Non-dairy Milk Alternatives

Non-Dairy Milks

            Many of these milks can be made in the home, such as rice or nut milks.  The benefit is that control of what’s in the milk is then in our hands rather than the manufacturer.  On the other hand, it does take time so for many, this is not always an effective alternative.

            Almond Milk 

Uses:  Use almost any place you’d use cow’s milk such as over cereal, in smoothies, drinks, for baking and cooking both sweet and savory. 

Basic Ingredient:  Made from almonds, this milk is creamy with a nutty flavor. 

Nutritional Properties:  It contains no cholesterol or lactose but is also low in protein, fiber, carbohydrates and sugar. 

Production:  It is easily produced at home using blanched almonds, water, flavoring (such as vanilla), and sweeteners.  To make almond milk, soak 1 cup of almonds overnight in water, strain off the water and put the almonds in a blender along with 4-6 cups of water.  Blend to make a smooth paste, add more water along with the sweetener and flavoring (if used).  Blend until frothy.  Strain the almond milk through cheesecloth lined strainer (use multiple layers of cheesecloth for best results). 

Other:  The residue can be dried in a low temperature oven and used as almond flour.

            Cashew Milk 

Uses:  Can be used in both savory and sweet dishes, drinks, smoothies, baking and cooking.

Basic Ingredient:  Ground cashews; much like almond milk with creamy, nutty flavor. 

Nutritional Properties:  No cholesterol but higher in fat, carbohydrates and protein than almond milk but low in fiber. Good source of Vitamin E.    

Production:  Make at home just like almond milk.

            Coconut Milk 

Uses:  Common ingredient in Asian and Caribbean cooking, can be used in savory and sweet dishes, with meats, vegetables, garnishes and desserts. Especially great in curry dishes.

Basic Ingredient:  Made from the white flesh of the coconut.

Nutritional Properties:  Coconut milk has a high concentration of saturated fat so should be used in moderation.  The fat content is dependent on the grade – thick or thin (thick can have up to 24% fat while thin is generally only 5-7%). 

Production:  Not easily produced at home.

Other:  Most recipes call for the “regular” or thick grade of coconut milk. 

  Hemp Milk 

Uses:  Rich and creamy texture makes hemp milk a very popular alternative.  Hemp milk can be used just as you would cow’s milk. 

Basic Ingredient:  Shelled hemp seeds

Nutritional Properties:  Low in carbohydrates, fat and calories, a serving of hemp milk contains all the essential fatty and amino acids as well as zinc, magnesium, potassium, iron, folic acid as well as vitamins. 

Production:  Also hemp milk is easy to produce at home.  Soak a cup of shelled hemp seeds in water overnight.  Drain and put in your blender along with 4-6 cups of water and blend until smooth.  Can be strained though cheesecloth but this step isn’t necessary.  Lasts 3 days in the refrigerator.  If you purchase hemp milk, be sure its organic and read the labels carefully since many mass-produced hemp milks have added sugars and fats. 

Other:  Mass-produced hemp milk can also separate and even when shaken will not mix well.  If this happens, you can strain it through cheesecloth before using it.  Hemp milk is very susceptible to heat so store it in a cool place until you open it or in the refrigerator.

  Rice Milk 

Uses:  Can be used as you would cow’s milk in recipes. 

Basic Ingredient:  This milk is a combination of ground rice and water along with sweeteners and sometimes oils. 

Nutritional Properties:  Rice milk is low in fat and protein as well as vitamins and minerals but higher in carbohydrates than other non-dairy milks.  Most mass-produced rice milks are “fortified” with vitamins and minerals as well as fats and sugars. 

Production:  Rice milk is probably the easiest milk to make at home and very inexpensive.  First, cook some brown rice as you normally would (or if you prefer, buy a bag of frozen cooked brown rice).  For 1 cup of brown rice, add 4-6 cups of water into your blender.  The less water, as in the other recipes above, the thicker the milk will be.  Rice milk definitely will need to be strained after blended to get out the rice that doesn’t get blended. 

Other:  You can use the strained-out rice to produce some rice cereal if you want.

  Soy Milk 

Uses:  Soy milk can be used in most recipes but is not good for thickened foods like sauces and puddings. 

Basic Ingredient:  Soybeans

Nutritional Properties:  Probably the most common non-dairy milk, soy milk is low in carbohydrates, sugars, and fats while high in protein, vitamins, calcium and magnesium.  Production:  Creating your own soy milk is more involved but doable by the home cook.  Soak 1 cup of dried soybeans overnight, drain and put in a blender with 5 cups of milk.  Blend until pureed.  Then boil the slurry for 15-20 minutes, cool, and filter though cheesecloth.