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Can coconut cream be transformed into coconut milk, or the other way around? For example, will adding water or cow milk to coconut cream make a usable coconut milk? Or by reducing coconut milk, can I get coconut cream?

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3 Answers 3

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Short answer: you can let coconut milk separate and skim it to get a little coconut cream, but can't convert coconut cream back to coconut milk. Diluting the cream just produces something runny and disgusting.

Long answer: Coconut milk is made by grating coconut and running very hot water through it to extract oils and flavor, then straining out the coconut pieces. It is a mix of water soluble parts and fats, and can emulsify just like normal milk or thicken sauces similarly to milk cream.

If you allow coconut milk to sit, the fatty part will rise to the top. This part is skimmed off to make coconut cream, which is much richer in fats. It cooks very differently because of the higher fat content, and does not emulsify or thicken well; however it is quite delicious!

If you're looking to substitute for coconut milk, but only have coconut cream, the best substitution will probably be a little coconut cream + a lot of heavy (milk) cream.

Note: Some people refer to the liquid contained in fresh coconuts as coconut milk, but it is more accurately called coconut water. This confusion has ruined many a recipe!

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Wikipedia reports:

The coconut milk is refrigerated and allowed to set. Coconut cream is the thick non-liquid part that separates and rises to the top of the coconut milk.

To get the other way you can surely add milk or water. This will not give you the same exact thing as coconut milk, but it would be ok as a substitution for a dish.

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This is confusing. That would mean that what is marketed as coconut milk is not really coconut milk, right? So you can't really make coconut cream from "real" coconut milk then. However, my guess is that the difference between commercial coconut cream and coconut milk is a greater coconut to water ratio used in the preparation. –  cptloop Apr 9 '12 at 1:28
    
@cptloop: I don't think I follow you... Coconut milk is the liquid you have inside the coconut (I don't know whether commercial one may have added preservatives etc.). If you let it sit you get coconut cream + a liquid which would mostly be water + other salts, hydrosoluble vitamins etc. that are normally in coconut milk. If you take the cream and add water you are more or less making coconut milk again, but you will be missing some of those extra components. Adding milk would be good to dilute the mixture, but of course coconut milk does not naturally contain cow's milk! –  nico Apr 9 '12 at 7:49
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The liquid inside the coconut is called coconut water. Coconut milk and cream is made by grating the coconut meat, mixing it with water and squeezing it out. AFAIK, traditionally, some people call the water that is left after removing the cream for "coconut milk". Hence you can only make cream from commercial coconut milk, since they use another definition. –  cptloop Apr 9 '12 at 12:09
    
@cptloop: you are right, disregard my previous comment. –  nico Apr 9 '12 at 12:34
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Yes you can refer to http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Coconut-Milk-from-Coconut-Cream I did this and it worked just fine for my recipe.

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This would be a better answer if it summarized the steps in that article, rather than just linking off-site. –  KatieK Nov 24 '13 at 23:33
    
The article could be summarized by two words, "add water", which as BobMcGee pointed out, is not correct. I appreciate posting the link but I despise bloated rubbish articles with zero substance that simply give the web a bad name. A waste of good photography. –  jontyc Nov 26 '13 at 0:29
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