I’m not a huge fan of coconut, and I hate almonds, so finding the best milk alternatives for vegans seemed like it was going to be an uphill battle. Spoiler alert: coconut milk is my jam.
There are several reasons to avoid dairy milk. Besides the fact that a cow’s milk should be for her babies, dairy milk is known to cause digestive issues in many people (me included!). Fortunately, there are tasty milk alternatives you’ll fall in love with – even if you aren’t a vegan (yet ;)).
One of the most popular milk alternatives is soy milk. It comes in unsweetened, sweetened, and flavored varieties (including chocolate!). Extracted from soybeans, soy milk is commonly fortified with calcium, vitamins A and D, and riboflavin.
It has 8-10 grams of protein per serving, and some studies claim it can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in women. Other studies say it may negatively impact fertility in men.
Note: I’m not here to debate the health benefits or risks of soy milk. It’s a valid dairy milk alternative, but not one my family uses. Please do your own research before deciding if soy milk is right for your family.
Almond milk has gained popularity in recent years, and for good reason. While it has less protein than soy milk, it contains about 50% of the daily suggested amount of Vitamin E in just one cup! Almond milk has about 1/3 of the calories of 2% cow’s milk.
While not as creamy as cashew milk, almond milk does have a creamy texture like cow’s milk does. It comes in sweetened, unsweetened, vanilla, and even chocolate! It’s also available at pretty much every grocery store.
Yes, rice milk is actually made from rice! Rice milk is a great dairy-free milk option for those who are allergic or have an intolerance to nuts or soy. It is not as creamy as cashew, coconut, or almond milk, so it doesn’t make the best substitute for cooking. Knowing it’s thinner than other milks, as long as you prepare for that ahead of time, you can still cook with it.
I personally find rice milk way too sweet for milk. The kids like it in their cereal, probably because of the sweetness I hate. 😉
Rice milk is not with the rest of the milk alternatives, as it’s shelf stable and doesn’t need to be refrigerated until after it’s been opened.
I didn’t discover cashew milk until about a year ago, and when I did, I was a bit skeptical. I’m picky by nature when it comes to trying new foods (and beverages!), so I was definitely side-eyeing it. I first tried it in cereal, and I liked it a lot. Then, I got brave and tried it plain. It doesn’t have as strong of a nut flavor as almond milk does, and it’s creamy like cow’s milk is.
Cashew milk is a good source of fiber, antioxidants, and even magnesium. You can use it for cooking and baking just like dairy milk.
Coconut milk is the closest milk alternative when it comes to texture and is my personal favorite milk alternative. It’s perfect for cooking (like this vegan mac and cheese!) and baking. Coconut milk is high in potassium (630mg per cup), and is a delicious alternative to cow’s milk – especially for those with allergies to nuts or soy.
When I was a vegetarian, I used heavy cream in my coffee every morning. My milky coffee was my biggest concern when going vegan (besides cheese!), and I just wasn’t ready to give it up. I knew I didn’t like almond milk, rice milk, or soy milk, so I figured I’d give coconut milk a try. Rather than trying the coconut milk in the carton, though, I used chilled coconut milk (basically a thick cream, once refrigerated) from the can. And ohmygod, I swear I knew right then that I’d be absolutely fine with giving up my heavy cream as long as I could have coconut cream.
Coconut milk (even from the carton) is my absolute favorite when it comes to the best vegan milk alternatives. My kids love almond and cashew milk, and my youngest daughter used rice milk from a young age because of her reaction to dairy. The overall family favorite is coconut milk, with cashew being a close second because of its creamy texture. I would love to know which milk alternatives your family likes! Leave me a comment below.