From coconut water to coconut oil and milk to coconut cream, we can use many coconut-based products instead of actual fruit. But do you know the difference between those and, more importantly, when some are used? Honestly, I’ve also often found myself overwhelmed in the grocery store aisle, wondering what I should buy to prepare a particular meal. Because of this, I wrote this article to help us all understand the differences between the cream of coconut and coconut milk.
The most significant difference between coconut milk and cream of coconut is the consistency. While coconut milk has fluid, the cream of coconut has a thick consistency. Moreover, there’s also a difference in their production, fat content, and use.
If you are a coconut fan (and who isn’t), then your pantry is probably filled with all things coconut. But you are also not alone if you can’t always tell the difference between the two coconut products. In the following paragraphs, I will explain the differences between the cream of coconut and coconut milk, their appearance, uses, taste, and whether you can swap one for another.
Cream of Coconut vs. Coconut Milk: Differences?
If you are searching for a perfect dairy-free alternative to milk, you can use both cream of coconut and coconut milk in soups, curries, and desserts, but also whipped cream. You’d think that they would not have many differences because both of them are sourced from the same raw fruit.
However, there are several differences that can make or break a recipe. Let’s look at them!
If you’ve ever been on a keto diet, then chances are you have used coconut milk as a non-dairy replacement for regular milk. In terms of taste, coconut milk has a subtly sweet, creamy nut taste and is often used to enhance the flavor of many dishes, but most commonly, curry.
When it comes to the cream of coconut, it has a much sweeter taste, representing the sweetened version of coconut cream. If you like piña coladas, you are familiar with its taste as it is mainly found in cocktails.
When talking about nutrition, cream of coconut has much more fat than coconut milk, while they are both relatively high in calories. Although coconut milk is considered healthy, it should be consumed in moderation, especially for those people who are concerned about eating too much saturated fat or too many calories.
For example, 100 grams of coconut milk contain 31 calories, 2.08 grams of fat, and no fiber, while it also contains small amounts of iron and calcium. 
Cream of coconut is a product created by adding sugar to coconut cream. 100 grams of coconut cream contain 222 calories, and 22.2 grams of total fat. Add sugar to that, and you get a sweet version in the form of a cream of coconut. 
These coconut products are also considered high in fat since they get a high percentage of their calories from saturated fat.
However, note that this saturated fat and the one from cow’s milk are different. Although the saturated fat from coconut raises bad cholesterol levels, it also raises good cholesterol.
While coconut water is a clear, natural juice from the coconut, coconut milk and cream are produced by boiling the meat of the coconut with water.
To produce coconut milk, you will need one part of shredded coconut and one part of water, while for the cream of coconut, you’ll need to simmer four parts of shredded coconut in a single part of water and then add sugar.
Because of this, the cream of coconut has a thicker consistency than coconut milk, which is fluid.
Also known as vegan milk, coconut milk is most often used in Thai curries but also stews and soups. Moreover, if you are vegan or just want to avoid dairy, you can add some coconut milk to your coffee or smoothie, make yogurt from it, or simply substitute regular milk in numerous recipes that require traditional dairy products.
Cream of coconut is mainly used in cocktails and desserts due to its sweetness. Moreover, thanks to its consistency as well, it can also be used as a topping on ice cream or even make your own homemade chocolate coconut milk ice cream.
You can think of the cream of coconut as being to coconut milk the same as condensed milk is to regular milk.
How Much Water to Dilute Coconut Cream into Coconut Milk?
Sometimes you’ll have coconut cream in your kitchen, but coconut milk is what you really need! You can make one for yourself!
All you need to do is mix three tablespoons of coconut cream into a single tablespoon of water to produce around ¼ cup of coconut milk. While you will get a version that tastes lighter than full-fat coconut milk, it’s still better than no coconut milk, right?
If the situation is reversed, there’s a solution for that too! If you have a can of coconut milk, all you need is a free night. Why? Because making coconut cream out of milk involves leaving it in the fridge overnight.
In the morning, open the can and scoop out the coconut cream from the top using a spoon.
Can You Use Cream of Coconut Instead of Coconut Milk and Vice Versa?
When it comes to substituting coconut milk with coconut cream, you can absolutely do that as long as you dilute it with water. This naturally means you can do this in a reversed situation. After refrigerating coconut milk and scooping the coconut cream the next day, you can use it in recipes that require coconut cream.
However, since the cream of coconut is a sweetened blend of coconut meat, water, and added sugar, it usually can’t be used as a substitution for either coconut cream or coconut milk.
If you need to substitute cream of coconut with coconut milk, just follow the process explained above for making coconut cream from coconut milk, and add as much sugar or sweetener as you need.