The Best Plant-based Milk Alternatives

Gone are the days when your choice of milk was limited to skimmed, semi-skimmed, and full fat. Now, stocked in every corner shop to cafe, we have an abundance of plant-based milk alternatives on offer. It’s not surprising that they’ve become so popular, with 65% of adults worldwide suffering from a form of lactose intolerance[1], and plant-based diets becoming increasingly popular.

With such a variety available, how do we know what the differences are, and which dairy-free product is right for us? Here, we’ve given you an overview of what different vegan milks can offer.

Oat Milk

Created by soaking and blending whole oats with water, oat milk has a creamy texture with an unsurprisingly oaty taste. With lots of fibre, it’s often fortified with vitamins and minerals such as calcium, vitamin D, and riboflavin, helping to keep your skin and eyes healthy[2]. A lot of the options available aren’t gluten-free, so if you do have a gluten intolerance, another dairy-free alternative might be a safer bet. For some more information on gluten, take a look at our What is Gluten? article.

Soya Milk

Soya milk is made using soaked soyabeans that are ground into a liquid and then boiled to form milk. Soya protein provides all the essential amino acids, and it has been linked to lowering blood pressure and LDL levels (bad cholesterol)[3]. Give our Good Fats and Bad Fats article a read for more information. A soya allergy can be quite common, so many will have to choose another plant-milk product[4].

Potato Milk

Potato Milk

Lactose-free, earth-kind and vegan. A relatively new addition to the plant-based milk market – potato milk has started gaining popularity during the summer 2021. Produced by a Swedish brand DUG, potato milk is one of the most-sustainable plant milks.

Potato milk is rich in fibre, and is fortified with vitamins including D, B12 and folic acid, but more importantly, it is a great milk for those with allergies – it's free from the most common allergens (lactose, milk, soy, gluten and nuts).

Potato milk foams well, which makes it perfect for coffee-lovers – it works just as well in lattes and cappuccinos as it does in Huel! Its neutral, creamy, and subtly sweet taste, means it (mercifully) doesn't taste like potato at all.

Coconut Milk

Different to the tinned coconut milk used for cooking, drinkable coconut milk is made by blending grated coconut in hot water and separating the liquid. It’s a great twist for a sweeter tasting coffee, but coconut milk, unlike raw coconut, is lower in fat and contains fewer medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Find out more about MCTs in our Benefits of Medium-chain Triglycerides article.

Almond Milk

One of the most-common nut milks on offer is almond milk[6]. It’s made in a similar way to oat; the almonds are soaked and blended with water to create a nutty, creamy milk. Many are opting to make homemade almond milk too. It’s naturally high in the antioxidant vitamin E, which is involved in keeping our skin healthy and strengthening our immune response[7]. For the healthiest option, make sure to pick up an unsweetened version as the sweetened can have a lot of added sugar.

Cashew Milk

Another cow’s milk replacement is cashew. Created by soaking deshelled cashew nuts in water, blending to a paste, and then straining to a subtle, nutty milk. It’s packed with even more vitamin E than you’ll find in almond milk and normally fewer calories. Much like the other options, a lot of the nutrients in the whole nut are diluted when made into milk, so like other plant-milks it will often be fortified with additional vitamins.

Rice Milk

A great dairy milk alternative for people with nut allergies, rice milk is created by boiling brown or white rice, pressing through a mill, and then straining to a liquid. Prior to fortification, rice milk has one of the lowest nutritional values of the plant-milks. It also has the highest environmental impact of all the plant-milks, but this is still under half that of dairy[8].

Hemp Milk

Made from the seeds of the hemp plant, they’re blended with water to create a milk with a similar texture to cow’s milk. Hemp seeds are a good source of calcium, which as we know is great for bone and teeth health. Currently, it’s not as readily available as the other plant-milk varieties which makes it quite expensive, but it is gaining more popularity.

Pea Milk

Forget petit pois, pea milk is produced using yellow split peas which are ground into flour. The protein and starch are separated, and the protein is blended with water to make the milk. The taste and texture are similar to other plant-milks. The pea milk is often fortified with vitamins such as calcium and potassium, a key electrolyte for the body. Compared to dairy milk, some pea milk manufacturers have been able to use 25% less water when producing the milk, making it better for the environment[9].

Hazelnut Milk

Whole hazelnuts are roasted, soaked and blended with water to create this nutty milk. With it’s sweet, rich taste, it’s great in baking or for giving your coffee an indulgent kick. Similar to hemp milk it’s high in calcium, and hazelnut milk is also high in folate[10]. Hazelnut milk is sometimes recommended to pregnant women as folate can help to reduce the risk of central neural tube defects, like spina bifida, in unborn babies[11]. Make sure to look out for the unsweetened options, as the sweetened and flavoured versions can nearly double the amount of sugar.

Macadamia Milk

Similar to other nut-based milks, macadamia milk is made by blending nuts with water, salt and optional flavourings. It has a distinctly creamy thickness, with a subtle nutty after-taste. Think of it as a bit of a blank canvas for your Huel shakes and smoothies.

Macadamia milk is low on carbs, and is often fortified with vitamins A, D and B12, so it's a match made in heaven when combined with Huel. As far as allergens go, Macadamia milk is free from gluten and soy.

