The good news is: There’s a plethora of plant-based milk alternatives on the market! Especially in the past decade, a lot of people made the decision to switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet. The motivation behind this switch can have many different causes. Some people do it for health-related reasons, others want to help the environment (a glass of dairy milk produces three times more greenhouse gas than any plant-based option), or they don’t want to support animal cruelty.
Either way, the market had to adapt – and when you visit supermarkets and health food stores now, you will see shelves filled with different kinds of plant-based milk substitutes to choose from.
If you’re new to the world of dairy milk alternatives, you might be wondering which variety will work best for different purposes. After all, milk is very versatile and is consumed in many ways: plain, in cereal, as a base for sauces in cooking, or to give moisture in baking. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered:
Soy milk contains all essential amino acids, but soy is also one of the 8 most common allergens that people may be allergic or intolerant to. From a nutritional standpoint, soy milk is the most balanced milk alternative and comes closest to dairy milk in that respect. Soy milk is often fortified with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D and calcium.
Soy milk is suitable for cooking, baking, and frothing for coffee. Paired with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, soy milk works well as a leavening agent for baked goods, similar to buttermilk.
Oat milk has almost as many calories as dairy milk (130 kcal vs. 148 kcal per cup). It tastes slightly sweet and has a thin consistency similar to low-fat diary milk. Several studies have shown that the regular consumption of oats can have a positive effect on gastrointestinal problems, and also point to a positive effect on cholesterol levels.
Oat milk is suitable for cooking (e.g., soups and sauces) and baking. There are barista versions of oat milk that are specifically made for frothing in coffee.
Almond milk has more calcium than dairy milk (560 mg vs. 425 mg per cup). Almond milk is strongly diluted with water, which makes it relatively low in calories but also lower in nutrients.
Almond milk is suitable for cooking creamy sauces (e.g., bechamel, Alfredo, soup bases), as its taste remains neutral when it’s cooked.
Hazelnut milk is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, as well as omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids. The nutrients contained in hazelnut milk reduce harmful cholesterol levels.
Hazelnut milk is suitable for baking (nutty flavor), as well as adding to coffee, hot chocolate, and spiced tea drinks (e.g., chai latte).
Cashew milk contains mostly unsaturated fat, which is a great choice for people struggling with high cholesterol levels or for those who want to watch their fat intake.
Cashew milk is suitable for cooking and baking (nutty flavor), as well as to use in coffee and latte drinks, as it is thicker in texture than other alternatives.
Coconut milk is considerably lower in sodium than dairy milk (15 mg vs. 105 mg per cup).
Coconut milk is usually available in cans and is suitable for cooking and baking, especially in curries, soups, smoothies, puddings, and ice cream because of its thick consistency. Coconut milk as a drink comes in regular cartons and is suitable in coffee or cereal.
Rice milk is a good alternative for those with dairy, soy, and nut sensitivities. As it is a cereal-based milk, it is the most “hypoallergenic” option of all milk alternatives. The calories in rice milk mainly come from carbohydrates, which makes it a good option for active people who exercise a lot. The carbohydrates are split into sugars during processing, giving rice milk a sweet taste without added sugar.
Rice milk is most suitable for baking and dessert recipes.
Hemp milk contains all the essential amino acids, is one of the few plant-based complete proteins, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It is made by blending water with the seeds of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa).
Hemp milk is suitable for cooking and baking, but also tastes great in cereal because of its nutty flavor.
Pea milk has more potassium than dairy milk (450 mg vs. 322 mg per cup), as well as more calcium (560 mg vs. 425 mg per cup). It is a good alternative for those with dairy, soy, and nut sensitivities.
Pea milk is suitable for cooking and baking and works well as a base for smoothies.
Flaxseed milk has more calcium than dairy milk (450 mg vs. 425 mg per cup). It contains a lot of omega-3 fats, fiber, and protein and is a good option for vegan, gluten-free, and keto diets. It is a good alternative for those with dairy, soy, and nut sensitivities (as flax is classified as a seed).
Flaxseed milk is suitable for cooking and baking, and it is best suited for light, savory dishes.