Back in the day, those who shunned dairy had limited options when buying plant-based milk in the supermarket, or when ordering a latte at the coffee shop. These days, you’re inundated with choice – and it can be a bit overwhelming. Within all the different types (Soy? Almond? Hemp?), you’ve then got variations – do you want sweetened? Organic? Fortified with vitamins? Let’s get this straight – whichever you choose, none taste much like cow’s milk, no matter how much a brand tries to convince you otherwise. The good news though is that once your taste buds change after a few weeks without dairy, you’ll probably find cow’s milk repulsive anyway. When I first dipped my toe into dairy-free, I wrinkled my nose at the soya milk in my tea, and craved cow’s milk, but it didn’t take long before I got used to the different taste. In fact, when I was accidentally given dairy milk at a coffee shop, I spat it out as it tasted so vile. I personally prefer plant milks with minimal ingredients e.g. just nuts/soybeans, water and salt, because some of them can be a little questionable, scrimping on the supposed main ingredient and thickening the drink with oil or potentially inflammatory ingredients like carrageenan instead. However, those with a higher nut content do tend to be more expensive. It’s a minefield. For your mind and your bank account. Of course, you can always make your own, but realistically, who’s got time? So, this World Plant Milk Day, whether you’re vegan, lactose intolerant, or dairy-free for health reasons – here’s a guide to all your plant-based milk alternatives available in the supermarkets.
Soy is the OG vegan milk alternative, but it’s been pushed to the side in recent years, in favour of other fancier milks. It’s also fallen out of favour due to some medical studies linking it to reproductive health issues, thanks its phytoestrogens, which mimic female hormones. However, a study last year revealed soy was the most nutritious plant milk, so make up your own mind. Soy works well in both tea and coffee, although it does tend to make any drink its added to quite heavy and filling. It’s also prone to curdling (depending on the acidity of the coffee you’re using), but you can combat this by warming the milk up a bit, or adding the milk before gradually adding the coffee. You’ll find Alpro soy products in most supermarkets, they’ve got loads of versions like sweetened/unsweetened/light. Find them in the fridge and the longlife milk section. If you’re not down to clown with loads of thickeners in your drink, you’ll probably be after Alpro Organic Soya Wholebean (£1.40 for one litre) which only contains water and hulled soya beans. Special shoutout to Alpro Caffe Soya Caramel (£2.50 for one litre), a big carton of sweet iced coffee you can stash in your fridge. Most supermarkets do their own sweetened and unsweetened versions of soy milk for less than £1, like Tesco Soya Drink Sweetened (85p for one litre), Essential Waitrose Unsweeteened Soya (90p for one litre), and Sainsbury’s Sweetened Soya Drink (90p for one litre). Now, the international daddy of all soy milk is hands down Bonsoy, but a) it’s expensive and b) made in Japan and not widely available in the UK, but you can get it at Ocado for £3.75. Treat yoself. FYI – full fat soy is usually the best milk alternative in baking.
This one tastes great in coffee – if you haven’t had an almond milk flat white, you haven’t lived. Almond milk does taste – shock horror – quite strongly of almonds though, and alters the taste of your drink significantly, so unless you like a nutty brew, steer clear of tea with this one. It’s worth pointing out that cheaper almond milks tend to contain only one to two percent almond, bulking the rest out with thickeners. If you’re after a simpler recipe, check out Plenish Organic 6% Almond M*lk (£2.50 for one litre), which only uses three ingredients in its version – almonds, water and a little salt. It’s naturally thickened by the extra nut content, and while it’s a bit pricier than the ones with less almonds, it’s often on offer in Sainsbury’s, so keep an eye out. Top tip – Plenish is usually kept in the fridge at Sainsbury’s but it’s actually long-life, so you can stock up when it’s on offer. Rude Health Ultimate Almond Drink (£3.50 for one litre) also has six percent almonds but it’s pretty pricey – and a lot of vegans boycotted the brand last year after it promoted full fat cow’s milk. If you don’t mind a cheaper almond milk, then you’ve got loads of readily available options – both sweetened and unsweetened. Try Alpro Almond Roasted Original (£1.60 for one litre) or Almond Breeze Unsweetened (£1.60 for one litre). Supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury’s also do own brand versions.
