If you’re like me, you love dairy. There are few things as tasty as ice cream, cheese, yogurt, and even milk. But sometimes, dairy just doesn’t agree with me.
And I’m not alone. Tons of people are lactose intolerant, meaning they can’t eat dairy without having some major digestive upset. Others choose to avoid animal products entirely.
Plant-based milk alternatives make ditching dairy easy and there are dozens of types to choose from.
Here are a few of my favorite milk alternatives that can be substituted for cow’s milk in almost every recipe you can think of.
Soy milk is by far the most well-known and popular non-dairy milks out there. It’s made from soybeans and often thickened to mimic the texture of dairy milk.
Unlike cow’s milk, it’s available in sweetened and unsweetened options as well as different flavors. Yep…that means chocolate.
And it tastes pretty darn good when used in cereal, coffee, tea, and even traditional cream-based soups.
Like cow’s milk, soy milk is naturally high in protein, packing a whopping 8 grams of plant-based protein in a single cup. It’s also fortified with the same vitamins and minerals as cow’s milk and may include an added bit of calcium to round out the nutrients and keep your bones and muscles strong.
But there are some possible health issues associated with soy milk. Soybeans are naturally high in estrogen. For some women, using soy milk on a regular basis can interrupt their hormone balance. Keep in mind that it takes a TON of soy to cause any problems. If you’re just using it in small amounts to get away from dairy, you should be fine.
The second most popular alternative milk is almond milk. Though it’s typically thinner than soy milk, it can taste better for people first making the transition from cow’s milk to plant-based alternatives.
Most almond milk brands fortify their beverages, adding the same nutrients you’d find in cow’s milk without the dairy. But almond milk is lower in calories, fat, and carbohydrates.
The milk tastes a lot like almonds, making it perfect for people who love the flavor of nuts on their own. Like soy milk, it can be added into almost any recipe that calls for dairy milk. That said, it’s not the best for hot beverages.
Some almond milks can taste bitter when they’re heated to a high temperature.
Almond milk is available both sweetened and unsweetened, but I recommend getting the unsweetened version. For added flavor especially in smoothies and on cereal, unsweetened vanilla is the perfect choice.
This beverage is made from blended almonds and water and is relatively easy to make on your own.
If you’re allergic to nuts and soy, oat milk is a great alternative. It’s made from oats, water, and thickening agents like guar gum and carrageenan to create a texture similar to regular dairy milk.
Oat milk has a slightly sweet taste on its own, but the sugar content is similar to that of regular cow’s milk. Though it’s not the highest in protein, it is significantly lower in fat than other alternative milks.
Best of all, it’s mild flavor is perfect for using in coffee, tea, and even savory recipes. It adds a light amount of creaminess without dramatically increasing calorie count.
If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivities, you may want to avoid using oat milk. Some oats contain gluten or are processed on shared equipment, increasing your risk of cross-contamination. If you do decide to use oat milk, check the label and only use brands that are certified gluten-free.
You can also make your own oat milk using certified gluten-free oats and fresh filtered water.
Flax milk is one of the newer alternative milks to hit the shelves and it’s by far the most similar to cow’s milk both in taste and texture. It’s naturally creamy, making it perfect for people just transitioning away from normal dairy.
The milk itself is low calorie with the average flax milk having about 50 calories per cup. Though the milk is naturally low in protein, many companies produce protein-fortified beverages with more than 10 grams of protein per serving. If you’re looking for the best milk alternative for weight loss, flax milk might be the best choice.
It’s naturally rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Some studies suggest that incorporating Omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids into your diet can help you lose weight and keep it off. Omega-3s are thought to help you burn fat more effectively while the Omega-6 and 9 oils may help improve your cholesterol.
Since this milk is allergen-free, creamy, and delicious, there really aren’t any downsides except price. Most flax milks are found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and cost about twice what a half-gallon of cow’s milk does.
Coconut milk is the highest fat alternative milk, but it’s also one of the most versatile options…as long as you don’t mind the taste of coconut. Think of it as a plant-based alternative to whole milk.
This means it’ll give you that creamy taste you love without any of the discomfort associated with dairy milk. But you’ll want to use it sparingly.
Coconut milk is packed with calories and saturated fat which can ruin your diet and derail your attempts to lose weight when you’re using it on a regular basis.
Though it’s definitely not the best for weight loss, it’s one of the best if not THE best alternative milk for cooking. Use it instead of cream to make a delicious dairy-free curry or add it to your smoothies for an added flavor boost.
Alternative milks are a great way to break free from dairy and these options are a great place to start.