How To Choose The Best Vegan Milk
With an abundance of plant-based milk options, there’s never been a better time to switch from dairy milk. But with what do you start? If you’re a new vegan, how do you know which one to pick? And even if you’re a seasoned vegan, dare you to step outside your comfort zone? Here’s the trick: different kinds of milk work for different people. Use this guide to find the best option for you, and don’t be surprised if you match with more than one. There’s room in the fridge for at least two bottles.
What is Vegan Milk?
There are two types of vegan milk — nondairy and lactose-free. And while almond, cashew, soy, oat, rice, etc. milk has become increasingly popular among vegans, their nutritional value is mixed. That’s because dairy milk is rich in fat and nutrients, and so are nuts and seeds. But they are also fortified with vitamins and minerals, like calcium and vitamin D, that aren’t present in non-dairy milk.
In the United States, almost any type of dairy milk is called “milk.” But with dairy milk, there are two main varieties: whole milk and reduced-fat milk. What separates them is the fat in the milk, as well as its yield, or how much liquid is left in the container once you’re done with your glass. If you’re vegan, there’s no such thing as milk with additional calories—all the milk has been removed and replaced by other ingredients.
Some milk is made entirely from plants, but many are made from sources like nuts, seeds, oils, and even water. The worst offenders are soy milk, the most popular alternative to dairy milk in the U.S., which accounts for almost 90 percent of vegan milk consumption.
When you’re choosing milk to consume, a couple of things are to consider: the percentage of protein, which refers to the amount of protein in the milk, and fat content. Milk’s main job is to provide your body with calcium. Most commercial plant-based milk contains about 5 to 10 percent protein.
Originally called dairy alternative, vegan milk is milk made from plants, and because it’s completely different than its animal-based counterpart, it can help improve your health. Studies have shown that drinking a vegan diet with whole foods like almond milk can help prevent heart disease, improve your gut bacteria, and protect you against allergy and inflammation. There are several kinds of vegan milk on the market: whole, 2%, 1%, skim, 1%, and 1% Light.
Almond milk is the most common type, although other kinds include coconut, soy, hemp, and rice milk. If you’re not sure what vegan milk is, then it’s time to think again. It’s milk made from plant-based sources. For the sake of this article, we’re defining vegan milk as a vegan product that is made from soy, almond, coconut, cashew, hemp, or any other source that doesn’t contain the three milk proteins found in milk: casein, whey, and butterfat.
Vegan milk is milk that contains no animal products, such as dairy and egg, though you can find dairy alternatives that still use dairy or egg products. Depending on the brand, they come in several variations, including soy, almond, rice, cashew, macadamia, and coconut. Different varieties have the same basic nutritional benefits, though some have additional benefits for specific health conditions.
Plant-based milk comes from almonds, soybeans, cashews, hemp, and even oats. As its name implies, it’s made from plants, but it’s still a derivative of animals. Some “vegan” brands even use milk from animals like cows and goats. Here’s an important caveat: if you’re lactose intolerant, you should steer clear of any “vegan” milk that uses lactose (you can read more about this here).
Vegan milk can be dairy-free. Some brands, like Silk, use carrageenan, natural gelatin derived from seaweed that’s legal in the U.S., to bind milk proteins together. Other vegan milk, like Oatly, use gelling agents, like xanthan gum, which doesn’t contain lactose.
Benefits Of Vegan Milk
Depending on how you take your milk, there are endless health benefits to switching to plant-based milk. Regular milk has a hefty dose of protein and lactose, which can leave you feeling bloated, thirsty, and have a “heavy” feeling in the stomach, as well as digestive issues, such as flatulence.
Soy milk and almond milk provide more protein and lactose, but not as much as cow’s milk. If you want to cut out dairy, these options are your best bet, and for those who prefer their milk nut-free, there are also nut milk. There are loads of benefits to going along with switching from dairy milk to vegan milk. There’s no reason to stay on the dairy side of the spectrum.
