When it comes to coconut milk, there are more than a few uses for this. Many people make use of it in the kitchen, where it acts as one of the core ingredients in many Thai dishes and other dishes from the area. More and more people have also been making use of coconut milk as a drink of its own for its natural vitamins and nutrients in it.

Coconut milk, however, doesn’t always have the most appealing appearance, especially if you are going for the most natural coconut milk that you can find. Coconut milk is, in a sense, an emulsion of the coconut oils, the protein, and the high water content that is found in the coconut itself.

When it sits in a can for a long period of time, these layers begin to separate and the oil and the proteins of the coconut milk that have bonded to the water will form two distinct layers that you then have to mix together. In completely natural coconut milk, the natural appearance of that coconut protein can be somewhat off-putting.

The coconut milk itself will have a variance in color. Its natural color can range from the standard snow white that everyone thinks of when they think of milk to a rather unappetizing light gray color. When you see a drink that is gray, your instinct might be to avoid it, and this would make sense. Anything that has the name “milk” attached to it should not be gray, right?

While this is absolutely true for dairy milk, this doesn’t hold as much ground for plant-based milks such as coconut milk. Due to the natural variance of colors in coconut proteins and the differences in the processing needed to make coconut milk, perfectly healthy and in-date coconut milk can easily have a very light gray tinge to it. At the same time, a gray tint to your coconut milk can also be indicative that the milk has expired. How do you know the difference between the two?

Figuring out the difference between naturally gray coconut milk and expired gray coconut milk is a fine line. One will be safe for you to cook and use, while the other will likely smell off and taste even worse if you try to cook it into something.

Thankfully, there are a few ways to determine if the grayness of your coconut milk is natural or if it is a sign that you need to replace the coconut milk.

A Naturally Grey Coconut Milk

More often than not, the coconut milks that are just naturally gray are going to be the organic and all-natural coconut milks. Many companies will try to beautify the appearance of their coconut milk with whitening agents and other ingredients to try and have it retain the appearance of a “milk,” even if that was not the original state of the coconut milk itself.

This means that, first things first, you are going to want to check the ingredients of the milk. If the only ingredient in the list is coconut milk, or even perhaps a little bit of added water, then this is a sign that as long as your coconut milk is within its best-by range, then it may just have a natural gray tinge to it, as unpleasant as it may be to look at.

Problematic Grey Coconut Milk

Another thing that you can do is check for signs that the coconut milk is beginning to expire. You should start with checking the expiry date on the can and seeing how close to expiring the can of milk is.

Especially if it is a natural coconut milk with no preservatives in it and it is gray while also being past that expiry date, then this is a sign that your coconut milk needs to go away. As with any other food that you are checking the freshness of, you can also do a sniff or a taste test.

Spoiled coconut milk will not smell good. If your coconut milk doesn’t smell right, then you should not try and ingest it, even if it is a nice white color. You should, instead, throw it out because this is a crystal-clear sign that your coconut milk is spoiled beyond a date that you could possibly make use out of it.

Another way to test your coconut milk is to give it a small taste. With a small enough taste, you will be able to get a sense of the quality of the milk, while also not ingesting enough of it to get yourself sick.

Chances are that if you are working with coconut milk, then you already have a sense of how it should taste. Spoiled coconut milk will taste one of two ways. One way is that it might have a sweet tinge to it, an unpleasantly sweet taste that doesn’t fit naturally with how the coconut milk has tasted before.

Another taste that your coconut milk can pick up is the taste of the can itself. When coconut sits still long enough and is left in the can for too long, depending on the can’s material, it might begin to pick up on some of that metallic taste and color.

If you taste something akin to tin in your coconut milk and it also has tinges of gray in it, then this is a sign that it is picking up the metal of the can it was in and is no longer viable for cooking and should be disposed of. Nobody wants to use metallic milk in their foods.

These are all the most common reasons why your coconut milk may have a gray appearance to it. Within certain limitations and circumstances, a light gray coconut milk is actually completely normal, as this might reflect the color of the coconut that was used to create the milk from.

This is only acceptable when the coconut milk is still within its date, smells and tastes fresh, and doesn’t have any preserving or whitening agents in the ingredients. Otherwise, if your can of coconut milk has turned gray, it may just be time to throw it out and find a new can of the milk that you can make your food out of.

Author

I have a bachelor's degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I'm home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard.

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