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Coconut Milk vs Cow Milk (Complete Comparison)

The choice between coconut milk and cow milk involves various nutritional considerations that cater to different dietary needs and preferences. Coconut milk, derived from the flesh of mature coconuts, offers a plant-based alternative that is naturally lactose-free and vegan-friendly. It contains higher levels of certain minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, and dietary fiber but also has a significantly higher amount of saturated fat compared to cow’s milk.

Cow milk, on the other hand, is an animal-based dairy product and a traditional staple in many diets around the world. It is an excellent source of vitamins B2 and B12, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin A RAE, nutrients essential for maintaining bone health and supporting biological functions. Those who opt for cow milk benefit from its protein content and essential amino acid profile, which are important for muscle development and repair.

Coconut Milk vs. Cow Milk

Coconut milk contains more manganese, copper, iron, and fiber, while cow milk provides more vitamin B12, B2, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin A. Coconut milk has 103% higher saturated fat than cow milk.

Nutritional Comparison

Coconut milk is rich in Manganese, Copper, Iron, and Fiber, whereas cow’s milk offers more Vitamin B12, B2, Calcium, Vitamin D, and A.

Coconut milk and cow’s milk hold distinct nutritional profiles catering to different dietary needs. Coconut milk, derived from the flesh of coconuts, is notable for its higher content of certain minerals and its plant-based origin. In contrast, cow’s milk, an animal-based product, is a significant source of various vitamins and minerals essential for bone health.


Coconut Milk

Cow’s Milk





Higher saturated fat content

Lower saturated fat content


No protein

About 8 grams per serving


Very low

Approximately 12 grams per serving from lactose


Lower in B Vitamins and Vitamins A and D

Higher in Vitamin B12, B2, Vitamin D, A


Higher in Manganese, Copper, Iron

Higher in Calcium


Contains dietary fiber

No dietary fiber



Contains cholesterol

Those with lactose intolerance may prefer coconut milk, as it lacks lactose, the sugar found in cow’s milk that can cause digestive discomfort. Furthermore, individuals monitoring their cholesterol intake might find coconut milk a favorable option due to its cholesterol-free nature. Despite these advantages, coconut milk does not naturally provide protein, unlike cow’s milk, which is often recommended for its protein content beneficial to muscles and overall health. It’s important for consumers to consider their nutritional needs and health goals when choosing between these two types of milk.

Best for Calorie Content

When comparing the calorie content of coconut milk and cow’s milk, one finds that coconut milk generally has more calories per serving.

In terms of calorie content, cow’s milk usually contains about 103 calories per 8-ounce serving, while the same amount of unsweetened coconut milk can contain around 50 calories.

In a calorie-to-calorie comparison, cow’s milk provides more micronutrients and macronutrients per calorie consumed, such as protein and essential vitamins. Coconut milk, although higher in saturated fat and calories, may be preferred for those looking for a lower protein and carbohydrate beverage or for those who adhere to a plant-based diet.

Type of Milk

Calories per 8 oz


Cow’s Milk (whole)

Approximately 150

Higher in protein and vitamins

Cow’s Milk (skim)

Approximately 80

Lower fat and calorie content

Coconut Milk

Approximately 552*

Higher in saturated fat

*Note: The calorie count for coconut milk is for canned coconut milk, which is more commonly used in cooking. Carton coconut milk as a beverage typically has a lower calorie content, closer to 50 calories per 8 oz.

Individuals monitoring their calorie intake should consider the differences in calorie content and the nutritional density associated with each type of milk. Those who are lactose intolerant or vegan might opt for the higher-calorie coconut milk, while those who need more protein and fewer calories might prefer cow’s milk.

Best for Carbs & Sugar Content

Cow’s milk contains approximately 12 grams of carbohydrates per serving, mostly from lactose, which is the natural sugar found in milk. In contrast, coconut milk has a much lower carbohydrate content and is very low in sugar.

For individuals who are monitoring their carbohydrate intake, coconut milk may be the preferred choice. It provides minimal carbs, making it suitable for low-carb diets. However, for those who need a source of energy from carbohydrates, cow’s milk can be beneficial due to its lactose content.


Cow’s Milk (per serving)

Coconut Milk (per serving)




Sugars (Lactose)


Trace amounts

Cow’s milk is rich in lactose, a natural sugar that provides energy but can also be a concern for people with lactose intolerance. In such cases, coconut milk serves as a low-carb, low-sugar alternative, though its sweetness is primarily due to added sugars in some commercial brands rather than natural sugar content. Individuals with diabetes or those following a ketogenic diet may find coconut milk to be a more suitable option due to its lower carbohydrate content.

