Light Coconut Milk Vs. Regular (Canned)

Coconut milk is known for being high calorie, but as with most things these days, there’s a lighter option available in the form of light or ‘lite’ coconut milk which is suggested as the healthier option.

When choosing a healthier option, we often do so without knowing the actual difference between the regular version and the lighter ones, or if there’s even much difference at all?

In this article, I’ll be comparing canned light (or lite) coconut milk head-to-head against the regular full-fat version, including; an ingredient and nutritional comparison along with the differences between the two when it comes to usage.

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Canned Light Coconut Milk Vs. Regular Comparison

There are two kinds of coconut milk, the canned version which is thicker and generally used for cooking, and the drinking version which is a thinner version that comes in a carton for pouring.

In this article, I’ll be comparing the canned version, but if you’re looking for information on the drinking version, I have written an article on this topic which you can see via the link below:

Light Coconut Milk Vs. Regular (Drinking/Pouring Type)

Ingredients Comparision

Starting with the ingredients comparison, both the light and regular coconut milk I compared contain the same ingredients: water, coconut, and guar gum.

Although both types of coconut milk have the same ingredients, the coconut to water ratio is different, with light coconut milk having more water and less coconut than the regular version. Less coconut and more water leads to a thinner milk when compared to full-fat milk, which is rich and creamy.

If you’re wondering what guar gum is, here’s the info: guar gum is a food additive made from the guar bean and is used to thicken certain foods, particularly liquid-based foods such as soup and sauces.

Guar gum is found in most brands of canned coconut milk to make it thicker and less watery; you can find out more information about guar gum over at healthline.com.

Light Canned Coconut Milk IngredientsRegular Canned Coconut Milk Ingredients
Water, Coconut, & Guar Gum.Water, Coconut, & Guar Gum.

Canned Light Coconut Milk Vs. Regular Nutritional Comparison

Moving onto the nutritional comparison between canned light coconut milk and regular (or full-fat) coconut milk.

This comparison is between light and regular canned coconut milk, typically used in cooking and especially as a sauce base for various curries.

For this comparison, I’ve used coconut milk from the same brand (Thai Kitchen) to keep things as accurate as possible. I’ve also compared each type of milk, weight-for-weight, based on a serving size of 80ml, which is around 1/5th of a can.

Best for Calorie Content

One of the main differences between light (or lite) coconut milk is the calorie content. As you can see from the table below, the light version of coconut milk is 70 calories less than regular coconut milk per 80ml serving.

If you’re looking for a healthier option because you’re counting calories, it’s definitely worth switching to light coconut milk if you can deal with a less creamy texture.

Coconut Milk TypeCalories Per 80ml Serving
Light/lite Canned Coconut Milk50kcal
Regular (Full-Fat) Coconut Milk120kcal

Best for Nutrition

When it comes to nutrition, the main difference between the two is the fat content, with light coconut milk containing less than half the fat of the regular full-fat version.

Light canned coconut milk contains 5g of fat per 80ml serving, of which 4g is saturated fat compared to regular full-fat coconut milk, which has 12g of fat per serving, 11g of which is saturated fat.

Both kinds of milk are very low in carbs, sugar, and protein and don’t offer much in the way of nutrition when it comes to fiber and other vitamins and minerals.

Light coconut milk is better in more nutritional categories and is the better option if you’re looking to reduce calorie and fat intake.

Nutrition CategoryLight/lite Canned Coconut Milk Value per 80ml ServingRegular (Full-Fat) canned Coconut Milk Value per 80ml Serving
Carbohydrates<1g2g
Sugars0g1g
Protein0g<1g
Fat5g12g
Saturated Fat4g11g
Cholesterol0g0g
Dietary Fiber0g0g
Sodium20mg30mg
Iron2% (daily value)
Potassium2% (daily value)

mg = milligram (1000th of a gram)

Usage Comparision

You can replace regular canned coconut milk for the light version in curries and other dishes in most scenarios, but the end product won’t be as creamy, rich, or coconutty as it would be if you used the full-fat version.

Because light coconut milk contains less creamy coconut than the full-fat version, leading to a thinner sauce. To prevent a sauce from being too watery, I add a little less than the recipe states at first and check the consistency before adding more.

To counteract the lack of creaminess and thickness that you might experience from using light coconut milk instead of the full-fat version, you might want to try additional ingredients such as greek yogurt in curries, tomato pureé, or some extra vegetables.

To Summarise

Light coconut milk is better than the regular version when it comes to fat and calorie content, so it makes an excellent switch if you’re on a diet where this is a consideration.

Making the switch to light coconut milk in cooking means some sacrifice needs to be made when it comes to richness and creaminess, but both work well when used in dishes such as curry sauces.

If you’ve not tried light coconut milk in cooking before, my advice would be to give it a try, and if you don’t like it – you can always switch back!

More Light Vs. Regualr Coconut Milk FAQ’s

Can you substitute light coconut milk for regular?

You can substitute light coconut milk for the regular version, although keep in mind that regular coconut milk is richer, creamer, and has a higher fat content than the light version. If you use the regular version of coconut milk in curries, it will create a more luxurious sauce.

Is light coconut milk better?

Light coconut milk is better if you’re looking to cut down on your calorie and/or fat intake because it contains half the amount of the regular version. Many would say the regular version makes a better curry sauce that is richer and creamer, although light coconut milk is a good alternative.

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References Used for this Article

To ensure the nutritional information used in this article is accurate, I have used data from the manufacturer and the USDA; the link below contains the source information:

Light/regular coconut milk nutritional information – USDA