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Formerly relegated to specialty grocers and health food stores as a milk alternative, vegan milk varieties are now commonplace.
With about 20 different vegan milk to choose from, there are options to suit everyone’s different tastes. Some milk works better for some purposes than others, and each has its health benefits. Read on to learn about the many vegan milk options on the market and how you can enjoy them.
Types of Vegan Milk
The most popular types of vegan milk are:
- Soy milk
- Almond milk
- Coconut milk
- Rice milk
- Oat milk
But we’re also seeing lots of other variations grow in popularity, like:
- Cashew milk
- Macadamia milk
- Hemp milk
- Quinoa milk
- Flax milk
- Pea Protein milk
- Banana milk
- Sunflower milk
- Peanut milk
- Hazelnut milk
What Is Vegan Milk?
While animal-based milk comes from animals, vegan milk comes from plant-based sources. They are a popular choice for those who eat a plant-based diet, want to eat healthy in other ways, or want to help the environment. Vegan milk can be made from a variety of different types of plants:
- Grains: barley, fonio, maize, millet, oat, rice, rye, sorghum, teff, triticale, spelt, wheat
- Pseudocereals: amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa
- Legumes: lupin, pea, peanut, soy
- Nuts: almond, brazil, cashew, hazelnut, macadamia, pecan, pistachio, walnut
- Seeds: chia seed, flax seed, hemp seed, pumpkin seed, sesame seed, sunflower seed
- Fruits: coconut, banana
- Tubers: potato, tiger nut
Why Choose Vegan Milk?
There are many reasons you may choose vegan milk over animal-based milk. For example, some vegan milk drinkers are vegan or trying to consume a more plant-based diet.
Other people may drink vegan milk if they are lactose-intolerant or avoid dairy for other health reasons. Some vegan milk drinkers prefer the taste of plant-based milk compared to animal-based milk.
Vegan Milk Often Has Less Sugar Than Animal Milk
You can get sweetened and unsweetened varieties of vegan milk, and if you choose unsweetened varieties, you can cut down on your sugar consumption.
Cow milk usually has around 15 grams of sugar per cup. Pea milk, almond milk, and soy milk typically have zero or one gram of sugar. The vegan milk with the most sugar includes rice milk with 10 grams per cup and coconut milk with seven grams.
If You Have Digestive Issues, Vegan Milk May Be a Good Choice
You do not have to be lactose intolerant to have digestive issues after drinking cow milk. Luckily, plant-based milk is usually gentle on the stomach.
Rice milk, soy milk, almond milk, flax milk, and coconut milk are all great choices if you have digestive problems.
In Some Cases, Vegan Milk Has More Calcium Than Animal Milk
Since cow milk is known for its calcium content, those switching to vegan milk worry they will not be able to get the same amount of calcium. However, many vegan milks are fortified with calcium.
Soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and pea milk can all have 45% of your daily value of calcium. In comparison, cow milk usually only has 30% of your daily value of calcium.
Avoid Hormones Like IGF-1 With Vegan Milk
One big reason people choose to avoid cow milk is that the hormones in the milk can increase insulin and trigger Insulin-like Growth Factor- (IGF-1).
An increase in this hormone can lead to several issues, including cancer, acne, diabetes, and other health problems. However, since vegan milk does not contain this or other hormones, you do not have to worry about this issue with any vegan milk.
Drink Fewer Calories When You Switch To Vegan Milk
Vegan milk is an ideal choice if you want a low-calorie alternative to cow milk. While cow milk has around 100 calories per cup, almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, and pea milk all have between 30 and 80 calories per cup.
There are a few types of vegan milk with more calories, including oat milk and rice milk.
Best Vegan Milks By Category
Common Types of Vegan Milk
While there are around 20 types of vegan milk, a few varieties are the most popular. These are the kinds of milk you can most easily find in grocery stores and cafes. The ingredients are also readily available to make your version of these kinds of milk.
Almond milk is made by blending almonds and water and straining.
- Nutritional Value: Per cup, almond milk has around 30 calories, no sugar, one gram of protein, 160 milligrams of potassium, 45% of your daily value of calcium, and 25% of your daily value of vitamin D.
- Taste/Texture Profile: Almond milk does have a slight taste of almond and nuttiness. The texture is more watery than cow milk, but it is fairly creamy compared to other vegan milk.
