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Coconut Milk In A Can Vs Carton: 5 Important Differences

Coconut milk is a type of milk derived from coconuts. The meat of the coconut is crushed or grated, and the liquid is drawn out via a cheesecloth. Canned coconut milk and carton coconut milk are the two options available to consumers.

two halves of a brown coconut on a white background.

That brings us to the topic of today’s article: what’s the difference between coconut milk in a can vs carton? Though both are technically coconut milk, they differ significantly in their nutritional value and processing methods.

Read on to learn more about the differences between canned and carton coconut milk.

Love coconut? Try my healthy Coconut Shake recipe!

Canned coconut milk

Canned coconut milk is the original form of this dairy-free beverage. It is made by extracting the liquid from coconut meat, then canning and sealing it in a sterile container.

Because it’s shelf-stable, canned coconut milk is great for long-term storage. It also has a longer expiration date than carton coconut milk.

Canned coconut milk is higher in fat than other types of milk, including cow’s milk and soy milk. This makes it a good choice for people who are looking for a high-fat, nutrient-rich beverage. However, because of its high-fat content, canned coconut milk is not as versatile as other types of milk.

Canned coconut milk is usually used as a cooking ingredient because it’s often too rich and fatty to be consumed on its own. For example, canned coconut milk is frequently used to make curry, a traditional South Asian dish. Canned coconut milk can also be used as a substitute for dairy products in recipes.

Coconut milk in a carton

The one thing you’ll notice when you look at the ingredients list of a carton of coconut milk is the additives. In addition to coconut milk, these beverages sometimes have sugar, gums, stabilizers, and preservatives.

Carton coconut milk doesn’t go through the same manufacturing process as canned coconut milk, so these additives help to prolong the shelf life. The downside is that these additives are not always good for your health.

Carton coconut contains a lot more water than canned coconut milk, and it is usually used as a milk alternative. Many people drink it daily as a healthy alternative to fruit juice. Carton coconut milk is also used in vegan recipes because it’s cholesterol-free and contains no animal products.

Read More: Best Liquid For Smoothies: 10 Delicious Smoothie Bases

The main differences between canned and carton coconut milk

Canned and carton coconut milk come from the same source (coconut), but they are processed in different ways. Here are a few of the main differences:

Canned coconut milk

  • Used as an ingredient for cooking
  • Can be stored at room temperature for up to four years
  • Does not require refrigeration
  • Has a thicker texture than coconut milk in a carton

Carton coconut milk

  • Used as an alternative to milk, often in cereal or smoothies
  • Typically comes with added sugars and synthetic vitamins
  • Often contains additives including guar gum, xanthan gum, sorbitol, tricalcium phosphate, or dipotassium phosphate
  • Contains significantly less fat than canned coconut milk
  • Shelf life cannot be extended beyond seven days unless frozen
  • Must be refrigerated
  • Has a watered-down consistency

Both types of coconut milk offer health benefits, but the differences in processing and additives make a significant impact on their nutritional value. Canned coconut milk is higher in saturated fat, but carton coconut milk has a lower fat content. Carton coconut milk is not as versatile as canned coconut milk either.

Which coconut milk should you choose?

Making the right choice will depend on what you’re using coconut milk for. Canned and carton coconut milk are similar but they are used in very different ways.

You should use canned coconut milk if you are making a curry or a stew. The recipe will often call for coconut milk and in this instance, you should use the canned variety.

You should use carton coconut milk if you plan to drink it on its own or use it in a recipe that calls for milk, such as smoothies. The carton is also a good choice if you’re looking for a milk alternative to use in your vegan cooking.

Coconut milk can be incredibly beneficial to your health, but it’s important to make an informed decision before purchasing the product. The differences between canned and carton coconut milk are subtle but significant.

Can I use carton coconut milk in a curry?

It’s not a good idea to use coconut milk from a carton in your curry. This is because carton coconut milk has a lot more water than canned coconut milk, so it will dilute the other flavors in your dish.

