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Ditching Dairy? Here's Your Guide To Plant-Based Milk Substitutes

March 19, 2021

almonds and almond milk

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A question we hear all the time: what can I use instead of milk? The answer: get a pen, because it's a long list. 

Although the plant-based milk craze seems like a modern thing, the truth is that milks from non-dairy sources have been around for a long time. Recipes using almond milk date back to more than a thousand years ago, when almond milk was a common ingredient in foods from the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. Early records show that soy milk was consumed in China in the fourteenth century. 

Today, there are many types of non-dairy milks available for purchase or to make at home. How do you know which one to choose? Read on to learn the pros and cons of thirteen different plant-based milks.

 

almond milk

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What Is The Healthiest Milk Alternative?

The answer to that question depends on what nutrients you're looking for, and whether or not you have allergies and sensitivities to certain kinds of plants. If you're looking for extra protein, pea and soy milk have the highest protein content of the plant-based milks, but are not advised for anyone with an allergy to soy or legumes. Walnut  milk is loaded with antioxidants, and coconut milk has lots of fats. If you follow a keto diet, skip the high carb milks like oat and opt for the fattier low-carb options like coconut and macadamia. 

 

Which Milk Alternative Tastes The Most Like Milk?

The general opinion is that oat milk tastes the most like dairy, with soy milk coming in as a close second. However, when using plant-based milk in recipes, coconut milk is the best substitute for milk and cream, especially in desserts or cream soups. At the opposite end of the flavor spectrum, flax and pea milks taste the least like cow's milk. 

Have you ever tried Milk Tea? Click here to learn why Milk Tea is one of the hottest tea trends

 

plant based milk in mason jar

 

Which Is The Best Tasting Milk Alternative?

This is a tough one to answer, because flavor preference and mouthfeel is subjective. Almond milk is so mild and versatile, and has a smooth, fresh flavor. Banana milk is yummy if you love bananas. Hazelnut milk has a delicious nuttiness, and macadamia nut milk is rich and decadent. Try a few, and if you're not making it yourself, pay attention to the ingredient list and sugar content. 

 

Thirteen Different Types Of Plant Milks

Almond Milk

Almond milk is one of the most popular types of milks. The flavor is neutral and mild, and it's versatile. Almond milk is much lower in calories than cow's milk, and contains vitamin E, which is nourishing for your skin. 

Almond milk can be used in place of milk in many recipes, including tea lattes.

Avoid almond milk if you're allergic to tree nuts. When buying almond milk, read the ingredient label and do not buy if the almond milk is made with carrageenan, a thickener that is associated with causing gastric inflammation.

Flavor-wise, Califia Farms almond milk ranks pretty high, followed by Whole Foods 365 organic almond milk

 

Banana Milk

Banana milk is a newer type of plant-based milk. I discovered this when I was looking for milk alternatives for my granddaughter who has a dairy allergy. Banana milk is not as easy to find in the grocery stores as soy or almond milk, but fortunately, banana milk is a breeze to make at home. Banana milk contains more fiber than most types of milks, and is also high in potassium and electrolytes. 

Use banana milk in cereal, oatmeal, chai tea, and your favorite smoothie recipes. The flavor is banana-fresh and light, without being too sweet.

Click here for a simple recipe for homemade banana milk.

If you don't want to make your own banana milk, get the banana milk made by Mooala: it's yummy!

 

Cashew Milk

Creamy and smooth, cashew milk is becoming more popular with its round mellow flavor and high protein content. Cashew milk contains many antioxidants, as well as magnesium, potassium, and other nutrients. 

Cashew milk can be used in place of regular milk in most recipes. The flavor is mildly sweet, with a hint of nutty butteriness. 

You can get unsweetened cashew milk by Elmhurst right here

 

coconut milk

 

Coconut Milk

Rich and decadent, coconut milk contains fats that help you feel full and satisfied. Coconut milk contains iron and zinc, and is believed to reduce joint pain and inflammation. Coconut milk has a beneficial effect on your hair and skin. 

Because coconut milk is so rich, it's a delicious dairy-free substitute for full fat milk in baking and cooking. Add coconut milk to dessert teas, chai, and hot cocoa. The flavor is rich, with a mild, bland sweetness that doesn't overpower other flavors. 

My favorite brand of coconut milk comes from Native Forest. You can get that here. 

 

Flax Milk

Flax milk is made from flax seed oil blended with water. Flax milk is a safe milk substitute for people with nut and dairy allergies. Flax milk has a neutral nutty flavor, and is high in essential fatty acids that help prevent inflammation and disease. 

