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How to Cook with Coconut Milk

Coconut milk

Dairy can be keto-friendly and it’s a Paleo gray area, but there are a lot of people who just feel better without it. For those folks, coconut milk is often the first choice of substitutes – but if you’ve never cooked with it, coconut milk can be confusing.

Nutrition basics

Coconut milk is mostly fat, with a little bit of protein and a few carbs. It’s pretty keto-friendly in reasonable amounts (unless you’re getting a sweetened type, which you shouldn’t).

Coconut milk (½ cup)
Protein 2.3 grams
Fat 24 grams
Carbs 3.2 grams (and also 3.2 net, since there’s no fiber)
Other good stuff Several minerals, most importantly iron and magnesium.

Unlike cow’s milk, coconut milk has almost no calcium. If you’re hunting for a calcium source, check out these Paleo-friendly, non-dairy meals.

Types of coconut milk (have this part open on your phone at the store)Coconut milk

Just like cow’s milk, coconut milk has options. Not quite as many options, luckily for all of our sanity, but there are a couple choices to make.

The short version: get unsweetened, regular (not lite), canned coconut milk unless you have a specific reason to do otherwise.

Canned coconut milk should be in the middle aisles, sometimes with the powdered/canned milk and sometimes with the Asian food.

Now, how do you cook with it?

Cooking with coconut milk

Unfortunately, you can’t just substitute coconut milk 1:1 for “regular” milk in all recipes. It doesn’t have the same proteins and sugars as cow’s milk, so for finicky things like baking, it just won’t work in exactly the same way. Also, in some applications, it doesn’t taste quite right – you wouldn’t sit down and drink a big glass of it, and most people wouldn’t pour it over cereal. But once you know how to work with it, it’s pretty low-maintenance and extremely delicious.

What can you cook with coconut milk?Happy coconut

Soups, curries, and stews – coconut milk is an amazing base liquid for all kinds of soups – if you want a warmer, richer, creamier taste, just throw in a can of coconut milk and enjoy! Try it in…

Coconut milk has a mild, creamy flavor that adds a rich undertone to any kind of soup or stew you put it in. And it’s super easy to use.

Almost any cut of meat – coconut milk is a great cooking liquid for meat because it adds a great flavor and goes with almost any type of seasoning. Try using it to braise lean cuts like pork loin. Or use coconut milk as a combination cooking liquid and flavor delivery vehicle for chicken drumsticks, coconut cajun pork chops, slow-cooker coconut-ginger chicken, or even coconut curry shrimp.

Sauces and dressings – it’s easy to under-appreciate the dressings aisle of the grocery store until you go Paleo and suddenly your options narrow down dramatically. Even with the explosion of “real food” condiments in recent years, it’s still sometimes hard to find what you need, especially at an affordable price.

Coconut milk can substitute for dairy ingredients in all kinds of sauces and dressings. Check out some recipes:

Desserts – who doesn’t love a good Paleo dessert. Paleo baking doesn’t use coconut milk the same way that “regular” baking uses cow’s milk, but there’s no reason to miss out on that delicious richness in all kinds of desserts, like…

Coconut cream also makes a great topping for Paleo cake, scones, or other delicacies.

Miscellaneous cooking notes

A few extra tips and tricks:

How do you use coconut milk?

Got a favorite recipe? A tip for cooking with coconut milk/coconut cream? Share on Facebook or Twitter!