Can you substitute coconut cream for coconut milk?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you substitute coconut cream for coconut milk?”, and what is the difference between coconut milk and coconut cream?

Can you substitute coconut cream for coconut milk?

Yes, you can substitute coconut cream for coconut milk. The consistency difference can be adjusted by diluting the coconut cream with water. 

Alternatively, you can make your coconut cream at home by refrigerating the coconut milk overnight. The coconut cream, being lighter than the coconut water, floats to the top and can easily be skimmed off.

The Philippines is hailed as the second biggest producer of coconut in the world. In the country, the industry provides livelihood for one-third of the population. In 2015, the country had 338 million coconut-bearing trees producing an annual average of 15.3 billion nuts. The major importers of coconut from the Philippines are the United States of America, the Netherlands, Japan, Germany, and China. However, the share of coconut in agriculture production is 7% (1).

What is the difference between coconut cream and coconut milk?

Aqueous coconut products are classified into 4 categories: light coconut milk, coconut milk, coconut cream and coconut cream concentrate depending on total solids and total fat content. Coconut milk contains 13–25% of total solids and 10–19% of fat, while coconut cream contains 26-37% of total solids and 20-28% of fat (3).

Coconut milk is prepared by blending coconut flesh with water, or by pressing the coconut meat. It is an oil-in-water emulsion, in which continuous phase is water and oil is dispersed phase (2). It is available in both, canned and carton forms. The one in the can is more creamy and is best used in smoothies, soups, and stews. 

Whereas the one in the carton is more diluted and is best used as a beverage. Coconut milk makes for a great dairy-free coffee creamer. It imparts creaminess and richness to most Asia, Caribbean, and Indian curry-based recipes.

Coconut cream, on the other hand, is very thick due to minimal dilution. Due to its creamy texture, coconut cream is often used to make dairy-free whipped cream. Coconut cream and coconut milk have similar compositions and are obtained from coconut meat, but differ in their water content (4). 

Use it to top off your pies, milkshakes, warm drinks, or use it as a cake frosting. Coconut cream can also be added to curries for added richness and creaminess.

Cream of coconut is not to be confused with coconut cream. Cream of coconut is high in added sugars and additives. 

How to make coconut cream at home?


  • 1 15-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk or coconut cream


  1. Set the can in the fridge overnight. Make sure it does not tip. The next day,  use a spoon to remove the coconut cream from the top of the coconut milk. This recipe would yield about half a cup of coconut cream.
  2. Mix 2 tbsp of coconut cream with ¾ cup of water to dilute it. This will yield about 1 cup of coconut milk.

Coconut milk-canned 

Canned coconut milk is readily available in grocery stores or even health stores. When hunting for canned coconut milk in the store, you need to look for the one that claims to have a BPA-free lining. 

BPA, or bisphenol, is a chemical that is used in the lining of cans and it tends to leech into your food over time. Frequent exposure to BPA has been linked with an increased risk of prostate and breast cancer, PCOS, and infertility. Bisphenols are of great concern due to the similar structure to the natural estrogen, so they can interfere with the normal function of the endocrine system. The main causes of exposure to BPs are diabetes, obesity, developmental problems, and infertility, among others (5).

The next thing you need to pay attention to is the ingredients on the label. Opt for canned coconut milk that does not contain additives like emulsifiers, stabilizers, and preservatives, etc. To make more stable products, emulsifiers, such as sodium caseinate and whey protein, are usually added during manufacturing and frequently the stabilized coconut milks are subsequently preserved by chilling, freezing, pasteurization, or sterilization (6). Preservatives commonly used are benzoates and sulphites (7).

If you are weight conscious and want to cut down on calories, you can use the ‘’Lite Coconut Milk’ canned varieties. These varieties are too thin to be used for thickening curries, or soups.

Coconut milk-carton 

Boxed or carton coconut milk is a good option if you could not find BPA-free canned coconut milk. However, most of the carton or boxed coconut milk brands add preservatives, processed sugars, synthetic vitamins, etc, in the coconut milk. Therefore, you need to read the label first. In a study, commercial coconut milk samples were identified as ultra processed and containing additives, such as thickeners and added sugars (8). 

Due to a thin consistency, carton coconut milk won’t hold up well in curry-based or soup recipes. Therefore, you can only use it for making smoothies, milkshakes, tea, or coffee.

How to make chocolate coconut milk ice cream at home?


  • 32 Ounces Coconut Cream
  • ½ cup Cocoa Powder
  • ½ cup Maple Syrup or 1/4 Cup Erythritol
  • 2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Sugar-Free Chocolate Chips (Optional)


  1. Add all the ingredients to a mixing bowl. Whisk or stir with a hand mixer until homogeneous. Then pour the blended mixture into the ice cream maker. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to proceed further.
  2. Do not worry if you do not have an ice cream maker. You can easily make ice cream using just a spatula or a handheld mixer. For this, you need to freeze the blended mixture in a deep stainless steel dish for about 4 5minutes. 

When the edges of the mixture start to freeze, take it out of the freezer and beat the mixture vigorously using a handheld mixer or a spatula. Then freeze the mixture for 30 minutes and beat it again. 

Repeat this process until the desired consistency is achieved. This should take about 2 hours or more, depending upon the amount of the ice cream.

Other FAQs about Coconut that you may be interested in.

How to keep coconut oil soft?

Where does coconut water come from?

Why does coconut water turn pink?


In this article, we answered the question “Can you substitute coconut cream for coconut milk?”, and what is the difference between coconut milk and coconut cream?


  1. Moreno, Marife L., John KM Kuwornu, and Sylvia Szabo. Overview and constraints of the coconut supply chain in the Philippines. Int J Fruit Sci, 2020, 20, S524-S541.
  2. Patil, Umesh, and Soottawat Benjakul. Coconut milk and coconut oil: their manufacture associated with protein functionality. J food sci, 2018, 83, 2019-2027.
  3. Lakshanasomya, Niphaporn, Arunee Danudol, and Tipawan Ningnoi. Method performance study for total solids and total fat in coconut milk and products. J Food Comp Anal, 2011, 24, 650-655.  
  4. CODEX STAN 240, 2003. Codex Standard for Aqueous Coconut Products-Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream. FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme.
  5. González, Neus, et al. Biomonitoring of co-exposure to bisphenols by consumers of canned foodstuffs. Environ Int, 2020, 140, 105760.
  6. Tangsuphoom, Nattapol, and John N. Coupland. Effect of thermal treatments on the properties of coconut milk emulsions prepared with surface-active stabilizers. Food Hydrocoll, 2009, 23, 1792-1800.
  7. Re-categorising coconut milk for food additive permissions. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. 2018.
  8. Drewnowski, Adam. Perspective: identifying ultra-processed plant-based milk alternatives in the USDA branded food products database. Adv Nutr, 2021, 12, 2068-2075.