Coconut Water Vs. Coconut Milk: Are They The Same?

Wondering whether coconut water and coconut milk are the same?  Which is better, coconut milk or coconut water? This post will help you understand the differences between coconut water and coconut milk, and which one to use to meet your needs!

Coconut Water Vs Coconut Milk: Are They The Same?

Did you know that coconut is known as the tree of life?  And do you know why? Because it produces so many food and beverage products, like coconut water, oil, milk, and cream.  Crazy, right?

With the rising popularity of coconuts, they are clearly having a heyday (and I’m all for it!). But since there are so many products in the market now such as coconut milk, coconut water, coconut cream, and coconut oil, shopping can definitely get confusing.

Trust me, I’ve been there before.

But if you are more interested in coconut oil you can take a look at my post  Coconut Oil Vs Avocado Oil: Which Is Better?. 

So I’m here to break down the two most common products you will find in your local grocery store and in recipes: coconut milk and coconut water.

What Is Coconut Milk?

Coconut milk isn’t directly harvested from the coconut.  It is made of processed coconut meat, which is filtered, liquefied, and diluted with water. The consistency highly depends on the amount of water used to make the milk.

In a nutshell, it is an emulsion of two liquids: coconut cream and coconut water. If you’ve ever bought a can of coconut milk for your Thai Curry you’ll notice that the cream has risen to the top and the water at the bottom.

It is usually high in calories and a large portion of these calories in fact could be derived from fat (again, don’t be afraid of the word!).

Coconut Water Vs Coconut Milk: Are They The Same?

Types Of Coconut Milk

You must have noticed this already but when buying coconut milk, you’ll be faced with four choices, including:

  • Canned coconut milk
  • Carton/Refrigerated coconut milk
  • Powdered coconut milk

Although all of them are technically coconut milk, they are completely different in terms of how they are processed and their nutritional content.

Here’s a comparison of the three.

Canned Coconut Milk

  • Some canned coconut milk brands only contain coconut and water and don’t have any added processed sugar or preservatives. Compared to its counterparts, it tastes more authentic and natural. It also contains guar Guam is which is a naturally sourced additive from guar bean.
  • Culinary uses: Since canned coconut milk quite thick, it is often used for cooking. In general, when you see a recipe that calls for “coconut milk,” they mean a canned one. 

Carton/Refrigerated Coconut Milk

  • If you’re trying to avoid BPA, boxes or cartons would be the way to go! Compared to canned coconut milk it has way more preservatives such as processed sugar and synthetic vitamins. It’s flavor isn’t as strong as canned coconut milk because of its higher water content and other preservatives.  This is much lower in fat content, and is much less creamy.  This is more of a substitute for regular milk.
  • Culinary uses: Just like canned coconut milk it is also used for cooking, from curried meals to baked goods, you can easily swap one for the other depending on your preference. This is better used in smoothies, cereals, and as a coffee creamer.

Powdered  Coconut Milk

  • Coconut milk also comes in the form of a powdered version. Powdered coconut milk is made from dried coconut meat and is usually mixed with milk or casein and other preservatives. As with anything made of powder, it can be mixed with water which means you have full control of its consistency. Whether you want it watered down or thick, it all depends on the amount of water you put.
  • Culinary uses: Since powdered coconut milk can be reconstituted in water it’s an easy alternative to both the boxed and canned version. You can also use it to sprinkle on your baked goods or as a source of fat for your smoothies. 

Coconut Water Vs Coconut Milk: Are They The Same?

PROS AND CONS OF COCONUT MILK

COCONUT MILK

Pros

  • Promotes weight loss
  • Contains antioxidants
  • Prevents heart disease
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Reduction of joint pain and inflammation

Cons

  • High saturated-fat content
  • It may cause allergies
  • It can also lead to high cholesterol
  • Contains Guar Gum which causes digestive problems
  • May cause fructose malabsorption

What Is Coconut Water?

