Whether you’re using it to make curry or as the base for your coconut cream pie, coconut milk is a terrific, rich and totally healthy way to boost the natural sweetness in your cooking. While they’re often associated with Southeast Asian Food, coconut milk and coconut cream are actually used all over the world for all sorts of cooking, both sweet and savory.
For those who aren’t in the know, coconut milk and coconut cream are the products of squeezing grated fresh mature coconut flesh. The flesh is squeezed tightly and, much like a wet towel, releases a lot of liquid in the process.
Coconut cream (kakang gata in Filipino), as its name implies, is much richer and thicker, because it comes from the first few squeezes of the coconut flesh, most often just the first and second. Coconut milk (gata), on the other hand, comes from the later squeezes, which result in a slightly thinner liquid.
Unlike regular cow’s milk and cream, coconut cream and coconut milk don’t differ too much in terms of their use. While coconut cream does contain a higher amount of fat, that doesn’t mean that you can’t necessarily switch them up. Coconut cream, more often than not, is used for a boost of thickness and coconut flavor in cooking, while coconut milk helps to thin out sauces without losing that great coconut flavor.
You can easily switch out one for the other in savory cooking, just making sure to add more thickeners or water to balance out the richness of the dish. While baking, however, make sure to stick to the recipe so as not to mess up with the tight chemistry.