For some people, the mere mention of milk is like an off switch. They can’t drink it, don’t like it, don’t want want to read about it… whatever their prerogatives and/or allergies are, they could really care less.
At least, care less about traditional milk.
Non-dairy milk, however, is a whole ‘nother topic.
In case you missed the announcement, the next Nourishing Traditions series on Crumbs is covering dairy. And I’m sure there were a few blown fuses on that post from the non-dairy folks out there. (I’m still open to naming suggestions too, by the way!)
But I think there are a lot of topics under the “dairy” umbrella that aren’t dairy at all, like almond milk and soy milk. I’ve covered almond milk it in the past, but we’ll go through it again with a slightly different perspective. There are lots of other non-dairy milks I want to talk about too, because whether or not you actually consume dairy shouldn’t mean you flip the “ignore” switch. 😉 One of my favorites being homemade coconut milk.
Commercial Coconut Milk for Drinking
Coconut milk is kinda like dessert in a glass. It’s naturally sweet and rich thanks to the high saturated fat content of coconut (remember: saturated fat is the good fat). It’s used often in Asian cuisines and is a must-have when you’re making curry (at least in my opinion). For those who don’t drink animal milk and enjoy the taste of coconut milk, it’s a suitable alternative for traditional dairy in drinking or biscuits or any recipe calling for milk.
There are two drawbacks to commercial coconut milk though. One is the ingredients. Coconuts are rich in saturated fat, but “society” doesn’t want to drink milk with chunks of fat in it (or chunks of coconut usually). In order to make the milk smooth, they have to add a bunch of icky stuff.
Check out this list of ingredients, from So Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk, Original flavor:
ORGANIC COCONUT MILK (WATER, ORGANIC COCONUT CREAM), ORGANIC DRIED CANE SYRUP, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, MAGNESIUM PHOSPHATE, CARRAGEENAN, GUAR GUM, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, VITAMIN D-2, L-SELENOMETHIONINE (SELENIUM), ZINC OXIDE, FOLIC ACID, VITAMIN B-12.
I’ve done some research lately on carrageenan and found that it’s often used as a thickener. This would make sense because my homemade coconut milk is a bit on the thin side, although still perfectly suitable for all of my coconut milk purposes. Unfortunately, there’s some pretty big bad news factors with carrageenan. First, it causes inflammation throughout the body, which can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and arteriosclerosis. Second, it’s directly linked to inflammation in the colon. Finally, carrageenan is so effective at causing inflammation that it’s even used to test anti-inflammatory drugs. Now that’s scary.
Vitamin A palmitate is another additive I’ve been looking at and it’s not nearly as harmful as carrageenan, but it’s still not something I would should seek to consume. To simplify the research, vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin found naturally within the fat of food (like coconut). When the fat is removed, vitamin A and other fat-soluble vitamins are removed as well. To make up for the loss of nutrition, vitamin A palmitate (mixed with palm oil so that it is soluble) is added in its place.
Manufacturers adding a vitamin sounds good, right? But remember when we talked about enriched flour? Vitamins added back into foods during the manufacturing process are:
- synthetic, not found in nature
- not necessarily added back in the same quantity as the original
- difficult for the body to process
- can cause health issues in large quantities
Plus only the big vitamins are added back in. Those smaller ones that are still required for the body to function properly are ignored, leaving the body to rely on itself to process the food. In the end, these enriched foods don’t offer the body anything. Instead, they deplete the body of its own resources.
The Cost of Coconut Milk
The second drawback to commercial milk is the cost. It’s expensive! I haven’t priced it out at the store, so it may certainly be cheaper there, but Amazon offers a 6-pack of So Delicious 32oz Coconut Milk for $36.46 (including shipping). That’s $6.07 for just one quart! YIKES!
Oh boy…. is homemade coconut milk THAT expensive?
My fear is that manufacturers are trying to capitalize on the allergy community, and it would really be sad if this were true. I’m not accusing anyone here, but I’m just wondering why charge so much when it can be made at home for pennies?!
Using Bob’s Red Mill Coconut Flakes (unsweetened) at $13.68 for a 4-pack of 12 ounces, we pay 3.42 per package. One package can make more than 4 quarts of coconut milk, making one quart of homemade coconut milk costs only 86¢!
Homemade coconut milk is SO easy to make, you guys are going to kick yourself in the foot for ever buying it in the first place. All you need is a blender!! Shrug off past expenditures and vow to make it yourself from here on out.
Homemade Coconut Milk
Dairy Alternative: Homemade Coconut Milk
Homemade Coconut Milk
- Yield: 1 quart 1x
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes*
- 4 cups hot water, filtered
- Measure coconut flakes and hot water into a blender. Process for 45 seconds to 1 minute and repeat.
* To use shredded coconut, use 3/4 cup.
For two cups: 1/2 cup coconut, 2 cups hot water
For one cup: 1/4 cup coconut, 1 cup hot water
See? Wasn’t that easy? In less than 3 minutes (including the time to measure), you have some of the best quality coconut milk you’ll find. And it’s SO delicious!
Commercial Coconut Milk for Baking
The only real differences between the coconut milk that comes in a 32oz cardboard container (the drinking kind) and the coconut milk that comes in a can (the cooking kind) are:
- the drinking kind is thinner
- the cooking kind has more fat
- the cooking kind has fewer additives.
Not that the cans are free from additives, there’s just usually less. But then there’s the BPA factor too…
Fortunately, you can make your own homemade coconut milk for cooking too (for FREE, since there’s no additional cost) and bypass the plastic-leaching-into-your-food discussion. You’ll also save $2.30 per can. Here’s how:
- Make a batch of homemade coconut milk (recipe above).
- Put it in the fridge to cool. The healthy fats will rise to the top and solidify.
- When cool, scoop out the fat. Mix in enough coconut milk needed to achieve the desired consistency.
Tip: Bringing the fat to room temperature, or slightly warmer, will help make mixing easier.
Do Something: Commit to buying unsweetened coconut flakes instead of coconut milk for both drinking and cooking needs. You can add them to muffins and pancakes, but save 1/2 cup to make homemade coconut milk when the need, or recipe, arises.