Almond Milk Vs. Soy Milk: Which Is Better?


Photo credit: Dana Hoff, StockFood

The same week that Angelenos lined up for hours to sample the goods at the first-ever Los Angelesbased Dunkin’ Donuts, the beloved coffee chain has announced it will start offering something sure to please the health-conscious set: almond milk.

"You’ve Asked and We’ve Heard!" trumpets the headline of a blog post on the Dunkin’ Donuts website. The company is now offering Almond Breeze vanilla almond milk in select stores nationwide, both to “accommodate guests looking for a non-dairy alternative” and because almond milk “is one of the country’s most popular non-dairy alternatives.”

Makes sense considering that the nut has surpassed the bean when it comes to plant-based milk sales in America, right?

Well, the execs at another “little” chain of coffee shops might quibble. Rival Starbucks currently only offers soy milk (also vanilla-flavored) despite the fact that lots of customers have been begging for the almond-derived stuff. According to BusinessWeek, Starbucks cites the fact that almond milk is a potential allergen as the reason it doesn’t offer it.

So which is the better non-dairy alternative? Here’s a head-to-head breakdown of the two, from taste to nutrition, with a cameo by registered dietician Patricia Bannan, MS, RD, and author of “Eat Right When Time Is Tight.”

Almond Breeze Vanilla Almond Milk Served at Dunkin’ Donuts

Taste and Texture: Even without the vanilla, almond milk often tastes sweeter than soy milk, or, as one food blogger describes it, like “the milk at the bottom of your cereal bowl after eating Grape Nuts.” It has a consistency similar to low-fat or skim milk, and a nutty flavor. (Lots of folks use it for milkshakes or smoothies because of that silky texture.)

What the Expert Says: In addition to being lower in calories than soy milk, something that’s unique to almond milk is that “one serving provides 50 percent of your daily value of Vitamin E, an antioxidant important for a strong immune system and healthy skin and eyes,” according to Bannan. Unlike soy milk, however, “almond milk is naturally low in protein.” And as is true of soy milk, it’s got more calcium than cow’s milk. 

Nutritional Stats for One Cup: 80 calories; 25 calories from fat; 2.5 grams of fat; 14 grams of carbohydrates; 1 gram of protein; 13 grams of sugar; 45% of daily calcium value.

Organic Vanilla Soy Milk Served at Starbucks

Taste and Texture: Soy milk typically doesn’t have as sweet a flavor as almond milk, but tends to have a creamier consistency, making it a good coffee creamer. Many find the texture of some soy milks to be unpleasantly chalky, and others describe the taste as “beany.” (It is made from soybeans, after all). 

What the Expert says: “It’s a good source of heart-healthy soy protein, providing 6 to 8 grams per serving,” says Bannan. “Soy milk will provide more B vitamins like folate, more magnesium and potassium as compared to almond milk, and has slightly less sodium.”

Nutritional Stats for One Cup: 130 calories; 25 calories from fat; 4 grams of fat; 35 calories from fat 16 grams of carbohydrates; 7 grams of protein; 13 grams of sugar; 30% of calcium daily value.

We’re Inclined to Sip: Almond Milk.

Overall, a lot of people just seem to prefer the taste and texture of almond milk over soy these days (probably part of the reason it’s surpassed its rival in sales recently) and despite the fact the term “soy latte” is a lot more familiar than “almond latte,” the stuff does work well in coffee.

Add all that to the lower-calorie and higher-calcium factors, and Dunkin’, here we come.