7 Best Vegan Substitutes for Coconut Milk in Curry
Curry is a dish that originated in India and the South Asia region.
There are numerous variations of this dish—it can be made with meat and fish, but it is quite often cooked as a plant-based dish. And it is very popular among vegans.
Curry is an easy and healthy meal that contains most of the nutrients our bodies require
The best thing is you can use almost any leftover veggies from your fridge and the taste will still be amazing.
You can use lentils, chickpeas, or any other legume to provide enough protein in your meal, with rice as your main carb source.
You can add veggies and spices to enrich not only the taste but the nutritional profile of your vegan curry.
And then there is coconut milk.
Some might think it is an essential part of a vegan curry. But it is not, and we will list the best plant-based substitutes for this ingredient later in the article.
Also, some might assume that coconut milk is a healthy fat. It is actually the opposite.
Coconut milk and oil are saturated fats. Several factors make this type of fat harmful to your health and cause high cholesterol, heart disease, and other health issues.
Even though our common sense might conclude that a coconut is a natural, plant-based, and whole-food item and that every derivate of coconuts must be healthy, science says otherwise.
In the section below, we will explain why some might wish to avoid coconut milk.
Why Avoid Coconut Milk?
Living on an island surrounded by trees and the ocean, eating coconuts and other plant-based food, sounds like a dream come true for so many of us.
But it is not.
There haven’t been many extensive studies conducted among residents of small, relatively deserted islands, but there was a study carried out on an island called Pukapuka that had some unexpected results.
The diet of people in Pukapuka consists mostly of coconuts. Apart from that, they also eat a lot of plant-based and whole foods.
So it is surprising that the study shows that their cholesterol was extremely high.
That is unusual because cholesterol levels get higher from saturated fats which can be found in animal products and fast and junk food.
Since people on small islands, like the one mentioned above, have no supermarkets, no access to junk food and their diet doesn’t contain many animal-based products, scientists turned to the nutritional profile of coconuts.
One of the conclusions was that even though coconuts, just like all other fruits, are healthy and high in fiber, coconut milk and oil are not.
Whole coconuts have a plant protein that is missing from their milk and oil.
There is even a study that concludes that coconut milk negatively affects human health as much as McDonald’s Egg McMuffin and Sausage McMuffin.
Although not directly related to coconut milk, vegans and people who stick to a plant-based diet should also know that McDonald’s fries in the United States aren’t vegan.
They contain beef flavor, which is derived from milk, so they are one of the foods you probably think are vegan, but actually aren’t.
The research showed the same effect on slowing down artery function after consuming high-fat meals.
This happens after an unhealthy meal such as a McMuffin, as well as a ‘healthy’ meal that consists of rice and coconut milk.
You might have heard that coconut milk and oil are healthy because they contain medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
MCTs are far better than long-chain triglycerides (which can mostly be found in animal products) since they don’t have such a negative impact on cholesterol levels.
But coconut milk and oil mainly consist of lauric and myristic acids. These have a poor effect on cholesterol levels.
Then again, some studies show that coconut milk has a lot of beneficial effects on our health.
If you agree with doctor Michael Greger and other like-minded medical experts, and prefer to stay safe and avoid coconut milk, here are a couple of alternatives that will end your worries and make your meal healthy and delicious.
Best Vegan Substitute for Coconut Milk in Curry
It might be disappointing to realize some plant-based vegan food is bad for our health, but there is no reason to worry. For every unhealthy ingredient, we have a couple of healthy and delicious alternatives for you.
Thankfully, there are so many plant-based milk options. Even if coconut milk is not as healthy as we thought, we can easily substitute it.
Most of the options we listed are just some other type of plant-based milk, but there is also cashew spread and silken tofu.
All types of listed milk, cashew cream, and tofu should be used in the same amount as coconut milk would be used in a regular curry recipe.
Read along to discover the seven best substitutes that we recommend for cooking a coconut-free curry.
1. Cashew Cream
Cashew Cream has a creamy texture just like coconut milk and is a perfect alternative for a curry.
It is easily made at home by blending soaked cashews and water.
If you choose to add more water and make it less thick, you can make cashew milk. But cream is a better option for the regular texture of coconut curry.
Cashews are high in unsaturated fats, unlike coconut milk and oil which are high in saturated fat.
As mentioned earlier, saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease. Unsaturated, healthy fats lower the chances of having cardiovascular problems.
In conclusion, cashew cream is a much better option for your vegan curry than coconut milk and a great choice for people who avoid consuming oil at all.
2. Almond Milk
Since one of the main roles of coconut milk in curries is to add moisture, any other type of milk (plant-based, of course) is a good option.
There is only a slight problem when it comes to another role of coconut milk in curries—adding creaminess and thickness to the dish.
But don’t worry. Adding just a teaspoon of cornflour (cornstarch) or some lemon juice to the milk will thicken it and make the texture resemble coconut milk.
If you use store-bought almond milk it is important to choose an unsweetened one for your vegan curry. As always, the healthiest version is to make your milk at home with almonds, water, and a pinch of salt.
Almond milk is high in antioxidants and low in calories, so it is a good choice as a substitute.
3. Oat Milk
The best thing about oat milk, unlike most kinds of milk, is that it does not curdle, which means it is an adequate ingredient to use in cooking on high heat. This makes it a great option for a curry.
Just like almond milk, oat milk has a less creamy consistency than coconut milk, but that issue can be easily resolved the same way as mentioned before—just add some cornstarch or lemon juice.
If you are using store-bought, choose an unsweetened one.
4. Soy Milk
Soy milk is your best option if you are struggling to reach your protein intake goal. Soy is a great protein source for vegans, and soy milk contains much more protein than coconut milk.
This milk is thicker than almond milk but slightly less creamy than coconut milk. The hack with cornstarch and lemon juice can be applied here as well.
Just like other store-bought plant-based milk, buy the unsweetened version for a curry.
5. Blended Squash or Pumpkin
Blended squash or pumpkin, made into a cream, is a great substitute for making a creamy curry without using coconut milk.
Simply cook or roast squash or pumpkin, blend it to the preferred thickness and add instead of coconut milk.
6. Rice Milk
This is a go-to milk for people with soy and nut allergies.
It is made with white or brown rice and water.
The texture is creamy which is suitable for vegan curry, but a thickener should be added to resemble the consistency of coconut milk.
7. Silken Tofu
Silken tofu is not only one of the best substitutes for eggs but also coconut milk in a curry.
Since it consists of soy, it is high in protein and has a creamy texture that is perfect for this dish.
Silken tofu is a type of tofu made by blending regular raw tofu until it creates a smooth form. If needed, you can add some water or any plant milk (except coconut) to the mixture to customize the consistency.
If you are allergic to soybeans, rice milk is a better substitute.
Some studies proved that not all plant-based food is healthy.
Coconut oil and milk are not as healthy as they seem. They are high in saturated fats which negatively impact human health.
Since coconut milk is one of the main ingredients in most vegan curry recipes, you might want to substitute it with a healthier alternative.
You can use any type of plant milk, such as almond, soy, oat, or rice milk, cashew cream, squash or pumpkin cream, and silken tofu, among others.
Most plant milk doesn’t have the creamy and thick consistency of coconut milk. But that can easily be resolved by adding some cornstarch or lemon juice until it thickens.
You can adjust the amount of water in cashew spread and silken tofu so that the texture suits your vegan, coconut-free curry.
Enjoy your vegan curry guilt-free.
- It's written and or reviewed by an expert.
- We cite relevant studies and trusted sources.
- It's regularly updated.
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