People choose plant-based milk over dairy milk for a number of reasons but it isn’t always clear which vegan milk is best.
We’ve seen an increase in the number of milk alternatives available for drinking, cooking and baking (we even have some plant-based options specifically designed for coffee!)
So, how do you know which vegan milk is best? How do you decide which to use in your morning coffee and which to bake a cake with? Is soy milk better for cooking? Or should you be using coconut milk as an alternative?
If you’re looking to add protein to your diet you might want to try pea milk. However, if you want to add richness to your baking, Macadamia milk is a great option.
So, how do you decide which vegan milk is best?
Almond milk is one of the most popular plant-based milks out there and for most people, it's an introduction to vegan milk. Typically, almond milk has fewer calories and less protein than dairy milk but it has more calcium than other plant-based options.
When it comes to cooking and baking, you can use it to sub out dairy in a number of dishes. Use almond milk in your cereal, french toast or smoothies. Since almond milk has a nutty flavour it works well with pastries and sweets that already contain nuts. On the other hand, its flaky consistency means it isn’t the best option for coffee.
Soy is a go to substitute for most dishes and is great for adding creaminess not only to cooking, but also coffee.
So, what makes soy milk such a versatile and easy dairy alternative? Nutrition wise, it’s the closest to cow’s milk and is the most popular milk alternative in stores. It’s not too high or low in calories and a good source of protein and calcium.
Because it has a higher protein content, it’s especially good for baking, as protein is vital for maintaining the structure in doughs and batters. (According to the Chopping Block adding 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar with each cup of soy milk for baking cakes and muffins mimics buttermilk!)
Similar to cow's milk, soy also comes in various flavours such as vanilla or chocolate which also makes it easy to substitute in baking and cooking.
Macadamia Nut Milk
Macadamia milk has only recently made its way to stores and is not widely available (luckily for you Leaves House carries it!) Low in both protein and carbohydrates, it tastes great on its own and is particularly suitable savoury dishes. Milkadamia offers regular, vanilla and unsweetened options.
There’s one thing that’s important to remember when substituting for coconut milk. There are coconut milk beverages (you know, the kind you find in the vegan section of grocery stores) and there is coconut milk which typically comes in a can.
Coconut milk beverages don’t have a lot of protein in them which makes substituting them a little trickier. However, coconut milk in a can is very high in fat which makes it ideal for richer dishes such as puddings and chowders. It can even be used to make a coconut whipped cream or homemade ice cream.
It’s also important to take into consideration that coconut milk is stronger in flavour. So, if you’re trying to make curries, soups, smoothies or chia seed pudding or any number of desserts it’s a great option. On the other hand if you’re adding it to your coffee, remember the taste will stand out.
When deciding which vegan milk is best, you also have to take into consideration things like allergies. Rice milk is nut, gluten and dairy free and naturally sweeter than other plant-based options. Rice milk is low in calories, protein and fat and much thinner than regular milk. Due to its lightness, it isn’t great for adding creaminess or richness to your dishes.
A little sweeter, a moderate amount of calories and high in fiber. Oatmilk has a thinner consistency (think low-fat milk) and has more carbohydrates and sugar than many other milks. The added sweetness makes it great for baking and because of its frothy, creamy consistency, it’s ideal for smoothies and coffee-based drinks.
Hemp milk has a nutty taste and you could describe its texture as somewhere between almond and soy milk. It’s stronger taste means it’s more suitable for savory dishes though because of its high protein, it makes a great alternative to soy milk when baking.
Leaves House offers a barista addition Hemp Milk (so expect to be crafting the perfect cappuccinos.)
Hazelnut milk isn’t the most versatile option because of its strong flavour. So let’s say you’re trying to match a hazelnut latte from Starbucks? No problem? Want to try making your own nutella? This is probably your best bet.
Another plant-based milk known for being creamy, cashew milk is great for baking or espresso based drinks. You can use cashew milk as a base for smoothies (whether they’re made up of greens or mixed berries). Use it to make ice cream alongside bananas or dates as a natural sweetener or use it in soups in place of vegetable or chicken stock.
It may sound a little strange, but pea milk is one of the most nutritious of the vegan milks available (for many of the same reasons that pea protein is becoming increasingly popular). It’s an excellent source of protein, calcium, and omega-3s, and it contains fewer calories than cow’s milk. Like rice milk, it’s another great option for people looking to adopt a plant-based diet but also suffer from allergies.