The oat milk market has been well and truly commandeered by Oatly, a brand which many vegans passionately suckle on the oaty teat of. An increasing number of coffee shops now swear by Oatly Barista Edition (£1.80 for one litre) as it foams really well. Oatly even have an Oatfinder map to help you locate nearby coffee shops that use it. If you’re not a fan of thickeners and fillers in your moo-free blend, then give Oatly Organic Oat Drink (£1.50 for one litre) a try. I’m a fan of this in both coffee and tea, and it’s a great price for a simple recipe. Alpro Oat Original (£1.40 for one litre) is another option, but this does contain vegetable oil, in case you’re bothered. If you’re a chocolate milk fan, Oatly Chocolate Oat Drink (£1.50 for one litre) is ridiculously delicious and is enriched with vitamins, but it also contains rapeseed oil. Worth it for a treat though. Oat milk is naturally a bit sweet, so even the ones with no added sugar are a great choice for those with a sweet tooth.
Cashew milk is super creamy and great for coffee. It works well in tea too as it doesn’t have a strong taste, and it makes a lovely, rich porridge. Plenish Organic Cashew M*lk (£2.50 for one litre) is tasty, and has a high nut content. You’ve also got Alpro Cashew Original (£1.70 for one litre) as a cheaper option, with fewer nuts, although it is fortified with vitamins like B12, which vegans need to keep an eye on their levels of.
Ah, coconut. Koko Coconut (£1.50 for one litre) is sweetened with grape juice, fortified with vitamins, and doesn’t have an overpowering coconut taste, so it’s great for hot drinks and cereal. Rebel Kitchen makes three different coconut cream-based milk alternatives that they claim tastes like cow’s milk…but they 100% don’t. We were excited to test this after Rebel Kitchen hyped them up so much, but we couldn’t find a single vegan/non-vegan tester who agreed that it tasted like cow juice. It’s a nice drink it itself though – all our testers enjoyed it – and again, doesn’t taste too much like coconut. They do three different options – whole, semi-skimmed and skimmed, depending which thickness you’re after. Rebel Kitchen Semi-Skimmed Dairy Free Organic Mylk (£2.99 for one litre) is a nice middle ground for your hot beverages. It also contains brown rice and cashews. I’m a big fan of Alpro Coconut Rice Drink (£1.70 for one litre) as it tastes really coconutty (that’ll be the flavourings…) and it makes a really delicious iced coconut latte. You can make a really tasty porridge using coconut milk drink, with fresh or dried tropical fruit and coconut shreds. Califia Farms Chocolate Coconut Almond Milk (£2.29 for 750ml) also deserves a mention, and is a wonderful treat straight from the fridge.
Rice milk is quite thin and watery, so it’s great if you like your coffee or tea strong but with a splash of milk. As it’s not heavy, it makes quite a refreshing cold drink by itself. Try Rice Dream Original (£1.38 for one litre), Alpro Rice Original (£1.31 for one litre) or if you’re feeling super quirky, there’s Rice Dream Quinoa (£1.60 for one litre), which isn’t as gross as it sounds. In fact, it was fine in coffee.
Big fan of this in coffee – it makes a delicious iced hazelnut latte, and the most decadent hot chocolate. Unless you like a praline flavoured tea, steer clear of this in your Earl Grey. Plenish is always a great go-to for nut milks due to the aforementioned high nut content (five percent) – try Plenish Organic Hazelnut M*lk (£2.50 for one litre) . It tastes naturally nutty, without artificial flavourings. if you’ve got a sweet tooth, try Alpro Hazelnut Original (£1.80 for one litre), which has added sugar, as well as added calcium and vitamins B2, B12, E, and D2.
Hemp is naturally creamy, and Good Hemp Unsweetened (£1.50 for one litre) is a nice option for hot drinks as it doesn’t alter the flavour. Also great in smoothies.
Peanut milk is a bit of a new one, and not easy to find, but Rude Health Peanut Drink (£2 for one litre) is an option – it only contains peanuts and water, so it’s thickener-free. We’ve only ever seen this in Waitrose though. You can probably find it in health food stores like Whole Foods, but their prices tend to be higher. We were expecting a peanut-flavoured coffee, but it doesn’t taste all that nutty and is quite thin, so might be best reserved for cereals and smoothies.
Now, this one’s not that common, but if you can find one and do feel like splashing out on a little carton, then give the subtle taste of Provamel Organic Macadamia Drink (£1.79 for 500ml) a go in your coffee. It’s made with four percent macadamia nuts, water, agave syrup and salt, and is rich and creamy – a great drink in its own right.
We’ve left this until last as it’s the one dairy-free milk we’ve not tried, and it isn’t widely available. You can get OOO Mega Flax Drink (£2 for one litre) at Waitrose, which naturally contains omega 3 and 6 from the flaxseed oil. The makers say it’s great for hot drinks and baking, so if you give it a go, let us know what you think. If you’re new to the world of dairy-free, enjoy finding your fave!