Cow’s milk (and goat’s and other milky animals) is a delicious staple of many nations’ diets. It provides healthy fats, protein, and all essential amino acids. In fact, whey protein is practically milk powder.
However, many people choose to cut it from their diets for a number of reasons. These include dieting (dairy-free milk contains less calories), milk allergies, lactose intolerance, animal welfare concerns, & artificial hormones. The free-from range offers significantly higher profit margins for manufacturers and retailers due to the consumers being either A) a captive audience, or B) wealthy enough to indulge.
Did you know: lactose intolerance is the inability to process lactose, the sugar in milk. It occurs when people have a deficiency in lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose. – Healthline
However, the good news is there are plenty of delicious dairy-free milk alternatives for every occasion. Here are our favourites and what they’re best for.
Best for Tea & Cereal
Oat milk is, understandably, a combination of oats and water, although manufacturers often add extras like gums, salt, and oils to achieve the desired result. It has lower protein than soy. It’s high in fibre. Oat milk has a sweet, mild, oaty flavour, great for cereals and porridge.
Oat milk goes great in sweet and savoury recipes, and is subtle enough to complement tea and coffee wonderfully. It’s not best for custard or sauces because of the chalky texture.
Best for Coffee
Rice milk is manufactured from water and brown or white rice. Similar to other dairy-free milks, it also often contains thickeners and sweeteners to improve taste and texture. Rice milk is the least allergenic on our list, making it the best for those with allergies or intolerances to dairy, gluten, soy, or nuts. It’s a great starting point for dairy-free milks, because it’s sweet and goes with lots of things.
Rice milk is good for hot beverages because it doesn’t split. It’s also tasty in sweet recipes and smoothies. It is, however, too sweet for most savoury dishes.
Best for Savoury Baking
Soy milk -the OG milk substitute – is made from soy beans, and contains a similar amount of protein to cows’ milk, along with lots of amino acids, antioxidants, and fibre. It tastes mild & creamy, but many people dislike its ‘beany’ flavour. Many people distrust soy milk for its potential impact on hormones from the large number of isoflavones.
Soy milk suits savoury baking due to its creamy base which curdles well in baking mixtures (Vegan Food & Living). It can split, rendering it less-than-ideal for tea and coffee.
Best for Hot Chocolate, Desserts, & Sweet Baking
Cashew milk is very rich and creamy (and subtly nutty) in comparison to almond milk. Similar to most nut milks, the nut pulp is strained out of the liquid, taking most of the fibre, vitamins, minerals, and protein with it. It contains lower protein than oat and soy or oat milk.
Hazelnut and cashew milk go splendidly in hot chocolates, delicious desserts, and baking because of their creamy, nutty flavour. They can overpower tea, however. Not suitable for savoury foods except as a base for cheese sauce.
Best for Smoothies
Almond milk (from almonds, obviously) has a light texture and slightly sweet, nutty flavour. It’s very mild, so these products are often sweetened. It may be good for people avoiding nuts, seeds, or legumes. They often contain emulsifiers and fortifying ingredients. It contains vitamin E and is one of the lowest-calorie milks available – great for dieters. However, this is because it’s usually only ~2% almonds and mainly water.
Almond milk goes well with smoothies and sweeter baking recipes, as well as porridge. Almond milk can also be used for curd, yogurt, and tofu (NeverEndingExpedition)!
“My favourite non dairy milk is almond. I like to use it in a smoothie. My favourite kind is banana, avocado, honey and almond milk. It is all natural and sweet. Great combo.” – Ossama, awesometraveler.online
Best for Porridge
Coconut milk comes from the white flesh of brown coconuts. It’s a diluted version of the tinned sloppy stuff that goes well in Thai curries. Coconut milk has a creamy texture, milky consistency, and subtle, sweet, coconutty taste. It gets 90% of its calories from saturated fat.
Coconut milk is delicious in porridge, sweet recipes like yoghurt and ice cream, and tea, coffee, and other hot & cold beverages (Vegan Food & Living). It’s also tasty in piña coladas & Thai food (MyGossipGirl).
Other dairy-free milks to try
- Peanut milk: creamy and nutty
- Flax milk: mild, nutty flavour, and silky, milky texture
- Hemp milk: very nutty (possibly bitter)
- Walnut milk: earthy flavour
- Quinoa milk: slightly sweet and nutty, quinoa flavour
- Macadamia milk: rich, smooth, creamy
- Hazelnut milk: creamy and nutty