Tell Me What to Eat

Coconut Milk: Best and Worst Brands

By Ted KallmyerUpdated August 21, 2022
The best and worst coconut milk brands

Coconut milk is a common ingredient in Asian cuisine.

In recent years it has become a popular ingredient in non-dairy beverage blends (in a similar vein to almond milk).

The difference between coconut milk and coconut cream

Both coconut milk and cream are a mix of coconut flesh and water. The difference lies in the ratios.

  1. Canned coconut milk – typically one part coconut flesh to two parts water. Consistency is thinner. Used for cooking.
  2. Canned coconut cream – typically four parts coconut flesh to one part water. Consistency is thicker and creamier. Used for cooking.
  3. Cartoned coconut milk beverage – very small amounts of coconut flesh to water. Fortified with vitamins. Used for drinking (as a cow’s milk alternative).

What are the best coconut milk beverages (cartons)?

Determining the healthiest is not easy. Coconut is itself high in fat, so the beverages are heavily diluted. Some are slightly sweetened, and others are fortified with vitamins.

The best coconut milk beverages

  1. So Delicious (unsweetened)
  2. Best on a budget: Silk (unsweetened)

Brands to avoid is Coconut Dream (uses carrageenan).

What are the best canned coconut milks?

These cans are BPA-free, and have simple ingredients without additives.

  • Native Forest
  • Natures Greatest
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Natural Value

Coconut milk cans to avoid

Both these brands use sulfites and are in BPA-lined cans.

  • Chaokoh
  • Goya

List of cartoned coconut milk beverages

Vita Coco Coconut Milk

Simple ingredients, no vitamin fortification. Lower proportion of coconut cream.

  • Original has 50 calories, 5 g sugar, 3 g fat, 0 g protein per one-cup serving.

Ingredients (original): Organic coconut water from concentrate, organic coconut cream, gellan gum.

  • Organic

vitacoco.com

Buy at Amazon

Silk Unsweetened Coconut Milk

Silk is one of the most popular and the best variety to choose is the unsweetened.

  • Unsweetened has 40 calories, 0 g sugar, 4 g fat, 0 g protein per one-cup serving.
  • Original has 70 calories, 5 g sugar, 5 g fat, 0 g protein.

[Unsweet] Coconutmilk (Filtered Water, Coconut Cream), Vitamin and Mineral Blend (Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin E Acetate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Vitamin B12), Dipotassium Phosphate, Sea Salt, Sunflower Lecithin, Gellan Gum, Ascorbic Acid (To Protect Freshness), Natural Flavor.

silk.com

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So Delicious

The unsweetened is the best variety of the So Delicious brand of coconut milk.

  • Unsweetened has 45 calories, 0 g sugar, 4.5 g fat, 0 g protein per one-cup serving.
  • Original has 70 calories, 7 g sugar, 4.5 g fat, 0 g protein.
  • Vanilla has 80 calories, 8 g sugar, 4.5 g fat, 0 g protein.
  • Unsweetened vanilla has 50 calories, 0 g sugar, 4.5 g fat, 0 g protein.

[Unsweetened] Organic Coconutmilk (Filtered Water, Organic Coconut Cream), Contains 2% or Less of: Vitamin and Mineral Blend (Calcium Phosphate, Magnesium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, L-Selenomethionine [Selenium], Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D2, Zinc Oxide, Vitamin B12), Organic Sunflower Lecithin, Gellan Gum, Organic Locust Bean Gum, Sea Salt.

  • Organic

SoDeliciousDairyFree.com

Buy at Amazon

Pacific Foods coconut milk

Uses a small amount of coconut water to improve flavor.

  • Unsweetened has 45 calories, 0 g sugar, 4 g fat, 0 g protein per one-cup serving.
  • Original has 60 calories, 3 g sugar, 4 g fat, 0 g protein.
  • Unsweetened vanilla has 50 calories, 0 g sugar, 4 g fat, 0 g protein.

[Unsweetened] Water, Coconut Cream*, Contains 1% Or Less Of: Coconut Water Concentrate*, Gellan Gum, Guar Gum*, Natural Flavor, Sodium Citrate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Vitamin D2, Xanthan Gum.

  • Organic

pacificfoods.com

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365 by Whole Foods Market

Uses a small amount of coconut water to improve flavor.

  • Unsweetened has 50 calories, 0 g sugar, 5 g fat, 0 g protein per one-cup serving.

[Unsweetened] Organic Coconutmilk (Filtered Water, Organic Coconut Cream), Calcium Carbonate, Natural Flavor, Organic Locust Bean Gum, Gellan Gum, Sea Salt, Vitamin A Palmitate, Ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2), Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12)

  • Organic

wholefoodsmarket.com

Buy at Amazon

Coconut dream

Coconut Dream

One of the few plant-based beverages to still use carageenan.

  • Unsweetened has 60 calories, 0 g sugar, 5 g fat, 0 g protein per one-cup serving.
  • Vanilla has 90 calories, 7 g sugar, 5 g fat, 0 g protein per one-cup serving.

