Curry comes in many different styles, flavors, and even ethnicities, but they all have one thing in common: they are deliciously enhanced by the addition of the right coconut milk.
You may have purchased coconut milk before in a tetra pack, or a plastic or cardboard container, which is quite tasty in cereal or for making a latte, but it is not the best choice for a curry. It’s too watery.
So what is the best coconut milk for curry? You always want to choose full-fat canned coconut milk when making curry. Our favorite brands were chosen based on flavor, texture, and fat content in the milk, as well as the availability of the product and the quality of the manufacturing process and ingredients.
If you’re searching for a new go-to for your pantry, we’ve found the 5 best coconut milks for curry. In the rest of this article, we’ll explain why we’ve chosen these as the best cans of coconut milk for curry, as well as detail a few key features you need to be aware of it comes to coconut milk.
What is Coconut Milk?
Coconut milk is made from shredding the flesh of the coconut and then pureeing it with water. It’s usually strained before it’s commercially packaged, leaving a creamy, thick coconut liquid that’s pure white and full of flavor.
Commercial coconut milk ranges in thickness. If you find it in a container or tetra pack, it will have more water added, creating thin milk that makes a good substitute for traditional dairy.
Canned coconut milk is much thicker, with less water and more fat. It substitutes more effectively for heavy cream or whipping cream and it works best for a curry.
The Difference Between Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream
Coconut cream is much thicker than coconut milk, even the canned variety. Most coconut cream is made from 4 parts shredded coconut to 1 part water. If you find it canned, you’ll notice it’s quite oily, and many are sweetened, so be sure to read the ingredients.
It’s also possible to find creamed coconut, which is solid until it’s melted. If you already have a lot of liquid in your recipe, creamed coconut might be a good option because it will give you the slight coconut creaminess you’re looking for without any added liquid.
The 5 Best Coconut Milks for Curry
When you’re adding coconut milk to curry, you want to add flavor and some liquid, but you don’t want your simmering sauce to be too watered down.
This is why canned coconut milk is perfect for curry dishes. You get plenty of flavors and the liquid will add a thick base to your sauce without going watery.
Our favorite 5 best coconut milks for curry in 2020 are listed below, with plenty of explanation as to why they made our top 5, as well as any potential drawbacks for each.
|Rank||Coconut Milk||Best Feature|
|1.||Native Forest Organic Classic Coconut Milk||Best sustainability efforts|
|2.||365 Everyday Value Organic Coconut Milk||Option to buy in singles|
|3.||Thai Kitchen Organic Unsweetened Coconut Milk||Best complimentary product line|
|4.||Aroy-d Coconut Milk 100% Original||No guar or other gums|
|5.||Natural Value Coconut Milk||Added water is purified for the best quality|
1. Native Forest Organic Classic Coconut Milk
The coconuts harvested for Native Forest are not only organic, but they’re grown in a valley in Thailand that is surrounded by highlands, offering natural protection from contamination.
The farmers manage the soil to enhance biodiversity and therefore the quality and nutrition in the trees and coconuts themselves.
- Organic, sustainably farmed and ethically sourced, in support of protecting South American rainforests
- Less than 1% organic guar gum for stabilization, though there is a no guar option
- Organic coconuts are smaller, but more drought-resistant and heartier, which is more sustainable
Biggest Drawback: The biggest drawback of this product is the variety of options. While choices are usually a great thing, many people are confused by the purpose of guar, which is an additive designed to stabilize the coconut milk and keep the texture consistent. If you mistakenly order no guar, it may be a different texture than you are used to or vice versa. If you’re very careful to order the exact product you want, you should be very happy with this brand overall.
2. 365 Everyday Value Organic Coconut Milk
365 Everyday Value is Whole Foods brand, and it has grown in popularity and reliability over the years so you know it is a brand you can trust for availability and consistency.
- Certified organic and vegan, with only 3 ingredients
- Available for purchase in single cans
- Full fat, full flavor
Biggest Drawback: This brand seems to have more trouble than the average company with shipping their canned goods. They are more likely to arrive dented than consumers from other brands report so it’s likely that they’re leaving the original manufacturing facility in less than perfect condition and shipping across North America compounds the potential damage. If dented cans don’t phase you, the milk is of great quality.
3. Thai Kitchen Organic Unsweetened Coconut Milk
Thai Kitchen makes a varied array of incredibly sauces, pastes, and convenient meals.
Their coconut milk is essentially designed to perfectly compliment the rest of their products so if you want to buy all your curry preparation ingredients from the same brand, Thai Kitchen makes is very easy.
If you’re searching for an even richer coconut flavor, you may also want to try their Gluten Free Unsweetened Coconut Cream.
- USDA certified organic
- Works well as a coffee creamer
- Vegan, certified gluten-free, preservative-free
Biggest Drawback: Unfortunately, Thai Kitchen’s cans are not labeled as BPA-free, which is a sure sign that they do contain some BPA. The manufacturer does state that they are trying to eliminate BPA from their products, but they’ve yet to come up with a viable solution for this, their creamiest of coconut milks.
4. Aroy-d Coconut Milk 100% Original
In almost all cases, when you see coconut milk in a tetra pack it is diluted and not as thick and creamy as canned coconut milk.
Aroy-d wanted to eliminate the BPA from canned goods so they committed to creating a product with the same milk fat packaged in modern paper cartons. All the creaminess you want with less waste and potential contamination.
- BPA Free
- No additives, preservatives OR gums
- No blending required, despite the lack of stabilizers.
Biggest Drawback: The new cartons are progressive in terms of removing BPA, but it does decrease the shelf life. While a can of coconut milk can last in your pantry unopened nearly indefinitely, these cartons have a shelf life of 1 year. Not much of a drawback, but it should be kept in mind.
5. Natural Value Coconut Milk
Natural Value is a brand that is dedicated to sourcing the most sustainable and ethical ingredients and constantly taking strides to improving the quality of its products.
This is reflected in the partner-farms they work with, the packaging they use, and even how they treat the water they use.
- BPA-free cans
- Added water is purified through reverse osmosis for the best quality
- No stabilizers (gums), emulsifiers, whiteners, preservatives or other additives
Biggest Drawback: Natural Value changed their formula recently, so some cans have 53% coconut flesh and some cans have 47%, which can make a considerable difference to the product. Many people buy canned coconut milk for the higher fat content, but if you happen to get a can with more water than coconut, it brings the fat down 11 g in a ½ cup serving, compared to the 18g in the formula with more coconut flesh. Unfortunately, when you order online, you don’t always know which you’re going to get.
Frequently Asked Questions About Coconut Milk
Coconut milk substitute for curry?
If you don’t have or don’t want to use coconut milk in your curry, the best substitute it a heavy cream. You can also try yogurt or crème Fraiche if you prefer.
If you’re looking for a plant-based alternative, you can use your favorite non-dairy milk but they will be more watery than canned coconut milk.
To get a thicker consistency, add your milk to a saucepan and reduce it before adding it to your curry. You can also use a small amount of flour, agar agar, or cornstarch to help thicken your milk, though it won’t add flavor.
Is coconut milk dairy?
No, coconut milk has no dairy in it at all. It can be made as simply as coconut and water, though many commercial brands will include preservatives, thickening agents, or sweeteners. If any of these are a concern for you, don’t forget to read the label before pouring yourself a glass.
Coconut milk vs coconut water?
Coconut milk, as we’ve already discussed, is made by pureeing the flesh of the coconut with water and then straining it.
Coconut water is the water that can be found naturally in the center of a fresh coconut. They do not make a good substitute for each other as they have completely different flavors and consistencies.