The Ingredient

The Ingredient

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Drinks made of soy, grain or nuts can come close to milk from animals in terms of nutrition—and from oat milk to hemp milk there have never been so many to choose from. Our expert takes a closer look at plant-based milk substitutes to see how they rank.

Soy milk

This drink has a long tradition in China, where it is available as both a sweet and savory variant; it’s also become the classic milk alternative in the Western world. Soy drinks are made of dried soybeans and water, and if you have a soy milk maker, you can produce it yourself in about 20 minutes. In its pure form, soy milk can replace cow’s milk in various forms of coffee and shakes, and can also be used for milk in baking and cooking.

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Nutrition in the carton: 100 ml of soy milk contain 54 kcal, 1.8g fat, 6g carbohydrates, 3.3g protein

Tasting notes: A little more watery than real milk; has a slightly malty scent and is sweet to the taste

Price: Roughly €1.00 per liter / 3.00 USD per quart

The verdict: Soy milk is ideal as a snack drink it also packs a lot of folic acid, saponins (which protect your cells) and healthy flavonoids. It’s important to opt for organic if you want to avoid genetically modified crops and additives, though.

Almond milk

This one’s been around since the Middle Ages, when potions made of crushed almonds, water, spices and fruits were drunk as refreshments. Made at home, fresh almond milk is tasty, nutritious and rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as healthy fats. Supermarket products, however, often contain a very low proportion of almonds—and a lot of water, sugar and additives. In its pure form, almond milk is a good option for shakes, desserts and to add creaminess to vegan soups.

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Nutrition in the carton: 100 ml of almond milk contains 24 kcal, 1.1g fat, 3g carbohydrates, and 0.5g protein

Tasting notes: Fresh, homemade almond milk has a light sweetness and is reminiscent of marzipan; shop-bought versions have very little by way of natural almond aroma.

Price: 1 liter averages at around €2.75 / 3.00 USD per quart

The verdict: If you make it yourself, almond milk is a tasty, healthy alternative to cow’s milk, as almonds contain valuable B-vitamins, antioxidant vitamin E, calcium, and iron Ready-made products are more expensive than cow’s milk and contain fewer vitamins and minerals.

Nut milks

Vegan milks can also be made from other nuts such as hazelnuts, macadamias and cashews. All of these nuts make milk which is rich in unsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals; nut milks are perfect on cereals and muesli or in baking and dessert cookery. Unfortunately, most shop-bought versions only contain around 2.5 % nuts, with the rest of the carton’s contents composed primarily of water, sugar, stabilizers, emulsifiers, and various flavorings.

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Nutrition in the carton: 100 ml of nut milk contains 29 kcal, 1.6g fat, 3.1g carbohydrates, and 0.4g protein

Tasting notes: Generally nutty with slightly sweet notes nutty with slightly sweet

Price: Roughly €2.50 per liter / /3.50 – 4.00 USD per quart

The verdict: Home-made nut drinks are a delicious lactose and cholesterol-free alternative to milk. It’s important to remember that many of the industrially-produced products don’t have anything like as much protein or near as much trace elements as the real thing, though, and that they tend to be a lot pricier to boot.

Rice milk

To make rice milk, whole brown grains are ground, boiled and pressed; the resulting liquid is fermented, filtered, and mixed with vegetable oil and emulsified. This process leaves little of the original contents of the wholegrain rice, so producers tend to add salt, sugar, flavorings, and even vitamin and mineral supplements. Just like cow’s milk, rice milk can be drunk on its own or mixed, and is also great for baking and cooking.

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Nutrition in the carton: 100 ml of rice milk contains 47 kcal, 1g fat, 9g carbohydrates, and 0.3g protein.

Tasting notes: Drunk pure, it tastes very watery and ever so slightly of rice pudding.

Price: 1 liter costs around €2.00 / around 3.50 USD per quart

Summary: Rice milk contains far fewer vitamins and minerals than cow’s milk and is not suited as a source of protein or calcium. It can be a useful substitute for people with allergies in some cases.

