Categories
Recipes

Coconut Flavoured Evaporated Milk

This Coconut Flavoured Evaporated Milk is a substitute for evaporated milk.

It’s vegan-friendly, dairy free, lactose free evaporated milk.

This recipe is for those who want to learn how to make evaporated milk at home. There are many evaporated milk options available in supermarkets but sometimes they don’t fit our dietary requirements.

Since it’s homemade, you can guarantee that it’s natural and preservative free. Store bought evaporated milk often contain dipotassium phosphate and carrageenan as preservatives and additives. They’re interesting to read about – food for thought!

half opened jar with evaporated coconut milk
My jar of coconut evaporated milk!

I’ll be showing you how to make your own evaporated coconut milk from real and natural coconut flavours. With no added preservatives! This recipe is so easy and simple. You literally use only one ingredient that you probably already have in the pantry: coconut milk!

Make this recipe healthier by using low fat coconut milk or coconut skim milk. Low fat and skim have up to 15% less fat content than high fat coconut milk.

coconut milk simmering in a saucepan on an induction cooker on a wooden tabletop
It’s so easy to create homemade evaporated coconut milk – just simmer away!

What is evaporated milk vs condensed milk? Evaporated milk is unsweetened condensed milk. So if you’re looking for an unsweetened condense milk recipe – this is it. If you’re looking for a sweetened condense milk recipe – check out my plant based recipes!

What are your favourite recipes that use evaporated milk? Let me know in the comments below.

wooden spoon in a saucepan full of coconut evaporated milk on an induction cooker
It gets thicker and creamier – yum

Coconut Flavoured Evaporated Milk Recipe

This dairy free evaporated milk uses coconut milk as its base.

Ingredients

  • 2 cans coconut milk (high or low fat)

How to Make Coconut Flavoured Evaporated Milk

  1. Bring the coconut milk to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Once it starts to simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low. Let it gently simmer for 25-30 minutes or until it reduces to half its volume. Stir the milk every 5-10 minutes to prevent milk from burning at the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat as needed if it starts bubbling too much.
  3. Let the milk cool completely. Store in a covered jar for up to 5 days.
coconut flavoured evaporated milk recipe

Scientific Health Benefits

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is a popular dairy free milk alternative. It has a rich and creamy texture. The tasty milk is also versatile – it’s used in so many sweet and savoury dishes.

Let’s take a look at the nutritional benefits

Coconut milk is calorie dense. It provides 824kJ of energy per 100g. The composition is 73% water, 2% protein, 22% fats and 3% carbohydrates. Saturated fats make up 88% of the fat content.

The fibre content is 17% of an adult’s daily value. Coconut milk is rich in manganese and has moderate amounts of magnesium, iron and phosphorous. Surprisingly to some, it isn’t high in calcium (2% DV). Eat a healthy and balanced diet to make sure your calcium levels are sufficient.

When coconut milk is commercialised and processed, a lot of the nutrients and minerals are lost. However, it’s quite hard to source raw coconut milk if you’re not from a tropical country where coconuts are in abundance!

Now this is where it gets complicated. Many health claims on coconut milk are sourced from the research done on coconut oil. Studies have linked coconut oil to benefit weight, metabolism and cholesterol levels.

This stems from coconut oil containing medium chain fatty acids (MCTs) such as lauric acid. These MCTs are ‘better forms’ of fatty acids. They directly go to the liver for energy use and are less likely to be stored as fats. Studies have also suggested MCTs reduce appetite.

However, MCTs are found in much smaller quantities in coconut milk. Thus the research findings for coconut oil doesn’t necessarily equate to coconut milk.

Furthermore, recent evidence shows that coconut oil is not actually healthy. Coconut oil consumption results in significantly higher LDL cholesterol than non-tropical vegetable oils. This can have adverse effects on heart health. We’ll go through this in another post specifically about coconut oil.

The verdict?

There are few quality studies that support the marketed health claims of coconut milk. Most of these come from extrapolated data on coconut oil and independent MCTs. Nevertheless, there is growing evidence on the adverse effects of saturated fats in coconut milk. Studies have shown that it’s actually bad for heart health.

Certainly, the saturated fats in coconut milk is something to be wary about. I recommend choosing low fat coconut milk. The best way is to source coconut flesh and make coconut milk yourself. However, I know that’s not possible in many countries. Coconut milk should be a minimal part of a healthy and balanced diet.

Categories
Recipes

Vegan Condensed Coconut Milk (Sweetened)

This Vegan Condensed Coconut Milk recipe is for those of us who are vegetarian, vegan and on a plant based diet. It’s also lactose free condensed milk so is suitable for those who are lactose intolerant and have finally passed that denial stage! Yay! (That was me once!)

