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As promised, after sharing about how milk can make us feel bad, tonight I offer healthy alternatives to cow’s milk. For baking, for pouring over gluten free oatmeal, for drinking, these plant based milks deliver flavor and nutrients without the hormones, antibiotics and lactose.
And, as a bonus, I’ve included a simple to make DIY almond milk recipe.
This is the most popular plant based milk on the market and the easiest to find. Almond milk is made from almonds and water. It has a light, sweet, subtly nutty flavor and among plant based milks, has the lowest calorie count. Almonds contain healthy fats, important minerals and vitamins, including E. Purchase unsweetened almond milk and check labels for carrageenan. This additive causes an inflammatory response in some people.
Drink almond milk or use in coffee and tea, over cereal or oatmeal, in smoothies and for baking.
Almond milk is incredibly easy to make at home. See the DIY recipe at the end of the post.
Similar to almond milk, cashew milk is made from cashews and water. It has a rich, creamy texture and a sweet, slightly nutty taste. Cashews contain healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, including zinc. Purchase unsweetened cashew milk, or make your own at home. Unlike almond milk, it doesn’t even need to be strained after blending,
Use in smoothies, for baking or in coffee and tea.
In contrast to full fat coconut milk purchased in a can, and used in many Thai and curry recipes, this coconut milk is a diluted version. It’s made from the flesh of coconuts and water. The milk is very creamy with a sweet, subtle coconut flavor. Coconut milk contains healthy fats, minerals such as calcium and iron, and it’s rich with B vitamins. Look for unsweetened coconut milk.
This milk is great for drinking, using in coffee, tea and smoothies, and for baking.
Made from hemp seeds and water, hemp milk contains more protein than the nut milks and contains healthy omega-3s. It has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor with a very thin watery texture. Many compare the texture to skim milk, and some don’t care for the unique flavor.
Like almond milk, packaged hemp milk can contain carrageenan, so check labels. This product is not as readily available as other milks.
Use in place of skim milk in coffee and tea.
Relatively new to the market, oat milk is higher in calories and carbohydrates than the other plant based milks. It’s made from oats and water and has a mild, sweet flavor. Oat milk contains more protein than nut milks, and fiber along with important minerals and the B vitamins.
Look for unsweetened varieties, to cut down on calories.
Use oat milk in coffee, tea and smoothies, for baking and to top cereal and oatmeal. This newcomer is currently a very popular option in coffee shops.
This milk, made from milled brown or white rice and water, has been around for a long time. Compared to plant based milks available now, rice milk doesn’t have the nutritional value that they do. However, rice milk is the least allergenic of all the milks. It is also very mild, taste wise, with a thin, watery texture.
Purchase rice milk unsweetened.
Use this milk in smoothies and for baking.
Another newcomer, quinoa milk is made from this small, gluten free grain and water. Quinoa milk is high in protein and contains all nine of the essential amino acids. The milk has a slightly sweet taste with a distinctive quinoa flavor. However, it mixes well with coffee and tea.
This product can be difficult to find in grocery stores and it is more expensive than the other plant based milks.
I hesitated in adding this milk. It has long been available, being one of the first plant based milk products on the market. Soy milk is made from soy beans (or soy protein isolate) and water and has a creamy texture and a mild flavor. It is high in proteins and can be substituted for cow’s milk in coffee and tea, for baking or for drinking.
The problem with soy milk is that most of the soy grown in the US is genetically modified so that it can be sprayed with the pesticide Round Up. Genetically modified foods, also called GMO foods, can cause inflammation and health issues. And the pesticide used on soy is passed on to those who drink the milk, creating many more health problems.
If using soy milk, look for an unsweetened, non GMO product.
DIY Almond Milk
Almond milk can be made easily at home. I say that, and yet I have never made it before, until tonight. I found the process to be super simple.
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 3 cups water bottled or filtered
- 2 dates pitted
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Cover raw almonds with cool water and soak for 24 - 48 hours. Drain and rinse.
- Combine almonds, 3 cups of water, dates and vanilla in blender. Pulse 5 or 6 times, to break up almonds.
- Blend on high speed for two minutes, until mixture becomes white and creamy.
- Line strainer with cheesecloth and place in a bowl. Pour blended almond mixture into strainer and allow milk to drain through cheesecloth, into bowl. Gently squeeze cheesecloth, to extract all the liquid. Store for up to 2 days in refrigerator.
Other than remembering to start the soaking process one to two days beforehand, this recipe was so simple. I found it fascinating, actually, to see almonds transformed into a creamy, frothy drink.
I am not a milk drinker, although I occasionally use it for baking. However, I like trying new things. I sampled my freshly made almond milk, and I liked it. I did include the dates and vanilla, for a slightly sweeter taste. Tomorrow, after my almond milk as chilled overnight, I’ll try a small glassful.
Because it contains no preservatives, make small batches of almond milk and use up within two days. Cost wise, making plant based milks at home is not a savings over purchasing ready made milks at the store. For quality assurance, it can’t be beat. I know exactly what’s in this milk…and what’s not in it. I’m looking forward to baking with my homemade milk or adding a splash to a cup of hot herbal tea.
If you have a favorite plant based milk, or DIY milk recipe, I’d love to see it!
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