Coconut milk is a versatile plant-based milk known for its creamy consistency and coconut flavor. Whether you've run out of coconut milk or aren't keen on its flavor or consistency, find the best substitute for coconut milk in all of your recipes.
There are so many great options that finding one coconut milk alternative is not a "one-substitute-works-with-every-recipe" process - be sure to use a few in your favorite recipes and let us know in the comments which is the best option for you!
What is Coconut Milk?
Coconut milk is a plant-based milk derived from coconuts! It's one of many plant-based alternatives when it comes to milk, making it a great option for those who follow a Vegan diet, limit their intake of animal-based products, or seek non-dairy milk.
It is made from coconut flesh and blended with water. The end result has a slight taste of coconut which makes coconut milk a very versatile ingredient in cooking and baking as the coconut flavor is not overpowering.
It's full of healthy fats, often providing a creamier texture to your favorite recipes. The healthy fats in coconut milk can help prevent heart disease and lower cholesterol levels.
How to Use Coconut Milk in Recipes
Soups and stews: Canned coconut milk is often added to soups and stews, like whole30 zuppa toscana, to give them a thicker consistency.
Best Coconut Milk Substitutes - Non-Dairy Products
If you don't have coconut milk on hand, then try these options out in your favorite recipes in place of coconut milk! Whether you experience lactose intolerance, follow a vegan diet, or just prefer non-dairy milk, each option below is an excellent substitute in it's own way. Keep reading to understand how the different textures, flavors, and consistencies for each may alter your final product!
Expert Tip: A can of coconut milk is shelf-stable and will last for months! If you don't have any on hand, we recommend you buy some the next time you are at your grocery store!
1. Soy Milk
Soy milk is a popular alternative for coconut milk and one of the best substitutes you can use for coconut milk, especially when you're looking for an option with a cream consistency. It has a thicker consistency than almond milk or oat milk but isn't quite as thick as heavy cream. Soy milk is a great plant-based milk option with a slightly lower fat content than coconut milk.
If you are going to use soy milk, be sure to buy an unflavored and unsweetened variety; however, if you're going to miss the hint of coconut flavor that coconut milk provides, you can add a little bit of coconut flavoring to your soy milk to mimic that coconut flavor.
- Expert Tip: You can add coconut flavoring or coconut extract to any of these options as you substitute for coconut milk!
Soy milk is also a great alternative if you are looking to add more protein in to your diet. It contains 7g of protein per cup while coconut milk only has .5g per cup!
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing a cup of coconut milk with soy milk.
2. Coconut Cream
If you don't have any coconut milk on hand then a great alternative for coconut milk will be coconut cream! Coconut cream is an excellent substitute for coconut milk because they are derived from the same ingredients.
To make coconut cream a useable substitute, you will need to dilute it first. The best part about using coconut cream as a substitute is that you can control the consistency you want for you recipe by adding water while still keeping that coconut flavor you may want.
Depending on the recipe, you may want a thinner consistency, like for use in this Mocha Coconut Iced Coffee, or a thicker consistency, like for use in this vegan cheesecake. If you're looking for how to make coconut whipped cream, we have the perfect coconut whipped cream recipe that is paleo and vegan! Coconut cream is a great coconut milk substitute for use in savory dishes, soups and curries, especially this sweet potato curry, because of it's creamier consistency.
Start by adding 3 tablespoons of coconut cream to 1 tablespoon of water. This yields ¼ cup of coconut milk. As with all recipes, be careful with adding water to start because it's always easier to add more liquid than it is to remove it! Less water will create a thicker result.
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing a cup of coconut milk with your thinned coconut cream.
3. Shredded Coconut and Water
It should be no shock that a great coconut milk substitute is to make your own! By using fresh shredded coconut meat or coconut flakes and water, you can make your own coconut milk substitute for use!
Just like with coconut cream, this is a great option if you want to control the consistency of your substitute. In a high-speed blender, combine 1 cup of coconut meat or coconut flakes with 2 cups of water. Blend it in a food processor or high-speed blender until it looks smooth (a few minutes). Add more water until you reach your desired consistency of coconut milk. Strain the mixture through a nut milk bag placed in a colander. The straining isn’t required, but it is helpful if you don’t want bits of dry coconut in your dish!
Homemade coconut milk will be great in soups, stews, and curries since it can have a thicker consistency. Remember: less water will make a thicker result! Try your mix in this cream sauce and serve over sweet potato gnocchi!
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing a cup of coconut milk with your coconut milk mixture.
4. Almond Milk
Almond milk is another great option that you can use in your recipes in place of coconut milk! In recent years, almond milk has surged in popularity as a non-dairy milk alternative. One of the benefits of almond milk is it's price point tends to be the lowest of all plant-based milk options.
If you use almond milk as your substitution, be sure to use unsweetened almond milk as any flavoring in the milk can change the end result of your recipe. Almond milk works best in recipes like smoothies or lattes, like this copycat Starbucks pink drink, or baked goods, like this paleo caramel apple cake or these easy Italian sprinkle cookies. Even though it is made from a nut, it does not have a nutty flavor.
If you feel you'll miss the coconut flavor or want your almond milk a little thicker, you can add a bit of coconut flour to your almond milk.
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing a cup of coconut milk with a cup of almond milk.
5. Cashew Milk or Cashew Cream
Cashew milk is a good substitute for soups, stews, and smoothies. It's not the most popular option when it comes to nut-based milks but the higher fat content makes it an ideal swap for coconut milk, especially if you're looking for a vegan substitute for heavy cream.
