Coconut Milk vs. Dairy Milk: What’s the Difference?

Milk is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, and it comes in several varieties, including cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, almond milk, and coconut milk. While each contains specific nutrients and has its own unique taste, the most common types are dairy and coconut milk. In recent years, there has been an increasing shift towards plant-based alternatives to dairy milk due to various health and environmental concerns. The purpose of this article is to compare and contrast the main differences between coconut milk and dairy milk.

What is coconut milk?

Coconut milk is a creamy, white liquid extracted from the flesh of ripe coconuts. It is commonly used in Southeast Asian, South Asian, and Caribbean cuisines and can be found in various forms such as canned, fresh, or powdered. Coconut milk is a versatile ingredient used in a variety of recipes including curries, drinks, and desserts. People who follow a plant-based or vegan diet often choose coconut milk as a dairy-free substitute because of its creamy texture and mild flavor.

What is dairy milk?

Dairy milk is the most commonly consumed type of milk and comes from the mammary glands of animals, primarily cows. It is a nutrient-rich beverage that is widely used in cooking, baking, and as a stand-alone beverage. It contains essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and protein.

Nutritional differences

Nutrient Coconut Milk (1 cup) Dairy Milk (1 cup)
Calories 445 149
Fat 48 g 8 g
Protein 5 g 8 g
Carbohydrates 6 g 12 g
Calcium 38 mg 276 mg
Vitamin D 0 IU 115 IU
Vitamin B12 0 mcg 1.2 mcg

Note: The nutritional content of milk can vary depending on factors like the fat content and whether it is fortified with vitamins or minerals.

Coconut milk has fewer calories and less protein than dairy milk. One cup of coconut milk contains about 445 calories, 48 grams of fat, and 5 grams of protein. In contrast, a cup of whole milk contains 149 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 8 grams of protein. Dairy milk also has more calcium and vitamin D than coconut milk.

However, coconut milk is a rich source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of healthy fat that is quickly metabolized and converted into energy. These MCTs are believed to aid in weight loss, improve brain function, and reduce inflammation. This makes coconut milk a nutritious alternative to dairy for people who are intolerant or allergic to dairy.

Taste and texture

The taste and texture of coconut milk and dairy milk are quite different. While dairy milk has a creamy texture and a slightly sweet taste, coconut milk is much thicker and creamier with a mild, nutty flavor. Coconut milk is a popular alternative for people who are looking for a dairy-free option, or who prefer a dairy-free diet. and texture of coconut milk in their beverages and dishes.

Use in cooking and baking

When it comes to cooking and baking, both coconut milk and dairy milk can be used. However, they differ chemically and in the flavor they impart.

Coconut milk is often used in curries, soups, and stews as a substitute for dairy cream. It is a staple ingredient in many Southeast Asian cuisines, including Thai, Indian, and Malaysian. Coconut milk is made by mixing coconut meat and water, then straining the mixture to extract the milk.

One of the main benefits of using coconut milk in cooking and baking is that it is a good substitute for people who are lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy. Coconut milk is lactose-free and dairy-free, making it a suitable alternative for those who cannot consume dairy products.

In terms of taste, coconut milk offers a bold, nutty flavor that can add depth and complexity to dishes. It also has a rich, creamy texture that works well in soups and curries. Coconut milk can also be used to make desserts such as coconut ice cream, coconut pudding, and coconut cake.

On the other hand, dairy milk is a common ingredient in many recipes, especially in baking. Dairy milk is made from cow’s milk and contains lactose, a sugar that can cause curdling when mixed with acidic ingredients such as lemon juice or vinegar.

Dairy milk is also an excellent source of nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and protein. It is often used in baking recipes, especially in recipes where the acidity can help activate leavening agents such as baking powder or baking soda.

When it comes to cooking and baking, the choice between coconut milk and dairy milk depends on factors such as personal preference, dietary requirements, and the recipe being prepared. For example, some recipes may require the acidity of dairy milk to activate baking agents such as baking soda, while others may benefit from the rich and nutty flavor of coconut milk.

Ultimately, the decision to use coconut milk or dairy milk depends on the recipe and individual preferences and dietary needs. However, both coconut milk and dairy milk can be used to create delicious and flavorful dishes enjoyed by people around the world.

Sustainability and environmental impact

The dairy industry has a significant environmental impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, land use and water consumption. According to a report by Oxford University, the production of a glass of dairy milk can generate three times the greenhouse gas emissions of plant-based milk alternatives. In comparison, coconut milk is considered a more sustainable choice because coconut trees require fewer resources such as water and fertilizer to grow and produce fruit. The production of coconut milk also produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than dairy milk.


The choice between coconut milk and dairy milk depends on individual preferences and dietary requirements. Coconut milk is a suitable alternative for those who cannot consume dairy products, or for those who enjoy its unique taste and texture. Dairy milk, on the other hand, is an excellent source of nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and protein, and is widely used in cooking and baking. In terms of sustainability, coconut milk is considered a more environmentally friendly option, while dairy milk has a larger carbon footprint. Regardless of your choice, it is important to consume milk and dairy alternatives in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet.


Is coconut milk actually milk?

Coconut milk is naturally lactose-free and not considered a dairy product because it’s derived from a plant — not a mammal. Therefore, coconut milk suits a dairy- or lactose-free diet and is safe for people with a lactose intolerance or milk allergy.

Is coconut milk considered milk?

Well, it’s not milk in the dairy sense, but close to its level of creaminess. It is basically just shredded coconut flesh that is pureed with water and strained to create a rich, shock-white liquid that can lend body, flavor, and richness to soups, curries, wilted greens, and much more.

Is coconut milk milk or water?

Coconut water contains 94% water and very little fat. It should not be confused with coconut milk, which is made by adding water to grated coconut meat. Coconut milk contains about 50% water and is quite high in fat ( 1 ).

Is canned coconut milk unhealthy?

Coconut milk and cream are both relatively high in calories and fat, especially saturated fat. Although healthy when consumed in moderation, people concerned about eating too many calories or too much saturated fat should limit how much coconut milk or cream they consume.

Is coconut milk healthier than cow’s milk?

When it comes to coconut milk vs. milk, coconut milk has fewer nutrients than dairy milk. While many brands of coconut milk provide calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin D, these nutrients are all fortified.

Is it safe to drink coconut milk?

In moderation, coconut milk can have health benefits, but consuming too much can cause problems. Coconut milk contains high levels of calories and fats. Consuming too much of the milk and eating a carbohydrate-rich diet can result in weight gain. Coconut milk also contains fermentable carbohydrates.

Can I drink coconut milk everyday?

So keep an eye on your total consumption to make sure you continue to reap the benefits of coconut milk — and keep that saturated fat number in mind. In addition, drinking too much coconut milk can result in gastric distress, so if you do drink coconut milk every day, make sure you do so in moderation.