Here are some of the health and nutritional benefits that come along with choosing vegan milk: Milk contains a lot of fat and calories, so cutting down on dairy milk means less fat and calories you can consume. Adding vegan milk to your diet can help you feel full quicker and keep you feeling full longer.
Vegan milk is a great source of calcium and more calcium than dairy milk. Vegan milk is a great source of vitamin D, which has been linked to bone health. And the list goes on. Go ahead and switch from that carton of white milk you’ve been drinking since you were little to something that tastes more like natural milk.
According to veganhealth.com, one of the top reasons to switch to vegan milk is to help eliminate lactose. Lactose (also known as lactose intolerance) is a sugar found in milk that leads to symptoms like gas and bloating. Those with an intolerance typically avoid it because it’s also found in dairy products, including yogurt and cheese. It’s not all that commonly avoided because consuming lactose is also necessary for the health of the intestines.
Many see lactose as a “punishment” for going vegan in the vegan community, since it’s a product that was once thought to be essential for infants. The dietary change, however, is intended to improve health. (Basically, a good thing). Another reason to choose vegan milk is to decrease your consumption of animal fat. Vegans tend to get nutritional boosts from plant-based milk.
Coconut milk, for example, has 14 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber per cup; almond milk contains 9 grams of protein per cup. Coconut milk's texture is also great for baked goods. (Don't skip the maple syrup!) Almond milk is lower in fat and calories than cow’s milk. Almond and cashew milk are lower in cholesterol than conventional cow’s milk and have healthy fats. Even the imitation stuff is a better option than the full-fat versions.
As the first milk many thinks of when they think of a vegan option, almond milk is the easiest to get your hands on. Though it is vegan, it also happens to be very high in calcium and vitamin E, and if you’re buying organic, it’s the lowest on the pesticide spectrum. Its medium-bodied flavour and fresh almond smell make it an easy option for most to switch to. Elival is one of the most popular almond milk producers, with coconut milk and unsweetened varieties also available.
Almond milk is probably the most popular non-dairy milk because it has the highest protein of all the milk. According to Research 2, a 50 percent increase in protein can dramatically improve energy levels and reduce muscle soreness. Almond milk isn’t exactly new on the scene. It’s been around since before Instagram, but it seems to have made a splash in recent years.
It was only in the last couple of years that almond milk became so popular that companies like Califia Farms started churning out their own almond milk, while the likes of milk red and the much-hyped Horizon also boast of being filled with actual almonds.
Almond milk is a mainstay of vegan breakfast smoothies, and if you prefer your beverages white, there’s no shortage of brands that will do it well. But, as with so many other milk, almond milk doesn’t stand up well to heat. Its nutty flavour seems to “sour” and turn lumpy once it’s warmed, which makes it pretty much unusable.
No one can accuse this popular plant-based milk of being boring. It’s creamy, fragrant, and packed with nutrients like Vitamin E, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, and potassium. It also pairs well with almost any dessert. If you’re a dairy-free coffee drinker, almond milk may not be for you, though. Most people will agree that the one thing almond milk doesn’t do well is spoil. Just drink up, and then return to your favourite caffeinated beverage.
Almond milk (also called almonds, almonds milk, or simply almond milk) is the most popular milk alternative. It’s made by soaking unsoaked almonds in water, blanching them to remove the protein and then grinding them in a food processor. It’s thick, creamy, and has a similar flavour profile to cow’s milk. Many consider it more like natural dairy milk than plant-based milk.
Because of its popularity, almond milk is found in most grocery stores and some mainstream retailers. Since almond milk doesn’t require the addition of any hormones or antibiotics, it’s also safe for lactose-intolerant people. Almond milk is perfect for oatmeal, salads, and more. However, because it’s natural, it can be pretty expensive at regular supermarkets.
