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Demystifying Coconut – Water, Milk, and Cream

Coconut, in all of its various forms, is a staple in tropical climates around the world. Whether in a beachside cocktail in the Caribbean, as the base for a Southeast Asian curry, flaked into a sweet dessert, or just sipped straight from the source, coconut is one of the most versatile ingredients out there. But what’s the difference between coconut water and coconut milk? Are coconut cream and cream of coconut the same thing? Here’s the answer:

  • Coconut water is the liquid that comes straight from the inside of a young coconut. It is used mostly for drinking and not cooking.

  • Coconut milk is made by pureeing then straining coconut meat and water. It is used mostly for cooking, especially in Asian curries.

  • Coconut cream (unsweetened) is a thicker, reduced version of coconut milk with a paste-like consistency. It is often used in desserts.

  • Cream of coconut is NOT the same thing as coconut cream. It is a sweetened, stabilized version that is used for desserts and tropical drinks, like the Pina Colada.

In most cases, regular coconut milk is going to be your go-to coconut ingredient but now you know how and when to use everything else you might come across.