Best substitute for coconut milk | Top 10 alternatives for every dish

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  June 13, 2022

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Coconut milk is a favorite ingredient in Asian cuisine.

Due to the creamy texture, pleasant taste, and numerous health benefits of coconut milk, it is used in many desserts, curries, and sauces.

In fact, many dishes are almost incomplete without them.

Best substitute for coconut milk | Top 10 alternatives for every dish

If you are about to try one of those dishes to take a break from your daily culinary ruts but forgot to buy a bottle or can of coconut milk, don’t worry!

There are a lot of great substitutes you can try out to pleasantly deceive your tastebuds.

One of the best substitutes for coconut milk is soy milk. With a very mild and creamy flavor and a much lower fat content, soy milk will easily fill the gap and give your dish the signature flavor it usually gets from coconut milk.

That being said, let’s walk through a detailed list of alternatives you can try, with some tidbits along the way!

What to look for in a coconut milk replacement

Ok! Before we get into the nitty-gritty of coconut milk substitutes, I would like to make one thing clear.

The replacement options for coconut milk I am about to discuss below aren’t necessarily suitable for every coconut milk recipe.

When making a certain dish, first, you would like to confirm the type of taste and texture you want to achieve.

Afterward, you can look up alternatives that best complement your dish and use it according to the recipe.

Many people just pick “anything” from an online blog, buy it, and pour it into their dish…only to regret it later.

That being said, let’s jump into some of the best substitutes for coconut milk you would like to use in your recipes:

Best dairy-free substitutes for coconut milk

If you are lactose intolerant or simply one of our vegan buddies, perhaps you would like to replace coconut milk with something natural, dairy-free, and tasteful.

Following are some of the options that you can check out:

Soy milk

Healthier, creamier, and versatile, soy milk is one of the healthiest coconut milk substitutes available. In fact, it even beats coconut milk in almost every way.

Soy milk is a traditional plant-based liquid obtained from whole soybeans.

Compared to coconut milk’s sweet, floral, and nutty taste, soy milk has a relatively mild and creamy taste. Manufacturers often add sweeteners to soy milk to make it more flavorful.

Moreover, soy milk has a higher protein content than coconut milk, making it a much healthier choice and the closest plant-based liquid to cow’s milk in nutritional value.

Best substitute for coconut milk is soy milk

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Just so you know, a cup of soy milk contains around 9 grams of protein, compared to an almost negligible protein found in a cup of coconut milk.

Due to its creamy consistency and usually sweet flavor, it is best used in milkshakes, ice creams, and custards.

However, if you are more into making sauces and curries, you would like to get the unsweetened version.

You can find soy milk in any supermarket near you as it’s a pretty common dietary beverage!

Almond milk

Although almond milk doesn’t have that super creamy texture of coconut milk and has a comparatively thinner consistency, it still counts as a great coconut milk substitute.

Many people prefer almond milk because of its neutral flavor that is even refined when complemented by a subtle hint of nuttiness, just like coconut milk.

Almond milk as a good substitute for coconut milk

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When using almond milk, you would like to add at least a single tablespoon of coconut flour to every 240 ml of almond milk to thicken it up and add some extra flavor.

If coconut flour isn’t available due to some reason, you can also use lemon juice instead, in the same quantity.

However, I wouldn’t highly recommend this method if you primarily use milk for baking.

Almond oil also boasts a very high nutritional profile with abundant proteins and very low fat per serving.

Plus, it’s an excellent source of vitamin E and D, which help keep your bones, skin, and hair healthy.

Like soy milk, almond milk is also available in two varieties, sweetened and non-sweetened.

If you plan to use it in curries, go for the non-sweetened milk. If that’s not the case, you can also use the sweetened variety.

Cashew milk

Looking for an alternative to thicken up those sauces, soups, or smoothies? Cashew milk is one of the best out there!

Cashew milk is made from soaked cashews, and It has a very creamy and subtly sweet taste, just like cow’s milk, with almost the same smoothness and consistency.

Additionally, the calorie intake associated with cashew milk is also quite balanced.

Cashew milk as a good substitute for coconut milk

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A single cup of pure cashew milk contains about 9 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of proteins, and 14 grams of fat, slightly higher than coconut milk.

As for the nutritional intake, cashew milk is rich in fiber, calcium, and iron, contributing to maintaining blood pressure, improving heart health, and boosting the immune system.

However, make sure to consume it in a normal amount. A high intake of cashew milk is associated with constipation, weight loss, and bloating. Not to mention the reaction if you are allergic to nuts.

Oat milk

About to try some high-heat recipes? Oat milk is your ideal choice. It tastes just like cow’s milk but with a bit of sweetness.

The oat-like aftertaste makes it even better. Moreover, you can also conveniently drink it in the morning.

Oatly oat milk as a substitute for coconut milk

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You can swap oat milk in 1:1 with coconut milk.

Some favorite recipes that people love to use oat milk include baked pasta, stews, and sauces.

Oat milk packs up a lot of healthy nutrients, including vitamin B2, and B12, along with high protein and fiber.

Not to mention its role in lowering LDL cholesterol which helps to reduce heart-related diseases.

All in all, a healthy and nice-tasting substitute for coconut milk.

Know that oatmeal is fairly low in fat, which it makes up for in carbohydrates.

So if you are looking for more creaminess in your recipe, augment the oat milk with some coconut oil to get the same effect.

Rice milk

Although the thinnest and least versatile substitute for coconut milk for non-dairy milk, rice milk still stands as the least allergic, less fatty, and healthier option than any nut milk.

