First off, let’s just start by saying that coconut milk and cashew milk have a LOT of similarities.
They’re both tasty, vitamin-rich vegan milks commonly used as dairy milk substitutes in a variety of delicious recipes.
(For example, here are 28 great coconut milk recipes you can do right now to add new flavor, taste, and texture to your cooking!)
Both coconut milk and cashew milk are also often drunk instead of regular cow’s milk by people with dairy allergies or who are living the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. Me personally, I love the richness and taste of both!
Of course, it’s important to recognize that coconut milk and cashew milk also do have crucial differences. So let’s explore coconut milk vs cashew milk and when to use each.
Comparing coconut milk vs cashew milk
|Per one cup serving||Coconut milk||Cashew milk|
|Calories||550 calories||156 calories|
|Total Fat||48 grams||11 grams|
|Carbohydrates||6 grams||11 grams|
|Allergens?||Tree nuts (coconut)||Tree nuts (cashews)|
Coconut milk vs cashew milk: Ingredients and preparation
Contrary to a common misperception, coconut milk isn’t the coconut water found in the middle of a coconut (encased by the white coconut meat).
Instead, coconut milk is generally made from regular water mixed with either coconut meat (fresh or dry is fine) or coconut milk powder.
You can buy coconut milk from the store, or use one of these three simple recipes to make coconut milk. If I have time, personally I prefer homemade coconut milk because then I can make sure there aren’t any “extra” ingredients and additives – think carrageenan, various gums, and BPA. Also because you’ll get the freshest taste from the freshest milk, aka the one you just made!
Cashew milk is generally made from water, cashews, and some kind of sweetener (usually honey or maple syrup), sometimes with a splash of vanilla added in for good measure. One of my frustrations with making cashew milk is that it takes a LONG time — usually you soak the cashews in water for at least four hours (and sometimes as much as 12!!). That’s a lot of pre-planning and lead time – whereas for coconut milk, you literally just put the ingredients in the blender, and voila. In part because of that, I haven’t yet found a cashew milk recipe that I love, so if you have one that’s perfect, I’d love to hear about it – drop it in the comments below!
How coconut and cashew milk taste
Cashew milk has that kind of round, fatty mouthfeel that you’d expect from such a tasty, high-fat nut. And especially when you add in that little bit of honey, agave, or maple syrup – you get a really pleasant and nutty milk with a wholesome, thick texture.
Coconut milk has that distinctive, tropical, coconut flavor, and given its high fat content, it has even more of that wholesome, thick milk texture than cashews. It’s not as interchangeable with other nut milks as cashew milk is because its flavor is so powerful. Like other foods like ginger, lemongrass, or shrimp, you KNOW when coconut is in the mix!
Calories in coconut milk and cashew milk
At a whopping 550 calories per cup, coconut milk has over three times the calories of a cup of cashew milk or a cup of whole milk from a cow. When comparing coconut milk vs cashew milk, it’s useful to think through nutrition and the impact on your diet. As you can see from the chart above, generally coconut milk has more calories and fat than cashew milk, although of course different brands of coconut and cashew milk will have slightly different stats than those listed above.
And while there are some differences between coconut milk vs cashew milk – which I’ll get into in greater detail below – they also have some important similarities.
Both coconut milk and cashew milk are vegan – as they are made from coconuts and cashews, not from any animal byproducts. Both are naturally gluten-free as well, so people with gluten intolerances should generally be fine with either. Because cashew milk and coconut milk are both low-carb and high fat, both are great for the keto diet, which just adds to these wonderful milks’ versatility.
Of course, both contain top eight allergens per the FDA – cashews are tree nuts, and coconuts are classified with tree nuts by the FDA, although technically coconuts are fruit.
Cooking with coconut milk and cashew milk
Both cashew milk and coconut milk can be subbed in for regular dairy milk when cooking, particularly if you’re looking for a richer cream or sauce. Chances are good that you’ve used coconut milk in Thai or Indian cooking already, as it’s a critical base for some of my favorite curries.
I tend to think of cashew milk as more of a primarily “drinking” milk, more analogous to, say, almond milk, while coconut milk is so thick and creamy that it’s more ideal for cooking up those luscious sauces. (Of course, if you like drinking coconut milk, don’t let me stop you!) But bottom line – both can be subbed in for dairy milk, and they’ll add additional flavor and texture to any dish.
Best coconut milk and cashew milk brands
Looking for the best coconut milk to buy? One of the big difficulties is that you’ve got to look way beyond the label. After all, plenty of cans are lined with BPA, plenty of coconut milks have stabilizers and preservatives and other nasty chemicals added, and figuring it all out can be a bit of a mess. Fortunately, we’ve done the extensive research to determine the best coconut milk you can buy.
Short version: My favorite is Natural Value coconut milk. The can is BPA-free, there’s no added sugar, preservatives, stabilizers, or gums…simply the best coconut milk you’re going to get outside making coconut milk at home yourself.
For cashew milk, I like Elmhurst 1925 cashew milk. It’s rich and creamy, well-reviewed on Amazon, has just two ingredients (cashews and water), no added sugars, and is GMO-free.
Coconut milk vs cashew milk: The ultimate verdict
Because coconut milk is easier and faster to make — and because it tastes better — I prefer coconut milk to cashew milk. However, both are great substitutes for dairy milk in a pinch, particularly if you’re navigating a dairy allergy at home. (My oldest son is allergic to milk, so we’ve gotten creative in our cooking.) In fact, I view cashew milk as one of the 10 best coconut milk substitutes, so I’ve found it to be great for a lot of stuff.
The most important thing is to experiment and find out how coconut milk and cashew milk can both fit into your lifestyle.
Coconut milk has roughly 4x as much fat as cashew milk, so DEFINITELY far more fat. This gives coconut milk a richness and texture that cashew milk lacks, and it means that coconut milk fills you up far faster. Of course, if you’re counting calories or trying to limit fat intake on a doctor’s orders, then that makes cashew milk the more attractive choice.
Yes, coconut milk is creamier than cashew milk. Coconut milk’s higher fat content means it has a thicker and more creamy taste than cashew milk. (Although to be clear – both are still very creamy!)
Yes, you can drink cashew milk every day. A glass of cashew milk is generally a good replacement for a glass of cow’s milk. Now, given its higher calorie, fat, and sugar content vs skim milk, it’s important to drink in moderation as part of a broader balanced diet.
Cashew milk lacks a lot of the nutrients of your thicker, denser milks – including protein and fatty acids. Just one of the many reasons I tend to prefer coconut milk.