One of the most significant changes in the modern diet has been a relatively recent trend by companies to produce vegan milk substitutes. This is great for many reasons – whether you are vegan, vegetarian, or none of the above. The simple ability to vary the taste of what you are consuming is great, and has likely led to some people simply exploring a vegan milk brand out of curiosity. A person may ask, “How does this taste compared to regular dairy milk?” While I have tasted some different varieties, and the taste can be distinctly different, I have come to enjoy the taste for what it is.
Of course, for the vegans among us, you may be well aware of the negative effects of dairy milk, as well as the dairy industry which goes out of its way to lobby the government to promote its product. Social and environmental change starts with the purchases we make. If you have not moved away from dairy products, now is a great time to do so, especially given the many options that are becoming more and more readily available at your local supermarket!
10 Vegan Milk Substitutes Worth Trying!
1). Oat Milk
Oatmeal is one of my quintessential go-to breakfasts as it tastes great on it’s own, and can be made to taste different each time by adding different toppings, like brown sugar or maple syrup, or fruit like blueberries and strawberries. The natural consequence of this love for oatmeal has led to a growing market for oat milk. Oat milk retains many of the valuable aspects of oats in their naturally occurring form, and as a result provides a good dose of protein and calories comparable to that of regular dairy milk, with the added benefit of being low in fat and high in fiber content (which is unlike regular milk). I believe oat milk is a dairy-free milk alternative that is easy to adjust to because, if you already enjoy oatmeal, you are likely going to enjoy oat milk.
2). Flax Milk
Flax milk is a great dairy milk alternative for those who are trying to lose weight given its low calorie content (just 25 grams per serving, as opposed to whole dairy milks 150 calories per serving). As is spoken about in a lot of vegan discussions, calorie count is not the end all be all of diet and nutrition, but it is one factor of many you may be considering to monitor heavily. As unsweetened flax milk, the “base” product, does not have any protein, you may consider a flax milk product that includes added plant-based protein such as Good Karma’s FlaxMilk + Protein.
3). Coconut Milk
Coconut milk provides a simple and tasty alternative to dairy milk that comes with a caveat. It is fairly high in fat content, as is to be expected from a coconut, and offers minimal other nutritional aspects. Many world health organizations have recommended against consuming large quantities of coconut milk because of the high saturated fat content. With that said, sometimes cutting regular milk from our diet may include using multiple milk substitutes. In the case of coconut milk, I’d say if you are to use it, use it sparingly. Because of the high fat content, it can be seen as having a consistency similar to dairy milk, which may be useful to help wean some people away from dairy as I can admit some of the plant-based alternatives can seem a little watery in comparison - such as soy milk.
4). Macadamia Nut Milk
I will admit, I have not tried macadamia nut milk so I cannot really judge it based on taste. There are a limited number of brands currently on the market, and it would seem that many folks appear to be making their own at home. One brand I stumbled upon with the fun name “Milkadamia Milk” provide the description of their macadamia milk brand to be using “Non-GMO ingredients, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Vegan” and has a “Smooth, creamy taste.” On the surface, it at least sounds good to me and seems to be right down the plant-based diet alley.
Consider trying Milkadamia Milk yourself by buying online!
5). Rice Milk
Rice milk provides a lot of benefits for those wanting to move away from dairy milk whether for diet or because you are faced with a health condition that requires the change. Rice milk is considered a “superior” source of B vitamins, magnesium, niacin phosphorus and manganese. It has been documented in scientific studies that rice milk can be a great alternative for individuals who have cow milk protein (CMP) sensitivity, and that is it absorbed in infants better than cows’ milk as well. Individuals with irritable bowel syndrome can also find this to be a great alternative as it does not cause irritation.