Condensed milk is one of those ingredients you don’t really think about until you realise it makes all the difference in your dishes. Take my Vietnamese iced coffee (cafe sua da) for example, sweetened condensed milk is one of the key ingredients in the drink. I couldn’t have it after switching to a plant based diet and I was devastated!

Another one of my favourite condensed milk recipes is the Vietnamese avocado smoothie. I was so glad I could find this condensed milk substitute so I can continue enjoying this delicious Vietnamese classic.

Out of all my other vegan sweetened condensed milk recipes, this would be my favourite one. Canned coconut milk is a perfect base to create vegan condensed milk. It’s creamy and has natural oils so it’s easy to get that thick consistency of condensed milk.

This is in comparison to other vegan milk especially nut milk which are less creamy and have a watery consistency. They have lower levels of fats too so it’s harder to get the thick viscosity of condensed milk. Nevertheless, there are ways to get around it – check out my other condensed milk substitute! There’s one for everyone!

  • Oat milk
  • Pea protein milk – I call this my healthy substitute for sweetened condensed milk
  • Cashew milk
  • Almond milk
  • Soy milk
  • Rice milk

Vegan Condensed Coconut Milk Recipe

To make this condensed coconut milk recipe, you’ll only need 3 ingredients: coconut milk, palm sugar and salt.

Coconut Milk

Since this is a dairy free condensed milk recipe, I’ll be using coconut milk as the base.

Choose an unsweetened full fat can of coconut milk. Low fat is just full fat diluted with water and will reduce its ability to thicken nicely. I like to choose unsweetened so I can control what sweeteners (and their undertones) as well as how much goes into my homemade condensed milk!

Pick your coconut brands carefully. I like to use Savoy or Chef’s Choice as they have 70% coconut compared to other brands that only have 53% concentrate for the same price.

Two opened blue aluminium cans of coconut milk with coconuts on the label.
Chef’s Choice had 70% coconut while TCC had only 53% for the same price!

Sweetener

This is a sweetened condensed coconut milk recipe so we’ll be adding sugar into the mix.

I use palm sugar across all my vegan substitute for sweetened condensed milk recipes. Note that palm sugar is also known as coconut sugar! I like using palm sugar because it has butterscotch and caramel tones to it. Also, it has a low melting point and high burning temperature so it’s easy to cook and bake with. (Read below to see what the scientific health benefits of palm sugar are)

a wooden table with the ingredients for vegan condensed coconut milk: salt, coconut milk, palm sugar
3 simple ingredients for this recipe only: salt, coconut milk and palm sugar

The only downside is the colour. Palm sugar is dark golden brown so it will colour the condensed milk. If you’re looking for a nice creamy white colour, you can substitute this with white sugar.

You can definitely use any other sweeteners you like. My top recommendations would be maple syrup, agave and brown sugar as they add a nice earthy flavour to the condensed milk. You can even use sugar-free alternatives such as stevia. Just note that the flavour undertones will vary depending on which sweetener you use.

Ingredients

  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk (full fat)
  • 1/4 cup palm sugar
  • Pinch of salt

How to Make Vegan Condensed Coconut Milk

  1. Heat the coconut milk over low heat for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves.
  3. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring it to a gentle boil. Add the salt.
  4. Turn down the heat to low-medium and simmer the mixture for 20-30 minutes or until the mixture has reduced to half it’s volume. Reduce the temperature as needed if it starts to boil again. Don’t stir the mixture once it starts to simmer.
  5. Pour the mixture into a jar (avoid scraping the leftovers in as they would be crystallised). Let the steam cool off before closing the lid. The mixture will appear watery but will thicken up once cooled. Refrigerate for up to 5 days.
woman holding a glass jar with condensed milk
My little jar of sweetened condensed coconut milk!

Notes

If you’re looking for a sugar free condensed milk version, you can substitute in stevia or any other non-sugar sweeteners.

If you’re looking to make evaporated coconut milk, it is essentially unsweetened condensed coconut milk. So follow the same instructions but omit the sugar.

Scientific Health Benefits

You might have guessed that sweetened condensed milk isn’t all that healthy for you. Be it the original cow’s milk version or plant based version – there’s a whole lot of sugar sitting in one cup of condensed milk.

I do recommend keeping your condensed milk intake and your sweetened condensed coconut milk recipes to a minimal.

As a future doctor who’s very interested in preventative medicine, I advocate for a whole foods, plant based diet. Although this recipe is plant based, it is no where near whole foods.

