There are several varieties of coconut milk and almond milk to choose from at the grocery store; you can choose from shelf-stable cartons or refrigerated cartons of both.
It’s important to note that coconut milk used as a drinkable dairy milk alternative is different from coconut milk used in cooking (especially in recipes like curry), which is canned and much higher in fat than liquid coconut milk.
When choosing plain, unsweetened coconut milk and almond milk (either shelf stable or refrigerated), here is how the two compare…
Nutrition: Coconut milk vs. almond milk
|Per one cup serving||Coconut milk||Almond milk|
|Total Fat||4 g||2.5 g|
|Saturated Fat||3.5 g||0.1 g|
|Carbohydrates||2 g||3.4 g|
|Protein||0 g||1 g|
|Keto friendly?||Yes, when unsweetened||Yes, when unsweetened|
|Allergens?||Tree nuts (though technically a fruit)||Tree nuts|
Coconut milk and almond milk often have thickeners added to make them more creamy and less watery in texture, such as guar gum, xanthan gum, and carrageenan. These thickeners are gluten-free.
Because dairy-free milk alternatives are popular among vegans, they are often fortified with key nutrients that can be deficient in a vegan diet, such as calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.
For what it’s worth, here at The Coconut Mama, we have a strong preference for organic and all-natural coconut milk and almond milk without all the extra stuff added. If you’re concerned about ensuring your coconut milk is as pure as possible, consider making your own coconut milk at home or buying one of these trusted coconut milk brands.
Key differences between coconut milk vs. almond milk
Coconut milk is slightly higher in fat than almond milk, with a typical total fat content of 4-5 grams per eight ounces compared to 2-3 grams in the same portion of almond milk.
If you choose canned coconut milk it will be much higher in fat, which will separate from the liquid in the can. This type of coconut milk isn’t usually meant for drinking but is best used in cooking.
The type of coconut milk we’re referencing in this article is ready-to-drink coconut milk, either shelf stable or refrigerated.
Type of fat
Almonds are rich in unsaturated fat, which is why almond milk is lower in saturated fat than coconut milk. Coconuts consist primarily of saturated fat, making coconut milk higher in saturated fat than almond milk.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists coconuts as tree nuts, though many people with tree nut allergies can safely eat coconut. Therefore, coconut milk is more allergen-friendly than almond milk for those with tree nut allergies.
Both almond milk and coconut milk are dairy- and lactose-free, making them suitable for those with a cow’s milk allergy or lactose intolerance.
Ingredients in coconut milk vs. almond milk
Almond milk and coconut milk are made by blending almonds and coconut cream with water, straining the solids from the liquid. The original products are quite thin and watery, which is why thickeners are often added to give the milk a smoother, creamier mouthfeel.
The ingredients of coconut milk and almond milk will vary among brands, but in general, will consist of:
Almond milk: filtered water, almonds, added vitamins and minerals, thickeners, salt, preservatives (such as vitamin E, potassium citrate)
Coconut milk: filtered water, coconut cream, added vitamins and minerals, thickeners, salt, preservatives (such as ascorbic acid/vitamin C)
Coconut milk vs. almond milk taste
Coconut milk usually tastes mildly like coconuts, while almond milk doesn’t tend to have as distinct of a flavor. Everyone has different taste preferences, so you’ll likely favor the taste of one over the other.
Neither unsweetened almond nor coconut milk tastes very sweet. If you choose sweetened and flavored versions, they will likely be more palatable, especially if you drink them plain. Sweetened versions can be high in added sugar, though.
Some brands offer unsweetened vanilla versions of almond and coconut milk, which give it a subtle vanilla flavor without added sugar. You can also find blends of coconut milk and almond milk.
Calories in coconut milk vs. almond milk
Because it’s higher in fat than almond milk, coconut milk is slightly higher in calories compared to almond milk, but it’s not significant.
Coconut milk vs. almond milk in coffee
Coconut milk and almond milk can be used in coffee drinks such as lattes or to lighten up black coffee. If you choose a brand of coconut milk or almond milk that doesn’t have many thickeners added, it will be thinner in texture than cow’s milk and might not provide the same creaminess.
If you prefer a thicker version to use in coffee, consider coconut milk creamer.
Cooking with coconut milk vs almond milk
You can use coconut milk and almond milk in cooking and baking, which can help make recipes suitable for those with dietary preferences and food allergies.
In most cases, you can substitute cow’s milk with coconut or almond milk in recipes, though the flavor and texture might be different than if you followed the recipe exactly. To avoid this, choose recipes that originally call for non-dairy milk like coconut milk and almond milk.
Some recipes call for canned coconut milk because it’s much higher in fat than liquid coconut milk. If you’re cooking Thai dishes like curry, you should most likely be using canned coconut milk and not liquid ready-to-drink coconut milk.
Can I substitute almond milk for coconut milk?
Due to similar nutrient composition and texture, almond milk can be substituted in place of coconut milk, barring any allergies. Almond milk will yield a different flavor profile, so it might not be best for dishes that rely on the coconut flavor provided by coconut milk. Almond milk is just one option…we’ve detailed 10 coconut milk substitute options if you want to explore.
When choosing unsweetened almond milk and coconut milk, almond milk is slightly higher in carbohydrates than coconut milk (3.4 grams per cup of almond milk and 2 grams per cup of coconut milk referencing the chart above). Almond milk is still very low in carbohydrates with fewer than five grams per cup, so it’s suitable for low-carb diets, including the keto diet.
Almond milk and coconut milk are both suitable for smoothies; it’s truly a matter of your taste preferences. For example, the kiwi strawberry smoothie in this list of 10 smoothie recipes we put together can use either almond milk or coconut milk.
The main differences between coconut milk and almond milk are the fat content and flavor differences. For instance, if you like the taste of coconut, want to use it in a tropical smoothie, or are making curry, then coconut milk would be a better choice over almond milk.
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