- Best Used For: A great all-purpose vegan option, almond milk works well in cereal, tea, and baked goods.
- Environmental Impact: While almond milk production is known to require a fair amount of water, “almond and rice milk still require less water to produce than the typical glass of dairy milk” (BBC News, 2019).
- DIY Recipe: Downshiftology Youtube Channel / How To Make Almond Milk
Soy milk is made by soaking soybeans in water, removing the skins, then blending and straining.
- Nutritional Value: Soy milk has a lot of protein, with at least seven grams of protein in a cup of milk. It also has 80 calories, four carbohydrates, one gram of sugar, 45% of your daily value of calcium, and four grams of fat.
- Taste/Texture Profile: Soy milk is popular due to its smooth and creamy texture and slightly sweet flavor. Occasionally, this milk can be somewhat grainy.
- Best Used For: Soy milk is another great multipurpose vegan milk. It is a common creamer, baking ingredient, with cereal, in sauces, and curries.
- Environmental Impact: “Legumes, which include soybeans, are a crop that emits some of the lowest amounts of carbon dioxide.” (King Arthur Baking, 2022)
- DIY Recipe: Mary’s Test Kitchen / How To Make Soy Milk Easily At Home (with just 2 ingredients) for drinking AND for making tofu
Oat milk is made by blending oats and water and then straining.
- Nutritional Value: Oat milk has 130 calories, 24 carbohydrates, five grams of sugar, four grams of protein, and 35% of your daily value of calcium per cup. A big benefit of oat milk is its high level of potassium, with 95 milligrams per cup.
- Taste/Texture Profile: Oat milk has a smooth texture and a fairly neutral flavor.
- Best Used For: Oat milk is a multi-faceted vegan milk that does well as a creamer, in soups, baked goods, and smoothies.
- Environmental Impact: “Oat milk gets high marks for its relatively low emissions, land use, and water usage, even when compared to other plant-based milk.” (King Arthur Baking, 2022)
- DIY Recipe: The Green Creator / HOW TO MAKE OAT MILK – not slimy
Coconut milk is made by mixing shredded coconut with warm water and then straining it.
- Nutritional Value: Coconut milk is one of the lower-calorie options, with 45 calories per cup. Each cup also has 40 grams of potassium, seven grams of sugar, four grams of fat, no protein, and one gram of carbohydrates.
- Taste/Texture Profile: People value coconut milk due to its cow milk-like consistency. The flavor can be on the sweeter side with a hint of nuttiness.
- Best Used For: Since coconut milk is rather sweet, it is a good addition to sweet items. Popular applications include vegan creamers, baking, dips, curries, smoothies, and in cocktails.
- Environmental Impact: “Coconuts’ emissions and water usage remain low… As coconut milk’s popularity grows, it has ripple effects on the supply chain.” (King Arthur Baking, 2022)
- DIY Recipe
Cashew milk is made by soaking the nuts and blending them.
- Nutritional Value: Cashew milk has between 25 and 160 calories per cup, depending on if you buy or make your milk. A cup of cashew milk also has between one and nine grams of carbohydrates, up to five grams of protein, between two and 14 grams of fat, up to a gram of fiber, and between 2% and 10% of the daily value of iron.
- Taste/Texture Profile: Cashew milk is one of the creamiest vegan milks you can make or buy. It has an earthy, slightly sweet flavor.
- Best Used For: Thanks to its creamy texture, cashew milk is a popular coffee and tea creamer and a great ingredient in soups. It is also a popular ingredient in vegan cheese-making.
- Environmental Impact: “Ultimately, cashew milk is a greener option than almond milk, but make sure you purchase only varieties that are organic and Fairtrade.”
- DIY Recipe
Rice milk is made by pressing rice in a grinding mill, filtering, and blending.
- Nutritional Value: Rice milk has around 120 calories, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, one gram of protein, 2.5 grams of fat, and 35 milligrams of potassium.
- Taste/Texture Profile: Rice milk has a fairly neutral flavor, with some slight natural sweetness. The texture is on the thinner side of vegan milk.
- Best Used For: Rice milk is a solid all-purpose vegan milk, especially for those with allergies to soy or nuts. It does well in smoothies, cereal, and baking.
