The Real Difference Between Coconut Cream And Cream Of Coconut

They might look and sound (super) similar, but coconut cream and cream of coconut are two totally different, non-interchangeable things. Confused? Let us explain.

Coconut milk is made by grating the coconut flesh (the white part), soaking it in hot water, skimming off the cream once it rises, and squeezing the remaining liquid through a cheesecloth to extract the milk, according to BBC — but let's back up to that "skimming off the cream" part.

Both coconut cream and cream of coconut have similar origins, although one requires more effort to make than the other. With that being said, coconut cream is simply the thick, unsweetened top layer of cream that floats at the top of the coconut milk. No effort is necessary for obtaining that besides scooping it out.

Cream of coconut, on the other hand, requires an extra ingredient: sweetener. According to A Couple Cooks, cream of coconut has a thicker, more syrupy consistency than coconut cream and is super sweet (think: sweetened condensed milk).

How to use each one

Coconut cream can be used in a lot of different ways. For starters, it's a great alternative for heavy cream (hello, vegan whipped cream!), which makes it perfect to use in lieu of dairy in both savory dishes and sweet desserts. It's also a key ingredient in coquitos (the Puerto Rican holiday drink you didn't know you needed). Some other ways to use up that can of coconut cream? The Kitchn suggests adding it to smoothies, curries, soups, whole-grain cooking, and milkshakes.

Since cream of coconut is super sweet, you probably know the direction we're heading with this one: desserts, more desserts, and — tropical drinks? Yep, cream of coconut is often used to sweeten tropical drinks, like classic pina coladas and frozen coconut limeade (via Dessert Now, Dinner Later).

But back to desserts: Where do we start with the creamy, coconutty possibilities? We'll turn to Dessert Now, Dinner Later for this one. Just one can of cream of coconut (along with a few other ingredients) can make you coconut cream poke cake (a chocolate version is also totally doable), no-churn coconut ice cream, and mini cherry cheesecake sugar cookie cups, to name a few ideas.