Coconut milk is a thick, creamy, and dairy free beverage that’s high in fat and low in carbohydrates and sugar.
In its natural state, it is energy-dense and high in MCT oil, which have been studied both for weight loss and for cardiovascular benefits.
Coconut milk is also incredibly popular among people who adhere to a ketogenic or low-carb/low-sugar diet, since almost all of its calories come from fat.
Our research team has ranked the ten highest-quality brands of coconut milk—read on for details.
1. Vita Coco Coconut Milk
Vita Coco Coconut Milk is a newer coconut milk product that puts a slight twist on the usual formula by using coconut water as one of the ingredients.
This gives it a distinctively sweeter taste than a traditional coconut milk, but only adds three grams of sugar per serving.
Thanks in part to this additional ingredient, Vita Coco Coconut Milk is naturally high in calcium, making it a strong substitute for cow’s milk. With cellulose gum as a stabilizer, the fat’s not likely to separate from the water. Due to to its great taste, convenient packaging, and high nutrition value, it’s our top pick.
2. Coconut Dream Original Enriched Unsweetened
Coconut Dream is a great choice if you want an unsweetened full-strength coconut milk that still has the nutrients you’d get in cow’s milk, like calcium and vitamin B12.
There’s less than a gram of carbohydrates per serving, so this is a great source of fat energy if you are on a ketogenic or low carb diet. These features make it an all-around strong pick.
3. Anthony’s Organic Coconut Milk Powder
Anthony’s Organic Coconut Milk Powder is a distinct take on coconut milk—you can think of it like the condensed milk version of coconut milk.
This powder-based coconut milk concentrate can be whipped with hot water and your favorite sweetener to make a great-tasting low-carb whipped coconut cream, or added to coffee for an instant boost of medium chain triglycerides.
It’s certainly got its own niche, but Anthony’s Organic Coconut Milk Powder is an excellent product for its specialty uses.
4. Aroy-D Coconut Milk
Aroy-D Coconut Milk is imported straight from Thailand, and as such it’s as close to a traditional coconut milk as you can get.
The only ingredients are coconut and water, so it’s free of emulsifiers and flavoring agents, but also the kind of fortified nutrients you’d get in a coconut milk designed for dairy substitution.
The single-use tetra pak containers are also a convenient improvement over other products which still use steel cans, so go for this product if you want a pure coconut milk that you can use in small amounts on a regular basis without having to worry about resealing and storing a single large container.
5. So Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk
So Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk is the best option when it comes to a coconut-based dairy milk substitute. It comes in single use tetra paks, and is fortified with several vitamins and minerals to prevent the kind of deficints that can result from eliminating dairy from your diet.
Each serving has only 2 grams of carbohydrates and 45 calories, so it’s great for weight loss and weight maintenance. It’s less convenient if you need large quantities of coconut milk, or want something a little more calorie dense.
6. Thai Kitchen Organic Coconut Milk
Thai Kitchen Organic Coconut Milk is a super-simple coconut milk that includes only water, coconut cream, and guar gum to help keep the coconut fats mixed well with the water (though it’s not always effective).
It’s great for cooking, but the lack of fortification with things like vitamin D and calcium make it a poor dairy milk substitute, unless you already get those nutrients in adequate amounts elsewhere in your diet.
Still, for people looking for a super-pure coconut milk and don’t mind having to shake up the can before use, it’s a decent option.
7. Natural Value Organic Coconut Milk
Natural Value Organic Coconut Milk is a pure and simple coconut milk preparation that only includes coconut and water.
There are no emulsifiers, which means no additives but worse fat/water separation, and no added vitamins or minerals, which is good if you are striving for purity, but not so good if you want to use this as a dairy substitute.
It does use organic coconuts in its manufacturing process, so it’s one of the better picks if you want purity above all else.
8. Native Forest Unsweetened Organic Coconut Milk Simple
If you want to keep things as simple as possible, it’s hard to do better than Native Forest. Coconuts and water are the only ingredients in this coconut milk product, which has both benefits and drawbacks.
Purists will like the lack of emulsifiers like guar gum, but on the other hand, you won’t get the benefits of the nutrients you’d get in a fortified coconut milk, like calcium or B vitamins.
If that’s not a problem, and you don’t mind dealing with some fat/water separation, Native Forest is a great product.
9. Marion’s Kitchen Coconut Milk
Marion’s Kitchen packages its coconut milk in individual foil packets, making it a favorite among people who like using coconut milk in their coffee or tea. However, it has a tendency to clump up, even though it’s got guar gum in it, so you do have to give it a few good shakes before using it. You are also boxed in to using the entire seven ounces fairly quickly.
10. Z Natural Foods Organic Coconut Milk Powder
Z Natural Foods Organic Coconut Milk Powder can be used as a milk replacement for making whipped cream, lattes, or smoothies, but it’s not the best powder-based product on the market.
It does have a tendency to clump up, and the use of maltodextrin as an anti-clumping agent raises the carbohydrate content, making this a slightly weaker choice for people on a keto or low carb diet.
Coconut milk benefits and recommended intake
Coconut milk is a traditional drink in Southeast Asia that’s made by boiling water with ripe coconut flesh. The result is a thick and creamy liquid that’s high in medium chain triglycerides and almost devoid of sugar.
