Coconut milk is a creamy, slightly sweet liquid that is derived from the meat of a coconut. It is a dairy-free, versatile ingredient that is typically vegan friendly and can be used in soups, curries, smoothies, sauces, vegan ice cream, and more.
- Containing animal products vs ethical
- Why coconut milk is sometimes non-vegan
- Monkeys forced to pick coconuts
- Coconut milk to avoid
- Ethical coconut milk brands
- Vegan recipes with coconut milk
- Is coconut milk healthy?
- Is coconut milk dairy free?
- How is coconut milk made?
- Canned coconut milk vs. cartons
- Canned coconut milk
- Coconut milk in cartons
Containing animal products vs ethical
While coconut milk doesn't contain any animal products, it is important to be sure that the brand from which you purchase uses ethical practices. Some companies cruelly force monkeys to harvest coconuts, endangering animal welfare; therefore, their products are not vegan.
Why coconut milk is sometimes non-vegan
While coconut milk does not contain any animal-derived ingredients, some companies use animals in their harvesting practices. PETA conducted an investigation into the Thai coconut industry and found that some farms, including those of the major coconut producer Chaokoh, force monkeys to pick coconuts.
Monkeys forced to pick coconuts
These monkeys are taken from their families when they are young and forced to perform difficult tasks like climbing coconut trees while tethered by the neck with a metal collar. They are transported in cramped cages and denied the freedom to roam and socialize until they are driven to desperation. This treatment and use of animal labor make certain brands not vegan.
Coconut milk to avoid
The Thai brands Chaokoh and Aroy-D are the main brands mentioned in PETA's investigations as using monkey labor, and many major U.S retailers including Target, Walmart and Kroger have stopped carrying their products as a result. It is important to research the manufacturers before purchasing to be sure that they source their coconuts ethically.
Coconut regions outside of Thailand, including Hawaii, Colombia, India, Brazil, and the Philippines harvest coconuts using human methods such as tractor-mounted hydraulic elevators and ladders.
Ethical coconut milk brands
Here are some brands that sell vegan coconut milk and follow ethical harvesting practices.
- Harmless Harvest
- Califia Farms
- Trader Joe's
- So Delicious
Vegan recipes with coconut milk
Coconut milk is a great alternative to cream in any recipe. It also makes vegan dishes rich and super creamy so I prefer it to cashew cream in more recipes. These are some of my favorite vegan recipes that use canned coconut milk.
- Vegan Cheese
- Coconut Alfredo Sauce
- Thai Green Curry with Tofu
- Red Curry with Vegetables
- Coconut Curry Soup
- Coconut Mac and Cheese
- Thai Coconut Rice
Is coconut milk healthy?
Although coconut milk is high in fat and calories, there are also proven medical benefits to consuming it. Lauric acid, the main fatty acid in coconut fat, has been linked to improving cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increasing “good” HDL levels.
Is coconut milk dairy free?
Coconut milk is dairy free and free of all animal products so it is suitable for people on a lactose-free and plant-based diet.
How is coconut milk made?
Coconut milk is made by grating the white flesh of the coconut, mixing that with hot water, and then straining it. Store-bought coconut milk is typically produced using machines.
You can also make coconut milk at home by blending the coconut meat with a blender and straining it with cheesecloth.
Canned coconut milk vs. cartons
You may have noticed that there are a few different types of coconut milk and coconut products sold in supermarkets, and it can be a bit confusing to decide what type you should use for your dish. If you are replacing heavy cream or are using it to make a dish super rich and creamy use canned. If you are using it to simply replace cow's milk, use the type that comes in a carton.
Canned coconut milk
The canned coconut milk sold on the shelf is thicker with a higher fat content than that in the cartons and is generally used for cooking and baking. The thick layer of coconut cream that separates and settles at the top of the can works as a replacement for whipping cream or heavy cream.
There is also lite coconut milk, which is diluted full-fat coconut milk. It cannot be whipped and has a less creamy texture, but it is a lower-fat alternative.
Coconut milk in cartons
The cartons of coconut milk are sometimes shelf stable or can be found in the dairy section at your supermarket. Both canned coconut milk and the cartons start with the same main ingredients, coconuts, and water. The milk in the cartons, however, is watered down, contains fillers, and has less of a strong coconut flavor.
Carton coconut milk has a thinner consistency and is better suited as a cows' milk substitute and can be added to smoothies and, beverages or used in cereal.
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