Is Coconut Milk Dairy?




Coconut milk is a liquid that comes from the meat, or white flesh, of a coconut.

Given its appearance and texture, you may wonder whether it’s considered a dairy product.

This article examines what coconut milk is made of and whether it contains dairy.


Dairy products are derived from the lacteal secretion, or milk, that mammals produce after giving birth (1).

Some of the most popular dairy milk comes from cows, as well as goats, sheep, and camels, and they’re often then used to make dairy products like cheese, butter, and ice cream.

The coconut is a large seed that grows on tropical palm trees. Because coconut milk comes from the meat of a coconut — not an animal — it’s not a dairy product.

Coconut milk is sold in two main forms, one of which is canned. It’s a thicker product and most often used in Asian or Indian cuisine.

The other is a thinner, more processed commercial coconut beverage that’s typically kept in the refrigerated section with other plant milk alternatives, such as those made from almonds, cashews, oats, soy, peas, hemp, or rice.

Canned coconut milk is made by grating the inner white meat of a coconut and simmering it in water to make a creamy paste. The liquid is then strained, and the meat is removed. Canned coconut milk separates into a thicker coconut cream and thinner coconut water.

Commercial coconut milk is made by blending coconut milk with water and coconut cream to make a milder, thinner consumer beverage.

If you’re avoiding dairy products in your diet, you could consume either type of coconut milk without a problem.


Coconut milk is the milk made from grated coconut meat. Because coconut milk is derived from a plant, it’s not considered a dairy product.



Lactose is a carbohydrate naturally found in dairy milk.

Some people cannot consume lactose due to a condition called lactose intolerance. Those with this condition lack the enzyme lactase, which is needed to properly break down and digest lactose (2).

As a result, they commonly experience gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, gas, and diarrhea after eating dairy products that contain lactose (2).

Lactose is only found in dairy and mammalian milk. Plant foods do not contain lactose. Therefore, coconut milk is a lactose-free food and suitable for a lactose-free diet (2).

Furthermore, because coconut milk is naturally dairy-free, it’s safe for people who have a cow’s milk allergy.

Unlike lactose intolerance, a cow’s milk allergy causes an immune response. It can result in allergic symptoms like hives, wheezing, and/or upset stomach after an affected person consumes something that contains milk.

Coconut milk is a good option for people with lactose intolerance or milk allergy.

That said, many coconut-containing products that advertise coconut milk on the label may not be dairy-free. It’s always best to read labels thoroughly.


Those who are following a lactose-free diet or lactose intolerant can safely consume coconut milk, as it’s naturally free of lactose. It’s also suitable for people with a milk allergy.



Coconut milk has a mild but distinct flavor and thick, creamy consistency that works well in a number of recipes. Below are a couple of simple, vegan recipes that use coconut milk.

Peach coconut popsicles


  • 1 (15-ounce or 440-mL) can of full fat coconut milk
  • 1.5 cups (375 grams) of frozen, sliced peaches
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of maple syrup


  1. Add the ingredients to a food processor or high-speed blender with a tamper, and pulse until well blended.
  2. Divide the mixture evenly into popsicle molds and place them in the freezer for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Coconut milk whipped cream


  • 1 (15-ounce or 440-mL) can of full fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons (7 mL) of vanilla extract


  1. Place the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight to chill.
  2. The next day, remove the coconut milk from the refrigerator and remove the lid. Using a spoon, scrape out the solid coconut cream and place it into a mixing bowl. Leave the coconut water in the can, as you won’t need it for this recipe.
  3. Using a hand or electric mixer, beat the coconut milk on high speed for about 3–5 minutes, or until peaks begin to form.
  4. Beat in the sugar and vanilla extract.


Coconut milk is a thick and creamy milk that works well in a number of recipes, including homemade popsicles and dairy-free coconut whipped cream.


Coconut milk comes from the grated meat of coconuts, which are large tree seeds that grow on tropical palm trees.

Coconut milk is naturally lactose-free and not considered a dairy product because it’s derived from a plant — not a mammal. Therefore, coconut milk suits a dairy- or lactose-free diet and is safe for people with a lactose intolerance or milk allergy.

You can use coconut milk in a variety of simple dairy-free recipes, where it will offer a mild but distinct flavor and creamy texture.


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