Trying to figure out what the best vegan milk on the market is? There isn’t a simple answer, unfortunately. It really depends on what you want to use it for, how environmentally conscious you are, and whether or not you have any food allergies.
That said, there are oodles of options. We’re going to do a deep dive into a big bowl of vegan milk and cover all these topics and help you decide which vegan milk is best for you.
Vegan milk is booming in popularity around the globe. Consumers are shifting from dairy in droves and replacing their usual milk for vegan alternatives.
While people make the switch to vegan milk, businesses are cashing in on the boom. Whether it’s for health, environmental or animal welfare reasons, people are discovering the benefits of vegan milk.
From cooking and baking, to coffee and cereal; you can still enjoy your favorite treats without dairy…and without cruelty!
Best Vegan Milk on the Market
Okay, let’s first cover the basics. What is vegan milk, or plant based milk as it’s sometimes called, and what are the various types on the market. Strap in, there’s a lot to cover here.
Vegan milk is a creamy substance made from plants that resembles the milk made by female mammals for their offspring. Plant milk can be used in basically any way you would use regular cow’s milk.
Add it to your coffee, breakfast cereal, porridge, or tea. Make vegan pancakes, scones, or banana bread with it. Whip up a big pan of vegan mac n’cheese with it, or use it to bread those vegan fish sticks and other fried delights. Or drink it straight up.
The types of vegan milk on the market are seemingly endless too. It can be made using grains, nuts, or legumes. From soy to pea milk (pea, the plant, not the other thing it sounds like) there are loads of vegan milks on the market.
Here’s a list of the more common vegan milks out there.
- Soy Milk – an oldie but a goodie. Great for coffee, and the environment.
- Almond Milk – nutty flavor, fantastic in coffee and baking.
- Oat Milk – neutrally flavored, excellent for foaming, or sauces.
- Coconut Milk – great for coffee too if you like a splash of flavor.
- Pea Milk – high protein and low sugar content.
- Hazelnut Milk – very creamy with a hazelnut aftertaste.
- Cashew Milk – smooth and mild flavored. Similar to cow’s milk.
- Hemp – nutty, earthy, and creamy. Great for smoothies and cereal.
- Macadamia – creamy and silky smooth. Excellent on its own.
- Rice – thin and neutrally flavored. Great for making sauces or for smoothies.
- Spelt – It’s naturally sweet so use it if you want a touch of sweetness without the sugar. *note: contains gluten
Best Vegan Milk Brands
What’s the best vegan milk brand? Well, seeing as there are probably thousands on the market there isn’t an answer to that question.
However, there are heavy hitters out there. Here are some of the best vegan milk brands on the market.
- Oatly (Oat drink, chai, latte, and Barista Edition)
- Blue Diamond Almond Breeze
- Pacific Non Dairy Beverages (Soy, Almond, and Coconut Varieties)
- Ripple Dairy-Free (Pea-Based)
- Silk (Soy, Nut, Almond, Oat “Oat Yeah”, and Coconut Varieties)
- So Delicious Dairy-Free (Almond, Cashew, and Coconut Varieties)
- Trader Joe’s (Soy, Almond, and Coconut Varieties)
- Zen Soy
- Whole Foods Market 365 Everyday Value (Soy and Almond Varieties)
Each brand has its own signature blends, grains and ingredients they use. You might even be lucky to find soy/almond blends or even turmeric being added to some coconut brands.
Trendy Vegan Milk – Oat Milk Boom
Oat milk has experienced a huge surge in popularity among baristas because of how it acts under heat.
Surely you’re already familiar with the explosive rise of the Swedish brand Oatly, which has taken the vegan world by storm.
According to VegWorld Magazine, Oatly is fast-becoming a “proof point” for vegan products entering the mainstream. Why?
Oat milk is another vegan milk that’s packed with proteins, natural sweetness; a barista’s dream because it steams well at most temperatures. Though, there’s a chance oat milk can separate so be warned!
In addition to coffee, oat milk is also a great option for cereal, baking, cooking, and to drink straight up with your favorite vegan sweets.
Best Vegan Milk for the Environment
If you want to do good by the environment as well as your health and the animals, then choose the best vegan milk according to minimal impact. The most sustainable vegan milks are determined by:
- The average amount of water used in their production
- The amount of CO2 produced per liter
Here is how vegan milk stacks up on these measurements according to Statista.
- Soy Milk: 28 liters of water and 1kg of CO2
- Oat Milk: 48 liters of water and 0.9kg of CO2
- Rice Milk: 270 liters of water and 1.2kg of CO2
- Almond Milk: 371 liters of water and 0.7kg CO2
Compare all of this to dairy milk, which uses 628 liters of water and produces 3.2 kg of CO2, all four of these options are better for the environment.
(Guide: 1 liter = 33.81 U.S fl oz; 1 kg = 2.205 lb)
One thing to note. Soy milk was near the bottom of the list where land use is concerned:
- Rice Milk: 0.3 meters per liter
- Almond Milk: 0.5 meters per liter
- Soy Milk: 0.7 meters per liter
- Oat Milk: 0.8 meters per liter
- Dairy Milk: 9.0 meters per liter
(Guide: 1 meter = 1.0936 yards; 1 liter = 33.81 U.S fl oz)
There’s much to think about here when you decide which option is the best vegan milk for the environment. We all have to decide for ourselves which option is best. That said, whether you choose soy, rice, almond, or oat they all kick dairy milks’ butt.
Best Vegan Milk for Coffee
According to Lincoln & York Coffee Roasters, the vegan milk you choose will affect the taste and texture of your coffee. Basically, it all comes down to how the milk acts once it’s steamed and at what temperature.
