Should you use coconut cream, coconut oil, or coconut milk? With so many different coconut products to choose from, which one is right for your dish or recipe isn’t always straightforward. However, the key differences between coconut cream and coconut oil come down to how they are made and their slight nutritional content variations.
So, let’s take a closer look. What is the difference between coconut cream vs coconut oil? When should you use one or the other?
Comparing Coconut Cream vs Coconut Oil
Coconut is a wonderful, healthy, and tasty addition to many recipes. However, coconut cream and coconut oil aren’t one and the same. Coconut oil is made by pressing the coconut meat with pressure, friction, and/or heat, producing an oil.
Coconut cream, on the other hand, is made using coconut meat and water. It all starts with shredded coconut, which is heated and simmered in water to extract the cream. The water and cream then separate, giving way to so-called “coconut cream.” It’s important to note that coconut cream and coconut milk are actually made in similar ways. Coconut milk is the more watered-down version of coconut cream. (Here’s an in-depth explainer on coconut milk vs coconut cream if you want to learn more.)
Coconut Cream vs Coconut Oil Nutrition
Coconut cream vs coconut oil vary quite a bit in their nutritional contents. Coconut cream contains almost half the calories, less fat, and more carbohydrates than coconut oil. Both contain saturated fat, with coconut oil containing more than coconut cream. Coconut cream may also contain traces of potassium, which can be beneficial for the body in various ways.
|Per one tablespoon serving||Coconut Cream||Coconut Oil|
|Calories||68 calories||120 calories|
|Total Fat||3 grams||13 grams|
|Carbohydrates||10 grams||0 grams|
|Protein||<1 grams||0 grams|
|Allergens?||Coconut and tree nut allergies||Coconut and tree nut allergies|
The Key Differences Between Coconut Cream vs Coconut Oil
The key differences between coconut cream and coconut oil, as I mentioned above, include how they are made and their nutritional components. Additionally, coconut oil is frequently used as part of beauty regimes, whereas coconut cream isn’t. While one isn’t necessarily “better” than the other, which one you use may come down to your preferences and the recipe you’re making. So, let’s take a closer look at these key differences.
Ingredients in Coconut Cream vs Coconut Oil
Coconut cream uses water and coconut meat combined with heat to create the end product. Coconut oil, in contrast, doesn’t use water. Instead, pressure or heat is used to extract the oil from the coconut flesh. However, both use the coconut “flesh” or “meat” as their initial starting point, and if you’re making or buying coconut oil or coconut cream, you 100% want a single-ingredient recipe without additives.
Comparing How Coconut Cream and Coconut Oil Taste
Coconut cream and coconut oil won’t quite emulate the strong taste of coconut. Yet, coconut cream does add a creamy texture and nutty flavor when added to recipes or even as a topping. (I personally love it to thicken up a curry or a soup.) I’ve found that coconut oil tends to have less of a coconut-y flavor. However, it still adds a certain nuttiness to things, particularly unrefined coconut oil. (Refined coconut oil, by contrast, usually has a more neutral or bland taste. Which is fine!)
Cooking With Coconut Cream vs Coconut Oil
Coconut cream makes a great addition to sauces, baked goods, curries, and custards. It can thicken these types of recipes and add a slightly nutty flavor. Coconut oil, in contrast, is best used for sauteeing or frying. However, it can also be used in some baked goods (usually as a substitute for butter – particularly great if you’re doing vegan baking).
Finding the best coconut cream and coconut oil
Finding the best coconut cream and coconut oil doesn’t have to be super difficult. First off, in my experience, the best coconut cream and coconut oil are made at home, because you can fully control how they’re made, what ingredients are used, and how they’re stored.
Of course, literally everyone has to buy at least sometimes (and I have to buy almost all the time), so the key is to find single-source products with a single ingredient (coconut) and no additives. Also it’s always best to buy organic! I can tell the quality and taste difference.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cream of coconut differs from both coconut oil and coconut cream. For any creams, you can’t fry or sautee with them. Instead, it’s best used as an addition to sauces or desserts. It’s further important to note that cream of coconut is also different from coconut cream. Cream of coconut is much sweeter and has a more syrupy consistency than coconut cream, as well as undergoes different processing to make the final product.
This depends on what “better” means. Coconut oil has a higher caloric content than coconut cream, which may make it less suitable for some diets. However, which is “better” truly depends on your specific diet, recipe needs, or health needs.
Generally, these two aren’t interchangeable due to their differing textures, consistencies, and flavors. You won’t be able to sautee or fry with coconut cream.
Please do NOT use coconut milk instead of coconut oil. They serve totally different functions! Like coconut cream, coconut milk is often used to thicken sauces and add texture or flavor, while oil is used to cook food by sauteeing or frying. Coconut milk and coconut cream don’t work in the same way as coconut oil.
Coconut cream is frequently used for adding thickness, texture, or flavor to sauces, desserts, and more. It’s often used in vegan or dairy-free recipes as an alternative to regular cream.