If you ever came across a recipe asking for cream of coconut, you might have been confused when you hit your local supermarket. There are a whole bunch of coconut products on offer, mostly coconut milk or coconut cream. And you may be tempted to bag coconut cream because cream of coconut is nowhere to be found, and therefore they have to be the same thing. So you go with one of those canned coconut creams – and end up wondering why your cocktail doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would.
Because even if they sound so similar and the base product is the same, you don’t want to use the wrong product. The two are integrally different and used in very different ways. So let’s get this dilemma sorted.
The difference between cream of coconut and coconut cream
To explain the difference between those two products, I need to take one step back and start with coconut milk. In case you don’t know what coconut milk is, it consists of coconut pulp and water. The higher the percentage of coconut pulp, the higher the fat content of the coconut milk. Usually, it is between 1.5% (skim coconut milk) and 20% (high fat coconut milk).
Coconut cream is very similar to coconut milk. In fact, it is coconut milk but with less water in it. That makes the coconut cream thicker, less fluid, and furthermore increases the fat content to up to 25% to 40%. Coconut cream is often sold in cans right next to the coconut milk cartons.
Cream of coconut, on the other hand, is a highly sweetened version of coconut cream. It is richer in taste, however lower in fat, and it is a popular cocktail ingredient for classic cocktail recipes like the Piña Colada. The consistency is comparable to a very thick syrup or honey.
Can I substitute coconut cream for cream of coconut?
I’ll make this short and sweet. No, you can not interchange those two products. Coconut cream is meant for cooking, and cream of coconut is mostly used in cocktails. If you are in the unfortunate position where you can not get cream of coconut in your local supermarket, there are only two options. You either buy some online, for instance, here. Or you make your cream of coconut yourself.
Don’t worry. Making your very own cream of coconut at home is not too difficult. And the result tastes marvelous. I do suggest trying making it yourself, even if you usually buy it. Like most homemade products, it can really improve the quality of your cocktails.
Do I need cream of coconut for a Pina Colada?
I highly recommend using cream of coconut for making your Piña Colada. I know some recipes are using other ingredients like coconut milk, heavy cream, and others. But if you want it to be the way you would get it served in Cuba, then there’s no other way than using cream of coconut.
For me, it always feels like cream of coconut is the magical ingredient that really brings this drink together.
The final verdict
If your recipe asks for cream of coconut, you should not try to find a replacement. Either you can get it in your local supermarket, or you make it yourself at home. There’s just no satisfying replacement product for cream of coconut. And let me tell you, once you tried it in your cocktails, you’ll never consider a substitute. Unless, maybe, when you are on a diet.