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"Lite" coconut milk

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Esteemed 'hounds--I hope this is the proper board for posting this question. Recently, I've seen several references to "lite" coconut milk. My recollection from a Thai cooking class I once took is that "lite" coconut simply has more water in it.

Questions:

1) Is this correct, that "lite" coconut milk is simply the presence of more water? If so, can you just turn regular coconut milk into "lite" milk by adding water?

2) Does coconut milk freeze well if you use just a little in your recipe and want to save the remainder?

Thank you,

~TDQ

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  1. I recall something more or less like that. Kasma Loha-unchit (a Thai cooking teacher and cookbook author with a great website) claims that "lite" coconut milk can have additives that are not mentioned on the label, and, yes, that the way to get good "lite" coconut milk is to water down a good can of regular.

    Kasma's complete explanation of coconut milk is here: http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/ingr...

    On the other hand, Su-Mei Yu in her book <i>Cracking the Coconut</i> says that all canned coconut milk has flour in it, and you should make your own fresh. Right. She agrees that, if you insist on using canned, and you want lite, you'll save money and do better to water down the regular stuff.

    Neither of these authors mention freezing it, and neither do Alford and Duguid in <i>Hot Sour Salty Sweet</i>. I have a feeling that A & D would have mentioned if it was an option; they emphasize that you need to use it up within 36 hours. I reallllllly like rice pudding-y things, so I usually use up any leftover coconut milk that way.

    1. I've frozen leftover coconut milk with no problem. Usually, I'll freeze it in small ziploc freezer bags laid flat and then put them in another bag once frozen. Thaw in the fridge.

      1. America's Test Kitchen did a comparison and found the light varieties to all be pretty awful. Not worth giving up the fat over.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Scrapironchef

          Ah America's Test Kitchen. Love them but sometimes, grrr.. Wish they would remain consistent.

          In CI's Best 30-Minute Recipes under the notes for Thai Curry, they specifically state: "To coax the most flavor out of the curry paste, we sautéed it in a little oil and then added light coconut milk--which to our surprise, we preferred to its full-fat cousin because it didnt mute the complex flavors of the curry paste..." Page 85

          I know it's ATK vs. CI but they are the same organization and test kitchen. Anyway I came on here to see if lite coconut milk freezes well. I only needed a 1/4 cup out of the can, and hated to toss the rest. Thank you all!

        2. I've frozen coconut milk and it's fine. I've heard it can be a little more difficult to separate out the oil if you are making curry with it after freezing it, but I can't say one way or the other. I also often buy frozen coconut milk (not canned, imported from the Phillipines or Thailand).

          From what I've read, lite coconut milk has gums and such that make it appear thick, and will NOT work the same way as regular coconut milk for cooking. If you want to lighten it up, I'd just add water to your regular milk, and see if it works for the dish you are making.

          1. I have a COMPLETELY different take on things, though I can't guarantee that I'm correct.

            First off, coconut milk is non-homoginized. OK, it isn't milk, but the point is that it separates. Open a can of regular and there is a half-inch of dense white and below is several inches of thick gel.

            Some recipes call for coconut cream which I believe is the layer at top.

            If one skims some of the top layer, the rest is lower in calorie, and healthier (in the way that smoking two packs of cigarettes is healthier than smoking a carton). And you give up both flavor and texture. Add some flour, and you retain the thickness. Still less flavor, still healthier.

            Oh, and the freezing...it does, but since it separates, you will want to thaw and attempt to emulsify before using.

            1. I just dug out my Thai cookbook (Somphon and Elizabeth Nabnian). What I still can't find--which is driving me crazy--are my notes from my visit to the market where they were making the coconut milk--we were watching the phase where they were draining out the excess water. I realize, upon seeing SteveT's comment above that I think I remember Somphon making the comment that the COCONUT CREAM was just coconut milk with less water in it, and that it separates out, but, I simply can't find my notes from that day. I now suspect he didn't address lite coconut milk at all. He also didn't address thickening with flour, but what you're all saying makes perfect sense.

              Anyway, I think you're all correct, it just depends on what form of the milk you're talking about. Here's what his cookbook has to say (and he even talks about freezing as a mechanism to get the coconut cream, fancy that!):

              "In Thailand is it possible to get fresh coconut milk but it also comes in tins, as a dried powder and in a creamed form...Fresh coconut mik is made from the coconut flesh. The flesh is grated or chopped by putting it into an electric blender.

              To make 750mls (3 cups, 24 fl oz) of coconut milk you need 500g (1lb 2 oz) of grated coconut. Then add 500mls (2 cups, 16 fl oz) of warm water to the grated coconut. This then needs to be squeezed by hand for about 10 minutes or longer to obtain the milk. It is then put through muslin or a strainer. It needs to be squeezed hard to make sure that the thick coconut milk is obtained. It is then left for 10 minutes and the thick or coconut cream and thin coconut milk will separate out.

              Tinned coconut milk needs to be shaken before using. To separate the thick and thin coconut milk the tin can be frozen for 10 minutes.

              Powdered and creamed coconut milk need to have water added to them and then they are used as normal.

              Soya bean milk or milk can be used as alternatives if you do not want to use coconut milk as [it] is very high in cholesterol."

              Thank you everyone for sharing your wisdom and personal experiences, as always.

              ~TDQ

              3 Replies
              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                One quick note regarding the end of the quote from TDQ's Thai cookbook: cholesterol only occurs in animals, so unless it's added during processing, nothing that comes from a plant has any cholesterol (regardless of the fat content). That would include nuts and coconuts.

                1. re: vivianna

                  It is incredibly high in saturated fat, so for those worried about high cholesterol, that might be the issue - just checked a 13.5 oz can of coconut milk - 50g of saturated fat, 0 cholesterol. Planning on making a curry tonight so had it out on the counter!

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    The fat in pure coconut products has been shown to help raise metabolism, so one could argue that the saturated fat is healthy, in moderation, since it is derived from a plant source, contains no cholesterol and helps fight the fat that develops around our waists (the most dangerous kind).