Meet The (dairy-free) Milks
Read on to learn the characteristics of the most commonly available non-dairy milks, all of which can substitute for cow's milk in recipes.
Tiger nut milk (horchata): Made with small tubers, tiger nut milk is naturally creamy, white, and very sweet. Of the plant-based milks available packaged, tiger nut milk is arguably the best-tasting. Thanks to its richness and sweetness, it contains more sugar and fat than some other plant-based milks. However, it is also higher in protein. Try it in any sweet recipe, including coffee drinks. Note that tiger nut milk is different than Mexican horchata, a sweetened rice milk drink.
Rice milk: Rice milk is ideal for anyone allergic to soy- or nut-based vegan milks. Since it’s relatively thin, it should only be used in applications that do not require a creamy milk (for instance, do not use rice milk in cream sauces or frothed for lattes). In general, rice milk offers little nutritional value—unless it is fortified (which is usually the case with packaged milks). That said, it is slightly sweet in taste and delicious in cereal and crepes.
Almond milk: With a pleasant, mild nutty flavor, almond milk is absolutely delicious plain, in coffee or tea, incorporated into sweet baked goods, and mixed into soups and smoothies. Between rice and soy milk in thickness, it is quite versatile (some packaged almond milks are on the thinner side and will not froth for coffee drinks). Very low in calories and a source of Vitamin E, almond milk is ideal if you’re watching your carbohydrate intake. Avoid if you have a nut allergy.
Coconut milk: Incredibly rich and creamy, with the appealing tropical sweetness of its source, coconut milk is delicious in coffee or tea (including frothed for lattes), smoothies, curries and rich stews, oatmeal and porridge, and baked goods. Its only downsides are its discernible coconut flavor (which is not appropriate in every recipe) and higher fat content. Consider switching between coconut and lower-fat plant-based milks, such as almond.
Cashew milk: With a rich, creamy texture and very mild flavor, cashew milk is extremely versatile, and a terrific staple ingredient. Try it frothed for coffee drinks, and in cream sauces and dairy-free ice creams. Avoid if you have a nut allergy.
Oat milk: Sweet oat milk is delicious in oatmeal and smoothies. Although it has a slightly higher natural sugar content, on the plus side, it also contains more protein than many other milk alternatives.
Hazelnut milk: With a detectable hazelnut flavor, this milk is nutty and flavorful. Be sure to use it in recipes that will benefit from hazelnut notes. Avoid if you have nut allergies.
Soymilk: Creamy, calcium-rich, and with as much protein as dairy milk, soymilk is the plant-based milk most similar to cow’s milk. With a very subtle beany flavor, soymilk is not naturally sweet. Due to its creamy texture and mild flavor, it is extremely versatile and can be substituted one-for-one for dairy milk in any recipe. Try frothing it for lattes. Keep in mind that soymilk is not ideal for anyone with soy allergies.
Ideal for Those with Nut and Soy Allergies
Hemp milk: Full of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and with more protein that many other plant-based milks, hemp milk is a highly nutritious choice, if less delicious unflavored. If you make it yourself, try stirring in some vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, and some agave nectar or maple syrup. With a higher fat content than some other varieties, hemp milk is terrific in baked goods with strongly-flavored ingredients, such as brownies or gingerbread.
Flax milk: Fairly neutral nutrition-wise, flax milk is ideal for anyone with soy or nut allergies, or those watching their fat and carbohydrate intake.
Quinoa milk: With more protein than some other varieties of plant-based milk, quinoa milk is fairly neutral in terms of nutrition and flavor. Similar to flax milk, it is well suited to those allergic to soy or nuts, or who are trying to limit their fat and sugar consumption.