A Guide To The Best Milk Alternatives

There has been a continuous rise in the popularity of plant-based foods as more people switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet.

This has increased the options available to those who want to forgo using animal products, making a plant-based diet easier than ever to follow.

A Guide To The Best Milk Alternatives

One plant-based product that is starting to become more popular is plant-based milk. These milk alternatives have proven to be well-liked, even among those who follow a traditional diet that includes animal products.

This guide to the most widely used non-dairy milks will help you choose the one that is best for you, whether you are a vegan or you simply prefer non-dairy milks.

What Are Milk Alternatives?

Alternative milks, often known as non-dairy or plant-based milks, have recently gained a lot of popularity.

Although many people who consume other dairy products still opt to use a milk alternative instead of cow’s milk, these products are still primarily consumed by those who are allergic to dairy, intolerant to dairy, or vegan.

The one thing that all these milk substitutes have in common is that they are plant-based, despite the fact that they differ in terms of nutritional value, flavor, and texture.

This means that they are derived from plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes rather than being obtained from an animal.

The most common method for making homemade plant-based milks is to soak the nuts or seeds, blend them with water, and then filter the liquid through cheesecloth.

You can also add flavorings like salt, dates, or vanilla.

The difference between store-bought alternatives is that they frequently contain calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.

To enhance texture and shelf life, stabilizers and emulsifiers are frequently added. These goods typically come in both sweetened and unsweetened varieties.

The Best Milk Alternatives

There are many non-dairy milks currently on the market, so there are a lot to choose from when finding the best milk alternative for you. Here are some of the most popular plant-based milks.

Almond Milk

Almond Milk

Almond milk is made by blending almonds with water and is a popular alternative to cow’s milk. It is typically available in sweetened and unsweetened varieties, with the latter being the healthier choice.

Almonds in their entire form are a fantastic source of nutrients, but the milk-making procedure removes most of these nutrients from almond milk.

A significant amount of the fiber that comes from almonds is lost when the almond shells are skimmed from the milk.

The amount of nutrients you receive from drinking almond milk is less concentrated than what you would receive from eating almonds.

Check the number of almonds used to manufacture the milk and the amount of additional water it contains if you’re curious about the amount of nutrients your almond milk has.

You can choose the healthiest almond milk brand for you by taking a little time to compare various varieties at the grocery store.

Although it’s not overbearing, almond milk does have a subtle nutty flavor that you may notice if you’re drinking it or using it to make breakfast cereal.

Additionally, almond milk has a creamy texture that makes it similar to cow’s milk.

Nutritional Comparison To Cow’s Milk

  • Calories – 30
  • Fat – 2.5 grams
  • Carbs – 1 gram
  • Sugar – 0 grams
  • Fiber – <1 gram
  • Protein – 1 gram
  • Calcium – 30% of the daily value (DV)
  • Vitamin D – 10% of the DV
  • Other features – good source of vitamins E and A

Cashew Milk

Cashew Milk

If nut milk appeals to you, cashew milk can be a better option than almond milk. Cashew milk is prepared from whole cashew nuts and water and is creamy and thick like its almond counterpart.

Since cashew milk works well as a substitute for cow’s milk in most recipes, switching to plant-based milk won’t change how your favorite dishes turn out.

Two grams of fat, 45% of the daily needed calcium intake, and 25% of the daily recommended vitamin D intake can all be found in one cup of store-bought cashew milk.

However, it has almost no fiber and extremely little protein.

You can easily make your own cashew milk if you want to add more protein and fiber to your current supply.

Making it at home doesn’t require straining, so it has more protein and fiber but lacks the calcium and vitamin D that are generally added to store-bought alternatives.

Nutritional Comparison To Cow’s Milk

  • Calories – 25
  • Fat – 2 grams
  • Carbs – 1 gram
  • Sugar – 0 grams
  • Fiber – 0 grams
  • Protein – <1 gram
  • Calcium – 45% of the DV
  • Vitamin D – 25% of the DV
  • Other features – good source of vitamins E and A

Oat Milk

Oat Milk

The extremely well-liked oat milk comes next.

