The 8 Best Coconut Cream Substitutes

best coconut cream substitutes

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Coconut cream is an amazing ingredient that can work wonders in so many different dishes. You can use it in stir-fries, curries, beverages, and sauces, just to name a few.

But what if when you reach for it in your kitchen cupboard, there’s none to be found? Not to worry! Here are the 8 best coconut cream substitutes for all your cooking needs.

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What is coconut cream?

Coconut cream is made from the white pulp of mature coconuts and has a thick creamy texture. The coconut pulp is grated and pureed with water. Coconut cream is thick, rich, and perfect for adding the flavor of coconut to any dish or recipe.

Coconut cream can be used in place of coconut milk, but coconut cream is thicker and richer than coconut milk. It can be added to a recipe whole or whipped to a smooth consistency with a whisk. Coconut cream may also be sweetened or flavored with vanilla or other extracts before whipping, which will alter the taste of your dish. It’s also a great plant-based, non-dairy substitute for whipping cream.

8 of the best substitutes for coconut cream

1. Can coconut milk be used instead of coconut cream?

Coconut milk is often used as a substitute for coconut cream. You can substitute equal parts canned coconut milk for coconut cream, but it produces a lighter result. You can use the canned coconut milk as is. Or, for a more similar consistency, you can refrigerate the canned coconut milk, then scoop the coconut cream off the top of the can to use it in recipes that call for coconut cream.

The coconut milk that comes in cartons may be too thin in consistency to swap for coconut cream. Also note that if the recipe calls for whipped coconut cream, even canned coconut milk won’t work either.

So, if you want to substitute coconut cream with coconut milk, try it out in recipes like curry sauces, soups, beverages, or stews for the best results.

2. Cream of coconut

Cream of coconut is much thicker than coconut cream, and it’s the closest substitute in terms of taste and texture.

Cream of coconut contains added sugars, thickeners, and preservatives. It is commonly used in desserts and rich drinks such as piña colada (or in my Coquito recipe above). Cream of coconut can be a good alternative in sweet recipes, however, for savory recipes, it may not be ideal.

Since it is sweeter, you may want to reduce the amount of other sugars in your recipe when using cream of coconut.

3. Can I use cream instead of coconut cream?

Heavy cream has a fat content similar to coconut cream making it ideal for use when substitutes are needed. The consistency in dishes such as curries and stews is almost identical. The only difference is that heavy cream won’t give you the coconut flavor the dish may call for. Nevertheless, it’s a great substitution, since equal parts heavy cream can be used in place of equal parts coconut cream. If you need that coconut taste, adding 1/4 tsp coconut extract can be a huge help.

Heavy cream is a great substitute in recipes that call for whipped coconut cream. And the shelf-stable Trader Joe’s option above lasts up to 6 months without refrigerating as long as it’s unopened.

4. Greek yogurt

Plain Greek yogurt is another great coconut cream substitute. You can substitute equal parts in any recipe that calls for coconut cream. Since it won’t have the coconut flavor, you can add some dried coconut into your recipe for the coconut flavor if desired. 

However, be cautious when using Greek yogurt in dishes that require cooking. Yogurt may separate and curdle at high temperatures. You can minimize this by adding room temperature yogurt to a cooked dish and the end of the cooking process (under gentle heat) or increase the yogurt’s stability by stirring in  ½ to 1 teaspoon of flour or cornstarch per cup of yogurt before adding it to a heated dish.

5. Whole milk

Whole milk is so versatile, it even works as a great coconut cream substitute. It works in both sweet and savory dishes.

However, the consistency may be much thinner than when using coconut cream. One way to thicken up the consistency is to combine just 2 teaspoons of flour and 1 cup whole milk for each can of coconut cream a recipe calls for. Substituting whole milk works best in soups, curries, stews and baked dishes that require coconut cream.

6. Evaporated milk

Evaporated milk is just whole milk that has had most of its liquid removed, leaving most of the solids in it. You can substitute half of the amount of coconut cream required in a recipe with evaporated milk, since it will produce thicker dishes.

Evaporated milk also tends to be sweeter, making it a great coconut cream substitute in recipes such as cooked cereals, smoothies and bread puddings.

In cooked dishes, choose full fat evaporated milk since low fat versions tend to separate and curdle in the heat.

7. Can I substitute almond milk for coconut cream?

Yes! Nut milks, such as cashew, macadamia, or almond milk are all good substitutes. Although they don’t taste like coconut, they do lend a nutty undertone to your dishes.

Nut milks are a bit thinner in texture compared to coconut cream. To thicken, you can use the same technique as above for whole milk. Mix 2 teaspoons of flour into a cup of almond or other nut milk. Equal parts nut milk can be substituted for equal parts coconut cream.

8. Nut butter or tahini

Cashew, peanut, almond butter and tahini can be used in place of coconut cream to make a delicious, creamy alternative. Just mix together 5oz nut butters with 1 cup water to make the equivalent of 1 can coconut cream.

The flavor when using nut butters or tahini may be saltier, so it’s best to use this coconut cream sunbstitue in savory dishes such as curries, sauces and stews. You may also need to alter the salt content of the recipe accordingly.


Coconut cream substitutes won’t necessarily offer you the same flavor, but they do provide a creamy texture to dishes. To improve your dish’s coconut taste, add extras like dried coconut flakes or even just one drop of coconut oil will to make it more delicious than ever before!

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