coconut milk vs coconut cream

6 Best Substitutes for Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream That You Will Love

Coconut milk and coconut cream are lifesavers when you need to make a vegan or vegetarian meal, or maybe if someone in your dinner party has strong lactose intolerance. These two are different, but they can solve a lot of problems when you are in a pinch.

However, there are instances when your recipe calls for coconut milk or cream that you don’t have or you can’t find anywhere. If this is the case, then you can find some alternatives to solve your problem without even looking too far. 

Coconut Milk Vs. Coconut Cream

But let’s talk coconut first. What is the difference between coconut milk and coconut cream?

Coconut milk is the liquid left behind after the flesh from the coconut has been made into a cream and then pressed. This delicious liquid is common in Thai foods, including curry, beverages, sauces, and soups. You can find coconut milk unsweetened or sweetened in cans in your local grocery store aisles. 

Coconut cream, on the other hand, is a creamy, thick liquid made from fresh coconuts. Coconut cream is a lot thicker than coconut milk. This is due to the added guar gum, which is a thickening and stabilizing agent that is extracted from guar beans.

This cream is very sweet and is commonly used in drinks, such as piña coladas or coconut lemonade. You can find coconut cream in your local grocery or liquor store and it also comes in powder form.

The Best Alternatives to Coconut Milk

#1. Rice Milk or Almond Milk

These vegan choices are great replacements when you can’t find coconut milk. Rice milk is made from brown rice that has been pressed and filtrated through the water.

It comes sweetened, usually by sugar or brown rice syrup. It has a very subtle taste so it’s not overpowering, but it may require that you add some dry coconut to mimic the flavor better. 

Almond milk is made from soaked almonds that are blended and strained. You can make your own, as it is a cheap process. Consider that commercial almond milk can contain very little almond and a lot of water.

Homemade almond milk can have as many ingredients as you want, including spices, and you guessed it, coconut flakes.

Related: How Long Does Almond Milk Last?

#2. Creamy Evaporated Milk

While this option has dairy in it, evaporated milk is very creamy and when mixed with water it has a similar consistency to coconut milk. It is a bit sweet but can be used sparingly, as a bit may be good enough for your whole recipe.

This type of milk is common in smoothies, desserts, and even savory recipes that require some cream. You can almost always find it in your baking aisle in the local supermarket.

See more: Substitutes for Evaporated Milk

#3. Natural Yogurt

This option also has dairy but it does contain less and it is fermented, which usually aids in its digestion. Make sure you pick natural yogurt, otherwise, the added flavor could taste weird when cooked in the heat. Natural yogurt is creamy and rich but can be a bit thicker than the other options, so you may want to add more water to dilute it a bit.

Since it is a common breakfast item, you can find it anywhere in the dairy aisle. You can find it unsweetened or sweetened, but the choice depends on what you want to use it for. 

Alternatives to Coconut Cream

#1. Light Cream + Coconut Extract

You can try using light cream, which has dairy in it, and some coconut extract for the same flavor. Combine 1 cup of light cream with ¼ teaspoon of coconut extract. Once blended, the flavor will be very similar to coconut cream and so will the creamy texture. 

You can find light cream in almost every grocery store, but for the coconut extract, you may need to look for, though it may be available in the baking section as well. You can try adding coconut flakes instead during the cooking process, but these may not be as sweet either. 

#2. Heavy Cream

This option also has dairy and very creamy due to its full-fat content, but it won’t have the added coconut flavor. Heavy cream is naturally sweet due to lactose, but it isn’t as sweet as the coconut cream, so you may want to add more sugar, or you can consider adding Agave syrup or honey instead. 

Heavy cream is common in many recipes, from thick sauces such as pasta vodka and Stroganoff, or in desserts. You can use light cream, but if you don’t have the coconut extract, we recommend the heavy kind for consistency.

See more: Heavy Cream Alternatives

#3. Greek Yogurt + Coconut or Honey

Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier than regular yogurt, so it is a good alternative when you can’t find any coconut cream. Keep in mind that there is unsweetened and sweetened Greek yogurt. We recommend the unsweetened kind so you can add the type of sweet you want. You can add coconut extract or coconut flakes, but if you don’t have any, honey works too. 

This is very easy to find as a substitute and you can buy it anywhere these days. Make sure it isn’t the regular vanilla one, as it can be too sweet and change the whole flavor of your recipe. 

Should You Use Coconut Milk or Coconut Cream?

The answer is that they are very different, so depending on what you’re looking for, one will be better than the other.

For savory recipes, go with coconut milk, use it as a thickener, and creamer in all sorts of sauces, and soups. For sweet desserts and drinks, go with coconut cream, which is very thick and sweet and is almost like whipping cream.


Is coconut cream unhealthy?

Coconut cream is very sweet and high in saturated fat, like any other coconut product. However, it doesn’t have to be unhealthy if consumed moderately. Consider using less cream in your products if trying to make a recipe healthier, or you can mix the cream with coconut milk.

Can I use coconut oil instead of coconut cream?

No, coconut oil is very different from coconut cream. Coconut oil is the edible oil extracted from the meat or kernel of the coconut. It is used to fry or sautee foods and it is very high in saturated fat. It’s clear or condensed, but it is not a cream and will not taste the same.

Can I use coconut milk as a substitute for coconut cream?

Although not a fast recommendation, coconut milk can be used when you don’t have coconut cream near you. Try chilling a can of coconut milk overnight. The process separates the fat in the milk and solidifies it. Until then, you can remove the solidified mixture usually on top of the milk, and whisk in circular motions until you reach the cream-like consistency similar to coconut cream.


If you want to make a Thai curry or a sweet drink tonight, then you must be thinking about using coconut milk or coconut cream. But these two aren’t interchangeable, and so if you don’t have either of them, you can find yourself a bit lost. These alternatives will help solve your problem and may also save your wallet!

Up Next: Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream Shelf Life

coconut milk substitutes

*Photo by KucherAndrey/depositphotos.

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