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Coconut Oil vs. Coconut Milk — What’s the Difference?

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Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian by Jack Yacoubian | Last updated on May 13, 2024
Medically reviewed by Arpi Gasparyan Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan
Coconut oil
vs
Coconut milk

Summary

While coconut oil is 99% fat, coconut milk contains 68% water and 24% fat and small amounts of protein and carbohydrates. 

Coconut oil is very high in calories and saturated fats and is nearly absent in vitamins and minerals. In comparison, coconut milk is a source of several vitamins and minerals, such as copper, manganese, and iron; however, it has a high glycemic index of 97.

Introduction

Coconut (Cocos nucifera) products, such as coconut oil and coconut milk, are widely available in many parts of the world and can be found on the shelves of many supermarkets. Other coconut products are coconut butter, coconut cream, and coconut water.

Coconut oil is a tropical oil derived from the white parts of the coconut, known as coconut meat or coconut flesh. It is solid or semi-solid at room temperature and liquid at higher temperatures. 

Coconut milk is a white opaque liquid that has the same consistency as any other milk. Coconut milk can be made from dried or fresh coconut meat.

In this article, we will discuss the difference between coconut oil and coconut milk according to their main differences, nutritional content, diet and weight loss, health impacts, and myths.

What Are the Actual Differences?

There are many differences, including shelf life, availability, and usage.

Shelf Life

Coconut oil has a longer shelf life compared to coconut milk. Mainly because it is an oil that ultimately has a longer shelf life. Often preservatives are added to coconut milk to extend its shelf life.

Price

Coconut oil is more expensive, and it is considered one of the most expensive oils compared to other cooking oils. The comparison with other oils will not be discussed in this article, but it is important to highlight that notion.

Availability

Coconut oil and milk are mostly available and cheaper in tropical regions mainly because they are harvested there. Coconut milk is more easily prepared even at home if there is a mature coconut, although many coconuts are required for a decent amount of coconut milk.

Usage

Coconut milk is more versatile in the culinary world. Cooking, drinking as an alternative to milk, and preparing various breakfast meals. Coconut milk is used in Asian cuisine, mostly in Filipino, Indian, and other countries. On the other hand, coconut oil is mostly used in cooking.

Nutrition

This article compares 100g of coconut oil and coconut milk. Both have a serving size of 1 tbsp, equal to 13.6g for coconut oil and 15g for coconut milk.

While coconut oil is 99% fat, coconut milk contains 68% water and 24% fat, and small amounts of protein and carbohydrates.

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains more Fats +315.5%
Contains more Other +28.2%
Contains more Protein +∞%
Contains more Carbs +∞%
Contains more Water +225300%
99%
Protein: 0 g
Fats: 99.06 g
Carbs: 0 g
Water: 0.03 g
Other: 0.91 g
2% 24% 6% 68%
Protein: 2.29 g
Fats: 23.84 g
Carbs: 5.54 g
Water: 67.62 g
Other: 0.71 g
Contains more Fats +315.5%
Contains more Other +28.2%
Contains more Protein +∞%
Contains more Carbs +∞%
Contains more Water +225300%

Calories

When it comes to calories, coconut oil is very high in calories as compared to coconut milk. A 100g of coconut oil provides 892 calories, whereas coconut milk provides 230.

1 tbsp of coconut oil and coconut milk provides 121 and 34.5 calories, respectively.

Carbs

Coconut oil contains 0g of carbs, whereas coconut milk has higher carbs, equal to 5.5g.

Fats

The fat profile of both is the most important nutritional feature.

Coconut oil is an oil food meaning that most of its weight is made of fat. It contains 99g of fat per 100g. On the other hand, coconut milk contains less fat. Coconut milk contains 24g of fat per 100g.

Over 90% of fats in both coconut milk and coconut oil are saturated or “bad” fats. More than half of the saturated fats are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs or MCFAs), predominantly in the form of lauric acid.

In the second place are polyunsaturated fats, leaving monounsaturated fats in the last place.

