By Laura Ng
What's the difference between coconut milk and coconut cream? Is coconut cream the same as coconut milk?
First, coconut cream is a smooth, thick paste made from fresh coconuts. It tastes mildly sweet due to its natural sugar content. But when you mix water with the cream concentrate, it gets diluted and turns into coconut milk.
That means, coconut milk is the diluted version of coconut cream. Despite their difference in the consistency, they're both considered as a whole coconut because they bear the contents of carbohydrate (from its natural sugar), protein, fat and dietary fiber, plus other phytonutrients, unlike coconut oil which only holds the fat content and some fat-soluble phytonutrients.
By the way, coconut cream contains about 21 - 25% of fat while coconut milk relatively lesser — about 17% only. Again, that's because coconut milk is more diluted.
You can add the thinner coconut milk in place of dairy milk to your tea or coffee. But when you add coconut cream instead, it kinds of give you a fiber-y feel. I particularly like curry with thick gravy, that's why I prefer coconut cream to coconut milk when it comes to cooking curry.
Now you know their differences, so how do you differentiate coconut cream from milk when you buy them in can or packet? Here's the tip — the thicker paste-like coconut cream will float on top leaving the thinner milk below when you let the mixture stands overnight. That's because coconut cream carries more fat which is less dense, whereas coconut milk holds more water which is denser. So, when you just need the cream to replace butter or eat as a spread, scoop near the surface.
Better quality brand will have even thicker cream separating from the watery milk. I suggest that you try different brands till you find one to your liking.
But take note, do not keep coconut cream / milk for too long as it can turn rancid easily. You should refrigerate it once opened and right after use. My experience tells me that you should try to finish it up in 2 - 3 days. Leaving coconut milk / cream unused in the refrigerator will render it bad too. That's because the enzymes (proteins that increase the rates of chemical reactions) present in the coconut milk or cream can break down the food structure and trigger a change in its chemical structures.
Coconut oil will not have such enzymatic reaction since it contains zero enzymes, hence coconut oil can last up to 2 years while coconut cream or milk only few days.
Organic Coconut Cream Concentrate by Tropical Traditions