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What Can I Eat To Replace Coconut Cream or Coconut Milk?

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
October 29, 2022

Are you on a health kick? Many recipes lately use coconut products in place of butter or lard. They are promoted as being beneficial, but research says that’s all hype. So if you want a better option than coconut milk or cream, keep reading.

In general, coconut milk and cream are made by squeezing the meat of ripe brown coconuts and saving the liquid that emerges. Coconut cream is a thicker form of coconut milk, but both have an important place in Thai, Indian, Indonesian, and Polynesian cuisines. These are different from coconut water, which comes from unripe, green coconuts and doesn’t involve any squeezing.

The big difference between coconut cream and coconut milk isn’t very big at all: coconut cream has less water and more fat than coconut milk. This makes coconut cream a luxurious, tropical alternative to dairy cream in many recipes.

Coconut cream is the thickest and most high-calorie form of coconut milk available.

Instead of Coconut Cream?

Coconut cream is high in fat, so when replacing it you will need an alternative with a similar fat content or texture. If you enjoy coconut flavor but want to eat fewer calories, consider using light coconut milk or coconut water instead. You should also make sure it is unsweetened, to get a truly natural product. 

What are the best substitutes for coconut cream? The top coconut cream substitutes are

When comparing coconut cream to different types of dairy cream, coconut cream is actually lower in calories and lower in fat than even light whipping cream, from FoodData comparisons.

Instead of Coconut Milk?

The dairy substitutes:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Sour cream
  • Milk

Healthy Plant-Based Options (Vegan-Friendly)

  • Cashew cream
  • Almond milk
  • Soy milk
  • Oat milk


Regardless if your cream or milk comes from coconut or not, ensuring that it is healthy and natural are important factors. Watch out for the milks that are heavy, high fat, high cholesterol, and stay away from those almond, soy, and other milks that have added flavorings or sugar. Always opt for unsweetened, or you can easily make some almond or cashew milk or cream by yourself. Stay healthy, and keep cooking!