With so many people having dairy intolerances or just looking for an alternative to dairy these days, plant-based milks are in peak abundance. It can be confusing trying to decide between them so we’ve put together an easy-to-understand guide so you can learn a bit about how they differ from one another.
Although there are many great choices, today’s post will focus on the more popular and most accessible. By the way, did you know that plant-based milks have just as much calcium as cow’s milk and some have quite a bit more!
Additional info at: The Best Milk for Smoothies
Almond milk is made by grinding almonds in a blender with water, then straining to remover the almond pulp or flesh.
Health Benefits: Almond milk is lactose free, cholesterol free, vegan and free from saturated fat. It has a lower calorie count than cow’s milk as long as it is unsweetened. It is also a great source of Vitamins A and D.
Tip: Make sure to look for brands that do not contain carrageenan which can cause digestive issues in some people. Most major brands are now carrageenan free.
Cashew milk is made by grinding cashews with water to make a liquid and straining the remaining pulp, just like almond milk.
Health Benefits: Cashew milk is very similar to almond milk when it comes to health benefits. It is low in calories and fat, a good source of vitamins and minerals and cholesterol free. It has probably the most similar texture to cow’s milk and a slightly sweeter taste than almond milk.
Tips: Being that cashew milk has a slightly sweeter taste, it is great for those who like sweetened milks but without the added sugar and calories.
Coconut milk is made from a process of soaking the meat of a coconut in water and grating and straining it to the desired thickness. Water is also mixed in to dilute the fat content of the milk. A shortcut option is to blend coconut manna (coconut butter) with water and voila, coconut milk in seconds!
Health Benefits: Coconut milk has a high saturated fat content but it’s important to know the type of saturated fat present. The type found in coconut milks are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), not long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). MCTs are water-soluble and easier to transport from the small intestines to the liver for conversion to ketones which the muscles utilize for energy. Because of this, the body’s energy disbursement is improved and because the MCTs are mostly used up, very little is left to deposit in fat tissue. Coconut milk is also high in many vitamins and minerals including manganese and lauric acid which has amazing antibacterial and antifungal qualities.
Tips: Coconut milk can be purchased in a can or a carton. Canned coconut milk can be used to make a great frosting. All you need to do is refrigerate the can overnight, scoop the top layer of cream that separates off the top, and whip in a mixer with sweeteners or flavors of your choice. Use care when separating the cream from the liquid to get as little liquid as possible – adding too much liquid will not allow for the cream to whip to proper consistency.
Rice milk is made from milled rice and water.
Health Benefits: Rice milk is the most hypoallergenic of all milk products. It’s a good alternative for those with nuts allergies that cannot drink nut milks. Rice milk has the least amount of fat compared to all other alternatives with only 1 gram per cup and all of the fat being unsaturated. It’s also high in antioxidants, manganese, selenium and is cholesterol free.
Tips: A good choice for those with nut allergies but it’s not the best for diabetics because it can cause a sudden sugar overload. It’s also lower in calcium and protein than other plant-based milks. (also read: Smoothies for Diabetics)
Hemp milk is made by blending water and hemp seeds that have been soaked in water to create a creamy milk.
Health Benefits: Hemp milk has an amazing source of protein, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, folic acid, and vitamins A, E, and B-12. It’s also rich in magnesium, potassium, iron, and magnesium – all of which are essential nutrients for a healthy diet and immune system.
Tips: Hemp milk has a distinct nutty taste that may not be for everyone but has a nice, rich flavor.
There are so many great choices for dairy-free milk options and also for creating your own plant-based alternatives.
Try our almond milk recipe below with an option to make your own almond flour from the remaining pulp. AND… please note, the almond flour recipe can be adapted using ANY pulp. So if you made hemp milk, make hemp flour. If you made coconut milk, make coconut flour. And if you made rice milk, make rice flour. No waste is the name of the game!
Recipe: Basic Almond Milk
1 cup raw almonds
4 cups filtered water
Soak the almonds overnight (12 hours). Drain and rinse with filtered water.
Add the almonds to your blender + 4 cups fresh filtered water. Blend on high for 1-2 minutes.
Place your nutmilk bag in a large jar or bowl to hold it upright and pour the contents of the blender into the nut milk bag. If you do not have a nutmilk bag, you can find one here. Cheesecloth will work as well.
Squeeze all of the milk from the bag into the jar or container. Cover with a lid and refrigerate for 3-4 days.
Note: You can use the leftover almond pulp for raw desserts or you can dry it and use it as almond flour for baking!
Recipe: Almond Flour
Spread out your pulp on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 175 degrees for about 3 hours, until completely dry. You may also use a dehydrator if you prefer.
Place dried meal in a food processor and whirl until it’s a fine powder.
You’re done! Use as a gluten-free substitute in baking recipes that call for flour.
Share your favorite plant-based milk option or recipe with us below and tell us why you love it!
The Blendtopia Team