Though both ingredients come from the same tropical fruit, there are distinct differences between coconut cream and coconut milk.
Coconut cream has a richer consistency, while coconut milk is much thinner. To make coconut cream, you need to simmer shredded coconut meat in water before straining. This method creates a thick, creamy liquid. Meanwhile, coconut milk consists of shredded coconut meat blended with water before it's strained – hence the “watery” texture.
When freshly grated coconut goes through its first extraction, it produces Filipino coconut cream (kakang gata). It has a natural sweetness and a slight graininess due to the presence of coconut solids. Subsequent extractions produce coconut milk.
Are you nuts for coconuts? Here are a few dishes you can make with coconut cream and milk!
Easy Coconut Milk Recipes to Try at Home
Use coconut milk as a base for curries and stews to give them a creamier texture. It also works in soups and salad dressings as a thickener. You can also add sweetish gata to desserts and smoothies for extra nutrients and a tropical flair. Many plant-based eaters like to use it as a substitute for animal milk since it has similar properties and functions.
1. Ginataang gulay
In this nutritious Filipino favorite, vegetables are the star. Traditional ingredients include squash, eggplant, beans, and okra. Everything cooks in a coconut cream-based sauce with garlic, onions, shrimp paste, and other flavor enhancers. You can make your ginataang gulay heartier by tossing in seafood or meat, such as shrimp, fish, or pork.
2. Tinola sa gata
Coconut milk can instantly make any soup or stew more satisfying. It also adds a subtle sweetness and a tropical element to enhance simple dishes. Add it to your classic chicken tinola for a gourmet spin. Tip: when simmering your stew, make sure not to let it reach a rolling boil. Like dairy milk, coconut milk can curdle and break when boiled. Stay on the safe side by keeping the heat at medium or low.
3. Cream dory in coconut milk
Coconut milk is rich in healthy fats, vitamins, and essential minerals, like iron, potassium, and magnesium. Maximize the benefits of this nutrient-rich ingredient by combining it with other wholesome staples, such as white fish and fresh vegetables. This curry-inspired recipe features cream dory, but it works just as well with other lean meats like shrimp and chicken breast. You can even turn it into a vegetarian option by using fried tofu instead.
Fuss-Free Coconut Cream Recipes to Try at Home
You’ll find coconut cream or kakang gata in many traditional Filipino recipes. Like coconut milk, it makes your favorite dishes richer without being heavy on the tummy.
1. Garlic coconut shrimp
Any savory coconut dish is made faster with Knorr Ginataang Gulay Mix: a kakang gata-based mix that speeds up cooking. Try this simple, five-ingredient recipe for garlicky coconut shrimp – it comes together in under 30 minutes! So good for quick workday lunches.
2. Chicken poppers with adobo gata sauce
Do you love fried chicken with lots of gravy? This dish is perfect for you. It pairs crispy fried chicken poppers with a rich and savory coconut adobo sauce. Have it as a filling ulam with rice, enjoy it as an indulgent merienda, or make a big batch for dinner parties.
3. Coconut chicken kare-kare
Have you ever tried adding coconut cream to kare-kare for a nontraditional twist? The nutty sweetness of the coconut cream complements the savory, slightly bitter peanut sauce. In the end, you get a luscious kare-kare with more balanced flavors.
Now that you know the differences between coconut cream and coconut milk, you should know which works best for your recipes. Experiment with these staple ingredients to discover their full potential! Pro tip: if you only have coconut cream on hand and a recipe calls for milk, you can always adjust its consistency with water.