Best for Protein Content

When comparing the protein content between coconut milk and cow’s milk, cow’s milk has a significantly higher protein content.

Cow’s milk is a rich source of protein, providing about 8 grams per serving, compared to coconut milk which contains almost no protein.

Protein is an essential macronutrient necessary for muscle repair, immune function, and the maintenance of healthy tissues. Here is how the two types of milk differ in their protein content:

  • Cow’s Milk: Approximately 8 grams of protein per 8-ounce serving
  • Coconut Milk: Less than 1 gram of protein per 8-ounce serving

This substantial difference makes cow’s milk a much more suitable choice for individuals looking to increase their protein intake. Dairy milk’s protein comprises casein and whey, which are valuable for muscle growth and repair. Individuals who require higher protein in their diets, such as athletes or those with increased protein requirements, may find cow’s milk more beneficial for meeting their nutritional needs.

On the other hand, coconut milk is not a reliable source of protein. While it may offer other nutritional benefits, those seeking protein would need to look elsewhere to fulfill their dietary protein requirements. For those who are vegan or have allergies to dairy, it’s important to find alternative protein sources to supplement the lack of protein found in coconut milk.

Best for Fat Content

When comparing the fat content in coconut milk to cow’s milk, one finds distinct differences in types and amounts of fat. Coconut milk has a higher saturated fat content with 103% daily need coverage compared to cow’s milk, which has less saturated fat. Coconut milk obtains its creaminess from its high-fat content, which is primarily saturated fat, often considered less heart-healthy when consumed in large quantities. Meanwhile, cow’s milk contains both saturated and unsaturated fats, which can be part of a balanced diet.


Coconut Milk

Cow’s Milk


Higher (~103% DV)





Cow’s milk fat content can vary depending on the type (whole, 2%, skim), with whole milk containing more fat per serving. Conversely, coconut milk generally maintains a consistent fat content across most brands and types.

Those with dietary restrictions or specific health goals may choose one over the other. For instance, individuals requiring a plant-based diet might opt for coconut milk, while those mindful of saturated fats may prefer the lower saturated fat content found in cow’s milk. It is essential to consider individual dietary needs and preferences when determining which milk is best regarding fat content.

Best for Fiber Content

Coconut and a bottle of coconut milk

In the comparison of fiber content between coconut milk and cow’s milk, coconut milk stands out as the better source. It contains dietary fiber, which is absent in cow’s milk.

Coconut milk has a higher fiber content than cow’s milk, which contains almost no fiber. The presence of fiber in coconut milk helps in digestion and can have a positive effect on blood sugar levels.

When selecting a milk option based on fiber content, coconut milk is the preferable choice for those seeking to increase their fiber intake. It’s important to note, however, that the amount of fiber can vary depending on the form of coconut milk, with canned versions typically having more fiber than carton varieties.

For individuals who are lactose intolerant or simply looking for a plant-based alternative, coconut milk provides a way to incorporate fiber into their diet through a beverage, while cow’s milk does not contribute to daily fiber intake.

Best for Sodium/Salt Content

When it comes to sodium content, cow’s milk generally contains more sodium than coconut milk.

Cow’s milk has roughly 100 milligrams of sodium per cup, while coconut milk typically features significantly less, making it a suitable option for those looking to reduce their sodium intake.

Type of Milk

Sodium Content (per cup)

Cow’s Milk

~100 milligrams

Coconut Milk

<50 milligrams

For individuals who are monitoring their sodium intake due to health concerns such as high blood pressure or heart disease, the lower sodium content of coconut milk could be beneficial. It’s important for consumers to check the nutritional labels of specific brands, as the sodium content can vary between products. Moreover, some coconut milk varieties might have added sodium, so one should opt for products labeled as “unsweetened” or “no added salt/sodium” for the lowest sodium content possible.

Best for Vitamins/Minerals

When assessing the vitamin and mineral content of coconut milk versus cow’s milk, cow’s milk generally provides a more comprehensive range of essential nutrients.

Cow’s milk is a significant source of Vitamin B12, B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin D, and Vitamin A, with added fortification in some brands enhancing these levels further. It also boasts a high calcium content, crucial for bone health.

In contrast, coconut milk is richer in certain minerals like Manganese, Copper, and Iron. Coconut milk also contains dietary fiber, which is absent in cow’s milk. However, it usually lacks in the protein, vitamins, and minerals that cow’s milk naturally provides.

You can help to decide the winner of this category by voting for your favorite in the poll below and once you vote you’ll be able to see the public favorite so far.

Which do you prefer?


