Coconut Milk: The Ultimate Guide
What is coconut milk?
Well - it’s not exactly milk in the traditional sense of the word. There’s no animal involved, and there’s certainly no coconuts being “milked”, although we’d love to see someone try. Not actually a nut, the coconut is a drupe, or a stone fruit; a type of fruit that has an outer skin, an inner layer of flesh and a woody inside seed.
Coconut milk is made from shredded coconut flesh, the white inner flesh of a mature brown coconut. Not to be confused with coconut water, which occurs naturally from unripe green coconuts, coconut milk is created by combining the shredded white flesh with water, at a ratio of about 1:1. It is a popular food across the world, having traditionally been used heavily in South and East Asian cuisines, Latin America, East Africa, the Caribbean and, of course, Hawaii.
How to make coconut milk
There are a number of variations of ways of how to make coconut milk, but the two components that will always be present are coconut flesh and water. The coconut flesh is blended or grated to shreds, and then the flesh is added to either hot or boiling water. The coconut flesh is then strained to create an opaque, murky and milky looking white liquid, to varying degrees of consistency.
Thick coconut milk, or coconut cream, contains more proteins and nutrients, but also contains much more fat and calories. Healthy, naturally occurring fats, but still fats nonetheless. Coconut cream is primarily used to make desserts and rich sauces. Thin coconut milk is essentially made the same way, but the straining process is repeated several times, until the liquid becomes much less dense. Thin coconut milk has a much lower fat content, and consists of much more water. This is the kind that you’ll find in beverages and thinner, broth-like soups.
So, is coconut milk good for you?
Like unprocessed natural food and drink, coconut milk can certainly be healthy, if it’s being consumed in moderation. The fleshy fibres of a coconut contain a bunch of vitamins and nutrients, including Vitamin C, Thiamin, Riboflavin and Niacin.
Vitamin C is important in helping the health of your bones, your nervous system and your blood, and can help to prevent cancer, among other diseases. Thiamin, from the coconut meat, translates as brain food, the thing that makes you tick, and allows our brains to control our bodies. Not enough of this and your nervous and digestive system could be in real trouble.
Riboflavin is needed to help our cells function, and can be hard to find for those who don’t eat meat, so coconut milk is a great source of this vitamin for our vegetarian and vegan friends. Finally, niacin is known to lower your cholesterol, and has often been prescribed to those who suffer with heart problems, to counteract any issues.
So on this evidence, coconut milk is healthy. While it may have a relatively high calorie count, you can get over a quarter of your recommended daily intake of fibre from just one serving of coconut milk or coconut milk powder. Some research has even suggested that coconut milk can provide benefits from unique proteins, though the exact benefits have yet to be fully examined.
Is coconut milk the same as coconut cream?
Well, not exactly, no. Sure, the ingredients are technically the same, although many commercially made coconut cream or milk will have various additives, but the important difference is the ratio of the shredded coconut and water. As mentioned earlier, coconut milk is made with a ratio of 1:1 coconut flesh and water. Coconut cream, on the other hand, is made with a ration of 4:1 in favor of the coconut. This is why we see a much thicker consistency for the coconut cream, and why it is much higher in calories and saturated fats.
Is coconut milk lactose free?
Yep. You might not believe it, due to the creaminess that can come from coconut milk or coconut cream, but coconut milk is 100% lactose and dairy free. Coconut milk is the perfect alternative for those who are lactose intolerant, allergic, or who simply don’t wish to consume dairy.
Is coconut milk vegan?
You betcha. It is derived entirely from the coconut palm, a member of the palm family of trees, and steers clear of any form of animal cruelty. Because of the creamy texture, coconut milk is often used in the production of vegan ice-creams, vegan frozen yoghurts and as an alternative to dairy creamers.
Is coconut milk keto?
Yes! As the keto diet is low in carbs and high in fat, coconut milk is perfect for those wanting to follow a ketogenic diet. Thanks to the medium chain triglycerides, better known as MCT’s, coconut milk has only 0.3g of carbohydrates per tablespoon (15g), which makes it a perfect staple for any keto enthusiasts, and coconut milk has even been known to aid and assist weight-loss. Perfect to add to your coffee in the mornings, or to use as a base for killer smoothies and shakes.
Unlike other milk substitutes such as oat milk and rice milk, as well as your classic cow’s and goat’s milk, there is no added sugar in the typical production of coconut milk. Furthermore, oats and rice are both high in carbohydrates, and so in turn, are oat and rice milk. Bovine milk obviously contains lactose, or milk sugar, which, again, leads to a high carb count.
Is coconut milk gluten free?
Yes! Coconut milk naturally is completely gluten-free. Also, despite their name and appearance, coconuts actually have nothing to do with the nut family, and are completely safe to be eaten by those with nut allergies as well. The only thing you need to look out for is any of the added ingredients, such as sugars or thickeners, that can often be found in commercially produced coconut milk. Some are gluten-free and nut-free, and some aren’t, so it’s best to stick to organic when looking for the right coconut milk products.
