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Homemade Coconut Milk vs. Coconut Dream Coconut Drink Smackdown

One of the first challenges of dropping dairy from your diet is finding a tasty replacement for milk. After tasting many plant milks, my first choice became Coconut Dream Coconut Drink. It tastes good but not too sweet, without the chemical aftertaste of many plant milks and without the phytoestrogens of soy milk.

But I wasn't satisfied. As tasty and convenient as this product is, it violates several Cook for Good rules:

  • Save money
  • Don't ship water
  • Don't eat processed food
  • Go as organic as you can
  • Go as local as possible

coconut dream coconut drink compared to homemade coconut milk with organic shredded coconut

I was thrilled to find out how easy and inexpensive it is to make homemade coconut milk from dried coconut. See below for a quick recipe to make your own and a comparison showing the cost, nutrition, shipping weight, and other factors that might influence your choice.

How to make homemade coconut milk

  1. Put 1/4 cup dried coconut and 1 cup water in your food processor or blender and give it a whirl.
  2. Let the mixture soak for about 10 minutes to soften, which will reduce the overall processing time needed, then process it at high speed for a minute or two.
  3. If you are making something like cornbread or a smoothie and don't care about the bits of coconut pulp left, you're done. Otherwise, pour the now-creamy liquid through a strainer. Use a spoon to force out as much of the liquid and flavor as you can from the coconut pulp. Use the pulp in baked goods, cereal, or a casserole.

Homemade Coconut Milk vs. Coconut Dream Coconut Drink

As you can see from the table below, you can save a lot of money and upgrade to organic by making your own coconut milk at home. This comparison uses Let's Do ...Organic's 100% Organic Shredded Coconut to make the homemade coconut milk. The nutritional values for the homemade version say "up to" in case you don't use a super-blender or eat the pulp. It probably has no Vitamin B12 or D, which are not mentioned on the label and would only come from additives.

 SMACKDOWN homemade coconut milk Coconut Dream Coconut Drink
cart cost $3.39 for 11 cups $3.39 for 4 cups
cost per cup 31 cents 85 cents
organic? yes no
gluten free? yes yes
parve? yes yes
shipping weight per cup 21 grams 246 grams
ingredients organic dried coconut
local water
filtered water
coconut cream
evaporated cane juice
tricalcium phosphate
gellan gum
sea salt
natural flavors
vitamin A palmitate
vitamin D2
vitamin B12(cyanocobalamine)
calories per cup up to 137 80
total fat up to 10 grams 5 grams
saturated fat up to 9 grams 5 grams
cholesterol 0 0
sodium up to 5 mg 140 mg
fiber up to 2 grams 0
sugars less than 1 gram 7 grams
protein up to 1 gram 0
Calcium 0 0
Iron up to 2% 30%
Vitamin A 0 10%
Vitamin B12 ? 25%
Vitmin C 0 0
Vitmain D ? 25%


And the winner is .... homemade coconut milk!

Coconut Dream is a good convenience and a good starting point. I'd certainly use it while traveling. The Coconut Dream is fortified, so it has more single nutrients such as calcium and Vitamin D. Personally, I'd rather get these nutrients from a balanced diet and from taking the minimum healthy amount of supplements for B12 and D.

If you want to save money and minimize your carbon footprint, take a few minutes to make your own coconut milk at home. You can reduce waste too by making small amounts instead of always starting with 32 ounces and having to use it or freeze it within 10 days.

Reader Comments (6)

Thanks for this recipe-I am assuming it makes just 1 cup. I will try it this weekend. Since it is so easy and quick to make I can see that you could make it often and not need to store it or freezed it -but how long will it keep in the fridge and could you freeze it?

Oct 4, 2012 | Registered Commentermamacheese

Mamacheese, great questions! It makes just one cup.You can scale the recipe up or down to suit your needs. I've been making it in one-cup batches to make Chocolate Coldocado, which calls for 1/2 cup, and then freezing the rest for the next batch. I've tried making smaller batches but my food processor needs more liquid to get its whir going.

The coconut milk should keep for 4 days in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

Oct 5, 2012 | Registered CommenterLinda Watson

I'd given up having milk with my oatmeal (or other cereal) in the mornings; thanks to this great recipe I can enjoy it again, with an added coconut kick. I've discovered that using near-boiling water rather than cold water helps to pull all the oils (and flavor) from the pulp (makes sense, because the extra heat helps keep the oils liquid).

Because I use it regularly, I usually make 2 or 3 cups at a time, ending up with a cup or more of pulp a week. I've been turning this into macaroons:

1 cup coconut pulp
1 egg white
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla

* Preheat oven to 350
* Stir all ingredients together until well mixed
* Drop by rounded teaspoonful onto an oiled cookie sheet
* Bake 12-18 minutes or until they start turning toasty brown on top

* A dollop of any dark chocolate or coldocado you might have just lying around (hehe) makes these an extra decadent treat
* If the coconut pulp is on the moist side, add a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch to help absorb the liquid
* A delicious variation, in my opinion, is to substitute 2 Tbsp honey + 1 Tbsp flour (to help with the extra liquid) for the sugar

May 11, 2013 | Registered CommenterMatthew

Mathew your cookies sound great-can't wait to try them.

May 11, 2013 | Registered Commentermamacheese

I've been making my own coconut milk for a while now, and glad to finally find some nutritional info to get some idea of calories, etc. I'm a little confused though - do the amounts above (calories, fat, etc.) include the pulp? I strain my coconut milk through a paint strainer bag, so it's just the liquid - none of the pulp. I also use a different ratio - 1/2 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut to 1 cup of water (so, double the amounts of calories, etc?) but again, no pulp.... Any clarification would be great! Thanks!

Feb 8, 2014 | Registered Commentercali

Cali, great question! That's why I used "up to" or "less than" -- because I don't know how much pulp you will include. I find that I use the pulp more and more right in the original dish. If I have extra, it goes into cornbread or a smoothie.

Feb 10, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Watson
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