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A guide to coconut milk: health benefits, buying guide and tasty recipes

A guide to coconut milk: health benefits, buying guide and tasty recipes

A popular non-dairy vegan alternative, coconut milk is high in saturated fat but contains good amounts of vitamins and minerals and is a useful ingredient in anything from baking to soups.

A guide to coconut milk: health benefits, buying guide and tasty recipes

What is it?

Coconut milk is not the liquid that flows from a freshly opened coconut. That’s coconut water. Coconut milk is made by grating fresh coconut flesh and then working that with water.

It is either strained or blended before being canned.

Types of milk

Coconut milk runs the gamut from light and reduced-fat versions through to coconut cream, which is just a richer, fattier version of the milk.

It comes in small 270ml cans through to one-litre cartons and can be bought as a powder. Choose coconut milk with the simplest ingredients and always make sure there are no added sweeteners.

Keep an eye out for brands with lots of stabilisers, thickeners such as guar gum, and emulsifiers. A quality can of coconut milk should have a fair amount of coconut cream at the top and not simply be cloudy water.

Health benefits

Coconut milk is lactose-free and can be used as a substitute for cow’s milk. A number of cafes are now using it as a non-dairy vegan alternative.

It contains good amounts of manganese as well as carbohydrates, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, selenium and vitamin C.

Health dangers

Although coconut milk is nutritious, it’s also high in saturated fat due to the oil in it. Too much coconut milk can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

When compared with soy or almond milks, coconut isn’t as healthy.

Buying guide

Light coconut milk is the best choice nutritionally for people with cardiovascular or weight issues, as it has more water and less fat. However, it has a thinner texture and milder flavour than regular coconut milk.

If you are making a curry that will take a lot of cooking and lose a lot of liquid, it is better to use premium coconut milk or cream so the curry doesn’t lose its coconut flavour when you add more water or stock.

What to make

Coconut milk adds creaminess to soups, such as laksa or Thai-style pumpkin soup, and to a multitude of curries. Use it in breakfast smoothies or pour over muesli and fruit.

Chilled coconut milk will separate into coconut water and thick coconut cream. Scoop off the coconut cream on the surface to use in raw cheescakes and slices. Coconut milk and cream can be used in tea or coffee, or as a cream substitute on desserts. It’s also a crucial ingredient in a piña colada.


Coconut milk keeps in the fridge for about 6-10 days in a sealed container, but check for freshness before using. It can be frozen in an ice-cube tray for up to three months.

It will separate, but you can warm it to combine or blend the frozen cubes into cocktails or smoothies.

Tasty coconut milk recipes

Malaysian Chicken on Coconut Milk Noodles

Thai Pumpkin Soup With Salt And Pepper Tofu

Coconut Chiffon Cake with Butterscotch Banana


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