As such, it’s become a very popular food to add to low carb and ketogenic diets, because almost all of its energy content comes from the saturated fat content.
However, this has also made coconut milk somewhat controversial—proponents cite its high MCT oil content as evidence for its benefits, while others point to the drawbacks of diets that are high in saturated fat. Who’s right? We’ll explore the scientific literature to find out.
Coconut milk is rich source of beneficial medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). One particular category of fat that’s contained in coconut milk is medium chain triglycerides, also known as MCTs.
MCT has been associated with numerous health benefits, which explains the popularity of MCT oil products. MCT is known to help decrease body fat and fight against some of the unhealthy metabolic changes that happen in conjunction with weight gain.
For example, one study published in the scientific journal Obesity by scientists at McGill University in Canada (1). Their study had 24 overweight and obese men participate in a crossover trial that included 28 days with an MCT supplement and 28 days with a long-chain triglyceride supplement as a control.
The researchers found that the MCTs were associated with an increase in energy expenditure and a decrease in body fat levels, compared to the long chain triglyceride control period. Another study published in 2010 in the journal Pharmacological Research connected MCTs with improvements in metabolic function (2).
The researchers were interested in metabolic function because metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes are both metabolic disease that are associated with being overweight or obese.
The study reviewed multiple different experiments by other researchers which showed a range of improvements in parameters like fat deposition, fat oxidation, and insulin sensitivity.
As a good source of MCT oil, coconut milk appears to be beneficial for both weight loss and for avoiding the metabolic effects of high body fat.
Although saturated fat consumption is usually associated with cardiovascular disease coconut milk might be an exception. Some of the biggest and most rigorous epidemiological studies conducted in the Western world have consistently found that saturated fat intake is associated with an increase in cardiovascular disease.
It’s also been associated with a concomitant increase in risk factors for cardiovascular disease, like high blood pressure and and high cholesterol.
Authoritative meta-analyses from respected and unbiased authors such as the Cochrane Collaboration have confirmed these results: according to a large meta-analysis published in 2015, increases in saturated fat intake are associated with increases in cardiovascular disease risk, especially if saturated fat is displacing unsaturated fat in your diet (3).
However, saturated fat is a fairly large category of fats that includes the kind of fat found in everything from bacon grease to coconuts.
As you might guess, these don’t all contain the same molecules, even though they fall under the umbrella of saturated fat.
Observational studies have not connected coconut milk with higher risk of heart disease. Since coconuts and coconut milk are a traditional food in Southeast Asia, many island nations provide good natural experiments for testing to see whether the saturated fat in coconut milk actually increases the risk of heart disease.
A number of studies have concluded that, in traditional societies, even extremely high coconut consumption is not associated with cardiovascular disease.
One such study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by researchers in New Zealand, compared two populations of island dwellers in Polynesia (4).
The citizens of one island got 34% of their calories from pure coconut, while the other island got 63% of their calories from coconut.
Interestingly, though there was a modest increase in cholesterol levels on the island with greater coconut intake, the authors noted that cardiovascular disease was not a major health problem on either island, suggesting that even these extreme levels of coconut consumption.
Additional research published in 2004 in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found similar results in Indonesia (5).
The researchers compared the dietary intake of people with heart disease to a similar group of healthy people. They found a number of similar findings to studies done in Western populations: increased intake of animal protein and cholesterol were associated with a greater likelihood of cardiovascular disease.
Notably, however, there was no association between coconut intake and heart disease, either in the form of raw coconut or in the form of coconut milk.
Coconut milk might not be a good choice if the rest of your diet and lifestyle is not very healthy. Not all researchers are convinced by the results in islander populations.
One review study published in 2016 in the journal Nutrition Reviews surveyed a number of studies on coconut intake to determine its health effects (6).
The authors conceded that coconuts appear to be a healthy and non-harmful part of the diet of many traditional island societies, but the evidence for using coconut milk or coconut oil by itself as a dietary intervention in Western populations is less convincing.
The researchers hypothesized that the saturated fat in coconut products might interact with other negative parts of Western lifestyles, like high refined carbohydrate and sugar intake, as well as low levels of physical activity, could interact with the fat content of coconut milk to create adverse health outcomes.
With so much controversy over coconut milk, it’s hard to pin down a precise optimal intake.
Even if you do ascribe to belief in the negative effects of high saturated fat intakes, amounts of eight to 16 oz of coconut milk should still be healthy, as long as you don’t have other sources of saturated fat in your diet.
Clearly, the studies on island-dwellers have found that it’s possible to be healthy with extremely high coconut milk intake, but other lifestyle and dietary factors might contribute to this.
If the rest of your diet and your lifestyle are typical of Western residents, you might want to keep coconut milk consumption lower.
Coconut milk is a rich source of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which have a range of health benefits from assisting with weight loss to improving your metabolic health.
Coconut milk might also be exempt from the usual nutritional rules about saturated fat, as its specific fatty acid content differs widely from other sources of saturated fatty acids, like red meat.
Though nutrition research isn’t clear on whether there is an upper limit on healthy amounts of coconut milk, small to moderate amounts of coconut milk do appear to be healthy levels of intake.