One of the most popular options on the market, soy milk is made from tofu. Some cultures — especially those from China and Indonesia — traditionally use tofu as a substitute for dairy milk, particularly for making “thick” (aka gushy) curds. While soy is not a complete protein, it contains all the essential amino acids, making it the most comprehensive of all dairy-alternative milk.
Some versions can be fortified with vitamins and minerals. Soy milk also provides an excellent source of calcium and protein (though other plant-based milk can offer up to 1.5 times more protein). So why not choose a version that is just as good, and more importantly, less expensive than cow’s milk? And don’t worry: soy milk comes in a range of options. There’s no mystery to soy milk. It’s just soybeans, water, and heat.
All you need to do is heat a pot of water and add the soybeans. Please take out the heat and leave them to stand overnight. To return the soybeans to their non-dairy state, you add the water and heat it back up to boil. When they’re heated to body temperature, you’ll have a bowl of pretty much water and beans. It’s vegan, it’s nut-free, it’s easy to digest, and it tastes delicious!
Newbies to the world of vegan beverages need to look no further. Even if you’re not a fan of soy milk, this one has no artificial flavours, colours, preservatives, or sweeteners, which means it’s a total no-brainer. Soy is the most common soy milk option. It’s based on the nutty, milky soybeans. It has a surprisingly rich, creamy mouthfeel, and is available in a variety of flavours. It's also quite versatile. You can put soy milk in smoothies, use it in cereal and oatmeal, or mix it into your baking.
Made from organic rice, this milk has a slightly nutty flavour that makes it ideal for baking, especially chocolate chip cookies. It’s exceptionally high in protein and has almost no fat. Made from brown or white rice, brown rice milk is a versatile dairy alternative that’s smooth, thick, and low in calories.
Like soy milk, it’s also full of vitamin A and vitamin B12. One thing to be aware of: Unlike other plant-based milk, brown rice milk can be flavourless, so if you prefer to add your own flavour, make sure to use some brown rice syrup or stevia to give it a boost.
If you’re still trying to eliminate gluten, rice milk is the best one to try since it has a lower gluten content than most. As with soy and coconut milk, the quality of brown rice milk varies wildly, so it’s wise to use it in moderation. It’s also expensive to buy in the store, significantly since some brands add added sugars.
Freshly made, this type of milk is made from the uncooked grain of jasmine rice. Texture: This milk won’t have the creamy texture of cow's milk, but it's a great drink for busy people or for kids who are suddenly demanding more calcium. Flavour:
This type of milk is said to have a mild flavour. It won't have the same “creamy” mouthfeel of dairy milk, but it's not an obstacle to enjoying. Colour: White rice milk is a creamy white. Other kids tend to be green or beige, with flavours ranging from milk and cookies to banana and mango. Sweetness: Although usually slightly sweet, this milk has a very mild sweetness, if any at all. Use: People who aren't lactose intolerant tend to prefer this type of milk.
This type of milk is plant-based milk, and it’s popular among vegans because it contains no cholesterol, is naturally low in saturated fat, and has a high level of vitamin E. It has a thick, smooth texture, making it a good choice for chunky cereal bowls and thick blended drinks like chocolate mocha frappes and vanilla lattes. Cashew milk is gluten-free, so it’s safe for anyone sensitive to soy or gluten.
Because it’s so cheap and widely available in the produce aisle, it’s the obvious choice for those who want a bit of indulgence but aren’t ready to dip their toes into the deep milky end. Cashew milk has a thick creaminess thanks to the presence of heart-healthy oils.
Cashews come in a milky variety—the next best thing to dairy milk. Because cashews are high in protein, they pair well with vegetarian and vegan dishes. If you’re sensitive to lactose, cashew milk is the way to go. It’s free of that annoying ingredient that has the power to ruin any meal. And, the taste is smooth and creamy, with a hint of sweetness.
Cashew milk also delivers more protein, calcium, iron, and B12 than cow’s milk and is only 35 calories per serving. Cashew milk is a great start to a vegan life. It’s full of heart-healthy fats, is non-dairy, and has a really low-calorie count, making it ideal for those on a diet. However, it can be pretty expensive.