When comparing to all plant-based milks, the consistency of cashew milk is the closets to cow's milk. It has a creamier texture than other nut milks and is naturally lower in calories. If you want an even creamier texture, you can use cashew cream over coconut milk, but be aware of the change in consistency.
Cashew milk is great for use in these blueberry overnight oats!
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing a cup of coconut milk with cashew milk.
6. Oat Milk
Oat milk is my favorite non-dairy milk. I love it so much that I've learned to make my own using this oat milk recipe! One reason I love oat milk is that it will not curdle in recipes that require high heat, like other plant milk options will.
Oat milk has a significantly creamier texture than coconut milk and is by far the creamiest non-dairy milk. However, oat milk is also the sweetest alternative and shouldn't be used for savory dishes. Oat milk is great in coffee-based drinks, like this smooth and creamy Dalgona coffee, or other lattes, like this Matcha collagen latte or iced pumpkin spice latte.
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing a cup of coconut milk with oat milk.
7. Hemp Milk
Hemp milk another good plant-based alternative to coconut milk as it is derived from the hemp plant and made from hemp seeds. It does not contain THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana. The hemp seeds that make hemp milk are super nutritious and common ingredients in smoothies, like this mango spinach smoothie, and smoothie bowls, like our berry almond smoothie bowl!
Hemp milk's flavor may not be suitable for all palates. Some say that it has a nutty flavor while others say it is noticeably earthy. Hemp milk is an especially great substitute in baking. When mixed with an acid, like lemon juice, it can act as a leavening agent. Leavening agents assist in making your recipes fluffy, like we explain in how to make these oat flour pancakes.
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing a cup of coconut milk with hemp milk.
8. Silken Tofu
Silken tofu is made from soy milk so it should make sense that it is also a great coconut milk substitute! It is a great dairy-free alternative or vegan substitute for coconut milk in baking.
Silken tofu is a great way to provide moisture and a creamy texture to recipes that is similar to yogurt. Silken tofu works well in recipes like muffins, quick breads, and cakes, and would be a great option for this vegan caramel sauce.
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing a cup of coconut milk with silken tofu.
Best Coconut Milk Substitutes - Dairy Products
If you don't follow a plant-based diet or prefer dairy products to non-dairy products, we have a few options that will make a good substitute!
9. Heavy Cream
Heavy cream is an excellent substitute for coconut milk because it has a much higher fat content than coconut milk. Because it is made from from the fat of fresh milk, it has a thicker consistency than coconut milk, resembling a similar consistency to coconut cream.
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing a cup of coconut milk with heavy cream.
10. Whole Milk
Whole Milk is good choice to use if you are looking for a regular milk option. It doesn't curdle when you apply heat, making it a great option for baked goods. Regular milk, whole milk included, doesn't usually contain sweeteners (unless you're buying flavored milk), so you don't need to adjust any of the other ingredients in the recipe.
Whole milk is also great in soups and savory dishes, like this Instant Pot lasagna soup. This skinny strawberry shortcake recipe uses full fat coconut milk and would be a great option to try out whole milk as a substitute!
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing a cup of coconut milk with whole milk.
11. Greek Yogurt
Another substitute for coconut milk is Greek yogurt. It might not be the most popular substitute but it can definitely work in a pinch! Greek yogurt is great in soups, smoothies, and pasta sauces.
Because of it's thicker consistency, Greek yogurt is a great option for use in recipes that benefit from a more sturdy substitute, like in the alfredo sauce of this chicken alfredo stuffed spaghetti squash. It's also great to use in baked goods, like this healthy banana bread.
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing a cup of coconut milk with Greek yogurt. Occasionally, you may need to add a little water due to Greek yogurt’s thickness.
12. Sour Cream
Sour cream is another option for coconut milk for all of the same reasons that Greek yogurt is a good substitute! The fat content in sour cream is similar to coconut milk so it's a suitable replacement based on that alone. However, the sour and tangy taste of sour cream has some people hesitate to use it as a replacement.
You will want to use sour cream in recipes that don't rely on the sweetness so definitely use it for substitution in savory dishes, like in these creamy mashed potatoes (NOTE: this recipe is dairy-free and using sour cream will make it NOT dairy-free).
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing a cup of coconut milk with sour cream. However, just like with Greek yogurt, you may need to add a little water due to sour cream’s thickness.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best coconut milk substitute truly depends on the other needs and ingredients of your recipe. For smoothies and drinks, try another milk option, such as almond milk, cashew milk, or oat milk. For soups, stews, or curries, try something with a slightly thicker consistency, such as coconut cream or heavy whipping cream.
Skim milk a much lower fat content than coconut milk and we do not recommend using it as a substitute. If you are looking for another regular milk option, use whole milk. Another dairy product option is heavy cream!
Regular cow's milk is the most similar to coconut milk. Whole milk works best, as it provides the closest consistency to coconut milk. Use milk in a 1:1 exchange. If it does not thicken the recipe enough, add a tablespoon of flour (or coconut flour) to 1 cup of milk to thicken it up.
The slight sweetness of coconut milk counteracts the spices in curry, making it the perfect milk for use in curry. If you are looking for the sweetest alternative, use oat milk, but you can use any of the 12 options that we have provided you. Just note that the final product will taste differently than it would using coconut milk!
More Kitchen Tips
- Substitute for Yogurt in Baking
- How to Tell if Chicken Broth is Bad
- Substitutes for Coconut Sugar
- Vegan Substitute for Heavy Cream
Did you try one of these substitutes? Tag us in your recipes on Instagram so we can see them!