While canned coconut milk is becoming more available, here are my favourite simple coconut milk substitutes for when I run out.
What is Coconut Milk?
It’s a creamy white liquid made from pureeing fresh coconut flesh with water. It’s about 17% fat.
Coconut cream is essentially the same as coconut milk, it’s just had less water added so the fat content is higher around 24%.
The Best Coconut Milk Substitutes
1. Coconut Cream
I often dilute coconut cream with water to make my own coconut milk.
For one 400g can coconut cream add 1/2 can (200mL) water to make coconut milk.
It’s more cost effective given the price of a can of coconut cream is generally the same as coconut milk.
2. Whipping Cream
If you’re OK with dairy, regular whipping cream is an easy coconut milk substitute. Cream will be higher fat so you may like to dilute the cream with water. For 1 cup cream add 1/2 cup water.
You won’t get the extra coconutty flavours but in most dishes you won’t notice.
3. Nut Butter or Tahini
If you have almond butter or tahini you can dilute it to make a creamy alternative to coconut milk.
To make 1 can (400g) coconut milk substitute measure out 100g (3.5oz) nut butter and 300g (3 1/4 US cups) water. Add a little water to loosen the mixture first. Stir with a whisk, stick blender or food processor. Then add the remaining water.
4. Greek Yoghurt
Greek yoghurt is an excellent coconut milk substitute UNLESS you need to boil the mixture.
Boiling will cause the yoghurt to split into a curdled mess.
You can stabilise the yoghurt by stiring cold yoghurt with corn flour or starch. But I prefer to wait until the end of the cooking to add the yoghurt then just warm it to a gentle simmer so you don’t get curdling.
Even though yoghurt is slightly lower in fat, I’d just use a 1:1 substitution.
5. Canned tomatoes or passata
When coconut milk is providing liquid like a curry or soup, you can take the flavours in a different direction by using a tomato based ingredient.
If you still want some creaminess, a mixture of cream and tomato can be delicious.
For example I’d use 1 cup passata and 2/3 cup cream to make up a can of coconut milk.
6. Home Made Coconut Milk
If you can find desiccated coconut, you can make your own coconut milk. Which avoids the worry about BPA cans.
How to Make Coconut Milk
While I have made my own coconut milk (recipe below), the results weren’t as creamy as I’d like which I put down to using a food processor and not having a high powered blender.
And you end up with a heap of pulp which seems wasteful (although my chooks loved it!). There are some excellent ideas on how to use it on The Healthy Chef over here.
makes 2.5 cups
takes 30 minutes
200g (7oz) desiccated shredded coconut
3 cups boiling water
1. Place coconut and boiling water in a glass jug or bowl. Stand for 10 minutes
2. Puree the mixture in a high powered blender (or food processor) for about 10 minutes.
3. Drain the mixture through a fine sieve collecting the milk and discarding the solids (or saving for another use!)
More Ingredient Substitutes
- Thai Red Curry Paste
- Collard Greens
- Miso Paste
- Oyster Sauce
- Miso Paste
- Fish Sauce
Also see see the Simple Ingredients Substitutes Index.
Have fun in the kitchen!