Non-Dairy Milks: Options, Benefits, and Best Uses
One of the easiest things to substitute when starting with a plant-based diet is most certainly milk.
Plant milk looks the same as dairy milk and tastes extremely similar, if not better.
When it comes to nutritional profiles and health benefits of these two types of milk, the plant-based version is a sure winner.
Another advantage of plant milk in comparison to its dairy equivalent is the wide variety of choices when picking the type of plant-based milk.
Milk can be made from almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, soy, and oats, to name a few. All of these have a specific taste, different best uses, as well as health benefits.
They are much more affordable and available than they once were, and the best thing is that they can easily be made at home. A handful of your favorite nuts and water is all you need.
In this article, we will summarize the most popular types of plant milk, their main health benefits, and the best ways to incorporate them into your everyday diet.
Of course, they are all lactose and dairy-free, so read along and choose your plant-based ‘fighter’.
Almond milk is by far one of the most popular plant milks. The reason is its light and kind of neutral flavor.
The taste makes it adequate for so many different uses, from smoothies, overnight oats, baked goods, curries, and so much more recipes.
If you drink coffee and prefer your beverage with milk, almond is a good choice.
It can always be an alternative to dairy milk, and if the consistency is not smooth enough for a specific recipe, just add some cornstarch or lemon juice.
Almond milk is high in vitamin E, which is a crucial antioxidant. Antioxidants are important in protecting our bodies from free radicals.
That’s why consuming this plant milk regularly lowers the risk of developing serious illnesses, such as heart issues and cancer.
Just one cup (3.5 oz) of almond milk provides 22% of the daily value of vitamin E that our bodies require.
Apart from being a great source of this important vitamin, almond milk is also quite low in both calories and carbs, which makes it a good choice for anyone trying to lose weight.
Soy milk is also on top of the list when it comes to favorite non-dairy milks. It has a slightly fuller taste than almond milk which might make it less suitable for some.
On the other hand, the smoothness and richness that soybeans provide to this beverage make it an amazing addition to so many recipes.
If you like your coffee with milk, soy is a perfect choice. The texture and consistency of soy milk will make your coffee look like it came straight out of a café.
Apart from coffee, it can be used in numerous ways, in vegan pancakes, muffins, cereal, as well as curries and other dishes.
Soy is one of the most popular food choices among vegans, and for a good reason—it is an excellent protein source.
Just like tofu, tempeh, and other soy products, soy milk can easily help you reach your daily protein intake goal. One cup contains 3.55 g of protein.
It contains omega-3 fatty acids (‘healthy’ fats), vitamins A and B, and important minerals such as potassium and calcium.
Soy milk can improve brain and heart health and alleviate symptoms of menopause.
This type of milk is one of the best choices for people with nut allergies.
Oat milk is affordable, easy to make at home, and has a flavor that can easily be incorporated into many different recipes.
Use it for chia pudding, cereals, smoothies, coffee, baked goods, etc.
Thanks to its smooth consistency, it can be a great addition to soups and curries.
Oat milk is high in B complex, including B2 and the famous B12 (the vitamin which requires intake most vegans have trouble achieving through food).
It is good for bone health since it contains calcium and a smaller amount of vitamin D.
It is high in beta-glucan, which may help lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol and aid cardiovascular health.
If the oats used for the milk making are gluten-free certified, they can also be an adequate choice for people with Celiac disease or gluten intolerant.
Cashew milk is creamy and smooth, with a similar consistency to soy milk. Therefore, it makes it suitable for similar cooking uses such as coffee, cereals, granolas, and smoothies…
It can also be the main ingredient of sauces and dressings for salads, soups, and curries.
The advantage of making cashew milk at home, in comparison to almond, for example, is that cashews are softer in texture, so they soak fast, which makes it a perfect go-to milk when you are short on time.
Thanks to its high level of unsaturated fats, potassium, and magnesium, this milk lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
It can also aid our eye health because of important antioxidants called lutein and zeaxanthin.
Cashew milk is also high in iron, vitamin K, zinc, and copper. As a result, it boosts our immune system and aids blood clotting, skin health, and overall health.
Coconut milk is an interesting and exotic choice, probably best known for its use in vegan curries.