So why did I make this recipe?

When I’m not on placement or at medical school, I’m simply an individual who is also on her health journey. I was a 90s baby who grew up in a time processed foods and sugars were at their peak. So I understand how hard it is to suddenly start eating whole foods and plant based.

I grew up eating meat too. So my transition to a plant based diet was tough.

So although I say with my medical background that we should all technically eat a 100% whole foods plant based diet, I know that’s a pretty idealistic notion.

My approach is to eat a whole foods plant based diet the majority of the time and enjoy these kinds of recipes for the minority of the time. Think of it as 90% healthy and 10% unhealthy. Depending on where you are in your journey they you can adjust the ratios.

Source: Anna Pelzer (Unsplash)

Of course, I’m not saying to calculate a healthy:unhealthy ratio for your week’s meals but to be mindful of the proportions going either way.

Furthermore, I know that food is a big thing in culture. I enjoy a Vietnamese iced coffee (with this sweetened condensed milk) with my parents every Sunday under a grapefruit tree in their (very Asian) garden in the backyard. I value that time a lot and so it brings me good quality of life. Thus it’s important to balance out what’s important in your life too from a mindful holistic point of view.

But also remember that weight gain and chronic diseases from unhealthy diets are also demeaning on your quality of life!

Palm Sugar

Palm sugar is commonly used in Asian cooking and Middle Eastern tea drinking. In Western countries, it’s recently been touted as a healthier alternative to white sugar as we try to maintain our sugar cravings but try to distance ourselves from that addictive white powder (I’m talking about sugar here!).

But is it really healthier than regular sugar?

Palm sugar is also known as coconut sugar. The sugar is considered healthier as it is unrefined. It is sourced from the saps of palm trees and retains some of the nutritional components of the tree. The retained minerals include potassium, zinc, phosphorus and copper. Palm sugar also has phytochemical compounds that have shown to act as antioxidants.

Source: Hans Eiskonen on Unsplash

Furthermore, palm sugar has a lower glycemic index compared to other sugars. Palm sugar has a glycemic index of 54 compared to white sugar at 68. A lower glycemic index means that your body is able to process the carbohydrates from palm sugar more efficiently and it doesn’t cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate as much as white sugar would. Studies have also shown that palm sugar contains inulin, a compound that has been shown to improve bowel function and reduce triglyceride formation.

However, it’s important to note that you can get these minerals and phytochemicals (and more) from fruits and vegetables that have a better nutrition content than palm sugar. Plus you’d have to eat around a tablespoon or two to get these benefits… plus all the unnecessary extra calories.

Palm sugar is made up 70-80% sucrose. This is similar to the amount of sucrose found in white sugar, hence, both have a very similar and non-nutritious profile. Scientific studies have linked sugar to chronic diseases such as heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

Source: mali maeder (Pexels)

The verdict?

Palm sugar is marketed as a healthier alternative to table sugar. It does offer slightly offer more benefits than the empty calories of white sugar due to its mineral and phytochemical content. However, these minerals and phytochemicals are easily found in a healthy and balanced diet of fruits and vegetables.

Palm sugar is still sugar (up to 80% sucrose) and is not really a healthier alternative to white sugar. It should be enjoyed minimally, amongst a whole foods, plant based diet.

Categories
Recipes

Vegan Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)

Do you like fish sauce? If you’re vegetarian or vegan then this Vegan Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce) recipe is for you!

And if you don’t like fish sauce, wait! This vegan fish sauce is also perfect for you!

Why?

This Vegan Nuoc Mam recipe doesn’t have any fish in it. There are no anchovies, no fishy extracts and no strong fermented fish smell. It’s perfect for those who haven’t tried fish sauce because of the smell. A few of my friends love the flavour of fish sauce but the smell was too much for them. Once I introduced them to this recipe, they have been using it for everything!

The recipe will make the fish sauce (nuoc mam) similar to the ones found in the bottles at Asian grocery stores. I refer to this as the ‘base’ fish sauce. It’s used primarily to cook and season food.

A glass jar of vegan fish sauce with salt  sprinkled on top of the wooden table
A fish sauce substitute – vegan!

You can also use it as a Vietnamese dipping sauce. However, Vietnamese dipping sauces are usually another creation of their own. Check out my recipe here which shows you how to make a Viet dipping sauce (nuoc cham) recipe.