6). Cashew Milk
Cashew milk is likely to be readily available in your local supermarket, at least under the Silk brand name. It appears to be a really great and balanced dairy milk alternative. That is, it could be feasible to replace dairy milk with this product alone if it came to it. It has a low calorie count and contains 0 grams of saturated fat and cholesterol (unlike regular milk). Some brands, such as Silk Original Cashewmilk, provide 50% more calcium than dairy milk (which is good for your bones). Of course, the taste is pleasant and seemingly creamy like one would expect from any nut-based beverage.
7). Hazelnut Milk
If you haven’t yet switched to a coffee substitute, you may find yourself occasionally picking up hazelnut coffee creamer to add to your coffee in the morning - maybe even at Starbucks! There is something appealing about the naturally sweet flavor this unique nut offers to a drink. I have not yet tried hazelnut milk myself, but it is another milk substitute I am going to try in the future as I continue to explore new and unique milk alternatives. My expectation is that hazelnut milk would be a little sweeter than your average dairy milk substitute, and this may be off-putting for some, but for others it may be ideal because cow’s milk itself is fairly sweet, actually! If I was to use hazelnut milk, it would most definitely be in moderation and possibly in some baking scenarios (I’m thinking…oatmeal muffins with hazelnut milk sounds like a treat!).
8). Hemp Milk
Hemp milk has a reputation that proceeds it given the obvious connection we naturally make to marijuana. It should go without saying, hemp milk (and other hemp-related products) are not some obscure form of the illicit substance and do not contain the chemical THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Hemp seed milk is derived from the run off of soaked hemp seeds in water, which results in a unique tasting beverage that is safe for consumption. While it does contain limited quantities of fat, and some carbohydrates and protein, it does not offer a significant amount of micro nutrients in it’s standard form. Some brands that are sold are reinforced with additional supplementation to enhance the contribution to health in some meaningful way. Like some other plant-based milk substitutes, this may be one to try out and use on occasion, but perhaps is not meant to be a total replacement for dairy milk.
One nice thing is it appears to be relatively easy to make at home in large quantities if you have access to hemp seeds, so you could always try to brew some up yourself!
9). Almond Milk
I have saved the two most popular dairy milk substitutes for last!
Almond milk has seen a surge in popularity – partly because of it’s use as a plant-based coffee creamer (you may have tried it with a Starbucks coffee already). Many people are starting to see the benefits of regular home use as well, as the taste is simple and accessible; and goes well in a number of cooking contexts. Like many nut milks, it offers a rich, creamy taste and texture. When compared to cow’s milk, it is nearly a perfect replica with the added benefit of being lower in calories and fat content, and higher in some micro-nutrient levels, such as Vitamin A. If your goal is to simply replace dairy milk in your diet with a vegan alternative, almond milk will be a safe bet.
To add, when I say it is "nearly a perfect replica," I mean on a Nutritonal Label level. The reality of dairy consumption is that many people have allergic reactions, some severe. The quality of the nutrients are not the same as that of plant products, either, so the numbers themselves are not the whole picture. The goal is to provide with you with some baseline information - but remember to always "question everything" in your search for truth and better health!
10. Soy Milk
Soy milk is created by soaking dried soybeans and grinding them in water. Like almond milk, they prove to be very similar in composition to cow’s milk, which is a reason why it proves to be one of the most popular plant-based milk alternatives available on the market. The taste is rather subtle, and not one that requires a lot of time to adjust to. As with many plant-based milks, but to a larger extent, it comes in a variety of flavors that you can try to find one that fits your taste buds the most. If you are completely new to the world of alternative milk, this will likely be a great starting point.
As dairy milk has been shown to cause a number of negative health effects, the plant-based milk market has seen significant growth. Many people are reclaiming their health by making the change from dairy to plant-based beverages, and are reporting feeling better for it. Of course, with the growing market, comes the growing number of options available. While many are happy to just try the most popular ones out there like soy and almond milk, there are many, many options available both in terms of milk substitute type and brand names for each. The more adventurous you feel, the more there is for you to explore and experience.