Here’s a quick guide to plant-based milk options, a listing of nondairy milks that’s bound to grow in the years ahead. Vegans don’t use dairy milk due to a conscious choice to avoid any animal products. For others, it’s because of allergy or lactose intolerance.
Making milk-like beverages from nuts, seeds, or oats isn’t anything new. Almond milk was a common item in medieval kitchens; before the age of refrigeration, nut milk kept better than animals’ milk. Likely, nut milks were being made long before then, as they’re an easy thing to accomplish, with little equipment.
The notion that no one really needs cow’s milk (unless you’re a calf!) is spreading. A number of companies have jumped onto the bandwagon with a growing array of plant-based milk options.
Do it yourself: If you’d like to make your own plant milks, there are lots of easy recipes and video tutorials online (some are linked to in the entries below). Here’s this site’s roundup of recipes for plant-based milks and creams. Your fresh homemade vegan milks will be delicious, though they won’t have the generous enrichment provided by commercial brands.
With the milks themselves providing a nourishing base (almonds, for example, are rich in calcium, and hemp seeds are a good source of valuable omega fatty acids), manufacturers add in extra calcium and vitamin D, and often, vitamin B-12. So seriously, there are few reasons to continue drinking cow’s milk when the alternatives are plentiful and good.
One note of caution — many alternative milks are naturally sweet, so opt for unsweetened versions. Sweetened nondairy milks can be high in sugar.
Milks made from nuts, seeds, grains, and soybeans aren’t “fake” anything. We humans have an innate penchant for a milky, subtly sweet liquid due to our sense memories. No need to give that up, the growing array of varieties available today, all better than getting your milk from a cow.
Naturally high in Vitamin E and calcium, almond milk has a naturally sweet flavor and a thick, rich consistency that belies the fact that it’s amazingly low in calories — just 30 to 40 calories a cup. Commercial brands of almond milk are also enriched with Vitamin D and B12. Almond Breeze by Blue Diamond and Silk are popular almond milk brands that can be found in your local health foods store or supermarket.
Here we’re not talking about the liquid that comes out of a coconut when you crack it open. I’m talking about the delicious, nutty, milky white extract that comes from the grated pulp of a mature coconut mixed with water. It is a more diluted version of the coconut milk that’s usually sold in cans but has the same creamy texture and subtle coconut flavor.
Coconut milk has the lowest protein and carbohydrate content of the nondairy milks on the list and is perfect for those looking to decrease their carb intake. You can make your own by adding water to full-fat coconut milk or you can go to your local supermarket for refrigerated carton coconut milk from brands like So Delicious and Pacific Foods.
Photo: Elena’s Pantry
Cashew milk has a rich and creamy consistency that’s perfect for recipes that result in a thick and velvety consistency. It’s loaded with beneficial fats, proteins, and a variety of vitamins and minerals that promote heart health, strong bones, and other benefits.
Brands such as So Delicious and Silk, make cashew milk and can be found in the refrigerator section of your local natural foods store and well-stocked supermarkets.
Photo: Hudson River Foods
Like the hemp seeds from which it’s made, hemp milk is rich in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, essential amino acids, a multitude of vitamins, and a plethora of minerals, including a generous amount of calcium. All of that adds up to an amazing nondairy alternative. In addition, hemp milk is beneficial for skin health and protection against heart disease. Just writing this makes me want to pour a cupful for myself!
The slightly nutty taste and creamy texture of hemp milk make it perfect for baked and savory dishes, or simply pour yourself a glass of this delicious beverage and enjoy. Pacific Foods, Living Harvest, and Hudson River Foods are just a few hemp milk brands that can be found in natural foods stores and supermarkets.
Photo: Rising Tide Market
Though seen as unusual nut milk, macadamia milk is incredibly delicious as it has a rich, full-bodied taste. It is high in iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium, and manganese, and is almost entirely monounsaturated fat (MUFA), the same kind of food fat provided by olive oil. According to the American Heart Association, one should consume this type of fat, as it lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Milkadamia is currently the only brand in supermarkets selling macadamia milk. Lucky, making your own macadamia milk at home is very easy! Follow Minimalist Baker’s two ingredient recipe for tasty homemade macadamia milk.
In addition to containing a modest yet significant amount of fiber (something you won’t find in cow’s milk), oat milk contains a good amount of calcium and iron. It also has twice as much vitamin A as cow’s milk.
Compared to nut milk, oat milk has creamier texture without any added ingredients, since oats absorb more water than nuts. This makes it great for your morning coffee (oat milk creamers, which can be found in nearly every supermarket are even better for that than straight oat milk) or as a liquid base for smoothies. Popular oat milk brands sold in virtually any supermarket or natural foods store include Pacific Foods and Oatly. If you’d like to make your own, here is a recipe on Minimalist Baker.
Photo: Z Living
As a beverage alone, rice milk not as palatable as the others because of its thin consistency. But for soups, especially, plain unsweetened rice milk works well due to its neutral flavor.
Rice milk is enriched with vitamins and minerals, but it’s not as much of a powerhouse as almond and hemp milk. Nonetheless, it’s notable for its high magnesium content. Rice Dream by Imagine Foods sells a variety of rice milk flavors ranging from eggnog, chocolate, vanilla, and more.
Many supermarkets sells Rice Dream products. Or, if you have extra rice laying around, here is a simple rice milk recipe by Minimalist Baker.
Photo: Food Facts
If you use tofu and tempeh regularly, you may not want to add yet another soy food to your daily diet. Soy milk is one of the first nondairy milks to burst onto the scene, and it can be used in beverages or for cooking (such as in soups, sauces, or other creamy dishes). But note that its beany, slightly sweet taste asserts itself in ways that can intrude in certain dishes.
There is one benefit soy milk has over other nondairy milks, which is significantly more protein. Soy milk has fewer calories, less fat, no cholesterol, and lots more calcium than dairy milk, so there are plenty of good reasons to use it. Today there are many brands of soy milk that you can find in your local supermarket but the most popular one is Silk.
For an easy plant-based milk recipe that does not require straining, try sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds are significantly cheaper than nuts, so preparing sunflower milk goes much easier on your wallet than nut milk. Sunflower milk is also rich in magnesium, vitamin E, and selenium, so you can saving money without having to miss out on any health benefits that other nondairy milks offer.
Sunflower milk is lightly sweet with a refreshing taste making it a great everyday vegan milk. Make your own right at home in no more than ten minutes using this recipe by The Blender Girl.
Photo: Natural Bliss
Plant-based milk creamers
Many of these plant-based milk options are also available as creamers. These include So Delicious and Silk, both of whom offer creamers in a variety of flavors, such as caramel, vanilla, and more. Not listed above are International Delight and Natural Bliss by Coffee Mate, both of which are coffee creamer brands that have recently started creating vegan creamers. Another company of note is Califia Farms, which creates a variety of vegan beverages and creamers, primarily from almond and oat milk.
Skyler Isabella Gomez is a 2019 SUNY New Paltz graduate with a degree in Public Relations and a minor in Black Studies. Her passions include learning about the ethical and environmental benefits of veganism to create a better world for generations to come.
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