DAIRY based milk from cows, goats or sheep is considered a staple in many people’s diets and whilst they are a popular choice for many, some people can’t or choose not to drink dairy milk due to personal preferences, dietary restrictions, allergies or intolerances. Fortunately, if you’re looking to avoid dairy-based milk, there are plenty of non-dairy alternatives available. I have put together a quick guide to the best brands and super simple recipes for making your own. I promise once you’ve made it once you will be hooked!
There are several reasons you might be looking for an alternative, including:
• Milk allergy
• Lactose intolerance
• Dietary restrictions
Almond milk has a light, sweet, nutty flavour and is low in calories, fat and carbohydrates. On the downside, it is low in protein and contains phytic acid, a substance that limits the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium. You can buy almond milk in many supermarkets but our favourite is the Plenish Almond Milk with nothing but almonds, water and salt – no nasties! Making your own is super easy, economical and you will also significantly reduce the effect of phytates by soaking the nuts overnight. To make almond milk soak 1 cup of whole raw almonds in water overnight or for at least 8 hours. There should be enough water to cover the almonds by about an inch. Rinse the soaked nuts and blend with 4 cups of filtered water until smooth – this may take up to 2 minutes depending on the type of blender you have. Run the mixture through a nut bag – I like the one by Lovetree Products. If you don’t have a nutbag then you can use a cheesecloth or even a tea towel and at a push a clean T-shirt! Place the milk in a glass bottle or jar and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can get rid of the pulp (I don’t like waste so I keep mine) or you can use the pulp in muffins and cakes or make crackers in a low-temperature oven or a dehydrator. Here is an example of a recipe you might like.
Coconut milk has a creamy, milk-like consistency and a sweet, coconut taste. It contains no protein, little to no carbohydrates and is high in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of saturated fat which is used preferentially for fuel by the liver. Almost all supermarkets now sell coconut milk in cartons which you will find in both the chiller cabinet or on the shelves. If you are looking for something to purchase from shops, then I like the brands Koko and Rebel Kitchen. It is really quick and simple to make your own milk by blending 2 cups of unsweetened coconut flakes or desiccated coconuts with 4 cups of water until smooth. As with the almond milk, you can run it through a nutbag/cheesecloth/tea towel and store in the fridge in a glass bottle or jar. This will also keep for about 3 days.
Oat milk has a mild, sweet flavour. It is high in protein and fibre, but also high in calories and carbohydrates. Oat milk contains beta-glucan, which can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. You can buy oat milk in shops and my preferred brand is Oatly which is a mixture of water and oats and a pinch of salt and nothing else. Oat milk is super easy to make at home. Blend 1 cup of rolled oats with 4 cups of water in a high-speed blender until thoroughly blended – don’t over-blend as the mixture can become slimy. Run the mixture through a tea towel – I prefer not use a nut bag as it can allow bits of oats to get through so I let my trusted nutbag take a break when making oat milk 🙂 Take a sip and make sure the milk is smooth – if not then run it through the tea towel a second time – that should do the trick!
Cashew milk has a rich and creamy taste and is low in calories, carbohydrates and sugar. It is also a fantastic source of oleic acid found in olive oil, with tremendous anti-inflammatory properties. On the downside, it contains very little protein, and may not be the best option for those with higher protein requirements. Cashew milk is not as easily available in shops but my favourite brand is Plenish Organic Cashew Milk, made simply with cashews, water and salt. To make your own follow the instructions for making almond milk and replace with cashews. SIMPLE!
Hemp milk has a thin, watery texture and a sweet and nutty flavour. It is low in calories and contains little to no carbs. Hemp milk is a great option for vegetarians and vegans because it is a source of high-quality protein and omega 3 and omega 6 which are essential fatty acids. Shop bought hemp milk is usually full of extra nasty ingredients and I am yet to find one that is pure and unadulterated. Homemade hemp milk is best and it’s important to use shelled hemp seeds and not the dried ones that you may be more familiar with. Mix 1/2 cup of hulled hemp seeds with 3 cups of water and blend until smooth. Run it through a nut bag and place in a glass bottle or jar and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. You may want to add a couple of dried dates to the blender to give the milk a bit more flavour. Soak the dates for at least an hour before you add them in or use soft Medjool dates which won’t require soaking.
Hazelnut milk is a relatively new milk to the market. It has a rich, creamy taste and is a good source of vitamin E and manganese. This is not an easy milk to get hold of in shops but you can buy it in some health food shops and online stores. Our favourite brand is the Plenish Hazelnut milk. To make your own use the recipe for almond milk but replace almonds with hazelnuts. You can use hazelnuts that have their skin on (makes it a tiny bit bitter) or hazelnuts which have been blanched and have had the skin removed – this is my preference.
Rice milk is the most hypoallergenic non-dairy milk. It is low in fat and protein yet high in carbohydrates. Rice milk may contain unacceptable levels of inorganic arsenic, which may cause some potential health problems in those who consume rice as a main food source. I don’t recommend rice milk for children.
Soy milk is made from whole soybeans or soy protein isolate. It has a creamy, mild taste and is the most similar in nutrition to cow’s milk. However, there is controversy surrounding the consumption of soy milk, especially in children so in most cases I don’t recommend it.