There is no question, non dairy milk is much better for you than dairy milk, both health-wise and ethical-wise. This article isn’t about either however, instead, it’s about all the various non dairy milk options that you have available at your natural food markets and even most major grocery stores. Non dairy milk is substituted in equal amounts to whatever is called for in recipes, and unlike regular dairy milk, you can match the subtle flavors of non dairy milk to best fit your dishes.
When I get asked which non dairy milk option is my favorite, my answer is “it depends”. In truth, you can substitute any non dairy milk in place of dairy milk in any recipe or dish, but because they each have subtle undertone flavors, I like to match the particular non dairy milk I use based on the other ingredients I’ll be combining it with. For instance, I prefer coconut milk in most dessert recipes, as well as Thai and other Asian based soups and stews and casseroles. When baking dessert breads, I prefer to use one of the nut milks such as almond, hazelnut or oat. If making biscuits, pizza dough, pie crust or other similar baked items, I prefer hemp milk. For smoothies, most any will blend just find with little variation to flavor outcome. If drinking just straight, taste test all of the various non dairy options and pick the ones you like best. Additionally, most come in a variety of flavors (plain, vanilla and chocolate) and they always taste best when thoroughly chilled first.
Below, I’ll outline all the most common of non dairy milk options, and even though I do include soy milk as one of the options, my view on soy milk has changed over the years. Unless the soy milk is GMO FREE, I do not recommend using it. Additionally, just like regular dairy milk, you’ll want to consume all of the contents typically within 7 days once the carton is opened. This is usually the case with the square containers. However, in the larger quart sized containers, the non dairy milk will last just a bit longer. So, ideally you’ll want to purchase in container sizes that will match your usage to avoid waste.
Coconut Milk – For thinner consistency dishes, I recommend using coconut milk in a carton. For thicker consistency dishes, or if specifically recommended in a recipe, use the canned coconut milk. It bakes moist in baked goods, is especially preferred for most dessert recipes, and even the pickiest of family eaters will typically enjoy coconut milk (hint for mommies trying to acclimate non dairy food items to their children).
Rice Milk – Very mild tasting, is probably the most versatile of all of the non dairy milk options (in my opinion), because it balances well with both sweet and savory flavors. It is on the thinner side consistency wise, so keep that in mind when deciding whether to use it or not in certain dishes. Very good to drizzle onto hot oatmeal, or fresh frozen fruit for a yummy light treat.
Hemp Milk – Super high in nutritional value (essential omega fatty acids and calcium), and quickly becoming my “go to” non dairy milk to add to my smoothies as well as being my 2nd most used non dairy milk options for soups and stews due to its flavor and slighter thicker consistency.
Almond Milk – Its consistency is thinner than hemp milk but thicker than rice milk and has quickly become a consumer favorite in the non dairy milk arena. Great for making healthy iced coffee drinks, and just like rice milk, it pairs well with both sweet and savory flavors.
Oat Milk – Has a thicker consistency and unlike the other non dairy milk options, has a distinct grain like flavor. I feel oat milk is best used for certain goods such as cookies and dessert breads, but try it out in other dishes as well, as everyone’s palate is unique.
Hazelnut Milk – Has a thin consistency, and like oat milk, a very distinct flavor. For this reason, it is also good for adding to coffee (hot or cold), or any dish or recipe that would meld well with a distinct nut flavor.
Soy Milk – As I mentioned above, I no longer recommend using soy milk unless it is specifically GMO FREE. If you do choose to use soy milk, it has a thicker consistency and is very versatile.
Bon Veggie Appetit!
Gina “The Veggie Goddess” Matthews