They're actually very different products!
If you're recipe calls for coconut milk, or if you're switching to a plant-based diet, you may run to the store and find a canned version and a carton. While they look and seem similar, they are actually two very different products. Here's what you need to know about the difference between canned and carton coconut milk and how to use them.
FIRST, WHAT EXACTLY IS COCONUT MILK?
Coconut flesh, the white part you may see as shavings, is pureed with water and strained to make a rich liquid. This milk can then be used to make coffee creamers, yogurts and ice cream, which is especially popular with followers of the keto diet!
Coconut milk is fine to drink daily if you know how to integrate it with your diet. Coconut milk is a great way to curb your consumption of dairy, which may be inflammatory for people with dairy sensitivities like lactose intolerance. It's a fat, so it will keep you full. And you get the added bonus of potassium, which is important for preventing high blood pressure.
CANNED COCONUT MILK
This type of coconut milk comes in two kinds: light and full fat. Light has more water, and full fat is a creamier option (which makes it great for desserts!). Before opening the can, give it a good shake — the coconut cream and water naturally separate so you'll want to mix everything back up.
Canned coconut milk on average has about 120 calories per serving, which is almost double what some kinds of carton coconut milk have.
CARTON COCONUT MILK
This kind of coconut milk is a much more diluted version. So it's not as creamy as what you find in the can. But this means it's much lower in calories. It makes a great no-sugar, dairy-free alternative to traditional milk.
Carton coconut milk is a great way to add richness to a dish without using dairy. It has three- to four-times less saturated fat than coconut oil, as well as less sodium and calories than dairy milk. But be careful with cartons labeled "unsweetened," because some may still have added sugar and sweeteners.