Coconut milk is one of the most popular dairy-free milk alternatives. You can use it for drinking, putting in coffee, cooking, or baking! But it really better than cow’s milk? Let’s dig a little deeper to find out…
Comparing coconut milk vs milk
|Coconut milk||Cow milk (including whole, 2%, skim, etc.)|
|Type||Plant-based (nut milk)||Animal-based|
|Common allergens||Tree nuts (though most people with tree nut allergies can consume coconut products)||Milk|
Differences between coconut milk and milk
Regular milk, which we commonly refer to as cow’s milk, is the classic animal-based option. On the other hand, coconut milk is a fantastic plant-based, vegan-friendly alternative. There are two types of coconut milk – we have canned coconut milk and carton coconut milk.
Canned coconut milk is rich and creamy, mostly solid at room temperature due to its high-fat content. It’s made by heating high-fat coconut pulp in hot water and then extracting the liquid from the solid pulp. Primarily used for cooking and baking recipes, it adds a delightful tropical flavor to various dishes.
On the flip side, carton coconut milk is the liquid, ready-to-drink version we use in coffee, smoothies, or as a dairy-free milk replacement. It’s made by blending thick coconut milk or coconut cream (which is even fattier than canned coconut milk) with water.
Types of cow’s milk
Now, let’s give a quick nod to the various types of cow’s milk available in the market. We’ve got:
Whole milk: Contains 3.5% milk fat, the creamiest and richest option.
2% milk (reduced-fat): With 2% milk fat, it’s a lighter alternative without sacrificing too much creaminess.
1% milk (low-fat): Contains 1% milk fat, even lighter than the 2% version.
Skim milk (non-fat): Contains 0% milk fat, ideal for those looking to avoid fat altogether.
Lactose-free milk: Suitable for individuals with lactose intolerance, with the lactose removed.
Raw cow milk (whole): Unprocessed and unpasteurized, enjoyed by some enthusiasts.
Flavored milk: Often found in chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla flavors, a fun and tasty option (but more sugar!)
How to use coconut milk vs milk
Now, how do we use these different types of milk?
- Coconut creamer
- Cooking curries, soups, and stews
- Adding a tropical twist to smoothies
- Making dairy-free ice cream
- Coconut yogurt
- Baking (cakes, muffins, etc.)
- Drinking it plain (especially if it’s flavored)
- Adding creaminess to coffee and tea
- Making creamy sauces and gravies
- Making yogurt
- Pancakes and waffles
- Baking a variety of desserts like puddings and custards
Can you substitute coconut milk for milk?
Yes, coconut milk can be used as a dairy-free substitute for milk in various recipes, but it may impart a distinct coconut flavor and slightly thicker consistency. Consider this when substituting in savory or sweet dishes.
Nutrition: Coconut milk vs milk
Unsweetened coconut milk is lower in calories than cow’s milk, but higher in fat compared to other plant-based milk alternatives. While coconut milk does contain saturated fats, it also contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are generally considered healthier fats.
Compared to coconut milk, cow’s milk is higher in sugar, protein, and carbs.
Both coconut milk and cow’s milk are often fortified with extra calcium and vitamin D, but this may vary depending on the brand and product.
|Per cup (237 ml/8 oz.)||Calories||Total fat (sat. fat)||Total carbs||Total sugars (incl. added)||Protein||Calcium||Vit D|
|Coconut milk||40||4 g (3.5 g)||2 g||<1 g (0 g)||0 g||45% DV||25% DV|
|Whole milk||160||8 g (4.5 g)||11 g||10 g (0 g)||8 g||25% DV||10% DV|
|2% milk||130||5 g (3 g)||12 g||12 g (0 g)||8 g||25% DV||10% DV|
|1% milk||110||2.5 g (1.4 g)||13 g||12 g (0g)||8 g||25% DV||10% DV|
|Skim milk (nonfat milk)||90||0 g||13 g||12 g (0 g)||8 g||30% DV||25% DV|
How to store coconut milk and milk
Once opened, canned coconut milk can be transferred to an airtight container (don’t leave it in the can!) and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Coconut milk also freezes well for up to a month!
Carton coconut milk usually comes with a “best by” date, and once opened, it can be refrigerated for about 5-7 days, but this depends on the type. For example, full-fat coconut milk lasts longer than low-fat or homemade coconut milk.
On the other hand, regular milk has a shorter shelf life. Once opened, it should be consumed within 5-7 days, depending on the fat content. Skim milk tends to spoil faster than whole milk due to its lack of fat.
Coconut milk vs milk: Which is better
Overall, I prefer coconut milk for its taste, shelf stability (especially canned varieties) and, healthy fats. It’s one of the best dairy-free alternatives to milk, and trust me, I’ve tried them all! Coconut milk is higher in fat compared to other plant-based options, so it’s super creamy and delicious. I always keep cans of coconut milk in my pantry for cooking (especially Thai and Indian recipes) and I use the carton stuff for adding to matcha, smoothies, oatmeal, chia seed pudding, or more. Here is the best coconut milk you can buy!
Coconut milk and cow’s milk offer different nutritional profiles; while cow’s milk is a good source of calcium and protein, coconut milk is higher in saturated fats and lacks the same protein content, making it important to consider your dietary needs and preferences when choosing between the two.
While coconut milk is a tasty plant-based alternative, it may not be suitable for everyone due to its distinctive flavor. Additionally, some people might be allergic to coconuts, so it’s essential to be mindful of any allergies or sensitivities.
The healthiest milk option depends on your dietary needs and preferences. If you’re looking for a dairy-free, plant-based option, coconut milk is an excellent choice. On the other hand, if you can tolerate dairy and need a good source of protein and calcium, regular cow’s milk is a healthy option. Ultimately, it’s best to consult with a nutritionist or healthcare professional to determine what’s best for you.