[Unsweetened] Water, Coconut Cream, Tricalcium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Gellan Gum, Sea Salt, Natural Flavors, Vitamin D2, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin B12.

dreamplantbased.com

Buy at Amazon

Questionable ingredients in coconut milk beverages

Vitamin A Palmitate

This is a way to supplement vitamin A and is generally considered safe. People who consume a diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables will already be getting an adequate supply.

Vitamin A can build up in the body to toxic levels, but this is very rare and you’d be need to drinking a lot of the beverage.

Carrageenan

Carrageenan is a texturizing additive derived from seaweed that used to be in most plant-based beverages. Regarded as safe by the FDA, but some people reported gastro-intestinal issues.

Very few beverages contain this now – most using guar gum or gellan gum to assist with texture.

Canned Coconut Milk vs Cream vs Light

Coconut milk in cans is for cooking. There are typically three variations.

  1. Light / lite / reduced fat – Coconut is (by nature) a fatty food, so to appease consumers – there is a light version. It just means less coconut (typically half of normal milk) and more water. In many cases it may be uneconomic to buy.
  2. Milk – More coconut than light, less coconut that cream. Suitable for soups and curries – and cheaper than coconut cream.
  3. Cream – Lots more coconut – less water. More expensive, more suitable for desserts.

Tinned coconut milk isn’t usually fortified with vitamins – as it’s not made to mimic cow’s milk (like the carton beverages).

What about coconut water? This is a drinking beverage that is the high-potassium water that comes out of the coconut. No coconut meat has been shredded into it – so is not a ‘milk’.

List of Canned Coconut Milks

Canned coconut milk varieties abound and the most important thing to watch out for is BPA lined cans.

Bisphenol-A is absolutely a health concern. If you use half a can, make sure you put it into another container when refrigerating.

Trader Joe’s Canned Coconut Milk

  • Reduced-Fat has 70 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of sugar, and 1 gram of protein in a 1/4 cup serving.
  • Organic has 110 calories, 11 grams of fat, 1 gram of sugar, and 1 gram of protein per 1/4 cup serving.
  • TJ’s Coconut Cream has 90 calories, 9 grams of fat, <1 gram of sugar, and 1 gram of protein per 2 tablespoons serving

Ingredients (organic): Water and Organic Coconut.

    • USDA organic
    • BPA-free

traderjoes.com

Buy at Amazon.

Nature’s Greatest

Organic range with just two ingredients.

Ingredients: Coconut extract and water.

  • USDA organic
  • BPA-free
  • No guar gum

naturesgreatestfoods.com

Buy at Amazon.

Native Forest Organic Simple

There is also Light and Classic (both of which contain Guar Gum).

  • Light has per 1/4 cup serving has 45 calories, 4 grams of fat, <1 gram of sugar, and <1 gram of protein.
  • Classic & Simple has per 1/3 cup serving has 140 calories, 15 grams of fat, 0 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

Ingredients: Organic Coconut Milk (organic coconut, purified water). BPA Free.

  • USDA organic
  • BPA-free
  • No Guar gum (Simple and Turmeric version)

Edwardandsons.com

Buy at Amazon.

Natural Value

Despite the generic brand name, this is a good product.

  • Lite has 60 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1 grams of sugar, 1 grams of protein per 1/3 cup serving.
  • Regular has 150 calories, 15 grams of fat, 3 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein per 1/3 cup serving.

Ingredients (regular): Organic coconut meat extract (53%), water (47%).

  • USDA organic
  • BPA free

Buy at Amazon

Thai Kitchen (unsweetened)

  • Lite has 50 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein per 1/3 cup serving.
  • Regular has 120 calories, 12 grams of fat, 1 gram of sugar and <1 gram of protein per 1/3 cup serving.

Ingredients (regular): Coconut, Water, Guar gum.

  • Organic version available

Questionable ingredient(s)? BPA lined cans (Thai Kitchen do have a non-BPA resealable carton – but check availability).

mccormickforchefs.com

Buy at Amazon

Chaokoh Coconut Milk

This brand is not recommended because of the preservative used (sulfite).

Chaokoh has 150 calories, 14 grams of fat, < 1 gram of sugar and 2 grams of protein per 1/3 cup serving.

Ingredients: Coconut extract, water, citric acid, and sodium metabisulfite

Buy at Amazon

Goya Coconut Milk

This brand is not recommended because of the preservative (sulfite) used.
Goya has 93 calories, 9 grams of fat, < 2 grams of sugar and 2 grams of protein per 2 fl oz serving.

Ingredients: Coconut extract, water, and sodium metabisulfite

Buy at Amazon

Notable mentions

  • Aroy-d coconut milk</strong – just coconut extract and water.
  • Sungiven – coconut extract, water, and guar gum. BPA free.
  • Roots circle – coconut extract, water, and xanthan gum. BPA free.

Is coconut milk the healthiest milk?

When comparing to plant-based beverages, coconut milk doesn’t offer too much, except it’s a little higher in fat.

Coconut fat does contain medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which is considered beneficial to heart health.

The beverage cartons (not the canned milk) contain extra vitamins and minerals.

