Dairy-Free Milk Alternatives

Whether you’re lactose intolerant, vegan, or just looking to cut down on dairy, these dairy-free milk substitutes are great alternatives for baking, drinking, and topping off your morning cereal.

One advantage of nondairy milks is that you can make many of them at home! Nut milks are particularly easy to whip up, but you can also make your own coconut, rice, hemp, quinoa, and oat milks. We’ll walk you through the basics of nine of the most popular dairy-free milk alternatives out there and help you choose the right substitute for your recipe (or to sip on with dinner). We’ve also got a few tips for making your own milk substitutes at home, plus vegan milk recipes. If you have allergies or food intolerances,  these milk alternatives will be just the drink for you!

1. Almond Milk

You guessed it. Almond milk is made from ground almonds! You can buy almond milk at the store, but you can also make your own by soaking almonds in water, then blending them into milk with more water. One of the most popular nondairy milks out there, almond milk is high in vitamins and low in calories (but also low in protein). It tastes nutty, a little sweet, and creamy, so it's great straight from the glass or over cereal. Although it can  be used in sweet recipes and most savory dishes, some people consider it too sweet for savory dishes so stick to adding it to smoothies and desserts.

2. Soy Milk

One of the most popular dairy alternatives out there, soy milk is plant-base milk alternative made from soybeans. Soy milk has the advantage of having more protein than most other dairy-free milks and is comparable to cow’s milk in terms of nutrition. Soy milk is rich and creamy, making it a great choice for drinking straight out of a glass, adding to coffee, or pouring over cereal. It’s also a good choice for a milk substitute in many baking recipes because it’s high in protein. It’s stable when heated to high temperatures works in many creamy sauces, too.

3. Cashew Milk

Like almond milk, cashew milk is low in calories. It's also low in protein. Make your own cashew milk at home by soaking raw cashews in water overnight, then blending them into milk in your blender with a few added cups of water. Like other nut milks, cashew milk is rich and creamy and tastes slightly nutty. Drink it on its own, or use it for thickening smoothies and as a substitute for cow’s milk in most desserts.

4. Oat Milk

At its simplest, oat milk is a blend of oats and water. But it usually has ingredients like oils and salt for a better texture and flavor. Oat milk is higher in protein, fiber, and calories (it’s comparable to cow’s milk nutrition-wise) than some milk alternatives and has a slightly sweet flavor. It’s great for drinking plain and works well in both savory and sweet recipes. Like other nondairy milks, if you choose to make your own oat milk, you can make it even smoother and silkier by straining it through cheesecloth before using.

5. Walnut Milk

The third of our nut milks, walnut milk is as rich and creamy as cashew and almond milk. It's slightly higher in calories and protein than some other nut milks. Whip up a batch at home following the same process as other nut milks, then use it much like you would other nut milks. It’s a great substitute in dessert recipes and delicious on its own (or added to coffee or a smoothie).

6. Hemp Milk

When it comes to protein, hemp milk is second only to soy milk. It's made from the seeds of the hemp plant and has a slightly sweet, nutty taste but has a thin, watery texture. Hemp milk is a great candidate for adding to savory recipes, smoothies, puddings, and drinking on its own, too.

7. Coconut Milk

There are two different kinds of coconut milk: coconut milk beverages and coconut milk sold in a can. Canned coconut milk is not a drink. It’s prepared from the meat of the coconut so very thick. Canned coconut milk is delicious in many desserts, soups, and sauces and can be used to make whipped cream or pudding. Coconut milk beverage is thinner and can be drunk straight out of a glass and used as a substitute for cow’s milk. It's higher in fat than some other milk substitutes but lower in protein. If you choose to add it to savory dishes, you’ll probably be able to notice the coconut flavor, but it won’t be overpowering.

8. Quinoa Milk

Made from blended quinoa and water, quinoa milk is newer to the nondairy scene than the others in our list. Quinoa milk is low in calories and protein. It’s best for quinoa-lovers because it does still have a distinct quinoa taste. Slightly sweet and nutty, it is great for pouring on cereal or over oatmeal. If you make your own, try sweetening it with honey or dates or boosting the flavor with a pinch of cinnamon.

9. Rice Milk

Rice milk is usually a little bit thinner than other nondairy milks and is relatively low in both fat and protein. However, rice milk has the advantage of being the safest milk alternative for many people with food allergies because it doesn’t have any dairy, gluten, soy, or nuts. Rice milk has a pretty mild flavor and is naturally sweet. It’s made by boiling rice and blending it with water and a bit of sweetener. Because it’s a sweet milk alternative, it’s good for using in desserts, soups, and light sauces. (Though you might not want to use it for many savory recipes.) You can use rice milk as a substitute in baking, but it’s thinner than other nondairy milks so you’ll also probably need to add an additional thickener like flour or cornstarch.

Tip: Using Other Substitutes for Milk

If dairy isn't a problem and you just need a quick substitute for milk in a pinch, try these substitutions:

  • For 1 cup of milk, substitute 1/2 cup of evaporated milk plus 1/2 cup of water.
  • For 1 cup of milk, substitute 1 cup of water plus 1/3 cup of nonfat dry milk powder.

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