Oat milk is particularly foamy, making it a perfect complement to any aspiring barista’s kitchen and guaranteeing that you can consistently create coffee of a professional standard.

Since oat milk is easier to produce than many nut milks sold today, you might be able to get some at your local grocery store for a low price.

Oats are soaked, blended, and then strained to produce oat milk. In contrast to other milks that require the addition of extra ingredients to create this texture, it has a very creamy texture by nature.

One cup of oat milk typically contains 2.5g of fat, 35% of the daily necessary calcium consumption, and 25% of the daily recommended vitamin D intake.

While it has a lower protein content than cow’s milk, it often has a higher protein content than other plant-based milk substitutes.

Additionally, each serving of oat milk has 2 grams of fiber, as opposed to none in cow’s milk.

Oat milk has a remarkably faint flavor, making it difficult to detect when added to hot drinks or food.

However, its somewhat thicker texture makes it stand out in creamy soups, desserts, coffees, smoothies, and baked goods.

Nutritional Comparison To Cow’s Milk

  • Calories – 80
  • Fat – 3 grams
  • Carbs – 11 grams
  • Sugar – 2-4 grams
  • Fiber – 1 gram
  • Protein – 2 grams
  • Calcium – 35% of the DV
  • Vitamin D – 20% of the DV
  • Other features – good source of vitamins A and B2 (riboflavin)

Soy Milk

Soy Milk

One of the plant-based milk alternatives that has been available for the longest time is soy milk, which is prepared by soaking and crushing soybeans.

Soy milk, which has 2.4g of protein per 100 ml, is your best choice if you want to replace cow’s milk while maintaining your protein intake. With only 1.6g of fat per 100 ml, soy milk has one of the lowest fat contents.

If you’re looking for the best plant-based substitute for milk, medical specialists advise switching to soy products and choosing unsweetened, calcium-fortified dairy substitutes.

Since soy milk doesn’t have a distinct flavor, it’s a fantastic substitute for cow’s milk because you’re not likely to taste the difference.

Nutritional Comparison To Cow’s Milk

  • Calories – 80
  • Fat – 4 grams
  • Carbs – 3 grams
  • Sugar – 1 gram
  • Fiber – 2 grams
  • Protein – 7 grams
  • Calcium – 20% of the DV
  • Vitamin D – 15% of the DV
  • Other features – good source of vitamin A, folate, and vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Pea Milk

Pea Milk

Given that pea protein is now a widespread element of many meat substitutes available at stores, trying pea milk as a milk substitute is unquestionably worthwhile.

Yellow peas are used to make pea milk, but don’t worry, it doesn’t taste at all like peas!

This means that even if you don’t like peas, you can still take advantage of the newest product on the market for plant-based milk.

In fact, many claim that of all the plant milks available, pea milk tastes the most like cow’s milk.

Yellow peas are ground into flour, which is then combined with water and additional ingredients – usually sunflower oil – to make amazing plant-based milk.

Pea milk is a super-healthy milk substitute since it is high in protein and fiber while being low in saturated fat.

It includes about 8g of protein per serving and about 50% more calcium than cow’s milk following calcium fortification.

Potassium, vitamin D, vitamin A, and iron are among the other vitamins and nutrients that pea milk is rich in.

Nutritional Comparison To Cow’s Milk

  • Calories – 70
  • Fat – 4.5 grams
  • Carbs – <1 grams
  • Sugar – 0 gram
  • Fiber – <1 grams
  • Protein – 8 grams
  • Calcium – 35% of the DV
  • Vitamin D – 30% of the DV
  • Other features – good source of vitamin A and potassium

Coconut Milk

Coconut Milk

Since coconut oil started to appear in our kitchen cabinets and cosmetic routines, coconut has become a more widely used product.

With that said, coconut milk is also the great milk alternative that you’re looking for.

While coconut milk is available in cans and is commonly used in the preparation of desserts and curries alike, it is not the same as the plant-based milk substitute that is prepared by combining coconut cream and water.

Coconut milk may appear to be a much healthier choice because it has around half as many calories as the same amount of skim milk.