How to know which coconut milk can is healthiest

There are many store brands of canned coconut milk, so use the following guidelines:

  • Choose brands with no added sugar.
  • Choose brands without carrageenan.
  • Choose brands made with organic coconut when possible.
  • Avoid brands with BPA lined cans.
  • Avoid brands that use preservatives like sulfites.
  • Be wary of vitamin A palmitate based on your total vitamin A intake.

Coconut milk can be a healthy cow’s milk alternative for people who don’t like almond milk, soy milk, or rice milk.

Also, coconut milk seems to do a better job of whitening coffee or tea than the others but with slight coconut flavor.

It’s also a great way to add flavor and good fats to recipes.

Useful Fact: Did you know that coconut milk is the only cow’s milk alternative that works great for use in cooked “Jello” type puddings?

The Best and Worst series:

171 Comments

  • None 10 months ago

    Native Forest has no guar on label in the picture you provided. Below the picture you state there is guar but no new/old comparison. Can you clarify please?

    Reply
    • James (Moderator) 6 months ago

      Article has been completely revised since then. Native Forest Simple has no guar. Native Forest original DOES have guar gum.

      Reply
  • Deborah 12 months ago

    Hi. Is there a brand of coconut milk that is organic and 100 percent coconut milk? aAroy d is 100 percent coconut milk but not organic. I wish it was organic. I often make coconut milk using dried coconut flakes and water. It works fine for baking but not for coconut whipped cream. I wanted coconut milk to make yogurt. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • James (Moderator) 6 months ago

      Natures Greatest brand is just organic coconut + water.

      Reply
  • Emily

    What does it mean when it says “coconut extract 70%, water”
    Those are the only ingredients. What is coconut extract? Is it just the expelled milk from the meat?

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach)

      yes, it’s referring to what’s taken from the coconut.

      Reply
  • Vicky

    I avoid ALL coconut and dried fruits products, canned, cartons, packages and bakery items because coconut and dried fruits are often treated with sulfites and this is not always written on the labels. Beware!
    My husband and I are elderly. My aunt took me to a small health food market during the 1950’s and 60’s in the San Fernando Valley, CA. Back then it was real health foods. What Whole Foods and Trader Joes sells is not health foods. My aunt made chicken curry about once a month using a can of creamed soup, Shelton Farm chicken and curry powder served on white rice. She gave us Shelton Farm Chicken Frank’s on a 7 grain bun with sprouts. She loved the Alta Dena Dairy products. Back then she bought raw milk. Most dinners were vegetarian salads, brown rice or baked potatoes with butter. Lunch at home was a plate with cottage cheese, a few raisins and carrot sticks. Often she cut up peeled apples or ripe banana and drizzled sesame Tahini on it. I still love tahini. She was a Baptist and told me Baptist don’t drink (alcohol) I lived with my aunt and uncle and I was always the best athlete in my class. I never ate the school cafeteria food. My aunt gave me a paper sack healthy lunch. I am elderly, live in Florida and prepare meals like my aunt taught me. My husband and I alternate drinking rice milk, goat milk, and prune juice everyday. Our blood tests are fine.

    Reply
  • Jm

    Hi,
    I am not vegan but I also follow the SCD diet because food intolerances so, coconut milk with not additives should be fine. Try it first thing in the morning and check if you react to it. I form have problems with the coconut milk but still problems with the fiber. Try not to stress out with every little thing and do your best, healing will still take place. God Bless!!

    Reply
  • Katherina Le

    Please do not purchse the roaster brand is taste and smell terrible(stale and beater)

    Reply
  • Adrienne

    I’m glad I read this article. Never knew anything about BPA lined cans, so immediately I went to Harris Teeter and purchased two cans of the store brand coconut milk (non BPA lined).

    I have decided to resume drinking my smoothies in the morning, and had some coconut milk in my cabinet. After using some in my smoothie, questions started forming in my mind. That’s when I decided to research the use of coconut milk, since I am lactose intolerant. However, I still sneak in about a tablespoon of organic yogurt.

    To be honest, I am not a fan of the refrigerated brands, I plan on using the canned kind and add water for the consistency I desire.

    Great article! I’m glad I started researching…

    Reply
  • Karen V Brown

    Hi, I have tried many canned coconut milk, the only one I found that tastes awesome is the Aroy-d coconut milk Thailand but it has Polysorbate 80 in it, could be either vegetable or sadly Animal fat?? Is this true because this is a shock. Could you tell me if there’s a way to discern whether it’s Animal or Vegetable?
    does this mean it can not be Vegan?😥 I am a 9 year Vegan & certainly need to be sure everything I consume is never harming Animals….thank you! 🙂💜Love being Vegan! ❤💚❤💚🥳

    Reply
  • Andrea

    Hi, so I have a severe case of ulcerative colitis and doctor prescribed biologics , as well as following the SCD diet, I’m also a vegan so I feel so limited in what I can eat. I looked into the book ‘Breaking the vicious cicle’ but other than fresh fruit and veggies I can’t eat anything else, could anyone please give me some guidance 😞

    Reply
  • Martin Carroll

    Chaokoh is still involved in the gross abuse of monkeys that collect their coconuts – just look up Chaokoh on You Tube. Please avoid this brand at all costs.

    Reply