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +524.5%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +552.1%
Contains less Saturated Fat -74.4%
91% 7% 2%
Saturated Fat: 82.475 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 6.332 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1.702 g
94% 5%
Saturated Fat: 21.14 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 1.014 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.261 g
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +524.5%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +552.1%
Contains less Saturated Fat -74.4%

Coconuts and coconut products are naturally absent in cholesterol. Coconut oil contains some amounts of trans fats.

Vitamins

Coconut milk contains some amounts of vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6, B9 (folate), C, E, and K.

Coconut oil contains fat-soluble vitamins E and K in negligible amounts.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
:
Contains more Vitamin K +500%
Contains more Vitamin E +36.4%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +∞%
Contains more Folate +∞%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 3% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 2%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 3% 0% 10% 7% 0% 15% 11% 8% 12% 0% 1%
Contains more Vitamin K +500%
Contains more Vitamin E +36.4%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +∞%
Contains more Folate +∞%

Minerals

Coconut oil is almost absent in minerals, whereas coconut milk is rich in copper, manganese, and iron. Coconut milk is also a source of phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, zinc, choline, and calcium.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Contains less Sodium -100%
Contains more Calcium +1500%
Contains more Iron +3180%
Contains more Magnesium +∞%
Contains more Phosphorus +∞%
Contains more Potassium +∞%
Contains more Zinc +3250%
Contains more Copper +∞%
Contains more Manganese +∞%
Contains more Selenium +∞%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 1% 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 0% 0% 0%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 5% 62% 27% 43% 24% 2% 19% 89% 120% 34%
Contains less Sodium -100%
Contains more Calcium +1500%
Contains more Iron +3180%
Contains more Magnesium +∞%
Contains more Phosphorus +∞%
Contains more Potassium +∞%
Contains more Zinc +3250%
Contains more Copper +∞%
Contains more Manganese +∞%
Contains more Selenium +∞%

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index difference between coconut milk and coconut oil is very remarkable. 

The glycemic index of coconut oil is 0, as it is 99% fat and contains no carbs.

The glycemic index of coconut milk is 97, and it is classified as a high glycemic index food.

Diets And Weight Loss

Vegan & Dairy-free

Coconut milk and coconut oil are used during the vegan diet. Coconut oil can replace butter in cooking as it gives a dense texture to food due to its high saturated fat content. 

On the other hand, coconut milk is a good alternative to dairy milk; however, better alternatives are available that are low in saturated fats, such as soy milk and almond milk.

Keto

Coconut oil and coconut milk are low in carbs and can be part of the keto diet. Most importantly, here we have coconut milk which is a lower-carb version of nearly any non-dairy milk. In addition to that, coconut milk can be used in cooking.

Health Impact: Benefits & Risks

Cancer

Coconut oil and coconut milk contain lauric acid, a fatty acid that decreases the risk of developing an enlarged prostate and prostate cancer. The lauric acid may also induce apoptosis in breast and endometrial cancer cells (1, 2).

Neurological Health

According to a study, a diet high in coconut oil may improve the cognitive skills of those with Alzheimer's disease (3). Coconut oil may improve orientation and language-construction areas of the brain

The lauric acid present in coconut milk and oil may also promote healthy cognitive development (4).

Cardiovascular Health

Section reviewed by cardiologist Astghik Grigoryan Article author photo Astghik Grigoryan

Both coconut oil and coconut milk contain saturated fat, which, in excess, can contribute to CVD risk by raising LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels. However, coconut milk contains less saturated fat due to its dilution with water and the fiber from the coconut meat (5). 

Additionally, coconut milk provides various essential nutrients (including vitamin E, which may help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis), making it a more balanced option than coconut oil. When consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, coconut milk may offer potential health benefits without significantly increasing the risk of CVD. 

It is recommended by the American Heart Association to reduce the intake of dietary saturated fats (up to 5-6% of total calorie intake) and replace them with unsaturated fats to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (6, 7).

Miscellaneous

As a vegan cooking oil, coconut oil may be used in cooking. It is also used in cooking for the preparation of vegan mayonnaise.