However, since coconut milk doesn’t include any protein, you’ll need to take additional steps to meet your daily protein needs.

It’s definitely advisable to stay away from coconut milk if you don’t enjoy the flavor of coconut. Although it has a lovely, creamy texture, it tastes strongly like coconut and might seem off in your cup of coffee.

Nevertheless, it’s a fantastic addition when cooking pastries or baking, and it even adds a little flavor to your favorite breakfast cereal.

Nutritional Comparison To Cow’s Milk

  • Calories – 40
  • Fat – 4 grams
  • Carbs – 1 gram
  • Sugar – 0 grams
  • Fiber – 0 grams
  • Protein – 0 grams
  • Calcium – 35% of the DV
  • Vitamin D – 10% of the DV
  • Other features – good source of vitamins A and E

Rice Milk

Rice Milk

Rice milk is made from milled rice and water, and because it doesn’t contain any milk, soy, or nuts, it is said to be the milk substitute that is least likely to trigger an allergic reaction.

Rice milk has a relatively low protein content, much like a number of other plant-based milks.

It is also quite high in carbohydrates, making it the least preferable option for those who need a high-protein diet, such as those who have diabetes or those who are elderly.

Rice milk typically has 120 calories and 2 grams of fat per cup.

Since rice milk has a moderate flavor and is naturally rather sweet, it might perform better in cooking and baking with sweeteer ingredients.

However, rice milk also has a very watery nature, so making frothy coffee with it might not be possible.

When looking for the best milk substitute for a recipe, keep in mind that milk with this consistency is also more likely to split when heated.

Nutritional Comparison To Cow’s Milk

  • Calories – 70
  • Fat – 2.5 grams
  • Carbs – 11 grams
  • Sugar – <1 gram
  • Fiber – 0 grams
  • Protein – 0 grams
  • Calcium – 25% of the DV
  • Vitamin D – 25% of the DV
  • Other features – good source of phosphorus and vitamin A

Less Popular Milk Alternatives

Here are some more plant-based milks you might take into consideration if none of these sound appealing to you.

You might have to visit your local health food store if you can’t find them at your local Walmart, as not all plant milks will be available there.

  • Peanut milk
  • Hemp milk
  • Quinoa milk
  • Flax milk
  • Spelt milk
  • Pistachio milk
  • Banana milk
  • Sesame milk
  • Hazelnut milk
  • Walnut milk
  • Macadamia milk

Why Are Milk Alternatives Better Than Cow’s Milk?

Quinoa milk

Plant milk has been finding its way into our refrigerators for a variety of reasons other than the increased interest in going vegan in recent years.

Here are just a few reasons why people are switching from cow’s milk to other available substitutes.

Health Benefits

Finding a healthy substitute for milk is a major factor in switching to plant-based milk.

There is no doubting the abundance of vitamins and minerals in cow’s milk, including calcium, protein, vitamin B12, and iodine.

Milk consumption is also promoted for young children in order to promote strong bone growth. However, milk might not be all that beneficial for us as we age.

Whole milk normally contains 3.5% fat, although there are lower-fat varieties as well, such as semi-skimmed milk, which has 1.5% fat, and skimmed milk, which has 0.3% fat.

Adults and older children are advised by medical practitioners to limit their intake of fat in order to minimize weight gain.

Many people also worry about possible contaminants, such as extra hormones, that could enter our milk from the cow that produced it.

Therefore, if you want to know exactly what is in your milk, a plant-based milk substitute is probably better for you.

The Environment

The detrimental effects that the dairy industry has on the environment are a major factor in why so many people are abandoning cow’s milk.

According to some estimates, the production of meat and dairy products contributes the most greenhouse gasses to the planet’s atmosphere.

Big tracts of land are being used for farming in order to support large herds of dairy cattle and feed them with additional crops.

In fact, agriculture occupies more than half of the planet’s livable territory, reducing its biodiversity.

A large variety of meat alternatives and non-dairy milk options are now available, making the switch much simpler than it once was for those who wanted to give up meat and dairy for environmental reasons.

