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1. Coconut cream
The main difference between coconut milk and coconut cream is the concentration– coconut cream has four times the amount of flesh, which makes it thicker and richer in taste. It’s also higher in calories and fat; coconut cream contains 50 calories and 5.2g of fat per tbsp, while coconut milk has 35 calories and 3.6g of fat. The good news? It can always be watered down. Just pour 2 tablespoons of coconut cream and ¾ cup of water into a blender and mix until smooth.
Best for: pina coladas, sauces.
2. Coconut water
While coconut water will only provide a mild coconutty taste, when coupled with heavy cream it is an excellent coconut milk alternative. Not only will it reduce, thicken and emulsify similarly, but coconut water is also a better source of electrolytes than coconut milk. (Just check out the ingredients list first as coconut water is often laden with added sugars.)
Best for: smoothies, sorbet.
3. Coconut flakes
It is possible to create your own coconut milk at home using 1/4 unsweetened coconut flakes. Simply bring 3/4 cup of water to the boil and add in 1/4 cup of coconut flakes. Let it boil for 5 minutes, then pour the mixture into a blender and blitz until it comes together. Strain if required.
Best for: Laksa, curries.
4. Evaporated milk
Evaporated milk is made by heating regular milk to remove more than half of its water content. This gives it a subtle caramelised flavour and a slightly thicker consistency. To give it the same tropical taste, however, you’ll need to add something extra. Try mixing a few drops of coconut essence to one cup of evaporated milk and stir well.
Best for: baking, slow-cooking.
Silken tofu is a great substitute if you’re watching your weight: it’s far lower in both calories and fat than coconut milk and can be blended into a puree. Because it is relatively flavourless, it can be cleverly disguised in dishes with other strong flavours, such as chocolate or fruit-based desserts.
Best for: pies and slices.
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6. Nut milk
Due to its creamy texture and sweetness, coconut milk is delicious when added coffee. That said, any nut-based milk will do the job if you’re looking for a dairy-free milk alternative. The healthy fat content in macadamias, cashews and almonds mean they can be frothed up without splitting, just like coconut milk. Nut milks are less likely to be loaded with sugar too.
Best for: hot drinks, baking.
7. Cashew cream
Cashew cream is an exceptionally versatile ingredient and, much alike coconut milk, adds a velvety finish to desserts and sauces. Simply soak a cup of unsalted cashews overnight and then blitz them with a little water or dairy-free milk in a blender.
Best for: desserts and salad-dressings.
8. Greek yoghurt
In terms of consistency and overall health benefits, yoghurt is an excellent choice to substitute coconut milk, especially when mixed with a little water. It provides a similar richness and is packed with probiotics, but contains fewer calories and less saturated fats.
Best for: Asian dishes and stews.
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