What plant based milk brands are available currently?
Are they even good for me?
What’s the best one to use for baking or putting on coffee?
Keep reading to learn in this article by a vegan Registered Dietitian Nutritionist!
Disclaimer: This post is not providing personal medical or dietary advice. Some individuals have allergies to certain ingredients in plant based milks (and/or dairy milk!), and should not drink them. Always talk to your doctor before adding a supplement or making major dietary changes. See our Disclaimers for more details.
Consumer Notice: This post contains affiliate links that are marked in this manner: (affiliate link*)”. If you click on these links and purchase, I earn a commission at no added cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
This article was originally published on 3/3/22. The recent updated date is listed above.
What are Plant Based Milks?
Contrary to confusion you might have seen circulating around the internet, plant based “milks” inherently have no dairy in them!
Well, at least none that I’ve seen.
In the US, plant based milks are typically vegan because they use plant derived ingredients instead of animal derived ones.
Even though we refer to them as “milks” they don’t have the same nutrients as diary.
For example, some include calcium, but others don’t (more on this later).
What makes up the base of plant based milk? Namely, nuts, seeds, peas, coconut, soy, oats and/or potato (a new one!) blended with water.
Here are some popular types of plant based milk types that you may have seen:
- Soy milk
- Almond milk
- Cashew milk
- Coconut milk
- Rice milk
- Oat milk
- Pea milk
- Flax milk
- Hemp milk
- Walnut milk
- Pumpkin seed milk
- Potato milk
- Pistachio milk
- Chia seed milk
But why are these so popular amongst the vegan and non vegan crowd (to be honest 😉 ) ?
Lets discuss that next!
Vegan Milk Brands Are Trending: 7 Reasons Why
Why? We theorize several reasons (FYI: this is not a comprehensive list, and is based on our opinion):
- Vegans are on the rise: One source suggests that the number of UK vegans quadrupled between 2014 to 2019.
Based on stats from plantporteins.co, about 6% of US consumers are vegan, a 500% increase since 2014.
In short, more vegans could mean more demand for vegan milk brands.
- Many individuals do not tolerate dairy milks: In part, because it’s estimated that approximately 68% of the worlds population has lactose malabsorption(1). Lactose malabsorption can result in a plethora of unpleasant symptoms, such as diarrhea.
Since lactose free products may be hard for some to find and/or afford, dairy free milks may be a more attractive option for certain individuals.
- Growing concerns about the environment: Based on one large review, it is estimated that soy milk may use less GHG emissions, land use, and water compared to dairy milk(2). It’s generally accepted that plant milks causes less damage to the planet than dairy milks.
- Health reasons: Aside from lactose intolerance, some people might decide to switch from full fat to non dairy milk to reduce their saturated fat or cholesterol intake for example. We have not seen any vegan milks that contain cholesterol (plants do not have cholesterol), and they tend to have lower saturated fat than full fat cows milk.
- Acne Trigger: While certainly not a factor for everyone, some individuals might see a difference in acne severity if they reduce dairy milk intake. *Please note the research behind this is mixed, so it’s best to talk to your doctor/dermatologist if a diary free trial is actually worthwhile. You can learn more in our article about vegan diets and acne.
- The harsh realties of the dairy industry: Documentary type films like Milked visually inform consumers about how dairy is produced. As the vegan movement grows, many are becoming more aware of standard practice in the industry and making different decisions.
- It tastes better: Ok, so this one is purely anecdotal and 100% subjective, but I’ve have heard similar reports from others as well. Some just prefer the taste of certain non dairy milks!
Healthiest Plant Based Milk Brands
Sorry to burst your bubble, but we don’t believe there is one plant based milk brand that can be deemed the “healthiest of all.”
Rather, there may be healthy options within various brands of vegan milks.
Before we dive into what they may be, lets define what characteristics a healthy plant based alternative might have. In our humble opinion, it would include at least 2 things:
- Choose the unsweetened version -with context in mind.
- Contains nutrients dairy milk would have provided.
