7 Vegan Milk Alternatives: The Ultimate Guide

Cow's milk has many vegan milk alternatives. Soya milk, almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, hemp milk and oat milk are just a few of the options!
Cow’s milk has many alternatives.

Milk alternatives are a staple in dairy free and vegan diets, but it’s often hard to know which vegan milk alternative to choose.

 

Best for baking: SOYA MILK

Perhaps the most widely available of vegan milk; soya milk is the highest protein non-dairy milk alternative, with 3.3 grams of protein and 33 calories per 100ml. Alpro‘s Unsweetened Soya Milk is the most common globally. Soya milk is the best substitute for baking due to similar consistency. Its flavour is also easy to covered by other ingredients.

Unsweetened soya milk is an acquired taste on its own, with a plant-like, nutty flavour. It mixes well though.

Most brands’ ‘original’ soya milk is full of sugar, so look for unsweetened soya milk. When making tea, coffee, or hot drinks, soya milk will also turn it orange!

Check out https://www.alpro.com/uk/products to see their full range of plant-based milk, yogurt, cream, ice cream and desserts!

 

Best for hot drinks: NUT MILK

The second most prominent vegan milk in shops is nut milk – usually almond milk. Almond milk is a great substitute for hot drinks due to a light, nutty flavour and creamy texture. Despite its name, the almond content is just 2%. I personally found it the easiest to adapt to.

Unsweetened Almond Milk has just 13 calories per 100ml; semi-skimmed milk has 47! Unfortunately almond milk is bad for protein, with only 0.4 grams per 100ml, compared to 3.6 in semi-skimmed cow’s milk.

Almond milk’s flavour and texture also make it a fantastic addition to cakes and desserts, as well as healthy smoothies and vegan milkshakes.

Depending on where you live, you can also get hazelnut milk, cashew milk and macademia milk.

 

Plant based milk

 

Best for flavour: RICE MILK

Rice milk is one of the most delicious dairy-free milks, and it’s therefore my favourite vegan milk alternative!

Here’s the problem though. Per 100ml, it is low in fat (1 gram), but high in sugar (3.3 grams) and low in protein (0.1g). Note that this is mainly ‘natural sugar’ and not refined cane sugar. Rice milk’s 47 calories per 100ml is identical to semi-skimmed cow’s milk.

It has a light, sweet flavour, and great texture that seems much too tasty to have ever been part of a plant!

‘Lite’ versions of rice milk are gradually becoming available, with just 2.4 grams of sugar per 100ml, which might appeal more to the health conscious.

 

Lowest fat: COCONUT MILK

Do you like the taste of coconut? Coconut milk has a strong taste.

The calorie content is less than half of semi-skimmed cow’s milk, at 20 calories compared 47 calories, It is also a low fat milk alternative, with only 0.9 grams per 100ml compared to 1.8 grams in semi-skimmed cow’s milk. Protein is almost non-existent (0.1g per 100ml), but it’s still great for sweet treats and desserts. Check out Alpro Coconut Milk for the most widely available low fat vegan milk.

 

Coconut milk - plant based milk

 

Best for Omega 3: HEMP MILK

Hemp milk is less widely available than other vegan milk alternatives, though is often noted as the most neutral flavour of all available milk substitutes. GOOD Hemp milk is a key name, and available in niche stores such as Holland & Barratt.

While pleasant in flavour, this sacrifices of nutritional content, with hemp milk much higher in calories and fat than other milk alternatives. For every 100ml of hemp milk, there are 39 calories, and 2.5g of fat, while protein is less than 0.1g. Hemp milk is therefore not recommended for those with high cholesterol. It does however provide half of your daily intake of omega 3 per glass.

 

Nut-free & Soy-free*: OAT MILK

Oat milk is the final option. I first spotted this one a couple of years ago but have only sampled it occasionally, mainly due to it containing a TON of sugar!

There’s a pleasant savoury taste with totally natural sweetness in most varieties from the oats themselves. It tastes and mixes well, just like many other options. I also find it quite comforting to drink warm before bed. At 8.7g of sugar per 100ml though, it needs to be incorporated as part of a healthy, balanced diet. A bit tricky to justify this one as a day-to-day milk alternative.

*Check the brand you buy for specific allergens.

 

Plant-based milk

 

 

Nutritional values in grams (g) per 100ml

 

Milk type Calories Protein Fat Sugar
Semi-Skimmed cow's milk 47 3.6 1.8 4.8
Lactose-Free cow's milk 40 3.6 1.5 3.0
Soya (Unsweetened) 32 3.3 1.8 0.1
Almond (Unsweetened) 13 0.4 1.1 0.1
Coconut 20 0.1 0.9 1.9
Rice 47 0.1 1.0 3.3
Hemp 39 <0.1 2.5 1.6
Oat 40 0.4 1.2 8.7

 

Vegan Milk & Calcium

When taking on a dairy-free diet, or vegan diet, calcium deficiency can be raised as a concern by medical professionals. But all major manufacturers of non-dairy milk alternatives supplement their products with calcium to include at least of 120mg/100ml. This matches the amount in semi-skimmed cow’s milk, so ensures you won’t fall short on calcium. Always check when buying vegan milk alternatives to ensure they’re helping you get your RDA of calcium.

 

Not vegan? Try lactose-free

LactoFree from Arla was the first brand to push lactose free milk at scale (in Europe, at least). Lactose-free cow’s milk is produced from regular cow’s milk, and processed to remove lactose by adding lactase, the enzyme which usually breaks down lactose in the body. This means no gastro-intestinal disturbance for the lactose intolerant.

While lactose free milk is suitable for those with lactose intolerance, it does not make it dairy-free or suitable for those with a milk allergy.

If you’re lactose intolerant, lactose-free milk is the closest substitute to regular cow’s milk, indistinguishable in flavour and offering all the positives of regular milk, minus lactose. Some supermarkets have begun making their own lactose-free milks, but LactoFree is still the most common, with skimmed, semi-skimmed and full-fat lactose-free varieties available in most major supermarkets.

 

Hungry for more? Check out my guides to butter alternatives, vegan chocolate and vegan ice cream!

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