Coconut oil has an advantage over other oils in that it may be safely used for high-temperature cooking.

Another benefit of coconut oil is that it may be used as a skin moisturizer and UV protection. Although using coconut oil as a moisturizer has no nutritional advantages, it does have medicinal significance.

Myths

Coconut oil is a nutritious and risk-free oil to consume: incorrect

Coconut oil is well known in the vegan world and among those who follow the keto diet. It is promoted as a healthy fat to ingest. However, increased daily consumption of coconut oil over a large period of time may increase the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, including obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, and liver diseases.

Replace carbs with fats: incorrect

This is heavily emphasized in the keto community. When carbohydrates are removed from the diet and replaced with lipids that are primarily saturated fats, such as butter or coconut oil, the risk of metabolic syndrome increase (8).

Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian
Education: Haigazian Medical University
Last updated: May 13, 2024
Medically reviewed by Arpi Gasparyan

Infographic

Coconut oil vs Coconut milk infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Coconut oil Coconut milk
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Glycemic Index ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Rich in minerals ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Coconut oil Coconut milk Opinion
Net carbs 0g 3.34g Coconut milk
Protein 0g 2.29g Coconut milk
Fats 99.06g 23.84g Coconut oil
Carbs 0g 5.54g Coconut milk
Calories 892kcal 230kcal Coconut oil
Sugar 0g 3.34g Coconut oil
Fiber 0g 2.2g Coconut milk
Calcium 1mg 16mg Coconut milk
Iron 0.05mg 1.64mg Coconut milk
Magnesium 0mg 37mg Coconut milk
Phosphorus 0mg 100mg Coconut milk
Potassium 0mg 263mg Coconut milk
Sodium 0mg 15mg Coconut oil
Zinc 0.02mg 0.67mg Coconut milk
Copper 0mg 0.266mg Coconut milk
Manganese 0mg 0.916mg Coconut milk
Selenium 0µg 6.2µg Coconut milk
Vitamin E 0.11mg 0.15mg Coconut milk
Vitamin C 0mg 2.8mg Coconut milk
Vitamin B1 0mg 0.026mg Coconut milk
Vitamin B3 0mg 0.76mg Coconut milk
Vitamin B5 0mg 0.183mg Coconut milk
Vitamin B6 0mg 0.033mg Coconut milk
Folate 0µg 16µg Coconut milk
Vitamin K 0.6µg 0.1µg Coconut oil
Tryptophan 0mg 0.027mg Coconut milk
Threonine 0mg 0.083mg Coconut milk
Isoleucine 0mg 0.09mg Coconut milk
Leucine 0mg 0.17mg Coconut milk
Lysine 0mg 0.101mg Coconut milk
Methionine 0mg 0.043mg Coconut milk
Phenylalanine 0mg 0.116mg Coconut milk
Valine 0mg 0.139mg Coconut milk
Histidine 0mg 0.053mg Coconut milk
Trans Fat 0.028g Coconut milk
Saturated Fat 82.475g 21.14g Coconut milk
Monounsaturated Fat 6.332g 1.014g Coconut oil
Polyunsaturated fat 1.702g 0.261g Coconut oil
Omega-6 - Linoleic acid 1.676g Coconut oil
Omega-3 - ALA 0.019g Coconut oil

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Coconut oil Coconut milk
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
0%
Coconut oil
5%
Coconut milk
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
0%
Coconut oil
42%
Coconut milk

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Coconut oil
Coconut oil is lower in Sugar (difference - 3.34g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Coconut oil
Coconut oil contains less Sodium (difference - 15mg)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Coconut oil
Coconut oil is lower in glycemic index (difference - 97)
Which food is cheaper?
Coconut oil
Coconut oil is cheaper (difference - $1.8)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Coconut milk
Coconut milk is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 61.335g)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Coconut milk
Coconut milk is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Coconut milk
Coconut milk is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)

References

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Coconut oil - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171412/nutrients
  2. Coconut milk - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170172/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.