“You complete me” would be a good tagline for the rich and creamy coconut cream with that subtle hint of tropical sweetness. After all, it’s the magic ingredient that turns curry, stir-fry, smoothies, and even baked goods from delectable to divine.
While coconut cream can bring dazzle to any sad curry or beverage, there might come a point in time when you reach in your cupboard and end up grabbing a can of beans instead. This tragedy should not signal the end of cooking night.
Instead, here are some of the best substitutes for coconut cream to consider instantly
- Coconut Milk
- Dairy Milk
- Plant-based milk
- Coconut syrup
- Whipping cream or heavy cream
- Nut Butter
- Greek Yogurt
- Canned tomatoes or tomato puree
- Cream of coconut
Coconut cream comes from pureed coconut flesh mixed with water.
Its creamy and thick texture makes it a prized ingredient to thicken and flavor curry, sauces, soups, dishes, desserts, and beverages such as everyone’s holiday favorite, pina colada.
It is a versatile ingredient, and many find it indispensable in the kitchen. If you want a similar taste or thickness, some of the best substitutes for coconut cream includes coconut milk and or dairy milk.
Of course, there are also other alternatives you can use.
Think of coconut milk as a light edition of coconut cream. The two are similar in taste but expect coconut milk—true to its lighter form—to be less sweet and maintain a thinner consistency.
Coconut milk is also an alternative to cow’s milk, so its application falls more on recipes calling for lighter or thinner liquids. If you are preparing soups, smoothies, and cakes, the coconut milk swap will not make a big difference. Just note that coconut milk from the carton is more diluted than its canned form.
Coconut milk gets points for being vegan and having fewer calories and sugar than coconut cream, which is usually used as a thickening agent with its 24% fat content.
If your dish requires a whipped form of cream, coconut milk will naturally find it difficult to “hold up” to your requirements. If you’re not in a hurry, you can leave a can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight. This will cool the cream on the top, which you can whisk with some coconut water from the bottom.
Dairy milk or cow’s milk may not have any coconut, but it certainly delivers a much creamier version among all the milk variants.
Full fat or whole milk has the most potential to reach the thickness level of coconut cream—also in terms of caloric and fat content.
Another alternative is evaporated milk because it is creamier, thicker, and a lot sweeter than whole milk. The fact that it comes in a can means that it’s not really for drinking and is more of an ingredient for cooking or a porridge topping.
Vegans can still rejoice in the absence of coconut cream by substituting it with plant-based milk. You’ll just need to temper your expectations because plant-based milk has a thinner consistency compared to dairy milk.
Without the animal fat to thicken plant-based milk, its texture is light and mild. The best examples are soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, rice milk, or oat milk.
Oat milk presents the thickest texture among the plant-based milk variants, while soy milk gives the flavor closest to dairy. Rice milk is normally sparse in texture, while the organic nut milk types may be more expensive than the average milk brand.
If you choose to use plant-based milk on your next dish, the recommendation is to thicken this with flour or cornstarch to achieve the creaminess level of coconut cream.
Coconut syrup, if used as a substitute for coconut cream, has a more specialized application. For those who like to enhance their coffee, tea, cocktails, or smoothies with coconut cream, coconut syrup makes a delightful substitute.
As a flavoring for these drinks, coconut syrup hits the mark in terms of flavor. If you’re looking to thicken your smoothie or turn your drink into a luscious latte, add your milk preference to this coconut syrup concoction, and you’ll be surprised at this discovery.
Whipping cream or heavy cream
Curry night will not end well if the guests refer to it as a soupy entrée. You’ll need more than just milk to re-create this abundantly thick and stew-like consistency.
Cue in whipping cream or heavy cream to bring in the creaminess from dairy fat. This thick substitute is guaranteed to bring more bulk to the sauce. If you find it too thick for your liking, diluting it with water does the trick.
If you’re missing the tropical aroma of coconut, an easy fix is to add some coconut milk or desiccated coconut to the mixture. You’ll get the best of both worlds: a whiff of coconut and a creamy and dreamy sauce.
That’s right, you’re still on the same list. Another amazing revelation is that nut butter makes a credible coconut cream substitute. And, who doesn’t have peanut butter at home?
Popular kinds of nut butter, like peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter, can replace coconut cream once diluted.
Nut butter is already thick by default, so thinning this down with water will help you achieve that creamy result with a less nutty taste. Keeping its texture is also beneficial since it would be a great alternative for baking.
