What Is Coconut Milk Good For?

Multifaceted Coconut Milk

Coconut Milk Nutrition Facts

The coconut tree is one of the most useful plants you will ever encounter, because no part of it goes to waste. From the leaves all the way down to the roots, there's something you can make out of each part of the tree. Here are some practical examples:

  • Leaves — They can be used to make brooms, baskets or even temporary sheds.
  • Husks and shells — You can use them to improvise bowls, pots or even as a floor scrub.
  • Coir — The elastic portion of the husk can be used to make brushes, floor mats and stuffing for mattresses.
  • Trunk — The midsection of the tree contains strong wood, which is useful for making furniture and housing materials.

One of the most well-known products derived from coconut is coconut milk. It's used in various dishes around the world and is noted for its healthy fats and other nutrients.1 Discover more about this healthy liquid here and how you can use it in your cooking.

What Is Coconut Milk?

What is the difference between coconut water and coconut milk? Those who are unfamiliar with them may think they are one and the same, but they are actually very different and easy to distinguish.

Coconut water is essentially the naturally occurring liquid inside green coconuts. It exhibits a clear (but slightly whitish) appearance, and is rich in various nutrients such as minerals, antioxidants and healthy fats. Coconut water can be a refreshing and hydrating drink after a tiring day.2,3

Coconut milk, on the other hand, is a liquid made from the fruit's flesh mixed with water. To create a thick texture, the flesh is finely grated and then boiled in water. Afterwards, the mixture is strained through a cheesecloth. A thinner texture can be achieved by simmering the coconut meat left in the cheesecloth. The straining process is then repeated to produce a thin viscosity.4

Various Benefits of Coconut Milk

Just like the fruit itself, coconut-derived products such as coconut milk may offer many health advantages. Research has shown that this liquid can benefit you in the following areas:

  • May help with weight management and give you an energy boost — The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut milk are immediately digested and metabolized in your liver, providing you with an energy boost. This also reduces their chances of being stored as fat, so it's a good weight management tool as well.5 In one study, researchers suggest that MCTs may help reduce overall calorie consumption, leading to gradual weight loss over time.6
  • May help manage your cholesterol levels — Coconut milk may have a positive effect on your cholesterol levels when consumed regularly. In a study that looked into the effects of coconut on lipid levels, researchers noted that coconut may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in as quickly as two months.7
  • May help reduce your risk of inflammation — Adding coconut milk frequently to your diet may help reduce inflammation in your system. In a mice study, the authors tested lauric acid, a type of MCT found in coconut, against Propionibacterium acnes, a microbe responsible for acne infection. They discovered that lauric acid helped reduce NF-kB activation, a signaling pathway that influences inflammation.8
  • May help ward off bacteria and viruses — The MCTs in coconut may have antibacterial properties. Research has found that lauric acid may help inhibit the maturation of the vesicular stomatitis virus.9 In other studies, coconut is suggested to be an effective tool against the yeast strain Candida,10 as well as the bacterial strain Staphylococcus.11

Coconut Milk Nutrition Facts

Aside from being a good source of healthy medium-chain fatty acids, coconut milk also contains assorted vitamins and minerals. The table below provides a good overview of the other nutrients as well as the total calories in coconut milk:12

Coconut Milk Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 100 grams, Nuts, coconut milk, raw (liquid expressed from grated meat and water)
  Amt. Per
Calories 230  
Total Fat 23.84 g  
Saturated Fat 21.14 g  
Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 0 mg  
Sodium 15 mg  
Total Carbohydrates 5.54 g  
Dietary Fiber 2.2 g  
Sugar 3.34 g  
Protein 2.29 g  
Vitamin A 0 ug Vitamin C 2.8 mg
Calcium 16 mg Iron 1.64 mg

The Different Uses of Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is a diverse food. You can drink it by itself to refresh your body, mix it in smoothies or you can add it to various foods to give them a coconut flavor. But before you experiment in the kitchen, you can try several well-known foods from around the world that use coconut milk as the centerpiece.

One example is laksa, which is a noodle dish popular in Singapore and Malaysia as a street food. It uses coconut milk for the soup, and various spices are added to give it its distinct flavor.13 In the Philippines, coconut milk is used as the broth for their own variation of chicken curry.14

Coconut milk may be helpful for personal hygiene as well, as it's versatile enough to be used for making homemade shampoo, soap, body wash and lotion.15

Coconut Milk Substitutes You Can Utilize

Coconut milk can be substituted for other types of milk in a variety of recipes, and vice versa. Since there are subtle differences in each milk's flavor, you may notice that your final dish has taken on a new taste. Below are a few substitutes for coconut milk that you can experiment with:

  • Raw cow's milk — High-quality raw milk made from grass fed cows contains a collection of vitamins, minerals and enzymes that may help boost your health. Use it to make homemade desserts such as ice cream and smoothies healthier.
  • Coconut water — It can be added to smoothies and soups, giving them a thinner consistency compared to coconut milk.16
  • Evaporated milk — Its thick consistency may be reminiscent of coconut milk's creaminess, making it ideal for baking, slow-cooked recipes and curries. For the coconut flavor, you can add a few drops of coconut essence.17
  • Yogurt Replacing coconut milk with yogurt can provide your gut flora with much-needed probiotics and vitamin K2 to help optimize your health.18

Cooking With Coconut Milk:
Coconut Kale With Sesame-Crusted Salmon

Coconut Milk Healthy Recipe

Coconut kale ingredients:

2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, minced

1 bunch of kale, chopped 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the ginger and sauté over medium heat for five minutes.
  2. Add the kale and sauté, stirring constantly for five minutes.
  3. Add the coconut milk and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat, and simmer until kale is tender.

Salmon Ingredients:

6 salmon steaks

4 tablespoons of organic coconut oil 4 tablespoons of ginger, minced
1 cup of sesame seeds Salt and pepper to taste 4 tablespoons of raw, grass fed butter


  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a small pan, melt the butter and oil with the ginger.
  3. Brush the butter, oil and ginger on the salmon steaks. Roll them in the sesame seeds, and place them on an oiled sheet pan. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
  4. Place the pan in the oven and roast until the sesame seeds are brown and the salmon is rare inside, about three minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This recipe makes six servings.

(Recipe from "Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type" by Dr. Mercola's)

Don't Be Afraid to Give Coconut Milk a Try

If you haven't tried coconut milk before and want to enjoy its benefits, it's recommended you slowly ease it into your diet. You can start by adding a little bit to your recipes or smoothies to help you get used to the flavor. In time, you'll grow fond of coconut milk and it'll become a regular part of your meals.