How many calories are in coconut milk?
The amount of calories in coconut milk will vary depending on the producer and provider of your coconut milk. Some coconut milk, such as thick coconut milk from a can, will contain far more calories than that you would normally find in a carton in the refrigerated section of your local deli. But while that carton of coconut milk may contain less calories, you have to be careful to assess what other sugars and additives have been thrown into the mix to affect the taste and texture.
For us, a safe bet is our Essenzefruits Pure Organic Coconut Milk Powder, which can be added to hot drinks, or used as a base for all of your favourite frappes, smoothies and shakes. Our recommended serving is approximately three rounded teaspoons, or about half a fluid ounce, to be mixed with around 3 ounces of water. For a thicker texture, you can use ice instead of water, and either way, you’re looking at a calorie count of around 77 calories. Whilst this may rank at similar levels to regular milk and rice milk, the lack of carbs and the knowledge that it was produced completely organically makes our Coconut Milk Powder a perfectly healthy and balanced alternative to other coconut milk products.
Does coconut milk contain protein?
Whilst not exactly known as a king-hitter when it comes to offering protein in comparison to other lactose milk substitutes, coconut milk still offers up around 5.5g of protein per cup. However, relatively recent research has suggested that coconut milk may in fact contain a whole heap of unknown proteins, when up until recently “only a dozen proteins were known”. Continuous research is currently ongoing to verify this scientific theory.
Is coconut milk sugar free?
Organic coconut milk does not contain any naturally occurring sugars. Sugar is only found in coconut milk if it is later added for flavour. This is one of the reasons why coconut milk can be so good for you, as the high levels of fibre help to control your sugar levels, and can be a really good milk alternative for diabetics.
Is coconut milk sweet?
Whilst it may not be as sweet as other milk substitutes, coconut milk still has a naturally sweet taste to it. You need not bother with cream of coconut or condensed coconut milk, which both have a tonne of sugar added to them, unless the dish or recipe you’re making specifically instructs to add more sugar. Unsweetened coconut milk or coconut milk powder are certainly the healthier option.
Is coconut milk good for digestion?
Coconut milk can be fantastic for your bowels, so long as you use it in moderation. Eating thick coconut milk straight out of the can is obviously gonna give you a few digestion problems, but using thin coconut milk or milk powder is a great alternative for those whose stomachs do not agree with lactose. Whilst sugar lactose can make one bloated and feeling unwell, the absence of this in coconut milk can be much easier for people to digest. It’s a bit of a no-brainer, but coconut milk is also great for hydration, which is a key factor when it comes to healthy bowel movements, and well-being in general.
What does coconut milk taste like?
Coconut milk has a rich taste, that, by itself, frankly, tastes a lot like coconut. However, when mixed with other beverages, such as coffee, or with fruit in smoothies, the flavour does not overpower, but rather complements the accompanying drink. Coconut milk powder is almost exactly the same, but in dehydrated form. All you need to add is water, and the difference is virtually undetectable. Most coconut milk powders will include food additives such as maltodextrin and casein. Maltodextrin is a high GI, highly processed food made up of corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat. that can cause spikes in your blood sugar levels, and should be avoided by diabetics and those with insulin resistance. Casein, on the other hand, is not necessarily bad for you, but it is a dairy protein, not ideal for our vegan friends or those with allergies to dairy.
Where to buy coconut milk
Of all the plant-based milk alternatives, it’s safe to say coconut milk has been around the longest. Originating in India and South-East Asia, the coconut tree was transported across the globe until eventually, it could be found growing on virtually every sub-tropical coast on the planet. Coconut milk became such a prominent staple in some of these countries, that to the locals it was simply known as “milk”.
Nowadays, you don’t have to look far to find coconut milk, cream, cream of coconut or coconut powder. Most mid-range supermarkets, not just across the US, but across the world, will stock at least some form of coconut milk, whether it be canned, in a carton, or in dehydrated form in packaging. Similarly, online you can find a whole range of coconut milk, from all over the world.
The important thing when purchasing your coconut milk, whether it be in store or online, is to check what is in the coconut milk, what has been added to it, and how it has been made. As mentioned previously, coconut milk can be very healthy, but that can all go out the window if you’re not careful of what else is floating around in your can or carton.
It’s not just sugar you need to look out for either - sure that’s the one that’ll be detrimental to weight-loss and keeping a good figure, but there are plenty of other additives and preservatives that are just as unfavourable to a healthy lifestyle.
That’s why we prefer to stick to the Essenzefruits Pure Organic Coconut Milk Powder; with no sugar added and maltodextrin free, it’s 100% natural and pure. Our Cool Dry System technology ensures all the natural goodness you’d find in a fresh coconut is maintained in our dehydrated powdered coconut milk - keeping that authentic flavour and taste. Perfect to serve hot or cold, just add water, blend and enjoy!
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