I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different coconut cream substitutes to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding coconut cream is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best coconut cream substitute is coconut milk. It has a thinner texture, but you can thicken the dish with cornstarch. Nut butters mixed with water, pureed silken tofu, heavy cream, or blended sweet potato are also great substitutes. Or make your own coconut cream with dried coconut and water.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I whipped up a tasty curry to test out 10 different coconut cream substitutes.
Coconut cream gives dishes a rich, velvety texture and a subtly sweet, tropical flavor. I was looking for a substitute that could mimic the creaminess, and if it added flavor that was a bonus!
Here’s what I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitute||How to substitute||Verdict|
|Coconut milk||Replace coconut cream in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Heavy cream||Replace coconut cream in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Nut butters||Mix with water then replace coconut cream in a 1:1 ratio||910|
|Tomato puree/passata||Replace coconut cream with passata in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Blended sweet potato||Replace coconut cream in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Evaporated milk||Replace coconut cream in a 1:1 ratio, adjust seasoning||7/10|
|Pureed cauliflower||Replace coconut cream in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Yogurt/sour cream||Replace coconut cream in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Pureed silken tofu||Replace coconut cream in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Homemade coconut cream||Replace coconut cream in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
Read next: the best substitutes for coconut water
In the great quest for coconut cream substitutes, our first stop is naturally its more liquid sibling: coconut milk.
Coconut milk is a simple, straightforward, and easily accessible substitute.
It has a thinner consistency and a less creamy flavor. But if you want a thicker texture, you can simply simmer the dish for longer or use a thickening agent like cornstarch.
If you’ve got time, you can even extract the cream from your coconut milk. Place a can of coconut milk in the fridge and leave it overnight. The cream will separate from the coconut water and rise to the top so you can scoop it out (you need full-fat coconut milk for this to work).
If you’ve got a really old can of coconut milk hanging around this might have already happened!
How to substitute: substitute coconut cream with coconut milk in a 1:1 ratio, taking steps to thicken the dish if needed.
If you don’t like the flavor of coconut, heavy cream is a great substitute.
The rich and velvety texture provides an indulgent base that can mimic the mouthfeel of coconut cream.
Cream has a neutral flavor profile, so if you’re worried about your dish being bland, you could always add more herbs or spices to give it that extra oopmh.
Or if you’re looking for that coconutty touch, add a few drops of coconut essence or desiccated coconut.
One downside to this substitute is that heavy cream has more calories then coconut cream (which is already quite calorific!).
You can use light cream instead, but it won’t have the same luscious mouthfeel (psst… interested in light cream substitutes?)
How to substitute: substitute coconut cream with heavy cream in a 1:1 ratio.
Hold on to your aprons, folks, because this substitute might just blow your culinary minds.
As I tested various ingredients in my relentless pursuit of coconut cream alternatives, I stumbled upon an unexpected contender: nut butter.
Nut butter can be thinned with a little water or milk to create a creamy, luscious sauce that rivals the texture of coconut cream.
The sub will work in sweet and savory dishes, and nuts are packed with healthy fats and proteins, adding a dose of nutrition to your dish.
Psst… as an alternative you can make your own cashew cream.
How to substitute: replace coconut cream in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with a thinned nut butter mixture.
Tomato puree or passata is an intriguing alternative to coconut cream in curries and sauces. It will take the flavor profile in an entirely new (but equally as delicious) direction.
It’s an excellent substitute for those wanting to avoid the sweetness of coconut cream because instead, you get a tangy, slightly acidic flavor.
And if you still want some creaminess, you can add a touch of cream, yogurt, or even milk to the dish.
Psst… this substitute works especially well in Indian style curries.
How to substitute: replace coconut milk with and equal amount of passata, or a tablespoon of tomato puree. Add extra water, stock, or milk as needed.
Blended Sweet Potato
Another surprising entry?
Blended sweet potato proved to be a fantastic alternative to coconut cream in my tests.
The puree offers a thick, creamy texture that closely resembles the mouthfeel of coconut cream. And you can easily mix in a little water or milk if you want a thinner consistency.
The mildly sweet flavor brought the same comforting feeling as coconut cream too (without all the calories!).
Psst… you can also experiment with other sweet vegetables like butternut squash, carrots, corn, or pumpkin.
Just avoid standard potatoes because they’re too bland and will dull the flavors in your dish.
How to substitute: replace coconut cream with blended sweet potato in a 1:1 ratio, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
This option might seem boring in comparison to the previous substitutes, but it’s extremely practical.
