Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Coconut 'Milk'

Most nutritional philosophies that I have studied, including veganism, vegetarianism, raw foodism, and traditional foodism, all agree that grocery store milk is bad news. It comes from cows who are raised on feed lots and pumped up regularly with antibiotics and hormones. Bacterial counts are often very high or are reduced by adding bleach. The milk is adulterated during the processes of pasteurization and homogenization. There are entire websites dedicated to the badness of milk, but I'll stop there.

Vegans, vegetarians, and most raw foodists believe that milk of any sort is bad. Traditional foodists believe that raw milk fresh from a pasture-raised cow is basically the nectar of the gods. However, that comes at a price. I used to get raw milk from a farm south of me, and when I stopped buying it, I think it was up to about $6/gallon. In addition, I was paying the drivers who picked up the milk each week. It ended up coming out to about $50 per month for only a gallon and a half per week.

Since raw milk was too expensive for us, I've occasionally tried to find substitutes. I like the taste of homemade almond milk quite well, but my kids think it is gross because I leave the bitter skins on. I also typically need to add vanilla and a bit of sweetener, which can inflate the cost quickly. I keep reading on raw food blogs about how you can make some quick coconut 'milk' for recipes by blending dried coconut and water. I finally tried it today. It's fast and easy and the kids (at least 1) actually like it!

I used 1 part dried unsweetened coconut to 3 parts water and blended it in the Blendtec until it was totally pulverized to a powder. I then strained the 'milk' through a woven towel, squeezed all the liquid from the coconut pulp/flour, and put the flour into the dehydrator to dry it out. The resulting 'milk' tastes fantastic on its own. I tried adding more water to reduce the cost, but if it's too watery, it doesn't taste very good.

I am calling this 'milk' because this is nothing like the coconut milk you buy in can. This is a thin coconut flavored beverage similar to the consistency of 1% cow's milk. I would use it on cereal, smoothies, or to drink. It is fantastic as a base for hot chocolate.

I'm not sure if the leftover coconut pulp/flour is exactly the same as commercially-sold coconut flour, which is made by grinding coconut fiber after most of the oil has been removed, but it's similar. It's definitely similar enough to be used in raw treat recipes that call for coconut flour, like this one at Vivapura.

Cost Analysis
I bought some dried coconut (sulphured) at the health food store. It was $3.50/pound, which is about 6 cups. You'd end up with 18 cups milk using the 3:1 ratio. That comes out to $3.11 for 1 gallon of coconut 'milk'. That is a pretty great price for an alternative milk. If I remember correctly, almond milk or rice milk from the store is about $8/gallon.

Even better, in the group buy I just completed, I sold unsulphured unsweetened dried coconut for $2.08/pound, which included my profit. This would decrease the cost for a gallon of coconut 'milk' to $1.85, which is right about the same cost as grocery store cow's milk.

When considering cost, you also have to remember that in addition to the 'milk', you're getting free coconut 'flour' as well.

Nutritional Profile
I looked up's entry for "Nuts, coconut meat, dried (desiccated), not sweetened". Using my ratios above, there are 6 cups coconut to a pound, and that makes 18 cups coconut 'milk'. So 1 cup coconut 'milk' uses 1/18 pound coconut, or 0.89 ounces. The nutritional profile for that amount of dried unsweetened coconut is:


Of course this assumes that you are consuming the coconut pulp, which you will not be if you throw it away or dehydrate it, put it in your freezer, wait 6 months, and then throw it away (like me).


Chandelle said...

Thanks for doing the cost analysis. I've been thinking of trying this myself, because we use a lot of canned coconut milk, which creates a lot of waste. I feel worn out from all the math I've been doing for our new budget so I haven't tried to do it yet for coconut milk.

Most of the recipes I find using shredded coconut call for almost equal ratios of water to coconut. That would probably make a thicker milk more like what you'd find in a can. Some of the recipes recommend soaking the coconut first in hot water to release more oil. That might not be necessary with a high-speed blender.

When I make milk from the canned stuff (to use on oatmeal or in smoothies), I use 1 can of milk to 2 cans of water. After blending I end up with about 5 cups of milk. The consistency is about what I remember of 2% cow's milk, maybe a little thicker. I buy a 12-pack of cans from Azure for $1.50 a can. Can you tell from that information if it would be cheaper to use shredded coconut, which is $1.83 a pound?

Chandelle said...

Okay, I just tried to do the math.

If 1 lb. of coconut = 6 cups dry, then 3 cups of milk with each cup of coconut would make about 12 cups of milk. So if I buy 5 lbs. of coconut for $9.15 (the cost at Azure), I'll be getting about 60 cups of milk from that amount. Right?

I buy a 12-pack of canned milk for $18.05, which comes to $1.50 per can. Each can combined with water makes 5 cups of (diluted) milk. So a 12-pack will make 60 cups of milk, same as a 5-lb. bag of dry coconut. But the cost is twice as much, if I'm doing the math right (and there's also tons of waste from all those aluminum cans - and who knows what's in the cans themselves, leaching into the milk).

Did I do the math right? If it's right, I'm definitely changing my order with Azure today!

Katie said...

Do you need to change your order RIGHT NOW? I just had a root canal and might not be reliable at math.

Right off the bat I saw this. You said "If 1 lb. of coconut = 6 cups dry, then 3 cups of milk with each cup of coconut would make about 12 cups of milk."

If you're getting 3 cups of milk from 1 cup of coconut, that's 18 cups of milk instead of 12.

I did use hot water for one of the batches I made to see if that made it any easier to strain. I didn't think of it helping release the oils, but that would make sense.

When I got up today, the jar in the fridge was separated and the top 1/4-1/3 was the thickness of coconut cream in a room temperature can. It wasn't as silky smooth though. If you put a can of coconut milk in the fridge, the cream would solidify. But the 'cream' in my milk was the consistency of coconut cream in a room temperature can.

Chandelle said...

I guess I assumed you'd lose some water with it getting absorbed into the coconut. But it should be a good deal either way. Yay!