Confused About Non-Dairy Milks? Here's a Breakdown of All Your Delicious Options
Don’t let your next trip to the grocery store be spoiled by a dozen different milk substitutes. We’re here to help you avoid udder chaos.
For anyone who is lactose intolerant, has a dairy allergy, is vegan, or just doesn't like the taste of cow or goat milk, dairy-free milk substitutes are nothing new. To the rest of us, however, the options can be confusing, particularly with new varieties of non-dairy milk popping up every time we visit the grocery store (looking at you, pistachio milk).
While you're probably familiar with soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk, the other options may shock you—pea milk, oh really? (FYI, it's delish). Read on to see on how they stack up flavor-wise and to read each one's nutritional facts—then see our guide to the healthiest milk alternatives according to an RD.
Spoiler alert: Make sure you read the nutrition label before you buy, because some of these contain a lot of sugar and very little protein. And according to nutrition expert Marisa Silver, RDN, the first thing you should do is look at the list of ingredients on the back of the container. "The best choices contain one or two recognizable ingredients, such as almonds and water," says Marisa Silver, RDN. She recommends avoiding milks with a long list of unfamiliar substances: whole-food ingredients are the safest and most nutritious.
Soy milk is the OG of dairy-free milks. It's made by soaking soybeans, which have been hulled and ground, in water. Soy beans contain essential amino acids, high levels of protein, and iron, and soy milk has lower fat and cholesterol levels than regular milk, which obviously has its perks. Soy milk has a subtly sweet, creamy, and mild flavor.
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 110 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 9 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams sugar, 2 grams fiber, 8 grams protein
Alongside soy milk, almond milk is at the head of the dairy-free milk class. Following the same process as other nut-based milks, almonds get soaked in water overnight, then blended and strained until smooth to create a "milk." Commercial almond milks are often sweetened with sugar and vanilla flavor, plus receive an added batch of vitamins. The flavor of almond milk is mild sweet, and the consistency is thinner regular milk but still creamy.
Nutritional Value (1 cup unsweetened): 60 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams sugar, <1 protein
The food industry is seeing a huge rise in the popularity of oat milk (it's officially available in Starbucks stores!). Much of the product's popularity is credited to well-known brand Oatly. The Swedish company's signature product was all over Instagram and in independent coffee shops everywhere. It's made from gluten-free oats, which get soaked and milled in water to soften their texture. The bran is then removed from the oats, which leaves behind a fibrous, nutritious oat base. Oat milk is a great replacement for cow's milk because it has a mild and slightly nutty flavor, super creamy texture, and it can froth up for vegan cappuccinos and lattés. (You also need to try Califia Farms' Protein Oat Milk swirled into your next cold brew—it's delicious enough to make you give up dairy for good.)
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 120 calories, 5 grams fat, 16 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams sugar, 2 grams fiber, 3 grams protein
Get the Recipe: How to Make Oat Milk (It's Easier Than You Think)
Cashew milk is very creamy and has a distinct nutty flavor. The nuts are ground into a paste then thinned out with water and strained. When the cashew milk gets strained to remove any nut particles, most of the nutrients are left behind.
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 50 calories, 4 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams sugar, 0 grams fiber, 1 gram protein
Coconut milk is made by simmering coconut "meat" in water, then straining through cheesecloth. The mixture separates into two parts: Coconut milk and richer, thicker coconut cream. Compared to other non-dairy milk alternatives, coconut milk is fattier and its flavor is prominent, even when combined with other ingredients. In addition to dairy-free recipes, coconut milk is a traditional ingredient in southeast Asian and east African cuisines.
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 45 calories, 4 grams fat, 1 grams carbohydrates, 1 grams sugar, 0 grams fiber, 0 grams protein
We know what you're picturing and pea milk is not green, mushy, or made with a bag of frozen veggies. Ripple, the most popular producer of pea milk, makes its product using yellow pea protein, sunflower oil, cane sugar, and added vitamins and minerals. The benefit of drinking pea milk is that one cup serves up eight grams of protein and it's nut-free for those allergic to soy and other nut-based milks. It's thicker than other milk alternatives and has a mild, toasty flavor.
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 100 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 6 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams sugar, 0 grams fiber, 8 grams protein
No, it's not made with the 90s surfer necklaces nor does it contain THC (the hallucinogenic part of the cannabis plant). Hemp milk is made from hemp seeds that get blended with water, then filtered. Hemp milk contains 10 essential amino acids, which are important proteins, especially for vegans, plus omega-3 and omega-6 fats.
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 80 calories, 8 grams fat, 1 gram carbohydrates, 0 grams sugar, 0 grams fiber, 2 grams protein
Pistachio milk has a mild rich, nutty, and creamy flavor and soft pale green hue (not unlike the color of the nut itself). And unlike soy or almond milk, which have a fairly neutral taste, pistachio milk tastes strongly like pistachios. Táche, which launched in late 2020, is the first 100 percent pistachio milk—meaning, it hasn’t been blended with other nuts—that you’ll find in the U.S. Pistachio milk can be added to cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, or you can bake and cook with it when making things like soups and cakes. And, most importantly, it foams well in coffee and tea drinks.
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 80 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 9 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams sugar, 1 gram fiber, 2 grams protein
Hazelnut milk is made using the same process as almond milk, but is less popular than its sweeter sister. However, it packed with potassium, calcium, riboflavin, and vitamin D. Hazelnut milk is often sweetened naturally with brown rice sweetener and has a vaguely caramel flavor.
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 110 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 19 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams sugar, 1 gram fiber, 2 grams protein
Rice milk is made by soaking uncooked brown rice in water for at least 12 hours, then blended and strained. Because it is not made with dairy or nuts, it's safe for those with multiple food allergies or sensitives. It is thinner than soy or almond milk, with a slightly grainier flavor. It also has the highest amount of carbohydrates per cup compared to all of the other dairy-free milks profiled.
Nutritional Value (1 cup): 120 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 23 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams sugar, 0 gram fiber, 1 gram protein