Paradise In Your Kitchen: Your Guide to Selecting the Best Coconut Milk

October 3, 2023

The best coconut milk brand is Native Forest coconut milk.

Growing up, coconut milk was used in our food and dishes all the time. Back then, of course, the milk was extracted from fresh coconut meat. These days, coconut milk comes in cans and boxes. Due to this, a lot of my clients are rightly concerned about what they are consuming. Therefore, it is my duty to point them in the right direction.

Here, I list out the best coconut milk for cooking, smoothies, and desserts. At the same time, I give you insight into the ingredients that you find in coconut milk, including ones that you should steer clear of. Finally, I give you some helpful tips on selecting the best kind of coconut milk for yourself as well.

Let's get started!

Best Canned Coconut Milk for Cooking

Best Asian Coconut Milk for Curries

The Best Coconut Milk Brands

It’s finally time for the main event! These are the coconut milk brands that ticked all the right boxes…

1. Native Forest Coconut Milk

Best Canned Coconut Milk for Cooking

There is no denying that Native Forest is one of the healthiest coconut milk options available. So, if you are very careful about what you consume, this will be the brand for you.

As an added bonus, the company also gets its coconuts from sustainably managed farms, improving the eco-friendliness value of the product.

What We Like:

  • Well-Sourced Coconuts: the coconuts are sourced from Sri Lanka and from organic farms. Thus, you can have peace of mind knowing that they are of the highest quality.
  • No Added Ingredients: this coconut milk only contains organic coconut and purified water. As such, it is a rather rare coconut milk without additives.
  • Good for Healthy Diets: in addition to being organic, the coconut milk is also low in sodium, ensuring that it works well with a wide variety of healthier diets.

What We Don't Like:

  • Milk Can Be Difficult to Use: as there are no additives, the milk lacks the thickness and usability of some of the other brands.

2. Thai Kitchen Coconut Milk

Best Canned Coconut Milk for Cooking

Thai Kitchen coconut milk is relatively well-known and widely used.

After considering the ingredients and how the coconuts are sourced, we decided that this was a well-deserved title.

What We Like:

  • Only Natural Ingredients: there is just one additive in this coconut milk and it is natural. Thus, this is a good option to go with if you want safe coconut milk that works well too.
  • Good Texture: this coconut milk is incredibly creamy and thick straight out of the can. It also has very little separation.
  • Works Well in Recipes: the coconut milk can be added to a wide variety of recipes and will blend in beautifully.

What We Don't Like:

  • Subtle Taste: the taste of coconut isn’t very strong here. As such, it may not have too much of an impact on certain curries or foods.

Related Reading
The Ultimate Search for the Best Canned Coconut Milk

3. Aroy-D Coconut Milk

Best Asian Coconut Milk for Curries

This is a product of Thailand. As such, you can be guaranteed the authenticity of the milk.

What We Like:

  • Used in Thailand: this is a brand that is actually used by locals in Thailand. Due to this, you will be hard-pressed to find a more authentic brand of coconut milk.
  • Works Well in Curries: the taste and texture of the coconut milk are great for curries. Thus, recreating these dishes will be a breeze.
  • BPA-free Packaging: interestingly enough, much of the coconut milk in Thailand comes in UHT boxes. Not only does this make the milk more genuine, but it also cuts down on the risk of BPA being present in the packaging.

What We Don't Like:

  • Doesn’t Last Long: this isn’t a coconut milk that will last too long. Thus, you have to pay close attention to expiration dates and use it up quickly.

4. Four Elephants Coconut Milk

Best Asian Coconut Milk for Curries

The Four Elephants coconut milk is another product of Thailand. Due to this, you will find that it is an excellent addition to any authentic recipes you want to try out.

What We Like:

  • High-Quality Product: most people can be a little concerned about using food made outside of the US. However, knowing that this coconut milk is organic can help to ease your worries.
  • Great Taste: this coconut milk is quite rich and has a strong flavor that isn’t typically found in all brands.
  • Versatile: this is a coconut milk that can work well in foods, drinks, and desserts.

What We Don't Like:

  • Difficult to Reconstitute: it can be a little tricky to get the coconut milk to reconstitute after separation has taken place in the can.

5. So Delicious Coconut Milk

Best Tasting Coconut Milk for Smoothies

This is a coconut milk that has been specifically designed to be added to drinks. It can even be consumed by itself in cereals or similar foods.

What We Like:

  • Slight Sweet Flavor: although there is no added sugar, there is some vanilla included in the formula. As such, there is a hint of sweetness, making the drink more pleasant.
  • Low in Calories: there are just 45 calories per cup of coconut milk. Thus, it is a more calorie-friendly version than many of the others on the market.
  • Fortified: the drink is fortified with various minerals and vitamins making it rather healthy to drink daily.

What We Don't Like:

  • Mild Coconut Flavor: the coconut flavor isn’t too noticeable. So, if this is what you are looking for in this beverage, you may not be satisfied.