- Environmental Impact: “Rice milk is also comparatively thirsty, requiring 54 litres of water per glass.”
- DIY Recipe
Vegan Milk Powders
You can make vegan milk powders by placing vegan milk in a dehydrator or an oven at a low temperature.
- Nutritional Value: The nutritional value of a vegan milk powder will vary depending on the milk from which the powder is derived. Nutrition in the powder will be very similar to the nutrition in the milk it is made from.
- Taste/Texture Profile: The texture of this powder is quite similar to cow milk powder. The taste of vegan milk powder is similar to whatever root milk it comes from. However, the flavor is slightly concentrated.
- Best Used For: Vegan milk powders are useful in certain baked goods and beverages, such as smoothies.
- Environmental Impact: The environmental impact of a vegan milk powder will be similar to the original vegan milk it comes from.
- DIY Recipe
Less Common Types of Vegan Milk
Beyond the most common varieties, there are several types of vegan milk you can try.
Hemp milk is a vegan milk ideal for those who want a nut-free option. It has a light and nutty flavor and comes from hemp seeds.
Banana milk (not to be confused with banana-flavored dairy milk) comes from blended bananas and water. This beverage is creamy and slightly sweet, and it has plenty of potassium and other health benefits.
The high-protein pea milk is a creamy beverage without any soy, nuts, or other allergens. It is also quite low in sugar and carbohydrates compared to other vegan milk.
Derived from ground flaxseed meal, flax milk is slightly nutty-tasting milk. It has plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and many vitamins, including vitamins A, B12, and D.
This nutty and slightly sweet milk is creamy and great as a creamer or in baked goods. It has around three grams of protein and only one gram of carbohydrates per cup.
Macadamia Nut Milk
Macadamia nut milk comes from macadamia nuts. The texture is quite milky, and the taste is slightly sweet and nutty. This milk is a good choice for a ketogenic diet.
There is no need to cry over spilt milk with the number of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber you can get from this milk.
Popular Vegan Milk Brands
While you can easily make your own vegan milk, there are several brands you should consider if you are looking for the convenience of purchasing your vegan milk. Some of these brands offer several types of plant-based milk, while others focus on one specific variety.
Almond Breeze is Blue Diamond’s almond milk brand. It offers almond milk creamer, almond milk yogurt, shelf-stable almond milk, and other almond milk products. This brand avoids artificial flavors and strives for sustainable practices.
Oatley is one of the leading oat milk brands. The company sells chilled oat milk and shelf-stable oat milk, as well as ice cream. The oat milk from this company is Non-GMO Project Verified.
Califa offers many vegan milk varieties and similar products, including creamers, coffee, juice, and more. Those products include plant-based milk made from almonds, oats, coconut, and blends.
Ripple offers plant-based milk and similar products made from pea protein, sunflower oil, cane sugar, and additional vitamins and minerals. It also offers an oat milk beverage.
Rice Dream is Dream’s rice-based beverage. In addition to Rice Dream, this company offers oat, soy, and coconut products. Rice Dream is USDA organic and has no GMOs.
Pacific Foods offers several plant-based food products, including several plant-based milks. These milks include almond, cashew, coconut, hemp, oat, and soy. These products are USDA organic and without GMOs.
Though Silk is primarily known for its soy milk, the company also offers almond, oat, coconut, and cashew milk. It also has several vegan milk-based products, such as yogurts and creamers. These products do not contain GMOs.
Planet Oat offers desserts, creamers, and plant-based milk. Oat milk comes in many flavors, including original, vanilla, extra creamy, chocolate, unsweetened, and shelf stable.
SO Delicious offers many plant-based products, including coconut milk and Wondermilk. Wondermilk comes from a blend of oat milk, coconut milk, coconut oil, and many vitamins and minerals.
Good Karma offers flax milk and Plantmilk. Plantmilk is made from a blend of oats, flax, and peas. These milks come in several flavors. The company also sells other products, such as sour cream, dips, and creamers.
Elmherst offers plant milk, creamers, and other dairy-free products. The non-GMO milk includes almonds, cashews, oats, walnuts, and hazelnuts.
Mooala produces USDA organic plant-based milk. These kinds of milk include banana milk, coconut oat milk, almond milk, and oat-based products. It also offers Keto Mylk, which contains coconut cream, pea protein, and coconut oil.