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What is a Good Substitute for Coconut Milk and Coconut Oil?

Posted on by Alisa Fleming in Ask Alisa, News, Nutrition Headlines with 19 Comments
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Q: Brisa – I was wondering, what would be a good substitute for coconut milk and coconut oil? I don’t like the taste of coconut and I would prefer to buy things that my whole family could use.

A: Alisa Fleming – While the coconut (technically a fruit or drupe, not a nut) has so much to offer dairy-free consumers, not everyone likes the flavor that it imparts. Also, coconut allergies are a reality for some people. The following includes some of my personal tips from Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook to help you substitute for coconut milk and oil in recipes, while keeping them dairy-free.

How to Substitute for Canned Coconut Milk

How to Substitute for Coconut Milk and Oil - Dairy-Free & Vegan

This is the “authentic” stuff that comes in the cans and is available in light or regular / full fat. You can read more about it in my Coconut Milk Primer. We like this ingredient for its natural, rich profile that mimics dairy cream in consistency. Though a substitute is never “the real thing,” here are some options that should work in your recipes:

Nut Cream – This is my personal preference and a great option for those who aren’t allergic to tree nuts. You can make nut cream from any soft nut, but I like cashews the best. They have the most neutral flavor, but with a slight sweetness. See the Dairy Alternatives chapter in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for my homemade Nutty Crème recipes (includes light and full fat variations). If you prefer even more convenience, MimicCreme makes several nut “cream” products that receive solid reviews. They are sold with the aseptic (shelf-stable) milk alternatives in stores and online.

Silken Tofu – Pureed silken tofu is a fair stand-in for coconut milk in recipes, and one that low fat dieters sway toward. Brands that come in aseptic packages, such as Mori-nu, seem to yield good results. Just be sure to pick an organic or non-GMO variety.

Fat + Liquid – If the coconut milk is used in a baked good, then you can simply replace it with a combination of oil or dairy-free margarine and additional liquid. The liquid could be a low fat milk alternative, juice, or water. Whatever you feel goes best with your recipe. Here are some ratios to go by:

  • 1 cup coconut milk = 1/4 cup oil + 3/4 cup liquid
  • 1 cup coconut milk = 1/3 cup melted dairy-free margarine + 2/3 cup liquid

Dairy-Free Creamer – If the recipe calls for light coconut milk, you can lean on soy creamer for a fair coconut-free substitute.

How to Substitute for Coconut Milk Beverage

How to Substitute for Coconut Milk Beverage and Coconut Oil - Dairy-Free & Vegan

It’s easy to confuse coconut milk beverage with canned coconut milk, since those cartons are becoming quite popular. Make sure to clarify which type is being used in a recipe. If it is coconut milk “beverage” (the stuff sold in cartons under brands like So Delicious and Silk), then you can substitute your favorite milk alternative in an equivalent amount.

I like flax milk the best, as it has a fat profile similar to coconut milk beverage and a neutral flavor. However, you can substitute for coconut milk beverage with soy, sunflower, almond, rice, or just about any other milk alternative. There are so many!

How to Substitute for Coconut Oil

How to Substitute for Coconut Milk and Oil - Dairy-Free & Vegan

Coconut oil is one of the few dairy-free fats, which has a high ratio of saturated fat, like dairy. This makes it solid at cooler room temperatures, offering more versatility and a somewhat buttery texture. Nonetheless, it isn’t required for baking or cooking.

If a solid fat is needed in your recipe, then you can turn to organic palm shortening, which has a more neutral flavor, but similar properties to coconut oil, or dairy-free margarine. Margarine has a little more flavor, but this may not be a bad thing. Food-grade cocoa butter can also work well as a substitute in some recipes that call for coconut oil’s firming power, including no-bake treats.

If your recipe calls for melted coconut oil, you can substitute it with your favorite baking or cooking oil. I lean toward grapeseed oil and olive oil, but you might like canola or vegetable. They will all work comparably as a substitute for coconut oil in recipes. Just keep the overall flavor profile of the dish or baked good in mind. I include additional information on how to use oils in baking and oil smoke points for cooking in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook.

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About Alisa Fleming

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Senior Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

View all posts by Alisa Fleming →

Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living

19 Comments

  1. CarolNovember 5, 2012 at 7:44 amReply

    I just love how informative your posts are! You make it easy.

  2. AltaNovember 5, 2012 at 7:51 amReply

    Great tips! Personally I love coconut ANYTHING, but not everyone feels the same, and can taste coconut oil in baked goods sometimes. This way I can be sensitive to those who aren’t into a slight coconut flavor.

