Several grades of coconut milk exist: from thick at 20-22% fat to thin at 5-7% fat level. Thick milk can be prepared by directly squeezing grated coconut meat through cheesecloth. The squeezed coconut meat is then soaked in warm water and squeezed a second or third time for thin coconut milk. Thick milk is mainly used to make desserts as well as rich and dry sauces. Thin milk is used for soups and general cooking. This distinction is usually not made in Western nations since fresh coconut milk is rare, and most consumers buy coconut milk in cans
Coconut water is the watery liquid that comes from the young, still immature green coconut. Often the still jelly-like coconut meat is also added to make a tropic drink.
Coconut milk can be made at home by processing grated coconut with hot water or milk, which extracts the oil and aromatic compounds. It has then a fat content of 17-24% 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 sold coconut milk, an emulsifier(s) and a stabiliser(s) have to be used.
Canned coconut milkManufacturers of canned coconut milk typically combine thin and thick milk, with the addition of water as a filler. An official world standard can be found at Codex Alimentarius, STAN 240-2003
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. Shaking the can prior to opening will even it out to a creamy thickness. Some brands sold in Western countries add thickening agents to prevent the milk from separating inside the can, since the separation tends to be misinterpreted as an indicator of spoilage by people unfamiliar with coconut milk.
Once opened, cans of coconut milk must be refrigerated and are usually only good for a few days. If not, the milk can sour and spoil easily.
In southern China and Taiwan, sweetened "thin" coconut milk is served on its own as a drink during spring and summer. It is made by adding sugar and evaporated or fresh milk during the process of preparing the coconut milk. Another Chinese drink is coconut milk diluted with water, then mixed with fresh or evaporated milk in a 1:1 ratio and a spoon of condensed milk or sugar for each cup. They are served chilled.
One of the most prominent components of coconut milk is coconut oil, which 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 Canadarecommend against consuming in significant amounts due to its high levels of saturated fat.
Coconut milk contains a large proportion of lauric acid, a saturated fat that raises blood cholesterol levels by increasing the amount of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol that is also found in significant amounts in breast milk and sebaceous gland secretions. This may create a more favourable blood cholesterol profile, though it is unclear if coconut oil may promote atherosclerosis through other pathways. Because much of the saturated fat of coconut oil is in the form of lauric acid, coconut oil may be a better alternative to partially hydrogenated vegetable oil when solid fats are required. In addition, virgin coconut oil is composed mainly of medium-chain triglycerides, which may not carry the same risks as other saturated fats. Early studies on the health effects of coconut oil used partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which creates trans fats, and not virgin coconut oil, which has a different health risk profile.
Coconut water has a long-standing cultural association with health in the Ayurveda tradition. It has been used as a home remedy for healing mouth ulcers.[unreliable source?]
Coconut milk is rich in medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which the body processes differently than other saturated fats. MCFAs may help promote weight maintenance without raising cholesterol levels.