Ah, the spectrum of milk! It’s vast, delicious, and potentially a little confusing. If you’ve found yourself strolling down the milk aisle, you’ll notice a delightful array of all different kinds of milk. And maybe two happened to catch your eye; the good ol’ regular whole milk and coconut milk.
But what exactly is the difference between coconut milk vs whole milk? Is one actually healthier than the other? The truth is each has its own unique flavor and nutritional benefits. So, let’s dig a little deeper. Should you choose coconut milk or whole milk?
Comparing Coconut Milk vs Whole Milk
At the end of the day, coconut milk and whole milk are two completely different types of milk. One comes from an edible fruit, the coconut, and the other comes from a cow. This means that these two types of milk have very different nutritional profiles, tastes, ingredients, and even cooking styles. Below, we explore these factors in more detail.
Coconut Milk vs Whole Milk Nutrition
Since they are derived from completely different sources, coconut milk and whole milk have various differences when it comes to their nutritional profiles. Canned coconut milk and whole milk have similar amounts of protein, with whole milk taking a slight lead. Meanwhile, ready-to-drink coconut milk contains next-to-no protein. One cup of canned coconut milk is also more likely to tip your calorie count over the edge when compared to whole milk or ready-to-drink coconut milk. This is largely due to the high amounts of fat that canned coconut milk contains.
Canned (and ready-to-drink) coconut milk further has fiber, vitamin C, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, selenium, and manganese, offering a ton in terms of micronutrients. Whole milk, on the other hand, is known for being a significant source of calcium, as well as for its vitamin D and phosphorous content.
|Per one cup serving||Coconut milk (canned)||Coconut milk(ready-to-drink)||Whole milk|
|Total Fat||57.1 g||4 g||7.97 g|
|Carbohydrates||13.3 g||2 g||11.5 g|
|Protein||5 g||0 g||8 g|
|Keto friendly?||Yes||Yes (if unsweetened)||No|
|Allergens?||Tree nuts||Tree nuts||Milk Proteins|
The Key Differences Between Coconut Milk vs Whole Milk
Inevitably, these milks differ in their vitamin, mineral, and nutrient contents. But there’s more to milk than simply its nutritional profiles. After all, most of the food we eat is used for cooking and flavor. So, what should you know?
Ingredients in Coconut Milk vs Whole Milk
Coconut milk is made from, you guessed it, coconuts! Traditionally, this means that the coconut’s flesh is shredded and pureed with water. It’s then strained to separate any lumpy bits, leaving behind a white liquid that we know as coconut milk.
It’s important to note here that the major difference between canned coconut milk and ready-to-drink coconut milk is the amount of water present. Inevitably, ready-to-drink coconut milk contains much more water. Meanwhile, canned coconut milk may also contain thickeners and other preservatives to give it a creamier texture.
In contrast, whole milk comes directly from a cow. It may then undergo some processing to meet food safety standards. In other words, the major difference in ingredients is cow’s milk and coconuts in all of the above.
Comparing How Coconut Milk and Whole Milk Taste
Coconut milk has a nutty and almost floral flavor similar to coconut. It usually has a hint of natural sweetness, giving it a rich and creamy taste when added to any recipe or dish. Ready-to-drink coconut milk, on the other hand, has similar flavors but may be more watered down in comparison.
Whole milk, surprisingly, also has a bit of a nutty and sweet flavor with a creamy texture. Yet, it doesn’t have that floral undertone like coconut milk.
Cooking with Coconut Milk vs Whole Milk
The great news is that due to canned coconut milk and whole milk’s high-fat content, canned coconut milk can replace whole milk in a recipe. If the recipe calls for one cup of whole milk, you can simply substitute it with one cup of canned coconut milk instead (depending on the flavor). Yet, swapping canned coconut milk for whole milk is a different story due to the water content. It may work for some recipes, but not all. It may also depend on whether you’re using canned or ready-to-drink coconut milk as a substitute.
Additionally, when a baking or cooking recipe calls for canned coconut milk, it may require that coconut-y flavor, which is lacking in whole milk. For instance, canned coconut milk is a favorite addition in many curry recipes, stews, and even desserts. While you can add whole milk in its place, the flavor will undeniably be slightly different.
Lastly, coconut milk and whole milk will both thicken when heated on a stovetop due to their high-fat content. The water content will evaporate with heat, leaving behind a thick sauce, which is ideal for many recipes. The key, especially with whole milk, is to heat it up slowly. When heated up too quickly, whole milk may curdle and burn.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Yes! This is really easy to do (and it may even add a pleasant coconut flavor to your recipe or baked goods!). If a recipe calls for one cup of whole milk, you can replace it with one cup of coconut milk.
Yes. The unfortunate downside of canned coconut milk is its high-fat content. While a cup of whole milk may contain about 7.97 grams of fat, a cup of canned coconut milk contains 57.1 grams. However, ready-to-drink coconut milk only contains 4 grams of fat.
This depends on what is meant by “healthier.” When it comes to fewer calories, whole milk contains less when compared to canned coconut milk. Meanwhile, ready-to-drink coconut milk has fewer calories than canned coconut milk. At the same time, some individuals may be lactose-intolerant, making coconut milk healthier for them. Additionally, it’s worth noting that one cup of coconut milk contains many more micronutrients than one cup of whole milk.
Due to its high-fat content, canned coconut milk is the perfect addition to any coffee beverage (like this latte). If you love coconut, it also adds a hint of coconut flavor to your favorite morning cup o’ joe! However, you can also opt for the reduced fat ready-to-drink coconut milk in your coffee as well, which again may boost a bit of a nutty flavor.