    • Alisa FlemingNovember 5, 2012 at 8:03 amReplyAuthor

      I do also Alta! You’d be surprised, though, how many emails I get from people who have a severe allergy to coconut (not tree nuts, but coconut specifically), and how many just don’t like the taste! Some recipes can slip by the coconut averse, but definitely not all :)

  3. LexieNovember 5, 2012 at 3:17 pmReply

    I have occasional comments like Brisa’s. I will direct those folks your way : )

  4. HannahNovember 11, 2012 at 6:36 pmReply

    To replicate the flavor, I’ve also heard of people using rich soy or almond milk and adding in a drop of coconut extract. These are all really great ideas!

  5. 2012-11-23 Fabulous (Black) Friday Finds « surviving the food allergy apocalypseNovember 23, 2012 at 2:16 amReply

    [...] or dairyfree recipes we can’t use.  I found a great article on GoDairyFree.org that explains how to substitute coconut milk and coconut oil.  Woo [...]

  6. Jen G.September 7, 2013 at 3:23 pmReply

    Just found this site because of my coconut allergy. So much vegan baking calls on coconut milk — I was desperate for a dairy-free substitute! Thanks :-)

  7. Sarah BSeptember 9, 2013 at 11:41 amReply

    I am just curious. How do I know if the recipe calls for a fat or a melted version? I have a recipe that calls for 3 Tbsp coconut oil but I have a child with a severe allergy to coconuts and cannot use it…please help

    • Alisa FlemingSeptember 9, 2013 at 11:46 amReplyAuthor

      If the recipe calls for “cutting it in” like butter, or if it is a no bake recipe where something has to thicken or set up, then you will want a solid format. In this case, palm shortening or dairy-free margarine could be used as a substitute. If it is simply being creamed, blended or poured in, then you can use any type of oil.

  8. Sarah BSeptember 9, 2013 at 12:41 pmReply

    It is for a crust made with oats…I am going to assume that it is the solid “buttery” form and will find a substitute in that matter. Thank you so much for your help!

  9. kennySeptember 19, 2013 at 3:54 amReply

    I am looking to make chocolate for my wife who is dairy and soya intolerant
    I have found a recipe

     1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
     4 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil (melted)
     pure maple syrup, use this ratio instead:
    1/4 cup cocoa powder,
    1/4 cup coconut oil,
    1 tbsp of your maple syrup
     optional: 1 extra tbsp oil or water, if it needs to be thinner

    can you recommend a substitute for the coconut oil in this situation. we use pure dairy free sunflower margarine a lot if that would do.

    thanks for any help

  10. MelDecember 21, 2013 at 9:15 amReply

    I am trying to make a pistachio slice for Christmas and my granddaughter is dairy intolerlant – what can I use in place of the cream cheese – I will use almond milk instead of milk also in the whipped cool whip
    any suggestions wouild be great!! and I would love to be put on your newesletter list
    thanks
    Mel

    • Alisa FlemingDecember 21, 2013 at 4:23 pmReplyAuthor

      Hi Mel,

      There are several cream cheese alternatives at the stores now (Daiya, Tofutti, Follow Your Heart, Go Veggie) and the cream cheese alternative recipe in Go Dairy Free works great in recipes. See also this page – http://www.godairyfree.org/dairy-substitutes/how-to-substitute-cheese

      Please note that cool whip and other non-dairy toppings from the store are not dairy-free. They do contain a small amount of milk protein.

  11. carinaFebruary 10, 2014 at 9:10 pmReply

    I have an allergy towards coconut and this has been so helpful! (: when it comes to coconut flour would I simply substitute it with regular flour? Or oat, quinoa flour?

    -Nina

    • Alisa FlemingFebruary 14, 2014 at 8:18 amReplyAuthor

      Hi Nina, no coconut flour is very, very, very dry. It soaks up moisture like mad and can’t be substituted for any other flour in equivalent amounts (or vice versa) – testing would be needed to make a swap and more liquid would definitely be involved!

  12. marilyn raffMarch 10, 2014 at 5:50 pmReply

    Hello,
    I found all the info. here very helpful, since I only have on hand imitation coconut drops. I’ll be making peanut butter balls, covered with chocolate, and now I’ll use one of my oils to replace the coconut oil. Thanks! Marilyn raff

  13. BelApril 18, 2014 at 6:09 pmReply

    Thanks for this info – I am allergic to coconut, coconut milk and coconut oil which can be problematic. This is the only webpage I’ve found that offers real alternatives to coconut ingredients. Thanks.

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