Cream of Coconut vs Coconut Cream - What is the Difference?

By Timo Torner / Last updated on August 19, 2023

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a cream of coconut and coconut cream? Well, you should because these two ingredients are far from being the same thing.
jar of homemade cream of coconut on table next to coconut

Cream of coconut is much sweeter, thinner, and higher in calories than standard coconut cream. It's key to rum cocktails like the Painkiller and Piña Colada and is generally preferred when bringing coconut flavor into drinks.

However, if you've never used cream of coconut before, you might be confused when following a recipe for making a Pina Colada. In this cocktail, the cream of coconut is one of the key ingredients. When shopping in your local grocery store, there are a whole bunch of other coconut products like coconut cream or coconut milk, and you may be tempted to bag one of those because what you were looking for is nowhere to be seen. 

So you most likely go home with one of the coconut creams - and end up wondering why your cocktail doesn't turn out the way you thought it would.

Yes, both sound similar, and the base is identical, but you cannot use them interchangeably. -It would be even better to buy coconut milk instead. We show you why they are different and how this difference will affect your cocktails.

Cream of Coconut vs. Coconut Cream - The Main Differences

Cream coconut is much sweeter and contains significantly less fat than coconut cream. That is due to the way it's made with added sugars and a base containing less coconut flesh. The result is a creamy, sweet, and fluid coconut product with a delicate coconut flavor and the perfect consistency for cocktails.

Here's a table where you can see the differences and similarities between standard coconut cream and sweet cream of coconut. We also included coconut milk, and you can already see why it is more comparable to cream of coconut than coconut cream.

Cream of CoconutCoconut CreamCoconut Milk
Calories (per 100ml)400300230
Sugar (gr/100ml)707 - 102-4
Fat (gr/100ml)10.835 - 6015 - 20
Colorwhite / beigewhitewhite

What are Coconut Cream, Cream of Coconut, and Coconut Milk?

When shopping for coconut products, it's easy to get confused. You may need cream of coconut, but all you find is cream of coconut, coconut milk, coconut oil, coconut butter, and shredded coconut. Let's discuss the most important ones for making cocktails, but to explain the difference between coconut cream and cream of coconut, I want to take one step back and start with coconut milk.

1. Coconut cream 

Coconut cream is similar but has less water and a much higher fat content. The higher fat content comes from using a higher proportion of mature coconut flesh in the base, which makes the cream thicker and less fluid, increasing the fat content to over 35%. The sugar content goes up a little, as well. 

You can make it at home by chilling full-fat coconut milk in the fridge. The creamy parts rise to the top, and by skimming off the thick top layer, you get a rich and tasty coconut cream.

How to use it

It's an excellent ingredient in desserts, cakes, and smoothies. You can even use it to make vegan whipped cream or in savory dishes as a substitute for coconut milk. For example, it works amazingly well when you want to make thicker and richer sauces.

2. Cream of coconut

Cream of coconut, on the other hand, is a highly sweetened product due to added sugar. It is richer in taste yet lower in fat than the two others, and it is a popular cocktail ingredient for classic cocktail recipes like the Piña Colada. The consistency and texture are comparable to thick syrup - almost like toothpaste.

How to use it

Cream of coconut is predominantly used to make creamy coconut cocktails. It's often paired with rum but you can also pair it with other types of liquor like mezcal, tequila, whiskey, or gin.

3. Coconut milk 

Coconut milk is dairy-free and consists of coconut pulp, or coconut meat, and water. The higher the percentage of the pulp, the higher the fat content. Usually, it is between 1.5% (skim) and 20% (high-fat) with a liquid consistency. It's much thinner than coconut cream and cream of coconut. 

The milk is sold in Tetra Paks or as canned coconut milk, and the creamier parts in the milk tend to rise to the top. Hence, always give it a good shake before opening a can or carton. 

How to use it

Coconut milk is great for cooking, especially in soup, curry, or similar dishes. But it's also an excellent base for sweet treats like coconut ice cream or coconut-flavored pancakes. If a recipe particularly asks for coconut cream, don't use coconut milk as a substitute. The result will be too watery and lacking richness. 

Do I need cream of coconut for Cocktails?

Yes, if you want, for instance, a perfect Piña Colada or a Painkiller, you need cream of coconut. Sometimes you may come across recipes for these drinks calling for other coconut-based ingredients or even heavy cream. However, they won't deliver.

Pina Colada with Cream of Coconut

Still, if you want your Piña Colada to be just like you would get it served in Cuba or a good cocktail bar, then there's no shortcut because it needs the combination of low fat and high sugar content.

Cream of coconut is the magical ingredient that brings these tropical cocktails together. Not using it is one reason so many people think they don't like Piña Coladas.

Can I somehow substitute it with Coconut Cream?

To make this short and sweet: no, unfortunately, you can not interchange those two products. One is meant for cooking, and the other is mostly used for cocktails.

If you can not get cream of coconut in your supermarket, there are only two options. You buy some online or make your own at home. Don't worry. Making homemade cream of coconut is not too difficult, and the result tastes great.

How to make Cream of Coconut at home - Coconut milk is the key

When you compare cream of coconut with coconut milk - as you can see in the table above - you will notice that the fat contents are relatively similar. That is the one factor you cannot change easily.

So by adding sugar to the milk, you can get cream of coconut, whereas if you would add sugar to coconut cream, the fat content would still be far too high.

The final verdict

If your recipe asks for cream of coconut, don't go with a poor replacement. Ideally, you can get it in your local supermarket, or you make it at home.

Subscribe to Cocktail Society!

Receive our latest recipes, reviews, and insights - straight to your inbox.
Subscription Form

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ContactAbout usPrivacy PolicyTermsSitemap
Affiliate disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from

© 2023