Lets dive into each of these points:
1. Look For Unsweetened Versions – with Context in Mind
Why does this matter? Well, there are several brands that contain sugar, some having even more sugar than a cup of plain milk!
But here’s the catch: much of the sugar in plant based beverages often comes from added sugar – otherwise known as sugar that is added rather than as a part of the whole food (such as the sugar in a whole apple).
The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to no more than about 6 teaspoons (25 grams of added sugar) for women, and about 9 teaspoons for men (36 grams of added sugar).
Too much added sugar may crowd out more nutrient dense options and add excess calories when consumed in large amounts.
But before you throw out all your vegan milks, remember: context matters.
Ask these questions:
- How often do I plan to drink this? (ie: are you replacing 2 cups of dairy milk a day for 2 cups of soy milk, or just using dairy free milk occasionally)?
- And, how much added sugar do I already include outside of vegan milk?
Here’s some examples:
If you are drinking a cup of plant based milk a couple times a day and trying to decrease your over all added sugar intake – consider switching to an unsweetened version.
But, if you have an overall low added sugar diet, and want to use sweetened plant based milks occasionally or for recipes- and you prefer the sweetened flavor, perhaps you go with the one that suits your taste for those occasional situations (as an FYI: certain medical conditions may require some to be more meticulous about their sugar intake. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns).
2. Contain nutrients dairy milk would have provided
So, you want to give up dairy milk? Don’t do it without strategy in mind!
The truth of the matter is this: cows milk contains essential nutrients, like calcium and iodine. And if you are like the average dairy consumer, milk may be one of your biggest sources of certain nutrients!
While you may have good intentions to give up dairy milk (hey, as a vegan, I get it), you should pay attention to what you are replacing it with.
Fun fact! Calcium is not synonymous with dairy! Even non vegans can often agree with this.
Its important to remember that you need nutrients, not necessarily animal products.
So what are the common nutrients typically found in milk? They include:
Keeping these factors in mind, if you want to find plant based milk brands that contain all of these things in the same quantities as milk, you are probably going to have a hard time.
However, don’t throw it out because of this!
Learn how to meet your nutrient needs through other foods and supplements as needed. Your own Registered Dietitian can also help you with this, and always talk to your doctor before adding a supplement.
And if you are looking for a plant based milk option that includes similar nutrient quantities to dairy milk, look for these things on the nutrition facts panel (FYI: nutrients below are listed based on a comparison of the USDA’s Food Data Central data on 1% milk, found and assessed on the date this article was posted here. Nutrient values are subject to change).
- Close to 300 mg (milligrams) of calcium per serving
- About 3 mcg (micrograms) of Vitamin D per serving
- Approximately 150 mcg of Vitamin A per serving
- Around 8 grams of protein per serving
- About 1.5 mcg of vitamin B12 per serving
As you may have noticed, iodine was not listed here, simply because we have not seen any iodine fortified vegan milks in the United States. Let us know if you find any!
If milk was your main source of iodine before switching to a vegan diet, talk to your doctor if supplementation is right for you.
And if you want to learn more about iodine sources on a vegan diet, check out our article here.
Silk’s unsweetened organic soymilk is one of those vegan milks that ticks all the nutrients above except for iodine (Disclaimer: food formulations change. We are basing nutrient values as displayed here assessed on the date this post was written).
We appreciate that it:
- Contains no added sugars
- Meets or exceeds the nutrient markers listed in the previous section (except for iodine)
- Soy is known as a complete plant based protein (containing certain percentages of essential amino acids) where as the other legumes have a limiting (or low amount) of at least one essential amino acid.
- For those who are find it important to them: this product is also organic!
I personally drink this milk often and so does my toddler (disclaimer: we are not telling you what to do! Talk to your pediatrician about appropriate drinks for your specific situation)!
We both enjoy its smooth texture and neutral flavor that makes it great for drinking, putting in smoothies, baking, etc!
Want to check it out? Here’s one way to find it (affiliate link*)- *as a reminder, this means if you click on this link and purchase, I earn a commission at no added cost to you:
Alright, cool – but maybe you came here to just find a list of all the vegan milk options.
Without further ado, here is one massive list!
