What’s the Difference? Coconut Milk vs. Cream

(Image credit: Emily Han)

On a recent shopping trip for coconut milk, we came across coconut cream. Unsure whether it was the same thing with a different name or a different product altogether, we did some research…

As opposed to coconut water, which is the clear, natural juice you’ll find if you crack open a coconut, coconut milk and cream are made by boiling the coconut meat with water. As might be expected, the difference between milk and cream is in the concentration and consistency.

Coconut milk: Coconut milk has the liquid consistency of cow’s milk and is made from simmering one part shredded coconut in one part water. Coconut milk is the basis of most Thai curries.

Coconut cream: Coconut cream is much thicker and richer. It is made from simmering four parts shredded coconut in one part water. The cream that rises to the top of a can of coconut milk is also considered coconut cream.

Cream of coconut: Cream of coconut is a sweetened version of coconut cream, and is often used for desserts and mixed drinks. Because of the added sugar, it is usually not interchangeable with coconut cream.

All three products have been popular ingredients on The Kitchn. Here’s a roundup of recipes from our archives:

We’ve always purchased the canned versions of these products, but now we’re curious about making it from scratch. Here’s a recipe which promises to be quite rich since it uses cow’s milk instead of water along with the coconut flesh:

Coconut Milk and Cream, from Alton Brown

(Image: Emily Ho)