As its name implies, coconut water is the liquid that is sourced from the middle of young and green coconut. The coconuts used for coconut water are usually harvested at roughly six to nine months.  Compared to the creamy taste of coconut milk, it has a naturally refreshing and nutty taste.
Compared to coconut water it has much fewer calories, sodium, and more potassium. It contains easily digested carbohydrates in the form of sugar and electrolytes.
Image of flaked coconut

Which Is Healthier: Coconut Water Vs Coconut Milk?

Coconut milk and coconut water have different uses so they can’t really be compared apples to apples. But if you take a look at the nutritional value there is a stark difference between them especially in terms of calorie content.

To give you a better picture of what I’m talking about, let’s compare 1 cup (240 mL) of coconut water and coconut milk:

                                  Coconut Water                                                                                   Coconut Milk

Calories                        46                                                                                                                     552

Protein                          2g                                                                                                                     5.5g

Fat                                   0.5g                                                                                                                  57g

Carbohydrates         9g                                                                                                                      13g

Sugar                              6g                                                                                                                      8g

Potassium                    17% of the Daily Value (DV)                                                             18% of the DV

As you can see, there are significant differences between them, starting with their calorie content. Coconut water has far fewer calories than it’s the creamy counterpart.  Unsurprisingly, coconut milk has a 114% more fat content compared to coconut water.

Is Coconut Milk Healthier Than Other Milks Too?

Compared to other plant-based milk, refrigerated coconut milk contains saturated fat at around the same amount as regular milk. It also has lower protein content and no calcium. One reason why this milk is so popular is that it’s vegan, lactose-free, mildly sweet, and creamy.

So for vegans that are looking for sweeter and more tasteful alternatives to their usual almond milk, this substitute seems like a better deal!

If you’re adding coconut to your weight loss journey, then it’s refrigerated coconut milk that you’re looking for. There’s evidence that MCT fats have weight loss and metabolism benefits.  Studies also show that MCT’s help suppresses appetite and decrease calorie intake compared to other types of fats.

Coconut Water Vs Coconut Milk: Are They The Same?

Can I Substitute Coconut Water For Coconut Milk?

Let me take out the guesswork and tell you it’s a hard NO. I’ve learned that the hard way so you don’t have to.

Just because they both contain the word “coconut” does not mean they serve the same purpose and have completely different recipes. Keep in mind that coconut water will only add a very light flavor without the creamy consistency of coconut milk.

But if somehow you come into a situation where you only have coconut water but need coconut milk. You can replace a cup of coconut milk with one cup of coconut water plus heavy cream to add to the texture.

PROS AND CONS OF COCONUT WATER

Pros

  • Good source of vitamins and nutrients
  • Contains antioxidant properties
  • Great source of potassium
  • Blood pressure benefits
  • Reduces heart disease risk

Cons

  • It ups your calories
  • It isn’t good for people with allergies
  • Contains diuretic properties (which basically means you’ll be visiting the restroom a lot!)
  • Can cause electrolyte imbalance
  • Increases blood sugar
  • Can lower your blood pressure

Simple ingredients for the avocado ice cream, including avocado, banana, coconut milk, raw honey, and fresh lemon juice.

Final Thoughts

Both coconut water and coconut milk are healthy alternatives. There are many reasons to incorporate both into your lifestyle, especially if you’re planning on going vegan.

But remember that everything is best when taken in moderation.  And if you want to replace your post-workout banana, try sipping some coconut water after your next session.

I think that both coconut products have a lot going for them. Now that you know the difference between the two, which one are you planning to get the next time you head to the groceries?

HEALTHY RECIPES USING COCONUT MILK

Lacey Baier

Hey y’all, I’m Lacey Baier and I’m so glad you’re here! I’m a healthy lifestyle influencer and the creator of this clean-eating blog and YouTube channel, A Sweet Pea Chef. My recipes have been published on Food Network, Good Morning America, FoxNews, Tastemade, Fitness Magazine, and much more. I live in Dallas, Texas with my husband and four kiddos. Let’s get started!

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