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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.

By Karen (MBBS VI, PT)

Thank you for visiting my blog! I'm a certified personal trainer and medical student with one more year (finally!) of study until I'm a doctor. I believe in a preventative and holistic approach to medicine which means I love sharing my passion for fitness and nutrition with you guys! I hope that we all can strive to be a better version of ourselves everyday.

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