Evaporated milk is cheap, readily available and can last for ages in your cupboard.
I always have a few cans on hand incase of an emergency – like running out of coconut cream!
You can use evaporated milk in savory recipes, while condensed milk can be used in sweet applications (although it’s a lot sweeter than coconut cream, so you may need to adjust the amount of sugar you use).
Both options offer a rich and creamy texture but won’t add any flavor. To mimic the coconut flavor, simply add a few drops of coconut extract or a sprinkle of desiccated coconut.
Or add something else for a flavor boost.
How to substitute: replace coconut cream with evaporated milk or condensed milk in a 1:1 ratio, and consider flavoring the dish in some other way.
Whether you’re counting calories or just looking to switch things up, this cauliflower creation will impress both you and your dinner guests.
It’s a fantasticly healthy and low-carb alternative to coconut cream.
You can make it with simple boiled cauliflower, but to really enhance the natural nuttiness of the florets I roast them before pureeing them. This brings delicious depth of flavor, although it will be more subtle than coconut cream.
Roasting the cauliflower also means the texture of your puree will be more creamy and thick. With boiled cauliflower it can sometimes get a bit watery.
How to substitute: replace coconut cream in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with pureed roasted cauliflower.
Yogurt / sour cream
For a tangy, fresh alternative to coconut cream, try using yogurt or sour cream in your recipes.
This substitute works particularly well in Indian curries, adding a zesty kick that complements the spices beautifully.
Both yogurt and sour cream have varying fat levels, but for the creamiest texture always go for full fat! When using yogurt, opt for plain, unsweetened varieties to avoid altering the flavor of your dish.
Greek yogurt, with its thicker consistency, can be an excellent choice for a super creamy texture.
Also be careful adding these substitute to hot dishes because they can curdle. I always temper the yogurt or sour cream by mixing it with a small amount of the hot liquid from my dish before adding it back in.
How to substitute: replace coconut cream in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with yogurt or sour cream.
Pureed Silken Tofu
Silken tofu is another healthy, dairy-free alternative to coconut cream.
By blending the tofu with water, you create a protein-packed substitute that mimics the texture of coconut cream.
The fake coconut cream was fairly neutral in flavor, so feel free to add some flavor to it in the form of dried coconut or nuts. Or you can puree the tofu with broth instead of water.
Silken tofu works well in smoothies, soups, and sauces, and can even be used in baking as a replacement for coconut cream!
How to substitute: replace coconut cream in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with your silken tofu puree.
Homemade Coconut Cream
Got some dried coconut to hand? You can use it make your homemade coconut cream!
This DIY coconut cream is perfect for anyone who wants a natural, additive-free option. And you an adjust the thickness and flavor to your liking.
To make homemade coconut cream, follow these simple steps:
- Start by placing 2 cups of unsweetened shredded coconut into a high-powered blender or food processor.
- Add 1 cup of hot water or milk (for an even creamier result) to the shredded coconut. If you prefer a thicker consistency, reduce the amount of liquid slightly.
- Blend the mixture on high speed for 1-2 minutes, or until the coconut shreds are finely ground, and the mixture is smooth and creamy.
- Place a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth over a bowl, and pour the blended coconut mixture through it to separate the solids from the liquid. Press the coconut solids with a spoon or squeeze the cheesecloth to extract as much liquid as possible.
- The liquid collected in the bowl is your homemade coconut cream. Use it immediately or refrigerate it for later use. It will thicken slightly as it cools.
If you don’t have a blender, you can also simmer the coconut in water or milk until the mixture thickens. Then strain as per the instructions above.
This homemade coconut cream can be used as a direct replacement for store-bought coconut cream in any recipes. It may have a slightly grainier texture compared to commercial coconut cream, but it will still deliver that rich, tropical taste you’re craving.
How to substitute: replace coconut cream in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with homemade coconut cream.
Best Coconut Cream Substitutes [Tried and Tested]
- 1 portion Coconut milk thicken with cornstarch
- 1 portion Heavy cream
- 1 portion Nut butters mix with water or milk
- 1 portion Tomato puree/passata
- 1 portion Blended sweet potato mix with water or milk
- 1 portion Evaporated milk use condensed milk for desserts
- 1 portion Pureed cauliflower use roasted cauliflower
- 1 portion Yogurt/sour cream
- 1 portion Pureed silken tofu mix with water
- 1 portion Homemade coconut cream
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen coconut cream substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.