Tiger Nut Milk

Unlike the name suggests, tiger nuts aren’t actually nuts. They’re a vegetable with a stripy coating; hence the name. Although, the milk is made in the same way as the nut milks - the tiger nut is soaked and then blended to a creamy milk. They’re naturally sweet and offer a nutty flavour, but without the worry for people with nut allergies. The whole tiger nut is naturally high in magnesium, great for energy[14], but make sure to choose the fortified milk as the nutrients will be diluted.

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Comparison of plant-based milks per 100ml

This chart compares nutritional values of plant-based milks. Please note that we used unsweetened varieties of milk products for this comparison where available.

Plant milk[15-19] Calories (kcal) Carbs (g) Fat (g) Protein (g) Sugar (g)
Oat 40 5.6 1.5 0.2 0.0
Soya 33 0.0 1.8 3.3 0.0
Potato 39 1.3 3 1.3 0.1
Coconut 14 0.4 1.2 0.1 0.0
Almond 13 0.0 1.3 0.5 0.0
Cashew 23 2.6 1.1 0.5 2.0
Rice 47 9.5 1.0 0.1 3.3
Hemp 26 0.1 2.7 0.3 0.0
Pea 34 2.0 2.1 2.0 2.0
Hazelnut 29 3.1 1.6 0.4 3.1
Macadamia 23 0.4 2.4 0.4 0.0
Tiger Nut 56 9.8 2.0 0.6 5.0

 

We’ve tried to cover most popular and commercially available plant-based milks in this article, however there are many more that you may want to try making at home, such as pistachio milk, sesame seed milk, quinoa milk and even poppy milk!  

There’s a huge range of plant-milks available to try, each with something different to offer. If you fancy using them in something other than your coffee, they taste great with our Huel Powder instead of water.

Plant-Based Milks FAQ

What's the best plant-based milk for coffee?

We have four favourite milks when it comes to coffee. Oat milk – tastes good, doesn’t curdle and froths well. Soy milk – neutral flavour, easy to froth, may curdle if not warmed. Potato milk – neutral, milk-like flavour and consistency, frosts well, needs shaking to prevent curdling.

Which plant-based milk has the least calories?

Unsweetened almond milk is the option with the least calories, providing only 13 calories per 100 ml. That’s is followed by the coconut milk with 14 calories per 100ml.

Are plant-based milks keto-friendly?

Unsweetened almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, macadamia nut milk, hemp milk and pea milk are all keto-friendly. However, ensure to check nutritional values as they may vary from brand to brand.

Do plant-based milks contain lactose?

Lactose is a sugar naturally found in mammal’s milks. Plant based milk products are made from plants and therefore don’t have lactose in it. However, in case you are lactose intolerant, it is worth checking the ingredients of the products you are buying, just to be sure.

References

  1. NIH. Genetics Home Reference. Lactose intolerance. Date Accessed: 06/09/19. [Available from: https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/lactose-intolerance].
  2. NHS. Riboflavin. Date Accessed: 24/05/19. [Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-b/#riboflavin/]
  3. NIH. Soy. Date accessed: 06/09/19. [Available from: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/soy/ataglance.htm]
  4. Mayo Clinic. Soy Allergy. Date accessed: 06/06/19. [Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/soy-allergy/symptoms-causes/syc-20377802]
  5. The Guardian. Smash hit: is potato milk the ultimate vegan option? Date Accessed: 02/12/2021 [Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/food/2021/jul/27/smash-hit-is-potato-milk-the-ultimate-vegan-option]
  6. Statista. Annual sales value of milk alternatives. Date accessed: 06/09/19. [Available from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/932707/sales-milk-dairy-free-alternatives-us/]
  7. Rizvi S, et al. The role of vitamin e in human health and some diseases. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2014; 14(2):e157-e65.
  8. BBC. Climate Change: Which vegan milk is best?. Date Accessed: 06/09/19. [Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46654042]
  9. Henderson A and Unnasch S. Life Cycle Assessment of Ripple Non-Dairy Milk. Life Cycle Associates. 2017. [Available from: https://www.ripplefoods.com/pdf/Ripple_LCA_Report.pdf].
  10. Plus M. NIH. Folic acid in the diet. Date Accessed:06/09/19. [Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002408.htm]
  11. Chidambaram B. Folate in pregnancy. J Pediatr Neurosci. 2012; 7(2):81-.
  12. A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Facts about monounsaturated fats. Date Accessed: 02/12/2021 [Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000785.htm]
  13. Holland and Barret. Milkadamia Original Drink. Date Accessed: 02/12/2021 [Available from: https://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/product/milkadamia-original-macadamia-milk-60044435]
  14. Carvil P, et al. Magnesium and Implications on Muscle Function. 2010. 48-54 p.
  15. Alpro. Drinks. Date Accessed: 06/09/19. [Available from: https://www.alpro.com/uk/products?products=drinks].
  16. Good Hemp. Creamy Seed Milk. Date Accessed: 06/09/19. [Available from: https://www.goodhemp.com/our-products/ambient-creamy-hemp-milk/]
  17. Sproud. Sproud Original Drink. Date Accessed: 06/09/19. [Available from: https://www.sproud.co.uk/sproud-original-drink/]
  18. Rude Health. Tiger Nut Drink. Date Accessed: 23/09/19. [Available from: https://rudehealth.com/product/tiger-nut-drink/]
  19. DUG Drinks. DUG Unsweetened. Date Accessed: 02/12/2021 [Available from: 16. https://dugdrinks.com/products/dug-unsweetened/]

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