Plant-based milk is an excellent alternative for us looking for cruelty-free products that don’t cause animal suffering and have a smaller carbon and water footprint. In my opinion, plant-based milk is part of the solution for our nutritional, spiritual, and environmental tribulations.
If you are new to the milk-free life, choosing vegan milk can be overwhelming. With the growing popularity of eating vegan food, supermarkets add new dairy-free products to their shelves every day. Soymilk, rice milk, almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk and oat milk to start. Then there are the sugar-free options, flavoured options, milk with added calcium. With so many options, how do we decide which kind of non-dairy milk to buy? It all depends on what you are using the milk for, drinking, baking, coffee, and potential dietary restrictions.
Here is your ultimate guide to plant-based milk, complete with a rundown of flavour, use and diet.
Soymilk might be one of the most ubiquitous plant-based milk available today. It has a long history dating back many Chinese dynasties. A mural on a stone slab showing soy milk and tofu preparation, dating back to 25-220 AD is the oldest evidence of its existence. With a whopping 7g per cup, soymilk has a high protein content and is equivalent to cow’s milk in this respect. Soymilk is one of the better choices to pick when it comes to cooking. It is stable at high temperatures, making it a popular choice for savoury dishes and sauces.
Soymilk is one of the better options for baking because of its high protein content. You can also curdle soymilk by adding an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar while heating the milk. Conclusion? Soymilk might be the uncool older sister on the shelf, it is versatile, affordable, and you can use it in any dish instead of cow’s milk. When in doubt, sugar-free soy milk is always a safe option. I recommend researching the brands available at your local supermarket and make sure the soy is ethically sourced.
Oatmilk is genuinely one of my favourite milk alternatives, especially the chocolate flavour varieties are heartwarming. It doesn’t contain saturated fats and contains about 2 to 3 grams of protein per cup. Oatmilk is light and slightly sweet in flavour. You might compare it to low-fat cow’s milk. Because of the mildly sweet taste, it is excellent for baked goods, smoothies, or cereal. The barista types are an awesome option for your morning coffee or tea.
Rice milk is thinner than most other cowmilk alternatives. This dairy-free option is made by blending boiled rice with water, sometimes sweeteners and vitamins are added. This variety is high in carbohydrates and low in protein with only 1 gram per cup. Because it doesn’t contain soy, nuts, or gluten, it is a preferable choice for people with allergies. Its sweet flavour makes it a good choice for cakes, and its delicate texture makes it fit well in soups and light sauces, but it may be too sweet for some recipes.
Hemp milk probably fits the vegan stereotype of unwashed hippy living on a homestead the best. If that is the image you are trying to achieve, I would definitely go for this stuff. But if you don’t identify with this figure, don’t pass up on hemp milk just yet. Hemp milk is a nutritional bomb, boasting omega-3s, calcium, and vitamin D, and has all the essential amino acids. It is high in fat (8 grams a cup) and contains almost no carbohydrates, so an excellent choice for those following a low-carb diet.
Some describe the flavour of hemp milk as grassy, and it is not as creamy as other kinds of milk. It works well in cereals, smoothies, and recipes requiring a lighter milk substitute. In case you are wondering, no, it will not make you high. Hemp milk is made from hemp seeds for which CBD and THC contents are almost undetectably low and will not cause any mood-altering effects.
There are two types of coconut milk, the thick kind, often found packed in a can and the thin kind. Both are a product of the white flesh of the coconut. The thick type is a great staple to always have in your pantry and makes a frequent appearance in many Southeast Asian recipes. I use at least a can a week, and I believe seriously unmissable in vegan cooking in soups, stews, and sauces. The thin type has the consistency of light milk and only has a slight coconutty flavour. However, the taste is strong enough that I wouldn’t recommend using it in your coffee. One cup of thin coconut milk contains 4.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of fibre and no protein.
Flaxseed milk is probably one of the lesser known milk alternatives, but definitely, one to have on your radar. Like rice milk, it is a fantastic substitute for people with allergies, as it is nut-free, gluten-free, and soy-free. Flaxmilk is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and contains vitamins A and D. It is high in protein (8 grams per cup) and fat (3.5 grams per cup), while low on carbohydrates, thus an excellent choice for people on a low-carb diet.
The last milk option I would like to discuss here is almond milk. Almond milk is a popular vegan option and is incredibly versatile. It isn’t a great source of protein or fibre but does contain vitamin D, calcium, and iron. Try it in for your morning cereal or porridge, or in a smoothie. I don’t like it in my coffee as it often turns my cappuccino sour and doesn’t mix well.
I retrieved all nutritional data for this article from www.myfooddata.com, who source their data from the USDA Food Data Central, except for the flax seed milk, which contains the source in the link. All images are from Rawpixel.