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Best Coconut Milk Substitute?

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  • jay27 Mar 30, 2009 08:19 PM

Our local Whole foods is sold out and I have been planning to make a beautiful coconut-based curry for a special occasion. I have heard almond milk with coconut extract works? What about coconut water? What is the best substitute?

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  1. You can make your own by blending fresh or unsweetened dried coconut (you may be able to find the latter at Whole Foods) and water in a blender and straining.

    1. Try a regular grocery or a liquor store (depending on where you live.)
      Coconut milk is a pretty common item and I get it at the Safeway all the time. Often with the Latin American food products.

      7 Replies
      1. re: MakingSense

        I know coconut cream is sold for use with drinks, but that is different from the coconut milk used for curries.

        http://whatscookingamerica.net/Q-A/Co...
        says cream of coconut (used in pina colada) is much sweeter than coconut milk. I've only used it once, in a Puerto Rican version of egg nog (Daisy Cooks). That mix, which also used sweetened condensed milk, was very sweet.

        1. re: MakingSense

          I've called and the only other grocery store in my fairly small town (which is not at all well-stocked) doesn't carry it.

          1. re: jay27

            neither place has unsweetened dried coconut?

            but you could use unsalted fresh or roasted ground cashews with some cream or milk added, and puree in the blender (fresh cashews are better for this). it'll be different, but delicious nonetheless.

            1. re: alkapal

              I'll probably try this option (blending water and dessicated coconut) and try to find a correct ratio...although after thinking about it so much I think a cashew/ almond version would be delicious as well and might try it sometime.

              1. re: jay27

                depending on the texture you want, if you use a blender, you can pulverize it so it is pretty thick. start with a one to one ratio, then you can add water bit by bit. there is a good video on how to do it the old fashioned way with two or three "soaks" and squeezes through muslin. i'll find it...
                this is one, but there is a better one... http://thai-drink-recipe.blogspot.com...

                1. re: jay27

                  Here's what I ended up doing and it worked nicely (I think it might also be healthier than the usual canned coconut milk but don't quote me on that one): Soak 2 T. each of unsweetened coconut, almonds, and cashews along with 1 T sultanas in a cup of water overnight. The next day, blend thoroughly and strain through as sieve into the curry.

                  1. re: jay27

                    I'm sure it's more healthful...because it's mostly not made from coconut. The nuts are high in fat, too, but the fat profile is better. What counts is that it worked and worked well for your curry. Thanks for reporting back.

          2. I'd be hesitant to substitute, given that it sounds as though the coconut is a central part of the dish. As MakingSense noted, coconut milk is pretty widely available. Most grocery stores seem to carry it with the Asian foods, and many varieties should be available at any any Asian market, if there are any within reasonable distance of you.

            1. Coconut Milk, Coconut Water, Coconut Cream For curry purposes are pretty much interchangeable and available at even average grocery stores these days. Water is from young coconuts; Milk from mature fruit; Cream from ripe nuts. Each is slightly thicker than the previous.

              4 Replies
              1. re: KiltedCook

                I would say coconut water is NOT interchangeable with coconut cream or milk. Coconut water is the liquid found in the center of young coconuts. Cream and milk are both formed by extracting from the nut meat, as the first reply states. Cream naturally forms in the coconut milk. If you open a can of coconut milk without shaking first, the top layer will have coalesced into cream.

                Almonds are not an uncommon ingredient in curry, and substituting almond milk might make for a tasty dish, if you can find a good, high fat product. Gives me some ideas...

                1. re: BrianJC

                  I agree that coconut water is not interchangeable with coconut milk and should not be used as an substititute. I know some people will actually use evaporated milk instead of coconut milk (or a mix of the two) when making curry. Using evaporated milk of course will not give you the "coconut" flavor, but it will help you to achieve the consistency of coconut milk without unnecessary flavor added in.

                  1. re: BrianJC

                    Since most almond milks are fairly thin, I was thinking I could blend it with some cashews to form a more rich, creamy texture (I know vegan actually make some sort of cashew "cream" by blending cashews). What do you think?

                    1. re: jay27

                      Malaysians add ground candlenuts to their dishes to thicken, and cashews or macadamia nuts are considered a substitute for candlenuts, although note that these are usually are usually added to a coconut milk based curry. Regardless, though, I can't imagine not using coconut milk for a curry based on it: I'd rather just wait for it to become available than try to make substitutions like this.

                      Either that, or make your own. It's not particularly hard to do (a bit time consuming, but not hard), and a fun project.

                2. go to a different store. get the coconut milk in a can -- not the coconut "cream". or...make your own (from fresh or grated coconut that you buy in the store).

                  i would NOT use coconut extract at all.
                  coconut water is not really "coconutty" and will just thin out your curry.

                  1. There is really no subsitution. Make something different until you can secure multiple cans of coconut milk. I have seen coconut milk labeled as coconut cream in an Asian market. They were the same product. Coco loco type coconut cream is loaded with sugar and used for pina coladas. This is not the same. Coconut milk can also be found as a powder that can be reconsituted with water. If you can't find what you need locally you can always buy it online. Buy lots to keep on hand. It last a long time

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: scubadoo97

                      The coconut cream in Asian markets is not quite the same as coconut milk. More precisely, a can of coconut milk contains coconut cream (it's the stuff that floats to the top), but only as part of its contents.

                      I buy Kara brand UHT coconut cream in small cardboard / foil boxes. It's preservative-free (which can't be said for most coconut milks) and works in recipes that call for coconut milk. But it is much thicker and higher in fat. Which can be a good thing...

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        That's what I thought I was buying but I made Thai coconut curry the other day. Had one can of coconut milk and one of coconut cream. The had about the same amount of thick cream on top with the thinner "milk" underneath. Couldn't really tell them apart. I like to fry my curry in the thick cream before adding the liquid so I never shake the cans.

                        1. re: scubadoo97

                          Hmm. Guess it depends on the brand. The Kara stuff is about 80-90% cream and 10-20% milk, while the proportions are reversed with the stuff in the can.

                          Mmmmm, extra fat!!!

                    2. What style of curry is this? If Thai, the coconut milk is essential. But only a portion of the Indian curries use coconut. Yogurt is a more common ingredient in northern Indian curries.

                      I've never tried it, but evaporated milk sounds like it would work in a Thai style curry. I'd want to test it before making it for a special occasion.

                      Regarding alternative sources for coconut milk, if your community is large enough to have a Whole Foods, I strongly suspect that other groceries in the area have a limited Asian section, and that you will find coconut milk there.

                      1. I always use soy milk to replace coconut milk/cream if I cook for my parents who avoid coconut milk due to their cholesterol level. It taste almost the same. And yes, coconut milk/cream in can is easy to find nowdays. I can even find it at dollar store and on asian isle at target or walmart

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: nieke

                          which soy milk tastes almost the same as coconut milk?

                        2. I'm making Mexican cocoa and cayenne pepper cupcakes (DELICIOUS) and have my twins down for a nap. I have EVERYTHING but the coconut milk. I can't get to the grocery store to get it so I'm going to attempt to use evaporated milk with a little coconut! We'll see how it turns out!