Comparing Milk Alternatives
When it comes to milk alternatives, pickings have been slim for vegans, those who suffer from food allergies, lactose intolerance and gastrointestinal problems. Thankfully that’s no longer the case. Over the past couple of years there’s been an outpouring of milk alternatives debuting on our shelves. To date, at least ten different milk alternatives are commercially sold in stores and we couldn’t be happier!
Because we’re spoiled for choice, we’re going to explore the best options based on taste, consistency and nutritional information. We’ll also suggest compatible alternatives for a good cuppa joe. So, milk this read for what it’s worth!
DON’T BE A M*LK DUD! CHECK THE LABEL!
Looking for Sugar
Milk alternatives brands usually come in sweetened, unsweetened and barista options. Sweetened varieties usually contain sugar additives. Some brands mention the product contains ‘low sugars’ in lieu of being branded as ‘sweetened’. While unsweetened options may be naturally sweet, they shouldn’t contain sugar additives.
What the Barista!
‘Barista blend’ refers to milk alternative varieties that are compatible when added to tea or coffee. Certain alternatives curdle when added to hot beverages due to the difference in temperature/pH levels. Barista blends usually include added fat or protein content in the form of oil or ingredients like sunflower lecithin. They allow for emulsification, which makes the milk froth – important for drinks like cappuccinos and flat whites.
Get the Deets
Some milk alternatives do not solely contain the branded ingredient. For example, you may find many commercial coconut or oat milk brands contain rice milk, or some almond milks contain a portion of oat milk. Oil and fat content is always good to look out for if you have cholesterol issues, dietary restrictions or are counting calories. Additionally, nutritional values differ from brand to brand. It’s thus important to carefully inspect labels for allergens and relevant information.
What’s in a Name?
Lastly, referring to milk alternatives as ‘milk’ is regarded as slightly taboo as plant-based sources don’t lactate. You’ll notice many brands go by, ‘m.lk’, m*lk or mylk. While the name may appear offensive, the taste is untainted.
DIFFERENT MILK ALTERNATIVES
There’s no use in crying over spilt milk with so many milk alternatives to choose from…
Soy milk, also known as soya milk, is the oldest existing milk alternative. Originally consumed in China, this drink dates back to 25–220 AD – soy ancient, right? Soy milk is produced by soaking soybeans and grinding them with water. The soy pulp is then removed to get that smooth and creamy consistency.
It has a more neutral, slightly nutty taste and is sweeter in comparison to other milk alternatives. The only downside to soy milk is that it’s the Goldi-locks of milks, it shouldn’t be too hot nor too cold, it has to be ‘just right’. To avoid it from curdling and becoming tofu, it needs to match the temperature of your coffee.
Soy milk contains the same amount of protein as cow’s milk and contains 75% calcium, making it a favourable milk alternative.
For coffee-lovers, we’d recommend Alpro Soya Milk Barista.
Almond milk is the ‘it-girl’ when it comes to milk alternatives. It’s one of the most popular and readily available alternatives on the market. We suspect this is due to its mild, nutty profile, meaning it’s more palatable compared to soy milk, for some.
Almond milk can be sweetened (more calories) or unsweetened and has a range of nutritional benefits derived from its essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and calcium. Because almond milk isn’t a good source of protein, we wouldn’t recommended it for young’uns. Almond milk is a great choice for coffee or tea and is even suitable for baking.
For the health-conscious, this low-calorie alternative may sound like a great, but the environmentally conscious would disagree. The high demand for almond milk continues to negatively impact honeybee populations that pollinate almond orchards. To learn more about this growing problem, see How the Almond Milk Trend Wipes Out Bees.
Almo Australian Almond Milk uses locally-sourced and pesticide-free almonds. Unfortunately, this brand is not yet available in South Africa.
Unlike its counterpart, cashew milk is more difficult to source and not as easily available in South African stores. Fun fact, India is the largest producer of cashew nuts in the world.
Cashew milk contains about 2-10 grams of fat, similar to the amount of fat typically found in cow’s milk (8 grams). This deliciously nutty milk alternative has a surprisingly low amount of carbohydrates, making it an excellent choice for special dietary requirements. Cashew milk errs on the sweeter side – great for coffee and as a baking substitute.
Ecomil Cashew Milk is vegan and sugar-free.
