The Difference Between Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream

Foods for creamy recipes
Photo by Tijana Drndarski on Unsplash

So, you’ve got a recipe calling for coconut milk, but all you have in your pantry is coconut cream—do you risk it? Before you decide, let’s talk about what sets these two coconutty concoctions apart. Both are creamy, both are delicious, but they play very different roles in cooking. Let’s take a closer look.

Origins and Production

Both coconut milk and coconut cream are derived from the meat of mature coconuts. To make coconut milk, grated coconut meat is soaked in hot water. The coconut cream rises to the top and is skimmed off. The remaining liquid is then strained through cheesecloth to produce coconut milk.

Coconut cream is four parts shredded coconut to one part water, making it thicker and richer than coconut milk. It involves less water, which means more coconut is used, resulting in a higher fat content and a creamier texture. 

Culinary Uses

Coconut milk is commonly used in soups, curries, sauces, and beverages. Due to its thinner consistency, it blends well into liquids without overpowering other flavors, making it a perfect base for dishes like Thai curries, Indian kormas, or tropical smoothies.

Coconut cream is ideal for desserts and dishes that require a denser consistency like piña coladas, ice creams, and whipped creams.