6. 365 Everyday Value

Best Coconut Milk for Desserts

The 365 Everyday Value is a rather sought after brand. While it does work well with most recipes, we really enjoy using it specifically for desserts:

What We Like:

  • Contains Guar Gum: this makes the milk thick and creamy. Furthermore, the silky smooth consistency makes the milk perfect for whipping or using in recipes for a fuller texture.
  • Good Quality Coconut: this product is actually organic and the coconuts are well-sourced as well, ensuring that the resulting flavor is quite good.
  • Good Value: as far as coconut milk goes, you will be hard-pressed to find a product that costs less than 365 Everyday Value. So, if you use coconut milk on a regular basis, this will be a more economical option.

What We Don't Like:

  • Tricky for Recipes That Don’t Need Coconut Solids: as mentioned, the coconut milk can be rather solid. So, if your dessert calls for a little more liquid, you may find it difficult to incorporate it in with the rest of the ingredients.

Choosing Your Coconut Milk

Your first step to becoming a pro at choosing the right coconut milk is to know what to look for. To get a better grasp of how coconut milk brands differ, this is what you should know:

Cooking vs. Drinking Unsweetened Coconut Milk

As mentioned, coconut milk is used in a variety of ways. Some people will add the liquid to their smoothies, while others will use it for cooking.

What you may not be aware of, however, is that different types of coconut milk are used for each purpose.

See, coconut milk that is used for cooking tends to be thicker and more flavorful. In some instances, it is essentially coconut cream that is diluted with some water.

The overall flavor and thickness of this coconut milk make it perfect for cooking, especially if you are whipping up some Asian recipes.

The other kind of coconut milk is really more of a beverage. Some brands even label it as such, although this isn’t always the case.

This coconut milk is a more watered-down version. In fact, it tends to lack the strong, coconut-y flavor usually associated with the coconut milk for cooking.

While this works well for drinks and cereals, you shouldn’t use coconut milk beverages for recipes. It will end up diluting the food and not really add anything in terms of taste.

Related Reading
A Match Made in Heaven: The Best Coconut Milk for Coffee

For the longest time, people have distinguished these two types of coconut milk based on their packaging. And, to a certain extent, this categorization does work.

This is because, for the most part, coconut milk meant for cooking does come in cans. Coconut milk beverages, on the other hand, are sold in cartons.

Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule. There are some cooking coconut milks that are found in UHT boxes.

Thus, it is best to always read the label carefully before making your choice.

coconut milk beverage

The Coconut Milk Ingredients You Should Know About

Packaged or processed coconut milk has been designed to last longer on the shelf. As such, a number of brands will use different additives to increase its lifespan.

They may also include ingredients to prevent the coconut milk from separating too much when it is in its packaging.

On average, the canned coconut milk ingredients are often more comprehensive. Here are some that you need to know about:

  • Guar Gum: a natural ingredient that works as both an emulsifier and a stabilizer.
  • Carboxy methyl cellulose: this is a thickener that is made from wood or cotton pulp. It can help to maintain moisture levels.
  • Polysorbate 60: keeps the water and oil in the coconut milk mixed together.
  • Sucrose Esters: helps to maintain the white color of coconut milk. It also maintains the texture of the milk.
  • Carrageenan: made from a form of seaweed and has had links to digestive issues. If you want to avoid any side effects, you may want to choose coconut milk without carrageenan.

So, does this mean that you should steer clear of any coconut milk brands that contain additional ingredients?

Well, this is a decision that is left up to you.

Keep in mind, natural thickeners, stabilizers, and emulsifiers do play their part in maintaining the integrity of the coconut milk.

Thus, opting for additive-free coconut milk could mean that you have to forego certain properties such as texture or even usability.

As a result, you will have to weigh the pros and cons of choosing coconut milks with these ingredients.

Should You Choose Organic Coconut Milk?

Now, for the most part, organic coconut milk does have to adhere to stricter standards. As a result, there will be fewer additives included.

Not to mention, you can be certain that there will be no toxins, pesticides, or any other harmful substances. Thus, if you do want to stay on the safe side, going organic may be a good option for you.

Prawn curry with coconut milk

Full Fat Coconut Milk or Light – Does It Matter?

Coconut milk will typically fall into categories of full fat, reduced fat, or “lite”. If you are selecting the milk as a beverage, then the fat content will not make too much difference to the end result.

Therefore, you can select a low-fat version.

However, when it comes to cooking, it is best to stick with full-fat versions. Most low-fat options are often rather diluted. Due to this, they will reduce the quality of your food as well.

Now you know exactly what to select if you are looking for coconut milks. Your selection will largely depend on how you want to use the milk. However, with our guide here, you can be certain that you are getting the best quality possible.

Riya Borah
Nutritionist Educator | Riya Borah is a nutritionist educator and her job involves guiding people towards a healthier lifestyle. Growing up in India, Riya was aware of just how much coconut was used on a daily basis. This encouraged her to research the properties of this versatile drupe. It opened her eyes to both the limitation and possibilities of coconut. Her aim is to now educate as many people as possible about the best ways to utilize coconut in their own lives.
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