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


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).

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, almond, or pea protein 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.

About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food 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, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.


  1. So helpful. I am doing Paleo AIP and coconut is everywhere. My blood work says I am not allergic to coconut but it seems to make me a itch and exacerbates my Eczema. So frustrating, but glad I can use water and fat lol, so far not allergic to them!! ?

    • Happy I can help Debbie! Testing can be so hit or miss. That’s why so many doctors still recommend elimination testing as the “gold standard”! Sounds like it is working for you.

  2. Pingback: 2012-11-23 Fabulous (Black) Friday Finds – surviving the food allergy apocalypse

  3. I have a recipe for coconut grasshopper bars that uses coconut, avocado, honey, mint and coconut oil in the bars. The coconut oil is used to harden the bars. They are delicious but I don’t want so much fat in them,

    Again, in the topping they use coconut oil, honey, and cocoa powder to make a fudge like topping but it’s so much fat.

    What could I substitute for part of the oil that would still stiffen when cold? Thank you!

    • Hi Lael, I wish I could help but I’m not an expert in low fat or fat substitutions. You might want to check sites or boards that target lean recipes. If I were to try to make this recipe more lean, I would probably have to change the recipe entirely. I might use nuts instead – still higher in fat, but not as much as straight oil.

  4. I’m so glad I found your site!!! I’m going to try making my own non-flavored dry coffee creamer. I don’t like flavors and don’t like the refrigeratored kinds because it defeats the point of Hot coffee. Everything I have found says coconut oil and I do not like the taste plus I believe I have an allergy do to what happens to my mouth. Could you tell me which would be the best to use that has no flavor. Just the creamer taste. Please.

  5. Hi a friend has a daughter allergic to coconut – all forms from shampoos to food.

    Her mum would like to make healthy chocolate and told to use coconut oil but as her daughter is allergic what else could she use to replace the coconut oil?

  6. Alisa, thank you so so much! Coconut is a deadly allergy for me (has landed me in the hospital more than once due to negligent restaurants not disclosing all ingredients in their food). I have been gluten and dairy free for the past year due to doctors orders and find coconut is in so much! Can be disheartening but so glad to have discovered this article. Thank you again! Caroline

  7. Thank you so much for this article. Coconut is my deadliest allergy and also my most regrettable as I *adore* coconut and miss it intensely. So many internet articles about substitutes for coconut milk are full of haughty judgments about there being no substitute for the real thing, as if people are unaware that the real thing might be lethal to some of us! I especially appreciate that you included information about the similar fat profile in flax milk (which I have never seen, but will now be looking for) as I believe fat profile is largely responsible for mouthfeel and texture in many recipes. Overall this has been incredibly helpful.

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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?


    • 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!

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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!

  14. 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

    • 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.

  15. 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 🙂

  16. Pingback: 2012-11-23 Fabulous (Black) Friday Finds « surviving the food allergy apocalypse

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

    • 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 🙂

Leave A Reply