Grocers sell about half a dozen different coconut products that go by the same or very similar names. And they arenít interchangeable.
Coconut water is a hip new drink made from the liquid inside coconuts. Drink it, but donít cook with it.
Coconut milk beverage is made from coconut milk and sugar. Itís usually sold in boxes alongside soy milk.
Coconut cream is a very thick, fatty liquid made from steeping shredded coconut in hot water at a 4:1 ratio. It is sold in cans, usually in the international aisle.
Sweetened cream of coconut is just what it says. Itís intended for cocktails. PiŮa colada, anyone?
Coconut milk is the one you want for cooking. Coconut milk is made like coconut cream, but with a 1:1 ratio of coconut to water. The result is a thick, pourable product sold in cans in the international aisle. It is used in curries, soups (like Thai chicken and coconut), sauces, even sweets, such as rice puddings and some baked goods.
You will need to stir or shake it. The fatty ďcreamĒ will rise to the top of the can over time, creating a dense layer that needs to be mixed back into the watery liquid below.
≠ó J.M. Hirsch