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What is Cream of Coconut and How to Use It

Cream of Coconut
Coconut milk is an ingredient that is often called for in baking recipes that showcase coconut, used in place of regular milk or other liquids to further emphasize the coconut flavor of a recipe. Most grocery stores stock it, and they also stock a similar looking product called cream of coconut. Here is a handy guide to help you tell the difference between coconut milk, coconut cream and cream of coconut.

Coconut milk is a creamy liquid with the consistency of milk made by cooking coconut and water together and straining out the coconut meat.

Coconut cream is made by chilling coconut milk and skimming off the thick, rich layer of cream that forms on top of it. Coconut cream has a buttery mouth feel and a good coconut flavor, but it is not particularly sweet.

Cream of coconut is to coconut milk what condensed milk is to regular milk. It is made by combining coconut cream with lots of sugar. It is typically used for making mixed drinks and ice creams, where you want an intense flavor and sweetness.

Cans are not always clearly labeled that they have been sweetened (making them more like sweetened condensed milk than evaporated milk), so it is important to check the labels when picking some up. Cream of coconut is not often called for in baked goods or recipes because coconut milk is more widely available and easier to incorporate, but know that neither coconut cream nor cream of coconut should not be substituted directly for coconut milk in recipes, especially when dealing with baked goods.

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  • Charles
    October 4, 2011

    Generally speaking, products labelled “coconut cream” and “cream of coconut” are two very different things. What you are describing above is coconut cream–basically condensed coconut milk. But the image you have is cream of coconut, a sweetened syrupy product often used in substandard piña coladas. Coco Lopez is a common brand name for that stuff.

    Usually, if it is labelled “coconut cream,” it is unsweetened. In my experience, this has always been the case.

  • Kocchan
    October 6, 2011

    Loved this when I’m in my Thai mood

  • Amy
    August 7, 2012

    Charles… can you use plain coconut cream in pina coladas?

  • BB283
    September 7, 2012

    So, you say not to subsitute cream of coconut for coconut milk in recipes, especially baking…but what about the other way around?

    I have a cake recipe that calls for poking holes in the freshly baked, still warm cake and drizzling with one can of sweetened condensed milk and one can of ‘cream of coconut’. I haven’t been able to find cream of coconut, only coconut milk. Can I substitute this? Someone said I could just skim off the thicker cream part and use that in place of cream of coconut. Do you think that would work?

  • Chelsie
    February 25, 2013

    Charles, you seem to think you know more about the products than the blogger. Too bad you are wrong.. You said the product shown (cream of coconut) was syrupy..? I just used some last week and it certainly it’s not syrupy. Maybe you need your eyes checked.

  • Julie
    March 29, 2013

    Chelsie, I beg to differ about cream of coconut. I accidentally bought “cream of coconut” instead of coconut cream earlier this week, and it was syrupy and super sweet, much like condensed milk. Unfortunately it ruined the curry dish I was making.

  • Julie
    March 29, 2013

    To clarify, I meant to say it was like sweetened condensed milk

  • Gary
    July 13, 2013

    Cream of Coconut (like Coco Lopez) plus crushed pineapple go great in Pina Coladas. It’s not diet food.

  • Carolyn
    March 8, 2014

    IMO, it doesn’t matter which kind you choose. you add:
    Sugar to make it sweet, or
    Water to make it thinner. (for a sauce) or
    Cornstarch to make it thicker (for a custard). Cornstarch is located in the baking section of the supermarket.

    The key is to make sure “coconut” appears 1st or 2nd down the list of ingredients on the label. If it is 3rd or lower on the list, consider adding a teaspoon of Coconut Flavoring.

    Coconut flavoring is located in the baking and/or the spice section of your supermarket in a bottle near the “vanilla” flavoring.

  • D womack
    March 21, 2014

    I opened a can of cream of coconut and it had separated Still okay? Not expired-

  • Nicole
    March 21, 2014

    D womack – Yes, cream of coconut is often separated in the can. Just stir it to recombine and you should be good to go!

  • Deborah
    November 6, 2017

    I’m just trying to find out if cream of coconut and coconut cream the same thing.i know it’s not the same as coconut milk.
    Thank You,
    No dumb questions

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