If coconut milk be the food of love...
February 15, 2015 1:44 PM   Subscribe

I have come into possession of three varieties of coconut milk, an intriguing liquid about which I know almost nothing. Can you tell me how these three varieties are supposed to be used?

I've found this very helpful AskMeta post about general principles for cooking with coconut milk, but I can't tell whether the three things I have are equivalent in terms of cooking functionality.

Variation number one: Chaokoh Coconut Milk in a can. This one has the fewest ingredients and is a bit, em, globby in consistency. I think this one is pretty exclusively meant for cooking - does that seem right?

Variation number two: "Original" So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage. This one is sweetened, fortified with various things, and comes in a carton. It has a smoother consistency, which aligns with the "beverage" claim - will this one not work as well for cooking rice and curries because of all the added stuff?

Variation number three: Unsweetened So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage. Also fortified with various things and also comes in a carton. Would it be a bad idea to use this when cooking rice? Seems pretty watery, and I don't know how I should anticipate compensating for the unsweetened-ness of it all.

Thanks for your thoughts!
posted by Hellgirl to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The canned for cooking is great in salmon curry, aubergine curry or this v simple soup:
Spinach, leek, onion, spring onion, stock and coconut milk (or coconut milk powder).
posted by tanktop at 1:49 PM on February 15, 2015

The can is what's usually referred to as coconut milk in any cooking type recipe.
The cartons are basically "vegan milk substitute" beverages - equivalent to soy milk, rice milk, or almond milk, except made out of coconut. You could do a straight milk substitution in any recipe, but you couldn't really make a curry-type recipe that calls for "coconut milk"
posted by aimedwander at 1:52 PM on February 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nom them all immediately
1) Make curries, tom kha, tembleque.
2&3) Straight up milk substitute. Pour it over cereal, use it in cakes (the first one also makes a nice nondairy sub sometimes), make smoothies, put it in your coffee. You could totally cook rice with it, but not curry.
posted by the_blizz at 1:59 PM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tip: you shake the can before opening it if you want the cream better-distributed in the milk, or you can refrigerate in-can before opening if you want to use the cream separate from the milk. It is for cooking.

The sweetened and unsweetened beverage is milk-replacement for coffee and cereal, or baking (you can use either the carton or the can for baking).
posted by Lyn Never at 1:59 PM on February 15, 2015

Your question is already answered, but an additional thing you can use the Chaokoh Coconut Milk for, if you aren't ready to cook with it, is as cream for your coffee or tea.

I almost always have a can of coconut milk on hand and when I run out of dairy cream I usually pop one of those open. It's good--just make sure not to use too much or it can be overpowering. It's also naturally sweet so I don't add additional sugar.

The other ones may also work for this too, but they're basically beverages that you could drink straight. The coconut milk, not really for that.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:09 PM on February 15, 2015

The canned one - make Thai green or red curry, or Jamaican rice & peas.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:24 PM on February 15, 2015

(And yeah it's meant to be globby/slightly solidified, it melts down to liquid when heated)
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:24 PM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

For making a thai curry, or anything else that you're braising in aromatics and coconut milk, the globby consistency of the Chaokoh is actually useful, since the globby head at the top of the can has most of the fat and the rest of the can is more watery.

When you're starting the curry, you can pour off just the head into the pot, then mix in your curry paste and cook that over medium high until the mixture starts to take on kind of an oily look. Then, add in your proteins and anything else that needs browning, and brown it in the coconut milkfat/curry paste mixture - they'll take on more of the curry flavor. Then, when you're ready to start the low and slow portion of the braise, just add in the rest of the curry milk, maybe a little water to top off if needed, and simmer away in that.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:36 PM on February 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

strangely stunted trees beat me to it! Here's a recipe for massaman curry from a great Thai cooking blog that shows how to use that kind of coconut milk in steps 1 and 2.
posted by andrewesque at 2:50 PM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

There are many brands of canned coconut milk, some better than others. Some pretending to be others. Chaokoh is my go-to, having seen it recommended by more than one Thai cookbook author. Just remember that "OK" is in the name — there are look-alikes out there with slightly different spellings.
posted by mumkin at 2:53 PM on February 15, 2015

I've recently discovered the So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk. I don't know how it's "supposed" to be used, but so far I've had it with cereal/granola, cookies, baked cornbread with it, and made sipping chocolate on the stove with it. All amazing and awesome and turned out, well, SO DELICIOUS. I'm a total convert - gonna try making mashed potatoes with it soon, because it's as thick and creamy as whole milk. I love the stuff and it lasts forever in the fridge!
posted by raztaj at 3:02 PM on February 15, 2015

I use the canned in place of cream/half and half in tikka masala, in addition to all of the thai dishes mentioned above.
The stuff in cartons is all purpose noms.
posted by Lemmy Caution at 3:12 PM on February 15, 2015

Definitely make hot chocolate with varieties two and three.
posted by snorkmaiden at 4:10 PM on February 15, 2015

#1 blended with ice, pineapple juice, and rum is a pina colada. Substitute vodka for rum and you have a chi chi.
posted by she's not there at 4:19 PM on February 15, 2015

Omg, tanktop, there's coconut milk powder? Yay.
posted by BoscosMom at 4:55 PM on February 15, 2015

You are all amazing! Thanks so much for clarifying the difference between the coconut milk and the "vegan milk substitutes" AND for broadening the imaginative sphere of my coconut milk awareness - I'd never have thought of using the So Delicious stuff as a baking liquid, for example.

I've marked the first few answers that directly responded to my questions as "best." Special thanks to strangely stunted trees for the very detailed curry instructions and to raztaj for the inspirational enthusiasm that will undoubtedly carry me through all manner of experimentation in the near future.

I appreciate your thoughts and suggestions like you wouldn't believe!
posted by Hellgirl at 5:36 PM on February 15, 2015

Chaokoh is one of my favorite brands because it doesn't contain any guar gum or other texture stabilizers. That's why it's a bit globby; the fat separates from the liquid. A lot of brands of cooking coconut milk have additives to make the texture uniform. They don't really hurt when using for cooking, but they don't help either.
posted by Nelson at 10:51 PM on February 15, 2015

I live on SO Coconut Milk. Drink/use it all the time either in place of dairy milk or as a component in my fruit smoothie. I will not make a smoothie without it, I'd rather go without a smoothie if I can't have "SO" in it I love it that much..
posted by goml at 11:19 PM on February 16, 2015

I'd go against she's not there's advice. Coconut milk is not for pina coladas; most recipes for mixed drinks use coconut cream, which is super-sugary, equivalent to sweetened condensed milk (basically like taking the creamy solidified top part of the coconut milk can and adding a lots of sugar, though there are a few brands that don't add the sugar)
posted by aimedwander at 2:27 PM on February 25, 2015

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