We know this is a hotly debated topic, but here’s some sciencey stuff to consider.
Like dairy, proteins in vegan milk will melt when heated and you start to see foam forming. The foam is a result of these proteins stretching once they start to melt. Therefore, soy is the best vegan milk as its melting process is as close to that of dairy milk. The taste of coffee isn’t compromised by soy, either.
To ensure you get the best soy coffee served to you, soy milk should be steamed at about 149°F. Ideally, your barista should use a thermometer as they prepare your coffee.
Once you taste a coffee made with soy milk, at the right temperature, you’ll notice that it’s flavors complement the coffee. It’s as if soy and coffee were meant to be together!
That said, curdling can occur as a result of the acidity of the coffee or excessive temperatures. This is another good reason not to order your coffee ‘extra hot’. You’ll end up with bitter coffee and lumpy vegan milk.
Another tip is to make sure your barista uses a high-quality, ethical coffee brand with the vegan milk.
Best Vegan Milk for Coffee – Runners-up
Don’t fancy yourself a soy milk drinker? Don’t worry, there are plenty of other awesome vegan milks for coffee. Almond, oat, and coconut are all solid options.
Almond milk is one of the best vegan milk options for coffee, if you like the flavor.
Your morning cup may taste a bit nutty if an unsweetened version of almond milk is used. If nutty isn’t your thing, you can choose a sweetened version to balance out the nutty flavor.
Also, if you choose almond milk, be prepared for ‘wateriness’, i.e. a layer of water under the foam. This is because the vegan milk will split due to the lower protein content of almond milk.
Additionally, make sure almond milk isn’t steamed at high temperatures like soy. Almond milk should only be steamed at about 131°F. This temp ensures the milk is at its smoothest.
Other best vegan milk options include coconut and oat vegan milks which are now becoming highly popular among coffee lovers.
Coconut milk is sweet, creamy and dense which is what you want for steamed milk. Furthermore, you won’t need a sweetener or sugar added, and you get a nice coconut flavor in your coffee to boot! This vegan milk can be steamed at a high temperature like soy milk.
Oat milk is also fantastic for coffee and foams well. Additionally, it has a nice neutral flavor. If you’re looking for vegan milk that doesn’t alter the flavor of your coffee or add sweetness, oat milk is a great option. Oatly’s Barista version is probably your best bet.
Best Vegan Milk for Baking
In my travels, many cafés and restaurants like to use a range of vegan milks depending on what they make.
For example, the all-vegan Mister Nice Guy’s Bake Shop in Melbourne likes to use a range of vegan milks because they offer options for customers with allergies. They make some cupcakes that are nut-free, soy-free and gluten-free so they will use the best vegan milk choice to suit these restrictions. They also stock a range of milkshakes and you can choose which vegan milk you want.
Kitchens have other demands and some vegan milks are more suited to curdling than others. For example if vegan ‘buttermilk’ is needed, soy and almond tend to be the best vegan milk choices. Both of these milks curdle best when vinegar and lemon juice are added.
Vegan Milk & Allergies, Intolerances or Chronic Disease
Vegan milk brands are expanding by the day. So, you need to ensure which of the best vegan milk brands are suitable if you’re gluten-intolerant or celiac. Ask your barista if you can check the label of the vegan milk you choose.
If we look at Oatly again, their oat milk is not classed as gluten-free in Europe and Asia. However, Oatly uses oats made from certified gluten-free oats which are deemed safe for the U.S market. Though, gluten-free oats are not deemed safe for the Australian market by Coeliac Australia. It’s advised you do your research thoroughly and choose what your body needs.
Moreover, a soy milk brand may decide to add barley to its product. This is a common practice with some soy milk blends in Australia; definitely not safe for celiacs! Again, check labeling, ingredients and gluten count in each product.
Finally, though spelt milk isn’t hugely common, if you have any gluten intolerance you should avoid it. Spelt is a type of wheat, so it contains gluten.
Minimizing Allergy Risk
When you visit a café or restaurant, there are a few things you can do to prevent ingredients in your coffee you didn’t order.
First, ensure the baristas use separate jugs when they steam different milks. This will prevent cross contamination of non-vegan and allergy inducing ingredients.
Secondly, barista should wipe clean the steaming wands, and let steam flow freely from them on a regular basis to flush out any cross-contaminants.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to watch your coffee order being made when possible. Mistakes happen sometimes so keep your eyes peeled if possible.
The Vegan Milk Tax?
As vegan milk expands in popularity, the debate rages: should café customers be charged extra for vegan milk?
Unfortunately, charging extra for vegan milk in coffee is a common practice among many countries around the world. For example, an extra 50 cents (or more) can get tagged on to your bill just for soy milk.
Is this fair?
Businesses that charge extra generally do so to cover their costs for the best vegan milk on the market. Comparatively speaking, vegan milks can cost business owners more than dairy milk. In this case, the surcharge is understandable…for now.
Though, if demand for vegan milk is rising at a rapid rate should we expect the cost of buying it come down? Cafés and restaurants should meet the demand and normalize the consumption of vegan milk by charging all their customers the same amount.
A customer should not be penalized for choosing friendlier and kinder options for their daily brew. Rather, they should celebrate the best vegan milk options they choose and reward their customers – that support their business – with an equal price. There’s a win-win here for everyone!
Best Vegan Milk for You?
What do you think? In your opinion, what is the best vegan milk? Which one do you like best for your coffee, morning bowl of oatmeal or smoothy? We’d love to know. Leave us a comment below!
Disclaimer: Some of the information provided in this article contains the views expressed by the writer. If you are experiencing any medical issues related to gluten intake or other allergens, seek the advice of a medical professional.