All about non-dairy milks
Looking to remoove dairy from your diet? (See what we did there?)
Milk alternatives give anyone who’s vegan, lactose intolerant, or simply trying to do away with dairy the ability to add creaminess to smoothies and other recipes, or simply have something to pour over a bowl of cereal.
But with so many types of non-dairy milk to choose from in the grocery store, you may find yourself lost. So we spoke to nutrition experts to get the pros, cons, nutrition stats, and more for the eight most popular types.
But first: Cow’s milk
For comparison’s sake, here’s a rundown on traditional dairy.
Nutrition specs: One 8-ounce serving of 1% milk contains 103 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 107 milligrams of sodium, 13 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.
Taste: Not super-thick, but not watery either. Not too sweet, and not too bland.
Pros: “Dairy is high in calcium and protein plus vitamins D and A and riboflavin,” says Sonya Angelone, RDN, a San Francisco-based registered dietitian.
Cons: About 65% of adults have trouble digesting lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. And in some communities, prevalence of lactose intolerance is even higher—more than 90% of people of East Asian descent struggle to digest dairy.
Best for: Cereal, coffee, baking, dunking cookies in and drinking alone!
Nutrition specs: Silk Original Almond Milk contains 60 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 160 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of protein, and no cholesterol in each 8-ounce serving.
Taste: Slightly sweet and mildly like almonds. Bonus: It even comes in flavors like vanilla and chocolate.
Pros: “As long as it’s fortified, it provides a great source of calcium, Vitamin D, and even a good source of Vitamin E,” says Angelone, plus you can make a batch of your own almond milk at home.
Cons: Some versions contain too much sugar and almost no protein. Leave any almond milks with more than 10 grams of sugar on the shelf.
Best for: Cereal, smoothies, and oatmeal
Nutrition specs: Silk Original Cashew Milk has 60 calories, 170 milligrams of sodium, 30 milligrams of potassium, about 1 gram of protein, and no cholesterol in each 8-ounce serving.
Taste: Creamy and sweet with a mildly nutty flavor.
Pros: Contains calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, and zinc.
Cons: Has almost no protein.
Best for: “It tastes great in something like lattes when you want don’t want the milk taste to overpower the coffee,” Angelone says.
Nutrition specs: One 8-ounce serving of Silk Original Soymilk contains 110 calories, 95 milligrams of sodium, 4.5 grams of fat, 380 milligrams of potassium and 8 grams of protein.
Taste: Thick and not too sweet. “Taste has traditionally been a big drawback of soy beverages,” says Isabel Maples, RDN, a Washington, DC-based nutritionist. “People complain of a chalky taste, but manufacturers have now made improvements in the flavor and texture of this milk alternative.”
Pros: Contains almost as much protein as dairy milk, yet is lower in calories than whole milk and comparable to skim milk.
Cons: Too much soy may be a problem for those with thyroid disease. Soy also contains phytoestrogens, which act like estrogen in the body—and too much estrogen might up breast cancer risk.
Best for: Soy milk’s neutral taste works well in cereal and coffee.
Nutrition specs: Rice Dream Original contains 120 calories per 8-ounce serving, as well as 2.5 grams of fat, 80 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbs, and 1 gram of protein.
Taste: Thin, runny, and sweet.
Pros: It’s safe for those with food sensitivities to dairy, nuts, or soy.
Cons: “It has low protein compared to other alternatives, and the carb count is double what’s found in regular milk,” Maples says.
Best for: The sweetness lends itself well to baked goods.
Nutrition specs: A 8-ounce serving of Pacific Organic Oat Original milk has 130 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, no cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbs, and 4 grams of protein.
Taste: Reminiscent of skim milk—not super creamy, but not watery either—with a sweet oat taste.
Pros: Contains the second-highest amount of protein of all the dairy milk alternatives.
Cons: Super-high in sugar, with most brands coming in at nearly 20 grams per serving.
Best Uses: In porridge, batters, or baked goods.
Nutrition specs: Unsweetened Original Hemp Milk from Living Harvest has 8 grams of fat, 125 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of carbs, 2 grams of protein, and 80 calories in every 8-ounce serving.
Taste: Slightly sweet and nutty, with a thick and creamy texture.
Pros: “It has a higher level of omega-3 fat than the others, a good option for vegans looking for non-meat sources of omega-3 fatty acids,” Maples says.
Cons: Separates easily when mixed into hot beverages like coffee leaving floating chunks. Also it’s the most expensive out of all the alternatives.
Best for: Its smooth texture is perfect for homemade ice cream.
Nutrition specs: One 8-ounce serving of So Delicious Original Coconut Milk contains 70 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, no cholesterol, no sodium, no protein, and 40 milligrams of potassium.
Taste Profile: Sweet, subtle coconut flavor. Thick, rich, and creamy.
Pros: Free of dairy, soy, lactose, gluten, casein, egg, and MSG.
Cons: Contains no protein, which is crucial to building and repairing muscles.
Best for: Thickening smoothies, smoothie bowls, porridges, or hot cereals.
Nutrition specs: Pacific’s Hazelnut Original has 110 calories per 8-ounce serving, along with 3.5 grams of fat, 75 milligrams of potassium, 2 grams of protein, and 19 grams of carbs.
Taste: Strong nutty flavor with a roasted aroma and texture similar to almond milk.
Pros: “Hazelnuts are a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, which promotes healthy hair and skin, as well as boosting the health of the heart muscles,” Angelone says.
Cons: Some hazelnut milks—particularly those that are flavored—add 8 to 15 grams of sugar with little protein and fiber.
Best for: Due to its strong flavor, it tastes best in baked goods and coffee.