Coconut milk is a popular plant-based beverage used in baking, cooking, smoothies and more. Its creamy texture and healthy fat content make it super useful! Yet coconut milk (especially canned) varies wildly in taste and fat content. So my team and I taste-tested all that we could find to bring you the best coconut milk brands to buy and which ones to leave at the store.
We’ve done these Rawkstar Reports annually for almond and oat milk, and now we’re adding coconut to the list too! The results always surprise us, so I can’t wait to share them with you!
Coconut Milk Rawkstar Report
We ranked brands on taste, texture, ingredients (gums, organic or not, types of additives) and the kind of packaging (B-corp, level of recyclability). Some brands had very few ingredients yet got bonus points if they were organic. Many had gums and therefore got better ratings for fewer gums and organic gums. We only tested unsweetened original versions to make this test as equal as possible. No added sugars or flavors in any of these!
Best Full-Fat Coconut Milk Brands
Unlike carton coconut beverages, full-fat coconut milk has a few gum-free brands (woohoo!). We also found the tastes more appealing overall. If you want/need to up your fat content, use one of these great brands. They are great for super thick smoothies and smoothie bowls and cooking creamy sauces.
Thai Kitchen 2 Simple Ingredients Coconut Milk Unsweetened
Field Day Organic Classic Coconut Milk Unsweetened
Thrive Market Organic Coconut Milk Regular
Native Forest Unsweetened Organic Coconut Milk Classic
Sprouts Organic Coconut Milk Unsweetened
Thai Kitchen Organic Coconut Milk Unsweetened
Native Forest Unsweetened Organic Coconut Milk Simple
Good & Gather Organic Unsweetened Coconut Milk
Cadia Organic Coconut Milk
Sprouts Coconut Milk Unsweetened
Thai Kitchen Coconut Milk Unsweetened
Best Lite Coconut Milk Brands
Lite coconut milk is essentially full-fat coconut milk diluted with water. This decreases the fat and calories per serving. I prefer to buy full fat coconut milk and add my own water to dilute it. This is how you get the most “bang for your buck.”
Sprouts Organic Lite Coconut Unsweetened
Thai Kitchen 2 Simple Ingredients Lite Coconut Unsweetened
Thrive Market Organic Coconut Lite
365 Organic Light Coconut Milk
Field Day Organic Lite Coconut Unsweetened
KaMe Coconut Lite Organic
Cadia Organic Light Coconut Milk
Sprouts Lite Coconut Unsweetened
Best Carton Coconut Beverages
We weren’t the biggest fans of the taste of any of the cartons we tried. Yet who drinks a giant glass of straight milked coconuts anyways? So the taste test didn’t carry as much weight as the ingredients and packaging. We also noticed that there were more additives in the “coconut beverages” than the canned coconut products in the next section.
Good & Gather Unsweetened Organic Coconut
Vita Coco Coconut Milk Original Organic
So Delicious Dairy Free Organic Coconut Unsweetened
Pacific Foods Organic Coconut Original Unsweetened
365 Organic Unsweetened Coconut Original
Califia Farms Coconut Milk Coconut Water Blend
Ingredients to Avoid in Coconut Milk
READ YOUR LABELS. No matter what kind of plant based beverage you are buying, look for one with the fewest ingredients, no gums (if possible), and no sulfites (found in a few canned versions we tested). If you want to know your ingredients, read on for a breakdown.
Calcium: Calcium Carbonate VS. Tricalcium Phosphate
Many plant beverage manufacturers fortify their milk with calcium because they compete with dairy milk. The two main kinds of calcium added are calcium carbonate and tricalcium phosphate.
They have roughly the same amount of elemental (real) calcium per unit. However, calcium carbonate is more easily digested, as it is more naturally occurring than tricalcium phosphate. Companies choose the more processed, less natural form of calcium, tricalcium phosphate because it’s cheaper. We docked them in our report if they did this.
A few of the carton brands have sunflower lecithin. We have lecithin naturally in our bodies. It’s made up of fatty acids. Sunflower lecithin, in particular, is non-GMO, which makes us happy. This supplement is added to food as an emulsifier. It keeps fat and oils from mixing with other substances in our bodies.
There are several health benefits to sunflower lecithin, such as:
- Improves Heart Health through breaking down fat
- Lowers Cholesterol
- Promotes liver health
- Helps breastfeeding mothers avoid clogged ducts
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves digestion
- Fights dementia symptoms
I’m sure you’ve heard this word tossed around the health food arena just like I have. Yet what are sulfites, and why do we run from them?!
The Mayo Clinic explains it as sulfite sensitivity. Sulfites are used in food as a preservative. You’ll often find them in wine, but they were banned from fresh fruit and veggies in the 1980s due to several severe documented reactions. If you don’t have asthma, you will probably not be affected by sulfites. Yet if you have asthma, it’s better to steer clear when you can.
Another reason to check those labels we found sulfites in 2 of the full-fat canned brands we tested: Iberia and Goya.
Gums in Coconut Beverages
Almost every brand we tried had gums of one kind or another in it. Here’s the breakdown to help you understand your gums better:
- Xanthan Gum (not so good): added to food as a thickener/preservative. It’s created when sugar is fermented by a certain kind of bacteria. It’s an insoluble fiber, so our bodies can’t break it down, therefore it has no real nutritional value. Xanthan gum comes from sugar found in wheat, corn, soy and dairy. You should avoid it if you are allergic to any of these ingredients.
- Gellan Gum (better): Added to food to thicken, stabilize/texturize. It’s a plant-based alternative to gelatin. Studies are inconclusive so far in determining the safety/benefit vs the risk of adding gellan gum to food. Some studies show that it can reduce constipation, while other studies link it to abnormalities in stomach lining.
- Locust Bean Gum (better): added to food as a natural thickener. It is made from the seeds of a carob tree. It’s health benefits include lowering blood sugar, high in fiber and able to reduce reflux in infants (added to infant formula). While it is more naturally occurring than the other gums we mentioned, there also isn’t a whole lot of research yet on how good or bad it can be for our bodies to ingest in the long run.
- Guar Gum (better): added to food as a binder/thickener. It’s made from guar beans and is high in fiber. It may aid in digestion as well as help lower cholesterol and blood sugar. If consumed in high quantities, it can obstruct the esophagus and small bowel, so the FDA has maximum usage levels. Coconut milk is only allowed to have 1% guar gum in it, or up to 2.4 grams per serving.
Plant Milk FAQs
Per our taste test, the best all-around brand in the carton is Vita Coco Coconut Milk Original Organic. The best in full-fat is Thai Kitchen 2 Simple Ingredients Coconut Milk Unsweetened, and the best in light is Thrive Market Organic Coconut Milk Lite.
It doesn’t have to be. Look for brands with the fewest ingredients, avoid sulfites (especially if you have asthma), and know that coconut is naturally high in healthy fat.
I recommend using a full-fat canned version for curry since you want a creamy sauce-like texture. The best all-around full-fat coconut milk is Thai Kitchen 2 Simple Ingredients Coconut Milk Unsweetened. No gums and super creamy!
Recipes that Use Coconut Milk
Now that you’re armed with the best coconut milk brands let’s make something! Most of the recipes below let you choose which type of milk you want. Yet know that using carton milk when the recipe calls for canned will cause you to lose out on a lot of healthy fat + creamy consistency.