Its creaminess and smoothness really make it a delicious addition to curries and soups, and the coconut flavor is always welcome to enrich sweets and baked goods.
Canned, store-bought coconut cream usually consists of a dense, creamy part and a liquid one that looks like a mix of coconut water and milk.
Some recipes specifically require one or the other, but you can usually just whisk or even shake them and combine the two parts in one.
This milk is rich in antioxidants which means it battles free radicals and lowers the risk of developing tumors.
It is also rich in potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus, so it helps maintain heart health, boost the immune system, and aid bone and teeth health.
This milk has anti-inflammatory properties, helps prevent anemia (it is rich in iron), aids gastrointestinal health, and is good for hair and skin.
On the other hand, some schools of thought are reconsidering this well-known information and state that coconut oil and milk might be harmful.
Rice milk is not as smooth and creamy as soy or cashew milk. Instead, it has a texture similar to almond milk.
The taste is quite mellow and neutral, with a sweet undertone, making it suitable for many recipes and dishes.
It is maybe most popular for adding it to vegan breakfasts such as oatmeals, porridges, cereals, and granolas, as well as smoothies and coffee.
Just like oat milk, it is an excellent choice for people with a nut allergy, and it can easily be found in stores and made at home.
Rice milk has no cholesterol, making it a good option for improving cardiovascular health and can help in weight loss.
It is rich in calcium, an important mineral for bone health. This means it can increase bone density and prevent the development of diseases such as osteoporosis.
This type of milk is also rich in antioxidants, which we know has a wide variety of benefits to overall human health.
One antioxidant that it contains, called para-aminobenzoic acid, is especially good for skin health and care and can lower the development of wrinkles and other skin imperfections.
Pea milk is an underestimated plant milk that is slowly gaining its well-deserved popularity.
Both the consistency and taste resemble regular dairy milk, which makes it suitable for all culinary uses, from cereals and smoothies to sweet and savory baked goods.
The only disadvantage of this milk is that it can not be made at home as easily as other plant milks. Making pea milk doesn’t include soaking but blending refined protein from yellow peas with water.
But don’t worry, it is available in most supermarkets and health stores.
Pea milk is both nut and gluten-free, which makes it a good choice for those with food allergies and intolerances.
Thanks to high levels of calcium, it improves bone health, as well as muscle movement and blood clotting, and regulates blood pressure.
It is also rich in vitamins such as A and D, minerals like iron and potassium, and is high in omega-3 fats.
It is low in calories, which makes it suitable for weight loss, and it also contains no carbs or sugars whatsoever (the unsweetened version, of course).
Barley milk is still less popular than most nut milks, but it is definitely a rising star in the vegan arena.
It is made from barley which is a type of grain. Unlike pea milk, barley milk can easily be made at home.
Its creamy and smooth texture makes it a perfect alternative for recipes that require such consistency, like coffee foam, sauces in soups and curries, and a variety of baked goods.
Barley milk is high in fiber, minerals like calcium, potassium, folate, and crucial vitamins such as vitamin B6. It lowers the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol and improves cardiovascular health.
Beta-glucan is also present in this milk, and it helps in controlling blood sugar and weight loss.
It is also high in selenium which can, thanks to its antioxidant properties, destroy free radicals and prevent cancer.
Barley milk also reduces the risk of gallstones and improves our digestion.
As can be seen, the main question is shifting from ‘Can I replace dairy milk?’ to ‘What type of plant milk should I use?’.
There are so many delicious and healthy plant milk options out there, and most of them can be made at home with no culinary skills needed.
The choice is yours to make.
If you are looking for creamy milk to add to your vegan curry, try coconut or soy milk.
If you want something with a neutral taste that can go in any recipe possible, go with almond milk.
If you want to experiment, try pea and barley milk instead of your usual plant milk—you will not be disappointed.
And if you are struggling to reach your daily protein intake goal, add soy milk to your coffee or overnight oats.
Unlike dairy milk, its plant-based counterpart has a type for every possible situation, which makes our everyday diet more diverse and interesting.
It also allows us to choose the milk that is the best fit for our health and nutritional requirements.
And last but not least, it makes cooking better and more fun.
- It's written and or reviewed by an expert.
- We cite relevant studies and trusted sources.
- It's regularly updated.
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