Don’t let your next trip to the grocery store be spoiled by a dozen different milk substitutes. We’re here to help you avoid udder chaos.
For anyone who is lactose-intolerant, has a dairy allergy, is vegan, or just doesn’t like the taste of cow or goat milk, dairy-free milk substitutes are nothing new. To the rest of us, however, the options can be confusing, particularly with new varieties of non-dairy milk popping up every time we visit the grocery store.
While you’re probably familiar with soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk (particularly if you’ve ever ordered a coffee at Starbucks), the other options may shock you (pea milk, really?). Oh, and once the holidays roll around, don’t be surprised to find non-dairy eggnog either.
Soy milk is the OG of dairy-free milks. It's made by soaking soybeans, which have been hulled and ground, in water. Soybeans contain essential amino acids, high levels of protein, and iron, and soy milk has lower fat and cholesterol levels than regular milk, which obviously has its perks. However, studies have shown that soybeans have estrogen-like structures that may interfere with natural estrogen production and lead to certain types of cancer (particularly breast cancer).
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 110 calories, 4.5g fat, 9g carbohydrates, 6g sugar, 2g fiber, 8g protein
Try it here: Vegan Banana Bread Recipe
Alongside soy milk, almond milk is at the head of the dairy-free milk class. Following the same process as other nut-based milks, almonds get soaked in water overnight, then blended and strained until smooth to create a “milk.” Commercial almond milks are often sweetened with sugar and vanilla flavor, plus receive an added batch of vitamins. The flavor of almond milk is mild sweet, and the consistency is creamy but still drinkable.
Nutritional Value (1 cup unsweetened): 60 calories, 2.5g fat, 8g carbohydrates, 7g sugar, <1g fiber, 1g protein
Try it here: Spiced Vanilla Almond Milk
Rice milk is made by soaking uncooked brown rice in water for at least 12 hours, then blended and strained. Because it is not made with dairy or nuts, it’s safe for those with multiple food allergies or sensitives. It is thinner than soy or almond milk, with a slightly grainier flavor. It also has the highest amount of carbohydrates per cup compared to all of the other dairy-free milks profiled.
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 120 calories, 2.5g fat, 23g carbohydrates, 10g sugar, 0g fiber, 1g protein
Cashew milk is very creamy and has a distinct nutty flavor. The nuts are ground into a paste then thinned out with water and strained. When the cashew milk gets strained to remove any nut particles, most of the nutrients are left behind.
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 50 calories, 4g fat, 2g carbohydrates, 0g sugar, 0g fiber, 1g protein
Try it here: Cantaloupe Cashew Pops
Coconut milk is made by simmering coconut “meat” in water, then straining through cheesecloth. The mixture separates into two parts: coconut milk and richer, thicker coconut cream. Compared to other non-dairy milk alternatives, coconut milk is fattier and its flavor is prominent, even when combined with other ingredients. In addition to dairy-free recipes, coconut milk is a traditional ingredient in southeast Asian and east African cuisines.
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 45 calories, 4g fat, 1g carbohydrates, 1g sugar, 0g fiber, 0g protein
Hazelnut milk is made using the same process as almond milk, but is less popular than its sweeter sister. However, it packed with potassium, calcium, riboflavin, and vitamin D. Hazelnut milk is often sweetened naturally with brown rice sweetener and has a vaguely caramel flavor.
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 110 calories, 3.5g fat, 19g carbohydrates, 14g sugar, 1g fiber, 2g protein
Last year, the food industry saw a huge rise in the popularity of oat milk from a brand called Oatly. The Swedish company’s signature product was all over Instagram and in independent coffee shops everywhere. It’s made from gluten-free oats, which get soaked and milled in water to soften their texture. The bran is then removed from the oats, which leaves behind a fibrous, nutritious oat base.
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 120 calories, 5g fat, 16g carbohydrates, 7g sugar, 2 grams fiber, 3g protein
Get the Recipe: How to Make Oat Milk (It’s Easier Than You Think)
No, it’s not made with the 90’s surfer necklaces nor does it contain THC (the hallucinogenic part of the cannabis plant). Hemp milk is made from hemp seeds that get blended with water, then filtered. Hemp milk from the brand Tempt contains ten essential amino acids, which are important proteins, especially for vegans, plus omega 3 and 6 fats.
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 80 calories, 8g fat, 1g carbohydrates, 0g sugar, 0g fiber, 2g protein
We know what you’re picturing and pea milk is not green, mushy, or made with a bag of frozen veggies. Ripple, the most popular producer of pea milk, makes their product using yellow pea protein, sunflower oil, cane sugar, and added vitamins and minerals. The benefit of drinking pea milk is that one cup serves up eight grams of protein and is nut free for those allergic to soy and other nut-based milks.
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 100 calories, 4.5g fat, 6g carbohydrates, 6g sugar, 0g fiber, 8g protein
Vegan Coffee Creamer
Just because you’re dairy-free doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice morning energy. For a little extra sweetness and creaminess in your daily cup of Joe, try a vegan coffee creamer. Most dairy-free coffee creamers are either made with an almond milk or coconut milk base, then sweetened with classic coffee flavors like caramel, hazelnut, or French vanilla.