Canned coconut milk is an industrial product and should not be confused with coconut water, which is the liquid found directly inside a fresh coconut. Both the color and typical taste of coconut milk are a result of its high oil content. Coconut milk is very popular in Asian countries and the Caribbean, but it is also a favorite milk substitute of vegans and lactose-intolerant individuals who use it in tea, coffee, and baked goods.
From Wikipedia: “Coconut milk is the liquid that comes from the grated meat of a mature coconut. The opacity and rich taste of coconut milk are attributed to its high oil content, most of which is saturated fat. Coconut milk is a popular food ingredient used in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and northern South America.”
Culinary uses — food:
“Coconut milk can be consumed on its own or as a milk substitute in tea, coffee, and baking. It is a common ingredient in many tropical and Asian cuisines for curries or other seasonings, meats, vegetables, or garnishes. Coconut rice is a rice cooked in coconut milk consumed in Southeastern Asia and the Caribbean. ... Coconut milk is also used throughout Asia for making traditional serabi, an Asian style pancake.
In Brazil, coconut milk is mostly used in northeastern cuisine, generally with seafood stews and desserts. In Colombia and Panama, the grated flesh of coconut and coconut milk are used to make sweet titoté. In Venezuela, meat dishes are prepared with coconut milk and shredded fish in a dish called mojito en coco. Coconut milk is used to make traditional Venezuelan dishes such as majarete, a typical Venezuelan dessert, and arroz con coco, also known as coconut rice.”
Culinary uses — drinks:
“In Southeast Asia, coconut milk is used to make many traditional drinks. Cendol is a popular iced drink from this region containing chilled coconut milk and green jellies made of rice flour. ... Sweetened coconut milk and coconut milk diluted with water are two popular coconut beverages in southern China and Taiwan.
The jelly-like meat from the inside of the coconut is often added to coconut water to make a tropical drink. In Brazil, for example, coconut milk is mixed with sugar and cachaça to make a cocktail called batida de côco. Puerto Rico is also popular for tropical drinks containing coconut, such as the piña colada, which typically contains coconut milk or coconut cream.”
“Coconut milk is traditionally made by grating the white inner flesh of a brown coconut and mixing the shredded coconut meat with a small amount of water in order to suspend the fat present in the grated meat. The grating process can be carried out manually or by comminution, a process that uses a more modern grating machine to facilitate the grating. Coconut milk exists in two grades: thick and thin. Thick coconut milk contains 20-22% fat while thin coconut milk contains 5-7% fat. Thick milk is prepared by directly squeezing grated coconut meat through cheesecloth. Thin milk is produced by soaking the squeezed coconut meat in water and further squeezing the meat until a thinner liquid forms. Thick milk contains soluble, suspended solids, which makes it a good ingredient for desserts and rich and dry sauces. Because thin milk does not contain these soluble solids, it is mainly used in general cooking. The distinction between thick and thin milk is not usually made in Western nations due to the fact that fresh coconut milk is uncommon in these countries and most consumers buy coconut milk in cartons or cans.
Coconut milk has a fat content of 24%, depending on the fat level of the coconut meat and the quantity of added water. When refrigerated and left to set, coconut cream will rise to the top and separate out from the milk. To avoid this in commercial coconut milk, an emulsifier and a stabiliser have to be used.”
Canned coconut milk:
“Manufacturers of canned coconut milk typically combine diluted and comminuted milk with the addition of water as a filler. Depending on the brand and age of the milk itself, a thicker, more paste-like consistency floats to the top of the can and is sometimes separated and used in recipes that require coconut cream rather than coconut milk. Some brands sold in Western countries add thickening agents or emulsifiers to prevent the milk from separating inside the can.”
“In a 100 milliliter (g) portion, coconut milk contains 230 Calories and is 68% water, 24% total fat, 6% carbohydrates, and 2% protein. The fat composition includes 21 grams of saturated fat, half of which is lauric acid.
Coconut milk is a rich source of manganese and an adequate source of phosphorus, iron, and magnesium, with no other nutrients in significant content.”
“One of the most prominent components of coconut milk is coconut oil, which many health organizations, such as the United States Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization, International College of Nutrition, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, British National Health Service, and Dietitians of Canada, discourage people from consuming in significant amounts due to its high levels of saturated fat. Excessive coconut milk consumption can also raise blood levels of cholesterol due to the amount of lauric acid, a saturated fat that contributes to higher blood cholesterol by increasing the levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.”