Oat milk

To make oat milk, all you need to do is boil up oatmeal in water, blend it and sieve it: what drops into the glass is oat milk, and it’s low in fat, free of cholesterol and—in contrast to animal milk—high in fiber. In terms of flavor, it works well in recipes with cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon and Tonka beans, making it perfect for use in shakes, breakfast dishes and baking.

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Nutrition in the carton: 100 ml of oat milk contains 41 kcal, 1.1g fat, 7g carbohydrates, and 0.6g protein.

Tasting notes: It tastes very intensely of oats; when shaken, its consistency comes close to that of animal milk.

Price: 1 liter / 1 quart costs around €2.00 / 3.50 USD.

Summary: A glass of oat drink gives you a range of valuable B-vitamins and minerals such as magnesium; though it can’t keep up with real milk in terms of calcium, though. The downside is that many industrially-produced oat milks contain vegetable oil, salt, flavoring and sweeteners, as well as preservatives.

Spelt milk

This plant milk is made by soaking spelt grains (also known as dinkel or hulled wheat) for twelve hours before sieving the grains, puréeing them with water and straining them. The resulting liquid is a low-calorie drink with some of the vitamins and minerals of the grain. Industrially-produced versions contain roughly 11 per cent spelt, with the rest of the drink made up of water, vegetable oil and flavouring additions such as sea salt. Spelt milk works well in smoothies or in muesli mixtures or baked goods.

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Nutrition in the carton: 100 ml / 3.5 fl oz of spelt milk contains 45 kcal, 1.5g fat, 8.4g carbohydrates, 0.8g protein

Tasting notes: With a decidedly malty scent and taste, spelt is clearly a grain product. It needs to be shaken well before drinking for it to have a milky consistency.

Price: Around €2.10 per liter / 5.00 USD per quart.

The verdict: Like all the other vegan replacements, spelt milk makes a good alternative for people with lactose intolerance or an allergy to milk proteins. Taste-wise, it takes quite some getting used to.

Coconut milk

In the coconut’s native countries, the milk is considered a staple, produced by grinding and pressing the flesh of the coconut. Rich in potassium, sodium and magnesium, coconut milk also has a relatively high fat content, composed primarily of healthy saturated fats. Its intense flavor suits a range of fruity shakes, cocktails, and Asian dishes.

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Nutrition in the carton: 100ml /3.5 fl oz of coconut milk contains 160 kcal, 18g fat, 1.8g carbohydrates, and 1.8g protein.

Tasting notes: Drunk pure, it tastes creamy, fruity and sweet—and of coconut. Thinned down in shop-bought drinks, it’s somewhat blander.

Price: 1 liter / 1 quart clocks in at around €5.00 / approx. 4.00 – 5.00 USD .

The verdict: Coconut milk is healthy and fills you up; nevertheless, it’s a good idea to limit your consumption of and consume it, like all things, in moderation.

Hemp milk

In Hollywood, this drink made from hemp seeds is very much on trend at the moment—and that’s no wonder, given hemp’s cholesterol free credentials and its strong showing in terms of omega-3 fatty acids. Its high magnesium content makes it an ideal breakfast drink for sporty types, and it’s considered to be easily digestible and a good substitute in cooking and baking.

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Nutrition in the carton: 100 ml of hemp milk contains 37 kcal, 2.7g fat, 1.9g carbohydrates, 1g protein.

Tasting notes: In terms of consistency, it’s somewhat creamier than cow’s milk and has a slightly nutty flavor.

Price: 1 liter / 1 quart costs around €2.80 / roughly 5.00 USD per quart.

The verdict: Although pricier than most, this milk alternative makes up for it in terms of flavor and usefulness in avoiding allergens.

What are your favorite plant-based milks? Do you make your own or prefer ready-made? Let us know in the comments.

This article was originally published in The Ingredient by NEFF. To read more articles, recipes, and cooking tips visit their website here.

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