Cow’s Milk

Coconut Milk




Vitamin B12


Typically absent

Vitamin D

Often fortified

Lacks vitamin D







Cow’s milk typically has seven times more calcium than coconut milk, and some cow’s milk options are fortified with vitamin D, lacking in coconut milk. Coconut milk tends to have more saturated fat and may be preferrable for those with a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance. However, for a more complete vitamin and mineral profile, cow’s milk has an advantage.

Best for Flavor/Texture

Coconut milk offers a distinct tropical flavor and creamy texture, favored in many Asian cuisines, while cow’s milk is known for its rich and versatile taste profile, suitable for various culinary uses.

When considering the flavor of coconut milk versus cow’s milk, one must take into account their distinctly different taste profiles. Coconut milk has a sweet, creamy texture with a hint of tropical flavor. This makes it an excellent choice for dishes that require a touch of sweetness or for vegan recipes as a dairy substitute. On the other hand, cow’s milk has a more neutral, yet slightly sweet taste, which serves as a versatile base in numerous recipes, from savory to sweet.

Texture also plays a crucial role in culinary applications. Coconut milk is thicker and can impart a richer, more velvety consistency to dishes such as curries and desserts. In contrast, cow’s milk has a thinner consistency, is smooth, and blends easily with other ingredients, making it a staple in creams, sauces, and beverages.

Here is a comparison of their use in different dishes for flavor and texture:


Creamy Soups


Baked Goods

Coconut Milk

Adds richness

Imparts sweetness

Moist, dense texture

Cow’s Milk

Milder effect

Subtly enhances

Light, airy texture

In summary, the choice between coconut milk and cow’s milk in terms of flavor and texture largely depends on the desired outcome of the dish and personal taste preferences.

Health Benefits

Coconut milk and cow’s milk offer distinct health advantages. They cater to different dietary needs and preferences.

Coconut Milk Benefits:

  • Rich in Manganese: Supports bone health and metabolism.
  • High in Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCTs): May aid in weight management and energy.

Cow’s Milk Benefits:

  • High in Calcium: Essential for bone health.
  • Contains Vitamin B12: Crucial for blood health and DNA synthesis.
  • Source of Protein: Important for muscle repair and growth.

Both options can be part of a balanced diet. Consumers should choose based on their nutritional needs, allergies, and personal health goals.

Allergies and Sensitivities

Individuals with cow’s milk protein allergy may react to soy protein, while coconut milk serves as a safer alternative. Both coconut milk and cow’s milk have the potential to cause allergic reactions, but they differ significantly in their allergenic profile.

Cow’s milk is one of the most common allergens, particularly in children. A cow’s milk allergy can result in a range of symptoms from mild to severe, including hives, gastrointestinal distress, and in rare cases, anaphylaxis. Many individuals are also lactose intolerant, which means their bodies lack the enzyme lactase needed to digest lactose, the sugar found in cow’s milk. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include bloating, gas, and abdominal pain.

On the other hand, coconut milk is generally considered to be a low-allergenic alternative. Allergies to coconut are much less common. However, as it is a tree nut product, those with tree nut allergies should proceed with caution.


Cow’s Milk

Coconut Milk

Common in Children






Tree Nut Allergy


Yes (Rarely)

It’s essential for consumers to understand their specific dietary sensitivities and consult healthcare providers when considering milk alternatives, especially for children who have higher nutritional requirements and may be at greater risk for allergies.

Overall Winner – Which One is Better?

In terms of overall nutrition, cow’s milk generally offers more protein and essential nutrients, while coconut milk is richer in calories and saturated fats yet cholesterol-free.

Choosing the better option between coconut milk and cow’s milk depends on individual dietary needs and health objectives. For those looking to increase their protein intake and acquire a wider variety of nutrients like vitamin D, calcium, and potassium, cow’s milk is advantageous. It is also beneficial for building and maintaining strong bones due to its high mineral content.

On the other hand, coconut milk is suitable for people with lactose intolerance or allergies to cow’s milk protein. It has no cholesterol, making it a heart-healthy plant-based alternative. Those on a low carbohydrate diet may find coconut milk appealing due to its lower carb content.

Nutrient Comparison:

  • Calories: Coconut milk is higher in calories.
  • Protein: Cow’s milk has significantly more protein.
  • Saturated Fat: Coconut milk contains more saturated fats.
  • Cholesterol: Only cow’s milk contains cholesterol.
  • Carbohydrates: Cow’s milk is higher in lactose.

In summary, neither can be deemed the absolute winner as each has its unique benefits. Consumers should consider their dietary restrictions, nutritional needs, and personal health goals when deciding between coconut milk and cow’s milk.