The Truth About Coconut Milk
When consistency of a single product is so varied across the multiple brands that produce it, it begs the question: what is the defining difference in a product that claims to have the same ingredient but has a completely different texture? This is a common question that we receive in regards to the coconut milk sold on our website, and the answer is shockingly telling of the quality of the coconut milks you are purchasing.
Many brands of coconut milk have smooth, creamy, and consistent textures. Though beautiful, the process in which the milk undergoes to achieve this is not as natural as squeezing the milk from a coconut’s flesh and canning it. Since fats and water do not mix, some measures must be taken to achieve this familiar consistency. Most of the time, these measures will include the addition of various types of emulsifiers / stabilizers, the most common one being modified cornstarch. Carboxymethyl cellulose is also often added, in addition to xanthan gum and / or carageenan. Guar gum is also generally added in small amounts, and out of all of these it is the only additive to be declared on most labels. In order to preserved the milk and give it a whiter colour, sulfites as well as citric acid will also normally be added. All in all, this will yield a very smooth and creamy coconut milk with a brilliant white colour, but at a cost - most of these additives are often derived from GMO ingredients, and several can also cause significant health damage. These additives are very commonly used, and go mostly undeclared on ingredients labels - modified cornstarch being a prime example, as it shows up in analysis of most brands of Thai coconut milk, even organic ones that claim only to use guar gum.
To give an explanation as to why the texture is different from what other brands offer, first we’ll describe the way in which coconut milk is processed. In order to create the milk, fresh coconut meat is first broken down and then shredded. From this, the pure coconut cream is extracted using physical means. The coconut cream extracted contains a high percentage of fats, along with some proteins which are hydrophobic and therefore tend to agglomerate with the fats. This cream is then mixed with added water, and the mixture is what is then canned and sold as coconut milk.
As a dedicated organic health food brand with a strict policy against using any GMO derived ingredients, or any ingredients that can be harmful to one’s health, Arayuma has worked closely with their suppliers to find alternative means of achieving an excellent quality product without the use of harmful or questionable additives. Instead, Arayuma only uses a very small amount of high quality guar gum (a natural emulsifier derived from a legume, with no known health risks), and use high pressure, and stirring only, in order to break up fat globules and achieve a smoother texture.
However, despite the best measures in place, it is impossible to achieve the same texture by purely physical means as a product which has been mixed with modified cornstarch and other gelling agents. Since coconut oils naturally harden at around 24 degrees Celsius, storage temperature can also have a very significant impact on the texture and appearance of a 100% natural and pure coconut milk such as Arayuma’s. Often graininess can be due to colder storage temperatures, which tend to cause a hardening of the natural coconut oils contained in the milk. If you wish to get a smoother texture, you can blend room temperature coconut milk for a few seconds. Also, simply using it as-is while cooking will naturally melt the oils.
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