What Can I use Instead of Coconut Milk in Curry?

Coconut milk is an integral part of a whole host of different curry dishes – it provides some great smoothness to the texture of the meal, as well as offers a creamy flavor that well and truly enhances the meal.

If you’ve run out of coconut milk, then you might feel a little like you’re at your wit’s end – don’t worry, though! There are plenty of options that will help you make a great curry for dinner even if your stocks of coconut milk are depleted.

5 Best Substitutes for Coconut Milk in Curry

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt might sound like something that you really wouldn’t expect to put into savory dishes. However, because of its natural health benefits, protein content, and consistency, it makes a great addition to a number of different dishes.

We would suggest using either unflavored greek yogurt or coconut-flavored to try to get that coconut milk flavor into your food. Be warned, though, that greek yogurt is often flavored with artificial coconut, so it might not taste quite right.

Most Greek yogurt will be the perfect consistency to add to curry and give you a great final dish. However, you may come across some that are a little too thick – in those cases, you could opt for adding a splash or two of water to the yogurt, and whisking the two together – this will create a liquid that’s the ideal consistency for adding to a curry.

Heavy Cream

Heavy cream adds a lot of richness and fat content to dishes, which is one of the reasons it makes a great substitute for full-fat coconut milk. We wouldn’t recommend using it to replace low-fat coconut milk, but the choice is yours, of course.

Heavy cream is typically a little heavier than coconut milk since cream contains an emulsifier that combines its fat and water content of it into one, single mixture.

To make sure that you get the right flavor in your final dish, you must make sure to add a small amount of coconut water to the heavy cream. The cream itself is typically flavorless, aside from the general flavor of rich dairy. This means that it won’t add much flavor to the final dish, which would be a great shame.

To get the perfect consistency when adding heavy cream to coconut milk, combine two parts of water with one part of heavy cream – this combination will give you the ideal texture.

Cashew Cream

Cashew cream is something that’s still relatively unheard of in the culinary world, but it’s a wonderful ingredient to have in your kitchen.

Essentially, it’s very simple – soaked cashew nuts are blended into a paste which, thanks to the natural fat content of cashew nuts, is smooth and creamy when compared to similar things from other plants. It is especially smooth and creamy when compared to nut butter like peanut or almond, having the texture of thick yogurt.

Cashew cream can replace coconut milk in any dish in a one-to-one ratio. By weight, that is – cashew cream is quite especially dense, which means that a relatively small amount by volume will be perfect for adding a lot of creaminess to any dish.

If you’re looking to create the same consistency as coconut milk, we’d recommend slowly watering down the cashew cream until you achieve the right consistency. As you can’t buy cashew cream, all homemade versions will be slightly different from one another – this means we couldn’t recommend a specific volume of water to add to the cream to get the right texture.

Milk – plant or dairy

Adding milk of any kind to your curries is a great way to create a thin sauce that will thicken up over time. At the end of the day, coconut milk is just another form of plant milk, so any similar options will work perfectly well. We would suggest opting for plant milk more quickly than you might opt for dairy milk, but they should both work perfectly fine.

The best choices will likely be plant milk options which have a little flavor to them. Oat milk, for example, is typically quite flavorless, other than being vaguely sweet. Soy milk, though, is typically a little creamier and nuttier than its counterparts, offering a unique flavor that’s sure to be enjoyed!

We would suggest substituting plant milk for coconut milk in a one-to-one ratio, though allowing for a slightly longer cooking time. This longer cooking time will allow you to let some of the liquid from the curry evaporate off, leading to a wonderfully textured curry that isn’t too runny.

Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk is precisely what it sounds like – milk, typically dairy, which has been evaporated over a period of time until it has become thicker and richer. This is something that was invented a long, long time ago as a way to store milk for longer – evaporated milk would be diluted a little, before being used as regular milk would be.

Because the water content of the milk itself has been reduced by sixty percent, it’s much creamier, richer, and thicker than regular milk – it’s a little sweet, with a consistency similar to half-and-half.

We would suggest substituting evaporated milk for coconut milk in a one-to-one ratio – they’re very similar in density.

Bear in mind, however, that evaporated milk has no nascent coconut flavor, meaning that you will likely need to add some coconut extract, coconut water, or something similar, to your curry to attain that specific flavor note. You don’t need to do this, of course – feel free to experiment by making your curries without that typical coconut flavor that so many of them share. Food is all about experimentation, so why not try it out?

Coconut milk is a wonderful ingredient that brings both texture and flavor to curries. With that said, though, it can be something that’s tricky to get hold of. If you’re a little short of having enough, we would suggest picking one of our substitute options above – happy cooking!

Kunal Sharma
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