Milk. It’s everywhere. It’s in sauces, puddings, curries, cakes, and a ton of other delicious foods. So if you’re like me, and dairy gives you cramps, bloating, and digestive upset, it can feel like you have to give up most of your favorite foods. Thankfully, over the last 5-10 years, alternative milks have become extremely popular. Nut milks, coconut milk (which is technically not a nut!), milks made out of rice, and now even oat milk have increased options for lactose intolerant, dairy-free, or vegan eaters everywhere.
So what are the best dairy free milk options? Let’s find out!
1. Almond milk
You had to see this one coming! This is one of the dairy-free milks that paved the way for alternative milk shoppers. There are now a ton of different varieties — sweetened, unsweetened, chocolate, vanilla, caramel, blueberry, etc. — and dozens of different brands. It’s low-calorie, low sugar, and has a natural sweet taste. The unsweetened variety, in particular, is a great addition to a sugarfree or low-carb diet, at 1 carb and only 30 calories.
2. Rice milk
This is an old-school nondairy milk. I remember growing up seeing my mom drinking Rice Dream. It has a texture and color similar to skim milk. It’s not so popular anymore, but it’s still a good option for people with nut allergies. The drawback? It’s pretty high carb, at 23 grams of carbs and 10 grams of sugar. So this milk is not a great option for those on a low-carb, keto diet. That’s where our next milk comes in.
3. Coconut milk
Although not typically seen as a diet milk, full-fat coconut milk can be a great part of a weight-loss plan. It has only 1-2 carbs per serving, but it has tons of medium-chain triglycerides, also known as MCTs. Ever heard of MCT oil? Studies show that MCTs can help control body weight over the long term. It’s not a low-calorie food, but it’s a great addition to your diet in moderation. The healthy fats can help increase satiety, and you can make some pretty delicious diary-free ice creams with coconut milk. Or you can go traditional and make some coconut curry!
4. Macadamia nut milk
After trying unsweetened Milkadamia, I was a convert. It tastes pretty similar to almond milk, but with 0 net carbs, even those on the strictest of keto diets can fit this into their diets. I find it’s a nice way to wind down at night when I’m feeling a little peckish, but I don’t want to eat a heavy meal or large snack right before bed. At 50 calories and with a few grams of healthy fats, it curbs your late night hunger, but doesn’t sit heavy in your stomach.
5. Cashew milk
This is a milk that I don’t think gets enough credit. It has a very mild flavor, so it can pair with almost anything. It’s great for cooking and baking with If the nutty flavor of almond milk bothers you, cashew milk could be a good alternative to try. Its nutritional profile is similar to other nut milks such as almond milk and macadamia nut milk, which makes it a good addition to a low-carb diet. It’s also super easy to make. All you need is cashews and water. Since it’s naturally sweet, you don’t even need to add any sweetener.
6. Pea milk
Unlike some of these other milks, this one is not made just by soaking nuts in water. It involves a more complicated process of extracting the pea protein and blending it into milk. One of the strong points of this milk is that it’s high in protein, with 4-10 grams, compared to 1 gram in almond or cashew milk. On the other hand, many people don’t find the taste of pea milk to be quite as enjoyable as, say, cashew milk. After trying it myself, I do think it has a slight bitter aftertaste. I wouldn’t drink it plain, but I do think it can be a nice addition to a smoothie or protein shake.
7. Soy Milk
Soy is one of the more affordable milk alternatives, as it has been around the longest and it’s fairly cheap to manufacture. There has been some controversy about its affect on estrogen levels, but the research is mixed. In fact, soy has been shown to improve several health outcomes, such as lowering LDL, the bad cholesterol, according to this study from the New England Journal of Medicine. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue of you eat some Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy every now and then (if you love TJ’s, check out my dairy-free keto Trader Joe’s haul). Still, it may be better to mix it up with some of these other milk options.
8. Oat milk
This milk seems to be the flavor of the day — brands like Califia Farms, Oat Yeah!, and Elmhurst are all creating Oat Milks now. Even Chobani has entered the game. Much like rice milk, oat milk is a little higher in carbs, since, well, it’s made of oats. The unsweetened version is about 8 net carbs and 2g natural sugars. This is another good alternative for those with nut allergies. Also, while it is technically gluten-free, if you have a severe gluten allergy or celiac disease, make sure to choose an oatmilk that hasn’t been processed on equipment that also processes wheat.
Some final thoughts
I hope you find this overview helpful! There are a ton of great options available now, and you really can’t go wrong. Switch it up, mix them (actually, you can find some milk blends on the grocery shelf now), and find your favorites. The more variety you can include in your diet, the healthier you will be. Plus, part of the fun is cooking and baking is finding the best pairings. Coconut milk may work great for making ice cream, but cashew milk might be your go-to for making chia seed pudding. Let me know your favorites in the comments below.