Last week, I posted a recipe for a delicious, creamy, quick and easy butternut squash soup on Facebook and I listed one of the ingredients as coconut milk. A fan contacted me and said “What kind of coconut milk do I buy?? There are so many!”
Sometimes I don’t realize that not everyone has obsessed about coconut milks as I have.
Of course getting the coconut milk straight from a coconut would be the ultimate ingredient. But since we don’t all live on Gilligan’s Island, we have to get ours from the market.
In my experience, out of the coconut milks that I have access to, Thai brand coconut milk has always been the best in my recipes. I usually choose the whole, organic kind but sometimes (if my jeans are a bit tight), I’ll make recipes with the Thai “light” coconut milk which has less fat and calories. There are probably others that I have not tried, and I welcome your comments in the comment section. I’m always excited to get exposed to new products.
I don’t ever use the coconut milk in cartons like Silk brand for recipes. These taste very “plastic” to me and I don’t ever use them in recipes where I am looking for coconut creaminess. You won’t find this milk in my morning bowl of cereal either.
Coconut milk has a wonderful property in that the whole canned milk, when refrigerated, will separate and provides a creamy base for “whipped cream” and makes a great substitute for recipes that call for heavy cream.
One reason I like Thai is their ingredient list.
Thai coconut milk ingredients: coconut milk, water, less than 0.5% guar gum
Some of the other brands will have artificial flavor, added oils, or preservatives listed in the ingredient list. Guar gum is a natural thickening agent. Guar gum is a natural part of the guar bean. I use it my baking recipes as a binding agent to hold things together and you can use it like corn starch in recipes to thicken foods. It comes in powder form and you can find it in most health food stores. Some might argue that guar gum can cause bowel upset. This is true if you are sensitive to it, but the amount in this can is pretty small, so the risk is small too.
I normally don’t like cans because of the BPA. The brands of coconut milk that do not contain BPA are : Trader Joe’s light coconut milk, Native Forest Coconut Milk, Aroy-D (I’m told you can buy this from Asian markets), Tropical Traditions Coconut Cream Concentrate. Unfortunately, I do not have access to any of these BPA free brands where I live, but I just made my first order to Tropical Traditions, so I’ll let you know how that goes.
The carton-type coconut milks like Silk have a lot of things I look to avoid in their ingredient lists…
Silk coconut milk ingredients: Filtered water, coconut cream, evaporated cane juice, Calcium carbonate, natural flavor (one of my least favorite ingredients) Guar Gum, Carageenan, Cyanocobalamin, Vitamin A, Vitamin D2.
Evaporated cane juice is just minimally processed sugar…but sugar nonetheless.
Calcium carbonate is a synthetic form of calcium that produces a lot of gas in your intestines. (carbonate…as in carbonated beverages…) If you don’t mind farting, please disregard.
Natural Flavor can be anything. I hate this ingredient. Natural flavor can be anything from as harmless as a mixture of spices, to harmful MSG, to castoreum…the anal glad secretions of a beaver. (Castoreum is being used a lot less as of late because I read that the beavers aren’t very cooperative.)
Carageenan, on the other hand, even though it is a seaweed extract, has been shown to be a potent inflammatory agent in humans. After conducting years of studies, Dr Joanne Tobacman from the University of Illinois School of Medicine addressed the National Organic Standards Board in 2012 to urge a recall of the use of carageenan in all organic foods. She revealed human studies which showed a marked increase in inflammatory response (a pre-curser in most chronic illnesses including cancer), but also reported on mice studies which showed that after very limited exposure to carageenan, the mice developed insulin resistance…a pre-curser to diabetes.
Those with any type of intestinal issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, gluten intolerance, and others should stay far, far away from carageenan. Look for it in most plant-based milks, and non-dairy foods among others.
Cyanocobalamin is the synthetic “vitamin” form of Vitamin B12. I take B12 supplements but I take the methylcobalamin because I like my B12 without cyanide. While the cyanide amounts in the cyanocobalamin are small, my doctor told me to stay away from poisonous substances.
And if you’ve ever tasted the Silk coconut milk, I think it’s gross.
If your recipe calls for coconut milk, read your labels (as you should be doing anyway), choose well, and you won’t be disappointed.