Coconut Milk

Published January 1, 2007. From Cook's Illustrated.

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We tasted seven nationally available brands to find the best flavor for our soups and curries.

Overview:

Coconut milk is not the thin liquid found inside the coconut itself; that is called coconut water. Coconut milk is a product made by steeping equal parts shredded coconut meat and either warm milk or water. The meat is pressed or mashed to release as much liquid as possible, the mixture is strained, and the result is coconut milk.

We tasted seven nationally available brands (five regular and two light) in coconut pudding, coconut rice, Thai-Style Chicken Soup, and green chicken curry. Among the five regular brands, tasters gravitated to those with more solid cream at the top of the can (most cans recommend shaking before opening to redistribute the solids). These brands also had a much stronger coconut flavor.

In the soup and curry, tasters preferred the brand with the exceptionally low sugar content (less than 1 gram per 1/3 cup). By comparison, brands with more than twice as much sugar tasted "saccharine." In the sweet recipes, tasters gave a velvety alternative top votes for its "fruity" and "complex" flavor. In these… read more

Coconut milk is not the thin liquid found inside the coconut itself; that is called coconut water. Coconut milk is a product made by steeping equal parts shredded coconut meat and either warm milk or water. The meat is pressed or mashed to release as much liquid as possible, the mixture is strained, and the result is coconut milk.

We tasted seven nationally available brands (five regular and two light) in coconut pudding, coconut rice, Thai-Style Chicken Soup, and green chicken curry. Among the five regular brands, tasters gravitated to those with more solid cream at the top of the can (most cans recommend shaking before opening to redistribute the solids). These brands also had a much stronger coconut flavor.

In the soup and curry, tasters preferred the brand with the exceptionally low sugar content (less than 1 gram per 1/3 cup). By comparison, brands with more than twice as much sugar tasted "saccharine." In the sweet recipes, tasters gave a velvety alternative top votes for its "fruity" and "complex" flavor. In these recipes, the extra sugar was an advantage.

The light coconut milks we tasted were not nearly as creamy—a serious flaw in desserts but less so in soup. Of the two light brands tasted, we found one had a richer flavor.

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  • Product Tested

    Price*

  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Highly Recommended - Winner

    Chaokoh Coconut Milk

    By far the winner of the soup tasting, this coconut milk lacked the complexity and sweetness of Ka-Me, but made up for it with its superior smooth texture. Voted “the creamiest” brand. Source: http://www.salsasetc.com/catalog/f-631.html, or call 1-800-987-8512

    $1.79 for 13.5 ounces at Shaw’s

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Highly Recommended

    Ka-Me Coconut Milk

    The most complex milktasters mentioned tropical fruits and lemon grass—also had a rich, velvety texture. Some tasters found it too sweet for Thai soup. Source: www.kame.com, or call 201-843-8900

    $1.99 for 14 ounces at Shaw’s

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    Thai Kitchen Premium Coconut Milk

    Although this brand lacked the solid cream that rises to the top of the can, it had an assertive coconut flavor.

    $1.99 for 14 ounces at Shaw’s

  • Recommended with Reservations

    A Taste of Thai Coconut Milk

    A few tasters likened this brand to “toasted coconut,” but most found it too tart for pudding and rice. A better choice for savory applications.

    $1.99 for 13.5 ounces at Stop and Shop/Peapod

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Goya Coconut Milk

    The only brand not made in Thailand (it’s from the Dominican Republic) wasn’t as rich as the top milks and broke in the soup, but tasters liked its “honest coconut flavor” in sweeter applications.

    $1.29 for 13.5 ounces at Stop and Shop/Peapod

  • Recommended with Reservations - Light Winner

    A Taste of Thai Lite Coconut Milk

    The coconut flavor in this brand played second fiddle to an overwhelming sweetness that didn’t work well in the curry sauce, though some preferred its milder flavor in the soup.

    $1.79 for 13.5 ounces at Stop and Shop/Peapod

  • Not Recommended

    Thai Kitchen Lite Coconut Milk

    The only milk whose leading ingredient was water, this milk only offered a fleeting coconut flavor and tasted, not surprisingly, “watered down.”

    $1.99 for 13.5 ounces at Shaw’s

*PRICES SUBJECT TO CHANGE
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