Since it’s too thin, you can definitely not use it in curry recipes. However, it works great in smoothies, desserts, and oatmeal porridge.

Rice milk as a substitute for coconut milk

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It also doesn’t have any allergens, so you can consume it daily as nut milk or a regular milk substitute to cope with your lactose and nut allergies.

Besides, it’s a good source of vitamin A, vitamin D, and calcium, three of the most essential body nutrients for developing strong bones.

Just keep one thing in mind! During processing, the carbohydrates in rice milk are broken down into sugars, giving it a sweet taste and increasing its calory intake per serving.

So, you don’t want to overconsume it.

Silken tofu

Silken tofu is a coagulated form of soy milk obtained from white soybeans, having a wobbly, tender texture, just like those Japanese-style tofus.

It’s available in four varieties, including extra firm, firm, soft, and fresh.

For recipes in which you will use it as a replacement for coconut milk, I would recommend going for soft or fresh silken tofu.

Silken tofu as a substitute for coconut milk

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Mix it with soy milk until it perfectly blends in and gives the milk a soft, creamy texture. You can simply use it as a substitute for coconut milk in a 1:1 ratio.

As for the flavor, silken tofu has a very mild taste, with a subtle hint of fattiness that perfectly complements its flavor.

Besides, it contains no cholesterol and is an excellent source of iron and calcium.

A classic recipe that calls for coconut milk is Ginataang mais (sweet corn and rice pudding)

Dairy substitutes for coconut milk

If you don’t mind using a dairy coconut milk substitute, the following are some of the best options that can take your recipe to the next level.

Evaporated milk

If your recipe calls for something creamy, but you don’t have the option to use coconut milk, don’t worry!

As long as you are not lactose intolerant, there’s a myriad of options you can pick from. One of them is evaporated milk.

Evaporated milk is obtained by heating a cow’s milk to the limit that it loses about 60% of its total water content.

What’s left is, though, pure milk with all its creamy goodness, a slightly thick and caramelized texture, and a “worth tasting” taste.

Evaporated milk as a creamy substitute for coconut milk

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You can use it as a coconut milk substitute in almost any recipe in a 1:1 ratio. However, nothing matches up with it better than soups, curries, and other creamy dishes.

Evaporated milk is also rich in vitamins, calcium, and proteins, three of the most essential nutrients for the body.

However, keep in mind! If you are one of those trying to lose weight, the extra calories found in evaporated milk might not be good for you.

Also have a good look at the label to scan for added sugar. This might make your dish too sweet.

Greek yogurt

Another great substitute for coconut milk you would like to try is Greek yogurt.

Although it has a thick and creamy consistency, an optimum amount of Greek yogurt is what your curry needs to get that creamier texture and ultimate flavor.

Greek yogurt as a substitute for coconut milk

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Usually, for every cup of coconut milk, you would like to use a cup of greek yogurt mixed with 1 tablespoon of water to give it a somewhat liquid consistency to blend in.

Also, if you’re a huge fan of coconut flavor, you can either mix a little coconut water in the yogurt or simply buy the coconut-flavored Greek yogurt.

This is especially recommended when making a smoothie where you want minimum tanginess.

As for the nutritional value, regular Greek yogurt contains an optimum amount of saturated and unsaturated fat and is an excellent source of calcium and protein.

That’s one of the reasons why it’s choice no. 1 among people who want to lose weight. Besides, it’s also extremely helpful in maintaining blood pressure.

The only people who shouldn’t take Greek yogurt are those with lactose intolerance.

Heavy cream

Heavy cream is made by skimming the fat layer from fresh milk.

Although natural heavy cream is mostly high in fat, industry-manufactured heavy cream contains vitamins, stabilizers, thickeners, and mono and diglycerides.

Heavy cream as a substitute for coconut milk

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You can use it to substitute coconut milk in most recipes into a 1:1 ratio. Just use it with caution. Because when I say “it’s high in fat”, I mean super-super high!

Some awesome recipes to replace coconut milk with heavy cream include smoothies, ice creams, and soups.

Whole milk

Well, whole milk is another great substitute to replace coconut milk. Because, why not? It has got all the richness and creaminess of coconut milk.

Whole milk as a substitute for coconut milk

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The only difference between both is the consistency. Whole milk might come as a bit more watery than coconut milk due to its high water content.

Another thing you need to know is that whole milk has a relatively milder flavor compared to coconut milk. This means you would like to add some coconut oil to give it that unique taste suitable for curries.

Sour cream

Sour cream is considered best for spicy dishes, especially for curries.

It tastes almost the same as Greek yogurt; creamy, sour, and a little overwhelming. But guess what, this potency might just be what could make your dish worth every bite.

Sour cream as a substitute for coconut milk

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Use it in the 1:1 ratio with coconut milk to get the best out of it.

And oh! You can also dilute it to best suit your recipe if it seems too thick, for as long as it doesn’t affect the natural flavor of the cream.

Here, it’s worth mentioning that authentic sour cream is made from cow’s milk.

So if you aren’t a big fan of dairy products, you might like to use the versions made of cashew milk or oat milk.

Although they come off as a little nutty, the flavor is no less than awesome!

Conclusion

Coconut milk is one of the main and perhaps the best things about certain recipes.

But like anything, either you will run out of it, or you would simply like to try something new to level up your recipe.

In any of the cases mentioned above, I have piled up for you some of the best substitutes for coconut oil you can try in just about any recipe, given that they complement the overall taste of the dish.

They include both plant and dairy substitutes. However, plant substitutes are often preferred due to their high nutritious value and low-calorie value.

Also find out the best ways to replace sesame oil in your dishes

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.