Canned Coconut Milk vs. Carton-Packed Coconut Milk Beverage
What's the difference between canned coconut milk, and the boxed stuff in the beverage aisle next to the soy milk?
We went to the nondairy “milk” section of the grocery store and found cartons of coconut milk beverage next to the soy milk. We bought a few different kinds, tasted them, and compared labels. Here’s what we learned: Canned coconut milk—the stuff you cook with—is made by steeping shredded coconut in water or milk and then pressing it to yield a creamy, coconut-flavored liquid. (Coconut water, which is usually sold with the sports drinks, is simply the watery liquid from the hollow insides of young coconuts.) The carton-packed coconut milk beverage is made by blending coconut milk with water and additional ingredients such as sugar, flavors, vitamins, preservatives, and thickeners. These make it creamy, despite the water that it contains. The carton-packed coconut milk beverage has about an eighth of the fat content of canned coconut milk. We tasted it: Even the coconut milk beverages that weren’t flavored with chocolate or vanilla didn’t taste like coconut, and the unsweetened version tasted surprisingly bland.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The two products are not the same. Don’t cook with the coconut milk beverage.