Plant Based Milk Brands: The List
As an fyi, this is not a comprehensive list!
We sought out to include plant-based milk brands available in the USA (of course, availability may differ). Let us know if we missed any major brand of non dairy milk in the comments section!
Plant-Based Milk Brands in USA
- Blue Diamond: Almond Breeze
- So Delicious
- Planet Oat
- Good Karma
- Forager Project
- Pacific Foods
- Califia Farms
- Living Harvest: Tempt
- Rice Dream
- Good Mylk Co
- SOW (Seeds of Wellness)
- NotCo (NotMilk)
- Various Big Grocery chains have their there own brands as well, such as:
Walmart (Great Value)
Are They Really Better for the Environment?
Compared to cows milk, it is generally accepted that plant based milks are better for the planet.
Based on an article by Ourworlddata.org oat, soy, rice, or almond milk, use less land, freshwater, and produce less gas emissions when compared to cows milk individually.
Can Vegans Drink Almond Milk?
In general yes! As long as you aren’t allergic to the ingredients.
Most almond milks are vegan (as always, double check the label to be sure).
But why does this question get asked?
Perhaps because you have heard that almonds use up lots of water, and certainly there are vegans (and non vegans!) who are concerned about the environment.
However, as suggested by that article Ourworlddata.org we mentioned previously, almond milk tends to use less freshwater than dairy, but more freshwater than some of the other plant based milks.
Do vegans drink almond milk? Well, this one does! But I also drink other varieties as well.
Do any actually taste like dairy milk?
In my opinion, some do!
However, taste is very subjective to each individual- so it’s really your call.
I think Ripple milk (the unsweetened version) tasted similar to cows milk, but this is just one person’s opinion (and also based on one person who has not tried all the plant based milks out there)!
How Do I Store Vegan Milk?
Check the label. Storage instructions should be listed there!
What Plant Based Milk Goes Best with Coffee?
Again, this is completely dependent on one’s tastes, preferences and views!
I’ve heard that some plant based milks, like soy sometimes curdle in hot coffee, whereas others (like oat milk) might hold up better.
Also, some brands feature “barista type” blends that might give you that same dairy like consistency (without the dairy) but honestly, I haven’t tried them (let us know what you think below)!
What Can I use for Baking? For Cooking?
If you don’t want whatever you are baking or cooking to take on the flavor, it may be best to avoid strong flavored vegan milks.
For example, vanilla rice milk, might change the taste those mashed potatoes! Just something to keep in mind…
Again: different strokes for different folks! Taste is so unique to each one of us.
What is the Best Plant Based Milk For Toddlers?
Talk to your pediatrician about your childs needs, as each individual is different.
Some general things to discus with his or her pediatrician include:
- Should I look for unsweetened versions? (FYI: the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommend avoiding foods and beverages with added sugars for those under 2 years old.
- Should my beverage include protein? (if so, soy or pea protein plant based milks typically contain more protein than oat, and rice milks for example).
- What other nutrients should I look for, and how much should each serving contain? (ie: calcium, vitamin D, etc).
There are so many options available for those wishing to ditch or reduce their intake of dairy milk.
We mentioned some of the larger plant-based milk companies, but as the demand rises, we can’t wait to see what the next big thing is!
Lastly, keep in mind that plant based milk is not directly equivalent to dairy milk in terms of nutrients!
If you heavily relied on cows milk as a source of important nutrients like calcium, you will want to make sure your vegan milk has similar quantities of these nutrients, learn about other foods that can meet these nutrient needs, and talk to your doctor about supplementation as needed.
Check out our article about ditching dairy to learn more. And seek out the help of a Registered Dietitian if you need individualized guidance.
Do you have a favorite nut milk? What’s your opinion on the best milk alternative for cereal – taste wise? Let us know in the comments below!
And while you’re at it, why not poke around on our blog? We answer more burning questions you have like, Can Vegans Drink Coffee? and Is Guar Gum Vegan?
Lastly, don’t forget to sign up for our e-mail subscribers list if you want to be notified of new articles!
Until next time! ✌❤