Macadamia milk is notably less popular in the range of nut milks, which is interesting when you factor South Africa being the leading producer of macadamia nuts. Macadamia milk can usually be purchased for the same price as almond milk. The major retail difference is that there are more brands to choose from, when it comes to almond milk.
Macadamia milk is low in carbohydrates, but like almond milk, it doesn’t contain much protein. This milk alternative has a lovely nutty taste and given its creamy consistency, blends well with hot beverages.
If you have a soy allergy, Buttanut Macadamia Milk is a great option and can be found at many health grocery stores.
Nut milk is a great milk alternative, but if you have a nut allergy, rice milk is one of the safer options to consume. Rice milk is made using similar processes involved in the production of soy milk. This milk alternative is usually sweetened with either sugar or rice syrup, yet manages to maintain a neutral flavour, despite additives.
Rice milk sadly doesn’t contain much protein and has more of a watery consistency, which is not ideal if you’re looking to add froth to your morning coffee.
Woolworths Organic Rice Milk is delicious and contains sunflower seed oil.
Much like a hearty bowl of Jungle Oats, oat milk is high in fibre. This milk alternative is a great choice if you’re after that ‘regular milk’ taste. The only difference is that it naturally has an ‘oaty’ aftertaste. Certain milk alternatives (not to mention names, but soy milk) curdle when added to coffee. The acidity from the coffee results in the milk coagulating, which is not the case with oat milk.
Okja Oat Mi*k is ‘udderly’ delicious and definitely worth a try.
Warning, you might find yourself drinking this milk alternative straight from the carton – it’s seriously delicious. Coconut milk is incredibly rich in flavour and incorporates well in lattes, although the taste is not-so-neutral. You might find that some coconut milk products contain rice milk.
MILKLAB Coconut is barista-friendly and has fewer calories than most coconut milk brands.
Add a dash of coconut milk to this Vanilla and Coconut Chai.
A great way to trick your kids into eating peas is to have them drink it! Pea milk might be one of the lesser-known, plant-based milk alternatives. If you’re put off by the idea of green, mushy peas, you’ll be pleased to know that this milk alternative is made from yellow, split peas and actually tastes nothing like peas!
If you’re undecided on which milk alternative is the best, the fact that pea milk offers a high source of protein and tastes like cow milk might help split your decision. Pea milk has a thick, smooth consistency and blends brilliantly with coffee.
MIGHTY Pea M.LK is an environmentally conscious brand and is mighty tasty.
Ok, so quinoa milk tastes exactly what it sounds like — liquidised quinoa. Apart from that, you can expect a naturally sweet and nutty flavour from this milk alternative. Quinoa is a superfood that’s technically a seed, but is classified as a grain. Regardless of how it identifies, it’s mega-rich in protein, vitamins and minerals.
Soria Natural Rice and Quinoa Drink is free from sugar additives.
What can’t one do with hemp? The product options are endless. Hemp milk is sourced from hemp plants. If you’re concerned about your ‘state’ being altered, don’t be. Hemp milk only contains trace elements of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol).
Hemp milk might be a preferred alternative for some, due to its high protein levels. This milk alternative has a nutty flavour profile and a watery consistency.
Good Hemp Seed Milk is deliciously creamy.
You have to commend the human ability to observe insects and think, ‘Mmm, I wonder what that would taste like in milk form’. EntoMilk™️ is produced using the Hermetia illucens, commonly known as the black soldier fly. It’s the first dairy-free milk of its kind. The name was derived from the term ‘entomophagy’, the practice of eating insects.
Not to bug you, but this offering isn’t vegan-friendly like the aforementioned options. What makes this brand worth your attention are the sustainable strategies used to produce EntoMilk™️– they are more water and energy-efficient compared to other dairy alternatives on the market. Bug milk is also attractive to those looking for a milk alternative with a high source of protein, zinc and calcium.
Spud milk, yes that’s correct. Spud milk! In case you haven’t gathered from the name, this milk alternative is made from potatoes. Before you ‘make a face’, remember that isn’t the first potato juice to be bottled and sold – thanks vodka. Spud or potato milk is the latest milk alternative to be released. It was created by a Swedish company, DUG, and has yet to make a retail world tour.
This milk alternative has three varieties – original, unsweetened and barista – great news if you’ve ever wondered how potato milk would taste in your morning coffee.
DUG has a range of sustainable plant-based drinks.
Looking for dietary alternatives? Check out our list of vegan substitutes.
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