toasted. Therefore, this milk has an earthy flavor to almond milk. Cashews are ground and soaked in filtered water. Then the cashews are blended with water. Our final product obtains the milk by filtering the water and cashew pulp solution.
Moreover, cashew milk is extremely sustainable, as it is entirely plant-based and uses minimal land to grow. However, numerous activists have highlighted the cruel treatment of cashew pickers.
Cashew milk is very creamy, more so than the two options mentioned above. Cashew milk is naturally low in proteins and calories. However, it is rich in fat, hence why it is compared to cow’s milk.
I use this milk in the same amount as the required coconut milk in all recipes.
Are there any dairy substitutes for coconut milk?
If you don’t mind using dairy products to substitute for coconut milk in your recipes, you will benefit from the two substitutes listed below. They are:
4. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a rich and creamy substitute for coconut milk. It is not the first choice of many, but it is surely a pretty awesome one. Greek yogurt is very tasty and versatile. Moreover, you can get creative with this option.
However, remember that greek yogurt has a tangy taste, unlike coconut milk. Therefore, use it in a modest amount. Greek yogurt is just strained traditional yogurt. The removal of liquid whey lends it a thicker, creamier, and less moist texture.
Like all yogurts, Greek yogurt is extremely healthy. Greek yogurt is packed with calcium, protein, potassium, zinc, and vitamin B (riboflavin).
I don’t have a fixed ratio for this substitute. However, I prefer thinning the yogurt with water when using it as a substitute. You may use one tablespoon of water for every cup of yogurt. Add a little yogurt to your recipe until you reach the desired consistency. You can also replace coconut milk with yogurt (the regular kind) or a coconut-flavored Greek yogurt.
5. Heavy Cream
Last but not least, you can use coconut milk to substitute for heavy cream and vice versa. Heavy cream is typically used in Indian cuisines as a thickener. Therefore, it is a nice alternative to have at hand.
Heavy cream is rich in fat; therefore, it is perfect for recipes that lean on the creamy side; for instance, it is an excellent coconut milk alternative for Thai curry. I prefer adding one part of water for every two parts of heavy cream to give this substitute the perfect milk-like consistency.
Moreover, this hack also dilutes its taste a bit, so you get a window to add any coconut flavoring that you prefer, such as coconut milk powder or essence.