Coconut milk from a can contains a lot more coconut so will give your dish a stronger flavor. It will also help to thicken the sauce so you won’t have to keep adding corn flour or wheat flour, which can break down during cooking and leave your dish tasting floury.

Can I use canned coconut milk in a smoothie?

It’s fine to use canned coconut milk in smoothies but because it is thicker than carton coconut milk, you should add less than you would with carton coconut milk and you may need to add a little bit of water or another liquid.

Canned coconut milk also contains more calories than carton coconut milk, so you may want to choose the latter if you’re watching your weight.

Read More: How To Make A Smoothie Thicker: 7 Simple Ideas

What about coconut cream?

Coconut cream is similar to canned and carton coconut milk, but the one difference between it and other products is that coconut cream contains a higher fat content.

The thicker consistency of coconut cream makes it popular as an ingredient in desserts and recipes that call for heavy whipping cream. Coconut cream adds richness and flavor to dishes without the need for dairy products.

Like most coconut products, coconut cream can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. It should not be frozen because this will change its texture and spoil its freshness.

What about cream of coconut?

Cream of coconut is a pre-mixed product that is used to make cocktails. It is made with a combination of coconut milk and sugar, and it has a thick consistency that makes it perfect for cocktails.

Cream of coconut is shelf-stable and does not require refrigeration. It can be stored at room temperature for up to one year.

Though cream of coconut contains some beneficial nutrients, it is not as healthy as pure coconut milk or cream. It’s important to read the label carefully before purchasing this product because it often contains additional ingredients like high fructose corn syrup.

Can you make homemade coconut milk?

Yes, homemade coconut milk is incredibly easy to make and it’s a great option if you’re looking for a healthier alternative to canned or carton coconut milk. Homemade coconut milk has a thicker consistency than other products and does not contain any additives.

To make homemade coconut milk:

Remove the meat from two young coconuts (or one mature coconut).  Combine the meat in a blender with the water from the coconut, and 1 extra cup of water.

Blend on low speed until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy. This could take 5 – 10 minutes of blending. It’s important to understand that the consistency will be thick as it needs to be strained, so don’t add too much water.

Once the coconut has been blended well, pour the mixture into a cheesecloth. Squeeze the cheesecloth into a sieve over a bowl to get a smooth and creamy texture.

You will be amazed at how smooth and creamy this homemade coconut milk is! Use it in your recipes, smoothies, or just during it straight from the jug. The coconut milk will last in the refrigerator for 4 – 5 days.

Read More: How To Make A Smoothie Without Milk (Lactose-Free & Vegan)

Is canned coconut milk bad for your health?

When taken in moderation, canned coconut milk is not bad for your health. It does contain a high amount of saturated fat, which can lead to weight gain if consumed in excess.

Canned coconut milk also contains sodium, so it’s important to read the label carefully before purchasing this product. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure and other health problems.

Canned coconut milk is a good source of vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium. It also contains some dietary fiber, which is beneficial for gut health.

Overall, canned coconut milk is a healthy choice when consumed in moderation. Just be sure to read the label carefully before purchasing to make sure you’re getting the right product.

Why is my canned coconut milk solid?

If you open a can of coconut milk and it is solid, don’t panic. This happens because the coconut tends to separate from the water, leaving a solid chunk of coconut.

This is perfectly normal and is usually a sign of good quality coconut milk. Just give a good stir before use, or use a whisk if you want a smooth consistency.

Can you add water to canned coconut milk?

You can add water to canned coconut milk, but you will dilute the flavor. You also run the risk of making it too watery and ending up with a thin consistency.

If you are going down this route, you may be better buying carton coconut milk which is formulated to be thinned with water.

Can I use coconut milk instead of milk in baking?

Yes, you can use coconut milk in place of milk in most recipes. Coconut milk is slightly flavored, so it will add a hint of coconut to the recipe.

The best way to substitute coconut milk for regular milk in baking is by using an equal amount of coconut milk. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of regular milk, you can use 1 cup of unsweetened carton coconut milk instead.

Coconut milk has a higher fat content than regular milk, but it still works well when baking. You may need to add 1/4 cup more for recipes that require a larger volume like cakes or brownies.