Use flax milk in your beverages and smoothies, and in recipes that call for dairy.

A year ago, I was taking a break from almond milk, and I got this flax milk by Good Karma. I actually enjoyed the nutty flavor. You can get that here. 

 

Hazelnut Milk

Although hazelnut milk isn't as popular as almond milk, it has a denser nutritional profile, and a bolder nut flavor. Hazelnuts contain antioxidants, B vitamins, vitamin E, folic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids, important nutrients that keep disease at bay. 

The nutty flavor of hazelnut milk is delicious, and pairs well with black tea, chai, and coffee. Add it to your smoothies, and in cereal. Avoid it if you're allergic to nuts. 

You can get unsweetened hazelnut milk here

 

hulled hemp seeds

 

Hemp Milk

Hemp milk is made from the seeds of the hemp plant. (It doesn't contain any psychoactive compounds.) Hemp milk typically contains more protein than other non-dairy milks, as it has all of the amino acids. Hemp milk also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. 

Use hemp milk in your tea, coffee, cereal, and recipes that call for milk. The flavor is nutty and earthy. 

 

Macadamia Nut Milk

Milk made from macadamia nuts is high in good fats and is believed to be beneficial for blood sugar balance. Macadamia nut milk is low in carbs, and can be enjoyed if you're on a ketogenic diet. Although it's not high in protein, it does contain an array of important vitamins and minerals. It's easy to make yourself at home. 

Macadamia nut milk can be used in place of dairy milk in just about any recipe. Because macadamia nut milk is so thick and creamy, it is a healthy and decadent ingredient in vegan lattes. The flavor pairs especially well with matcha

Here is unsweetened macadamia nut milk lightly flavored with vanilla

 

oats

 

Oat Milk

Oat milk is popular among people with lactose intolerance or nut allergies. It's made from steel-cut oats soaked in water then strained. Commercially prepared oat milk contains added vitamins and minerals, and is higher in calories and carbs than some other plant-based milks. 

Use oat milk in place of dairy milk in baking and recipes. Because many commercially made oat milks are not certified gluten-free, avoid them if you have celiac or a sensitivity to gluten.

Oat milk by Oatly seems to be the most popular in terms of taste. You can get that right here. 

 

Pea Milk

Pea milk comes from split yellow peas that are soaked in water and then strained. Of all the plant-based milks, pea milk (along with soy) ranks highest in  protein content, with approximately 8 grams of protein per serving. Pea milk is also naturally high in iron, making it a great addition to vegetarian diets. Most commercial pea milk is fortified with calcium and other vitamins and minerals.

The flavor of pea milk is similar to other non-dairy milks, with a subtle pea-like taste. The flavor is mild enough to blend in when you add it to recipes and beverages.

Here is unsweetened pea milk by Ripple with 8 mg of protein per serving

 

Rice Milk

Rice milk is made from rice and water. Commercial rice milk usually contains thickeners and sweeteners, and is fortified with vitamins and minerals. Rice milk is the least allergenic of all the plant-based milks, and is ideal for people with multiple allergies and sensitivities. 

Rice milk is sweeter than many of the other milk alternatives, and the consistency can be thinner and less creamy. It is recommended to avoid over-reliance on foods made with rice, due to the levels of arsenic. 

I like this unsweetened organic rice milk by Rice Dream. I prefer unsweetened because I don't want the extra sugar, and you can always add sweetener to your preference. You can get that here

 

Soy Milk

Milk made from soybeans is high in protein while being low in sugar and calories. When it comes to nutrition, soy milk is similar to cow's milk. Soy milk contains phytoestrogens that have been shown to protect the heart and help prevent osteoporosis. 

The smooth texture and mild flavor make soy milk a nutritious dairy alternative in beverages, smoothies, and both sweet and savory foods. Avoid soy milk if you have a soy allergy, or if you have health problems related to an imbalance of estrogen. 

There are so many brands of soy milk out there, but I prefer the 365 organic from Whole Foods. 

 

walnuts

 

Walnut Milk

Walnut milk isn't easy to find in the stores, but it can be easily made at home. Walnuts are loaded with antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, and are considered to be an important brain food. Walnuts also contain melatonin, and can help with sleep-related issues. 

When making walnut milk at home, it's important to use raw organic walnuts and they need to be soaked overnight and the soak water discarded before blending with water into milk. The flavor is creamy, with a hint of oak. Avoid with nut allergies. 

Walnut milk isn't easy to find in the grocery stores, but you can find it by Elmhurst right here. 

 

To find out more about making your own plant-based milks at home, check out this book: The New Milks by Dina Cheney

 




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