Cooking With Coconut Milk

Get the facts on coconut milk―and discover how to use it in such recipes as corn chowder, ginger chicken, rice custard, noodles, and more. 

Photo by Beatriz da Costa

Coconut milk sometimes separates into a thick layer of coconut cream atop a watery liquid. To recombine the two, shake the can before opening it. If necessary, pour the contents into a bowl and break up any large chunks with a spoon.



  • Coconut milk is made from fresh shredded coconut that is simmered in water then strained to form a rich, creamy liquid.
  • Light coconut milk contains little if any coconut oil and therefore has less fat, fewer calories, and―alas―the lackluster flavor to prove it.
  • Cream of coconut is a mixture of coconut cream and sugar that's thicker and sweeter than coconut milk. The two can't be used interchangeably; save this for piña coladas.
  • Coconut juice (or water) is the electrolyte-rich liquid inside a fresh coconut.