Fish sauce is a staple Vietnamese sauce. The nuoc mam sauce is used in everything. Firstly, the base can be used to flavour and season foods simmering on the stove. When turned into a nuoc cham sauce, It’s used as a dipping sauce for spring rolls, cold rolls, Vietnamese pancakes (banh xeo) and so on. It also serves as a dressing for Vietnamese salads (goi) and vermicelli (bun) bowls.

When I became plant based I missed fish sauce so much. My Vietnamese dishes weren’t the same. I used soy sauce as an alternative but it wasn’t the same. Fish sauce brings significant flavours to a dish. The sauce has layers of different tastes ranging from sweet, salty to sour – so yummy!

A tablespoon of salt with salt sprinkled on a wooden table
Fish sauce brings an array of flavours, namely salty tones that enhance lots of Vietnamese dishes

So I was very happy when I came up with this fish sauce vegetarian substitute. Kudos to my Mum and sister who helped me! Now I regularly use it in my Vietnamese vegetarian recipes.

Vegan Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce) Recipe

This Viet fish sauce is vegetarian and vegan-friendly.

We’ll be using pineapple and rock sugar as the sweetener base. I prefer using fresh pineapples but you can use canned pineapples too – drain the syrup water first.

An induction cooker with pineapple chunks and rock sugar used to make vegan nuoc mam
Include all of the pineapple flesh including the core

Chinese rock sugar can be found at Asian grocery stores. They are irregular lumps of crystallised, refined sugar. Rock sugar provides a sweetness that isn’t as overwhelming and strong as white or brown sugar. It has no caramel tones and is perfect to create the sweet base of the fish sauce. Middle eastern countries use it in their tea for this reason.

Multiple crystallised rocks of refined sugar on a scale
Rock sugar is commonly used to sweeten up tea in Middle Eastern countries

We add in some drops of soy sauce to achieve the golden amber of normal fish sauce. The soy sauce will enhance the saltiness and umami flavour of the sauce. However its flavour is not the point of the ingredient, we add it to give it a nice colouring. Make sure you mix the sauce well after every drop to ensure you get your perfect colour without overdoing it (high school chemistry titrations anyone?).

The soy sauce gives the fish sauce a beautiful golden aroma

Unlike many other sauces, fish sauce is an individual taste. Some like it salty, others like it sweeter. This is reflected in the varying tastes across the brands of fish sauce. This recipe gives you the perfect base to adjust it according to your liking. Add more salt, sugar or soy sauce. But just make sure to add it while it’s still hot so that the granules dissolve.

Ingredients

  • 1.5L water
  • 1 pineapple, roughly chopped (or canned pineapples)
  • 270g rock sugar
  • 60g salt
  • Several drops of soy sauce – depends on how dark you like it to look.

How to Make Vegan Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)

  1. Heat the water, pineapple chuncks and rock sugar on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat o low-medium. Cover with a lid and simmer for 90 minutes. Reduce the heat further if necessary.
  3. Drain the liquid into a bowl through a sieve.
  4. Add in salt and soy sauce while it’s still hot. Stir after every drop of soy sauce to find an amber colour to your liking.
  5. Let it cool and store in air-tight jar for up to 5 days in the fridge.
Any ideas on how to use these leftover pineapples? They’re super sweet, soaked in rock sugar water!

Scientific Health Benefits

I love talking about the health benefits of the ingredients in my recipes. It’s interesting to learn about the latest science and is a motive to eat healthy. Unfortunately I can’t really say much about this recipe due to the ingredients. The healthiest thing in there were the pineapple chunks… but we didn’t even eat them!

But it also leads to an important discussion about ‘healthy eating’ and my approach as an individual and health professional.

Although I would say that my diet on the whole is healthy, I am not perfect. I grew up eating meat for 22 years. I have successfully transitioned into a plant-based diet. Now my next goal is to become fully whole foods, plant based. But again, as a kid growing up in this 21st century, I grew up eating a lot of processed foods. AND IT’S EVERYWHERE! Whole foods is hard.

Also, coming from a Vietnamese background, Vietnamese food is part of me. Although fish sauce or vegan fish sauce isn’t classified as too healthy, it lets me enjoy my culture with myself, my friends and my family. So as with anything, you have to weight up the benefits and negatives. My quality of life is much better if I enjoy this ‘unhealthy’ treat once in a while especially if it means I can eat my favourite Vietnamese dishes with my closest ones.

So as a health professional and a personal trainer, I encourage people to adopt a plant based diet with mainly whole foods. However, the journey to that is difficult. It’s ok to eat unhealthy once in a while and in moderation. If that particular ‘unhealthy’ food sits somewhere close to your heart? Go for it! As long as you make up the other 90% with healthy eating and exercise.