The list of non-dairy alternatives is extensive, and no longer are the days when soy milk was your only dairy-free option. Non-dairy milk can be made from almonds, cashews, oats, hemp, rice, chickpeas and even peas! Dairy is delicious, but it can also be incredibly challenging to digest, and consuming it may conflict with your moral and environmental principles. Luckily, there are so many non-dairy alternatives out there that you won’t miss dairy at all, whether you’re vegan or intolerant to it.
Best Non-Dairy Milk for Calcium: Pea Milk
Pea milk is pretty new on the non-dairy alternatives scene. Soy milk used to be the dairy-free milk of choice for this category, but pea is now winning by a landslide. One cup of pea milk makes up 45% of your daily value of calcium. It actually has 50% more calcium than 2% dairy milk. It also contains 8 grams of protein per cup, which is quite hefty for a non-dairy milk.
Best Non-Dairy Milk for Baking: Almond Milk
Almond milk may be the most popular of the non-dairy alternatives, and can be found pretty much everywhere. We love it the most for baking because it cooperates nicely as a one-to-one milk substitute and is naturally sweet, so it’s fabulous for making desserts. It doesn’t have a strong flavour, so it won’t overpower any other flavours of the baked goods you’re making. You can also easily turn it into a “buttermilk” by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to one cup of almond milk.
Get the recipe for The Ultimate Vegan Carrot Cake with ‘Cream Cheese’ Frosting
Best Non-Dairy Milk for Coffee or Tea: Oat Milk
Oat milk is hands down our favourite non-dairy alternative to pour into coffee or tea. It doesn’t curdle, like most non-dairy milks, and has a really smooth taste and consistency. Other milks are too thin so they immediately separate upon entering your hot beverage, making it a beige coloured piece-y mess. Oat milk has about 16-25 grams of carbohydrates per cup, depending on the brand, and because of this, it’s stable in your coffee and functions similarly to cow’s milk. The higher carb count also makes it naturally sweet and a really pleasant addition to coffee and tea.
Related: How to Make Oat Milk 5 Ways (And Why It’s the Best Non-Dairy Option)
Best Non-Dairy Milk for a Latte/Frothing: Coconut or Oat Milk
This one is a tie between a carton (not can) of coconut milk and oat milk. Both of these are also available in “barista blend” making them even better for frothing and foaming. Oat milk has a neutral and sweet taste, and contains a fibre called beta-glucan, which allows it to foam really nicely. Coconut milk, also naturally sweet, has a higher fat content that lends itself to a nice froth. Coconut also has a distinct taste that you either love or hate, so if you’re not a fan of coconut, choose oat milk instead.
Best Non-Dairy Milk for Cereal: Cashew Milk
Cashew milk is one of those versatile non-dairy alternatives that lends itself well to a variety of dishes, from smoothies to savoury cream sauces. Our favourite way to use it is to pour it over cereal, because it’s naturally creamy, subtly sweet and has a slightly thicker consistency than other nut milks, resembling cow’s milk. Nutritionally speaking, it’s almost identical to almond milk with only one gram of protein, one gram of carbs and two grams of fat per cup.
Best Non-Dairy Milk for Oatmeal: Rice Milk
Rice milk is our top pick for making oatmeal into a delicious, creamy porridge. It’s thinner than many of the other non-dairy alternatives, but because it’s higher in carbohydrates, it has a really nice natural sweetness that adds wonderful flavour to the oats. Most people start cooking their oatmeal with water and then add milk for flavour and extra creaminess; since rice milk is thin and milky at the same time, it plays double duty in oatmeal.
Best Non-Dairy Milk for Pancakes: Hemp Milk
Hemp milk is the winner when it comes to making pancake batter, especially since most pancakes call for buttermilk. Hemp milk has a higher protein content than many other non-dairy alternatives, so when it’s combined with an acid, like lemon or vinegar, it helps with leavening. The higher protein content will also add moisture and tenderness while giving the batter structure. You can easily make your own hemp milk at home by blitzing up hemp seeds and water.
Best Non-Dairy Milk for Smoothies: Pea or Almond Milk
This is a toss up between pea milk and almond milk. Pea milk boasts a fair amount of protein and calcium, and since most people make smoothies to drink their nutrients, pea milk is a great addition. We also love almond milk for making smoothies. It’s a classic non-dairy alternative and it has a really neutral taste so it won’t imbue any unwanted flavours.
Related: 7 Ways to Make Your Soups Creamy Without Dairy
Best Non-Dairy Milk for Soups: Coconut Milk
Cream-based soups have a thicker and richer consistency compared to brothy ones. We’ve found the best substitute to be full-fat canned coconut milk, and have swapped it in as a dairy substitute for many of the classics, like cream of broccoli, creamy tomato and cream of mushroom. Coconut milk is higher in fat, similar to cream, so it gives the right viscous texture. It does impart a coconut flavour, which we’ve found to be a delicious addition to many of these soups.
Get the recipe for Vegan Thai Curry Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Milk
Best Tasting Non-Dairy Milk (to drink on its own): Soy Milk
Soy milk is the grandparent of non-dairy milks. About a decade ago if you didn’t drink milk, your only option was soy. Although there are many alternatives now, we find that soy is still the best to gulp down on its own. This is because it has a well-rounded flavour that isn’t too strong. It holds up well when chilled or even when heated, so whether you’re drinking it as a refreshing cold drink or as a warming hot beverage, it will perform.
Want more? See here for 12 Surprising Foods You Won’t Believe Are Dairy-Free.