We buy raw cashews and make our own cashew milk. It is our staple to make vegan cheese, butter and sour cream.
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Coconut milk is a pale, smooth liquid extracted from the meat of the coconut fruit, containing milk proteins. You’ll also find it in frozen desserts and baking. Coconut milk is a favourite among vegans, but many find it too syrupy sweet for their taste.
The protein content is low enough to fall into the “light” category, but this milk’s taste often gets many people in trouble. Light is the thing to aim for, and there’s a reason why it’s usually offered next to non-dairy milk in grocery stores.
The creators of Coconut Freedom claim it to be superior to regular milk because it’s high in fat and calories but low in saturated fat and cholesterol. This is the type to get if you’re a coconut milk lover or think you might be. Coconut Milk Is the Best for Cold and Chilly Days.
Coconut milk is good all year round, but it’s best for cold days. If you have a waffle or a bowl of cereal, it’s ideal. For iced lattes, you can get a tall pour of the stuff. If you’re going to dip fries in milk (as we are), coconut milk works even better than almond or soy milk. A squeeze of lime and a small pinch of salt complete the picture. That’s true versatility for you!
Coconut milk is our favourite and the only one we use for our daily vegan meals, baked goods and desserts.
Oat milk is milk made from oats and is sweeter than almond milk. It’s perfect for making coffee or tea, and because oat milk is made from oats, it can easily be paired with foods like bread, cereal and muffins. Oat milk is ideal milk for anyone who doesn’t like the way almond milk is heavier and thicker. It’s naturally sweetened milk with less fat than almond milk, but it still has a milky texture and flavour.
Oat milk is typically sold in relatively small packages. That means you can buy a couple of boxes of it at your local supermarket and keep some in your freezer for emergencies. Or, buy a whole four-pack at Whole Foods, and freeze some. Either way, it’s a good option to have on-hand for use in coffee and tea. This vegan option is not for those with sensitive stomachs—it’s loaded with fiber, making it digestible, but still sweet.
“Oat milk contains the fiber from the oat as well as casein, the milk protein. Since oats have fiber, they absorb the sweet liquid and prevent it from becoming too thin,” says Krista Huybrechts, a vegan nutritionist based in Sacramento, CA. “When you drink a glass of oat milk, you aren't going to get the same sugar boost you do when you drink a cup of plain plant-based milk,” she says.
Hazelnut milk has a rich flavour and texture. Hazelnut milk has a flavour and texture that’s subtle and sweet – much different than dairy milk. In a blind taste test, most folks would say it tastes just like cow’s milk, but some people will swear it tastes like almond. It’s made from a blend of almond and hazelnut and adds a rich, creamy texture to your vegan smoothie or even baked goods.
The Almond Breeze brand of hazelnut milk comes in three different flavours: chocolate, vanilla, and unsweetened. While the unsweetened is the most popular, it also has two flavours made with a half cup of sweetened almonds that have about 85 calories per serving. Think of hazelnut milk like coconut milk with a nut cream in the middle. It’s silky and creamy and packs a serious punch. That creamy goodness won’t last as long as coconut milk, however, and you’ll get more calories and saturated fat.
The first thing you need to know about dairy milk alternatives is that they often have dairy-like logos, symbols, and the like. Considering the number of options available to vegans, it’s not surprising to see there’s no clear winner when it comes to your morning or nighttime meal replacement drink.
All of the above provide much of the same nutrients you would find in dairy milk, and you may even prefer them because of their taste. If you’re not yet convinced, try one and see what you think. It’s important to note that many of these dairy-free milk can be used in any meal replacement recipe (and that’s where the magical growth hormone comes in).
I trust you enjoyed reading the article on How To Choose The Best Vegan Milk. Please stay tuned. There are more blog posts to come very shortly.
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