Substitutes for Coconut Milk You'll Be Thankful to Know About

Coconut milk substitutes
Coconut milk is known to be a classic base for recipes, however, a substitute can be easily made and used in your recipes. It gives a thick consistency to the food, although the flavor is never the same.
Coconut milk is the creamy, white milk, extracted from the thick, white flesh that is all around the inner wall of a ripe coconut. Often coconut milk is mistaken to be the juice inside a coconut. However, this is not true. Coconut milk is made by squeezing grated coconut through a cheesecloth. It is also available in the canned or bottled version. Coconut milk is used as a base for cooking many food recipes. It is commonly used in South and Southeast Asian cuisines, especially in authentic Thai food recipes. It is also popularly used in West Africa, Hawaii and in the cuisines of West Indies.
If you're looking for coconut milk substitute, you've either found a recipe that calls for it, and do not have it, or have a strong aversion or allergy towards coconuts. For those having an aversion, let's understand coconut milk added in curries and other dishes, only add to the depth of the dish and do not overpower it. So you may want to give it a try! On the other hand, if you don't have coconut milk and still want to prepare the dish, let's understand, the substitutes won't actually substitute the flavor well. There's nothing that can truly replace the consistency and flavor of coconut milk. Nevertheless, let's look at some alternatives you could use.
Coconut-based Substitutes for Coconut Milk
Coconut-based substitutes are those substitutes involving some form of coconut, such as coconut cream, essence, extract, etc. Depending on what you have in hand, go ahead and substitute.
Canned Coconut Cream
Canned coconut cream
Quantity of Coconut Milk Required: 1 cup

To be Replaced with: 3 tbsp. of canned cream of coconut + 1 cup hot water/1 cup low-fat milk

Procedure: Take a little less than one cup of hot water/low-fat milk and add 3 tbsp. of canned cream of coconut to it.

Keep in Mind: Great coconut milk substitution and can be used for piña coladas, curries, etc.
Instant Coconut Milk Powder
Instant Coconut Milk Powder
Quantity of Coconut Milk Required: 1 cup

To be Replaced with: 1 cup instant coconut milk powder + ½ cup hot water

Procedure: Whisk thoroughly or blend in a blender/food processor.

Keep in Mind: Great for all those times when you are out of coconut milk. Can be stored in the kitchen cabinet for a long time.
Coconut Juice/Coconut Water
Coconut Water
Quantity of Coconut Milk Required: 1 cup

To be Replaced with: 1 cup coconut water

Procedure: Instead of coconut milk, add coconut water or juice to the recipe.

Keep in Mind: Coconut water will only impart slight coconut flavor, without the creamy consistency of coconut milk. You can add heavy cream to the recipe for creaminess.
Coconut Essence
Coconut Essence
Quantity of Coconut Milk Required: 1 cup

To be Replaced with: 1 cup evaporated milk + few drops of coconut essence

Procedure: Add few drops of coconut essence to 1 cup of evaporated milk and stir well. Instead of evaporated milk, you can also use regular or skim milk.

Keep in Mind: Most people dislike the flavor coconut essence imparts to dishes, that call for coconut milk.
Coconut Extract
Quantity of Coconut Milk Required: 1 cup

To be Replaced with: 8 oz. of cottage cheese + 3 tbsp. powdered milk + 1 tsp. coconut extract + ¾ cup hot water

Procedure: Blend the cottage cheese along with powdered milk, and coconut extract in a blender. Then add the hot water to it and blend.

Keep in Mind: You can also add 1 tsp. of sugar if you want, especially if you are using it in a dessert recipe.

or
Quantity of Coconut Milk Required: 1 cup

To be Replaced with: 1 cup milk + ½ tsp. coconut extract or 1 cup yogurt + ½ tsp. coconut extract

Procedure: Add ½ tsp. coconut extract to one cup of milk/yogurt.

Keep in Mind: Is good for curries.

or
Quantity of Coconut Milk Required: 1 cup

To be Replaced with: 1 cup evaporated milk + ½ tsp. coconut extract

Procedure: Add ½ tsp. coconut extract to one cup of evaporated milk and stir.

Keep in Mind: Coconut extract is not the same as coconut essence.

or
Quantity of Coconut Milk Required: 1 cup

To be Replaced with: ⅓ cup milk + ½ tsp. coconut extract + 1 tsp. cornstarch

Procedure: Heat milk in a saucepan and add cornstarch to it. Stir thoroughly until the mixture thickens. Turn off the heat and add the coconut extract.

Keep in Mind: If it gets too thick, just add some more milk and continue stirring.
Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
Quantity of Coconut Milk Required: 1 cup

To be Replaced with: ¾ cup hot water + ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Procedure: Boil ¾ cup of water and into the boiling water add ¼ cup of unsweetened coconut flakes. Allow it to boil for 5 minutes. Then pour the mixture into the blender and blend. Strain if required.

Keep in Mind: If you need the substitute for a curry, you need not strain. You can also use warm milk instead of boiling hot water.
Non-coconut Substitutes
For those of you who don't have either of the coconut-based substitutes, or are allergic to coconuts, here are some other non-coconut substitutes.
Heavy Cream
Heavy Cream
Quantity of Coconut Milk Required: 1 cup

To be Replaced with: 1 cup heavy cream/full cream milk

Procedure: Instead of coconut milk, add heavy cream to the recipe.

Keep in Mind: Cream imparts a lovely creamy texture, that mimics the creamy texture of coconut milk, however, since cream is flavorless, you can try adding ½ a cup of coconut water to the recipe. However, heavy cream means more calories.
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Low-fat Cream Cheese
Low-fat Cream Cheese
Quantity of Coconut Milk Required: 1 cup

To be Replaced with: ½ cup low-fat cream + ½ cup skimmed milk

Procedure: In a blender, blend the low-fat cream and skimmed milk together.

Keep in Mind: Cream and milk only impart a creamy consistency, without coconut flavor.
Cashew Cream/Almond Paste
Cashew Cream/Almond Paste
Quantity of Coconut Milk Required: 1 cup

To be Replaced with: 1 cup unsalted cashews/almonds + warm water/milk

Procedure: Soak a cup of cashews or almonds overnight and blend them with some warm water or milk in a blender.

Keep in Mind: Take more cashews or almonds for thicker milk. Great for making curries.
Greek Yogurt
Greek Yogurt
Quantity of Coconut Milk Required: 1 cup

To be Replaced with: 1 cup Greek yogurt

Procedure: Simply add the yogurt instead of coconut milk. You can also blend the yogurt first.

Keep in Mind: Good coconut milk substitute for curries, especially a good low-calorie substitute.
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Evaporated Milk
Evaporated Milk
Quantity of Coconut Milk Required: 1 cup

To be Replaced with: 1 cup evaporated milk

Procedure: Add the evaporated milk instead of coconut milk.

Keep in Mind: You also get coconut-flavored evaporated milk.
Condensed Milk
Condensed Milk
Quantity of Coconut Milk Required: 1 cup

To be Replaced with: ¾ cup condensed milk

Procedure: Add the condensed milk instead of coconut milk.

Keep in Mind: Condensed milk is very sweet, so adjust accordingly. Can be used for piña colada.
Once again, you must remember, no coconut milk substitute can mimic the true creamy texture and coconut flavor of coconut milk. Nevertheless, if you really have to substitute it, pick accordingly.