With the variety of nut butter variants, you can select one that fits your taste, sugar level, and budget.
Did you know that tahini can also be used instead of nut butter? That’s just nuts, right?
Greek yogurt has always been an ingredient for certain curry-like sauces, so it just makes sense to treat this as an alternative to coconut cream. What’s great about Greek yogurt is that it’s naturally low in fat and rich in probiotics—all the good stuff that your tummy loves.
The trick to cooking with yogurt is not to boil it because that will create a curdling disaster. You’ll need to mix it in the sauce while it’s at a simmering temperature or less.
Allow it to warm up with the sauce, and when you do this patiently, you will be rewarded with an excellent and thick sauce worthy of the gods.
As a plus, use Greek yogurt for cold or chilled delicacies requiring coconut cream like desserts or ice cream.
Canned tomatoes or tomato puree
Tomatoes as a substitute for coconut cream? Yes, you read it right.
Canned tomatoes or tomato puree, otherwise known as passata, is a delicious addition to certain dishes with its pulpy texture.
Enriched with Vitamin C and a hint of sour sweetness, tomatoes can thicken liquid sauces and soups and help enhance their flavor.
Canned tomatoes cannot be a direct substitute for everything that requires coconut cream, but when applicable, it does a fine job on the taste.
Enlist the use of canned tomatoes for recipes that have sauces, curries, or soups. If you feel that the tomato replacement still lacks creaminess, you can always add some cream to the mixture to get a flavorful and creamy finish.
Cream Of Coconut
First things first, cream of coconut is not the same as coconut cream—even though they sound alike!
Think of cream of coconut as “condensed coconut milk” that comes from tender coconut meat. It is a different coconut formula altogether and is considered extreme in several ways; it is sweeter, richer, and thicker due to added sugar preservatives and thickeners.
It has a syrupy flow, unlike the thin consistency of milk, but it comes with zero trans-fat and cholesterol to make up for the sugar rush. This makes it a great topping or add-on to flavor drinks, oatmeal, ice cream, and smoothies.
If you haven’t guessed it yet, cream of coconut is the top substitute to be the base ingredient for that cooling pina colada.
Creamed coconut (coconut butter)
Here’s another familiar-sounding substitute that looks quite different from coconut cream in real life. Creamed coconut or coconut butter looks and behaves a lot like—you said it—butter!
Creamed coconut is in solid form and is normally sold in blocks. It will not be your first choice for drinks, but it has significant value as a texture enhancer. Coconut butter is condensed, so you can greatly thicken any sauce or batter with this—and get a whiff of sweet aroma once it melts and blends with your dish.
Creamed coconut is a secret to improving thick sauces (like gravy and stew) and baked goods.
Homemade coconut milk
If a DIY project brings stars to your eyes, why not prepare your coconut milk? If you have desiccated coconut or unsweetened shredded coconut at home, your second ingredient for this is just water.
If you find the desiccated coconut tough, you can start by boiling it in water. Then, you can blend the coconut and water in a food processor or blender for 10 minutes. The puree setting should help you achieve the desired texture for the coconut milk. You can use a sieve or cheesecloth to filter out the more solid components.
Congratulations if you were able to create your own coconut milk from scratch! It may not be as creamy or refined as the coconut milk from the can, but needless to say, it’s natural and free from hidden sugar and preservatives.
Substitute For Coconut Cream Related FAQs
How do you make coconut cream?
Homemade coconut cream is doable if you have fresh coconut, desiccated coconut, or shredded coconut flakes. You just need to follow the steps in number 11: how to make homemade coconut milk.
Once you’ve placed the liquefied coconut milk in a dispenser or container, let it settle. Did you know that if you leave it long enough, the cream will rise to the top and leave the liquid at the bottom?
With a dispenser, you can just empty the liquid from the lower portion. You can also scoop out the creamy top part. It even works better when chilled.
A second (and quicker) method is to use a juicer instead of a blender. You can try juicing the shredded coconut. The chute should dispense a thick coconut concoction with a cream-like consistency.
With both methods, the leftover coconut still has cooking application. Don’t let them go to waste.
What are the substitutes for coconut cream that are vegan?
Plant-based milk (almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk, and rice milk), plant-based yogurt (instead of Greek yogurt), and silken tofu mixed with some milk is the top vegan substitutes for coconut cream.
What are the best substitutes for curry?
The top suggestions with merit in the flavor and creaminess department are heavy cream, coconut milk, Greek yogurt, and evaporated milk.