Nowadays, plant-based alternatives are also significantly less expensive, so buying cow’s milk isn’t always the most economical choice at the grocery store.

Dairy Intolerance

Many people have food intolerances, which prevent them from eating particular foods without becoming ill.

After infancy, about 65% of the world’s population loses the ability to digest lactose, making foods like milk, cheese, and butter harmful to them.

While lactose-free goods are readily available, lactose-intolerant consumers can now choose from a wide variety of plant-based milk options to discover the milk substitute that best suits their tastes.

The Dairy Industry

Another common reason for avoiding dairy is the belief that it is cruel and unnecessary, especially in light of the availability of plant-based alternatives for all dairy products, including milk, most varieties of cheese, yogurt, cream, and even custard.

Typically, dairy cows give birth to calves that are removed from them and used in the meat industry, while the dairy sector uses the dairy cows’ milk supply to supply consumers.

Even though consumer awareness of the cruelty of intensive farming techniques has increased recently, many people still believe that dairy farming is unnecessary and look for alternatives to cow’s milk.

How To Store Milk Alternatives

If you’ve finally determined which milk substitute is best for you and your family, you might be wondering how to store it properly.

It’s important to store plant milk in the refrigerator at home if you get it from the refrigerated department of your grocery store. The various types of milk you purchase will each have their own storage recommendations.

Once opened, chilled plant milk typically has a short shelf life and should be consumed within a few days.

You can produce your own plant milk at home. This can be a smart move because you can buy your ingredients in large quantities and only make milk when you actually need it.

To keep your milk cool and safe to consume, you must store it in the refrigerator after you’ve made it.

How To Choose The Best Milk Alternative For You

Knowing a little bit more about some of the most popular milk substitutes available today, you can choose the one you like by trying as many as you can.

Here are a few things to think about when deciding which plant milk will be your long-term substitute for cow’s milk.

Do You Have An Allergy?

Regardless of their nutritional value, several of these alternative milks may not be an option if you have a food allergy.

Remember that alternative milks are lactose and dairy-free unless the label specifically states otherwise.

The best solutions for a few typical allergies are shown below:

  • For nut allergies – Soy or oat milk is the best option. Soy will have a higher protein content, while oat milk will have a nuttier flavor.
  • For gluten allergies or intolerances – This depends on the ingredients present in the milk. Be sure to check the label before you choose a plant-based milk.
  • For soy allergies – You should choose pea milk, almond milk, or oat milk. Nutritionally speaking, pea milk is the most similar to soy milk, whereas oat and almond milk have a sweeter and nuttier flavor.
  • For multiple allergies – Pea milk is the best choice because it is nut-free, lactose-free, gluten-free, and soy-free.

How Does It Taste On Its Own?

See if you enjoy the flavor of each plant-based milk by sipping a glass of it on its own before drinking more. This taste test is important if you frequently drink milk.

How Does It Taste In Hot Drinks?

Even if the plant-based milk you try has a pleasant flavor, not all of them behave consistently in tea and coffee.

Even though they may taste good, some of them split or become lumpy when they touch boiling water, which makes your drink less than appetizing.

Finding the ideal plant-based milk substitute for your daily coffee may take some time because there are some varieties that are made to get extra frothy and function better in coffee.

How Does It Taste In Cooking Or Baking?

It’s essential to see whether some of your favorite recipes turn out the same and taste the same when made with plant-based milk.

Even though almond milk may be your favorite at the breakfast table, you might not want the almond flavor to come through in your scrambled eggs, for example.

Choose the plant milk that doesn’t change your tried-and-true recipes after testing a few different varieties with a range of recipes.

It’s important to do some research and identify the best milk substitute for all of your needs because you might have to use one type of plant-based milk for your tea and coffee but another type for cooking.

Final Thoughts

There are so many different plant-based milk alternatives to choose from, and with this guide, you’ll be able to choose the right one for you!

When choosing the best plant-based milk, keep in mind the flavor, how it reacts in hot drinks, how it fairs when cooking, the nutritional value, and any allergens that might be present.

If you do, you’ll have no trouble finding an amazing plant-based milk alternative to cow’s milk.

Matt Sommersville