Non-Dairy Milk Taste Test: You Won’t Believe Which One Wins!
Non-dairy milks are everywhere and taste like the real thing, or if you're like us and you don’t happen to want to drink milk, they often taste even better. Americans have taken up non-dairy in droves: $4 billion in milk alternatives will sell this year, the fastest-growing category of the plant-based diet universe in the market.
And with good reason. Plant milks are richer in nutrients and higher in protein than regular dairy from cows. Plus, as the USDA prepares its new daily guidelines for 2020, more doctors have joined the Ditch the Dairy campaign—12,000 doctors have signed up for this promotion to date and hundreds convened on Washington recently—to convince the USDA to change its nutrition guidelines and remove dairy as a recommended food group before the 2020 updates are released next year. Plenty of people who have given up dairy in favor of alternative milks and cheeses swear by the choice, and the movement is growing. For inspiration or to join the community, follow the IG called Switch4Good.
And then, this past July, the most disturbing video surfaced of undercover animal rights activists who snuck a hidden body cam into Fair Oaks Farm, owned by Coca-Cola. We watched in horror as cows and calves were abused in front of our eyes. Suffice it say, whatever you think of drinking cow’s milk, none of us want to ever see animals treated as these were on that video.
Back to the more upbeat part of this story: We tasted 10 different milks and one chocolate flavor for fun. We poured the plain ones over cereal at the office and watched as the crowd gathered. (Everyone wanted in on this taste test!) Some preferred the creaminess of the banana milk and said it would be great in a smoothie, and other testers liked the skim-like consistency of almond milk best. Read on to see which of the milks won our top prize.
For all the Beet Meters, check out the best vegan products.
1. Oatly Oat Milk
You want to hate the new girl, the one who moves here from Sweden with the perfect skin and silky hair and then she turns out to be funny, self-deprecating and smart and you can’t help but immediately welcome her into your circle and think: Why didn’t she show up earlier? We LOVE her. That’s Oatly. This milk is the newcomer to the shelves, and it turns out to be a game-changer. If you’re moving away from dairy and embracing the non-dairy milk habit, this one might be the closest to what you’re used to drinking. Its texture is creamy and smooth with a hint of natural sweetness, just like regular milk. There is no need to add any sweeteners, and that’s why it works great with coffee or cereal, and it would make even more delicious your oatmeal, giving it a creamier consistency than making it with water.
Bottom Line: All of our taste testers finished this milk with their cereal and wanted another pour to drink by itself. It was a unanimous winner. We voted this milk alternative as the best but keep reading because there are plenty of other great choices, especially if you’re looking for less creamy options. And with 5 grams of fat, it's got staying power that'll keep you full for longer, too.
2. Califia Unsweetened Almond Milk
Personally, this is our favorite almond milk brand, since it has the perfect combination of taste and nutrition. All of our taste testers agreed. It’s similar to real milk: creamy and smooth, but it has a refreshing-yet-subtle almond taste. If you’re an almond milk latte fan, we recommend using this brand because your latte foam will have a thicker texture. We tried this milk in comparison to the 365 Unsweetened Almond milk and there wasn’t a huge difference, but we would prefer to eat cereal with Califia Unsweetened Almond Milk because of its milk-like texture with a hint of almond.
Bottom Line: The Califia Almond Milk gets high marks in both the taste and the health categories for being low in calories, carbs, and fat yet high in calcium. If we had to pick an overall winner, this would be it!
3. 365 Unsweetened Almond Milk
“You can taste the almonds!” said a tester. This one is very similar to the Califia Almond Milk, but has a nuttier taste and is not as creamy. We loved this in cereal and would drink it with most anything, especially our iced coffee to add a little extra flavor. If you enjoy a thin milk texture, we would suggest drinking this one over the Califia because it’s more like skim.
The Bottom Line: This milk is so low in carbs, fat, and calories you can enjoy it as often as you like. The sodium is a little high but still in the range with the rest of the crop.
4. Mooala Original Almond Milk
This almond milk is thicker than its counterparts so if you prefer that texture you’ll like this. The Mooala almond is slightly chalkier, though and we would suggest adding it to anything that needs a thicker texture like a smoothie or frozen treat.
Bottom Line: The nutrition facts are impressive with only five ingredients, 6 grams of carbs, 60 calories per serving and 2 grams of protein. One caveat: Anyone who doesn't eat honey needs to skip this milk because it does contain it as a sweetener.
5. So Delicious Coconut Milk
With a hint of vanilla and coconut, this is a delicious milk alternative. It has a light texture, sweet taste, and is flavorful without being overly powerful. It tastes very natural and not artificial—which is hard to find in coconut products. Use this milk when baking desserts or as a coffee creamer.
Bottom Line: It tastes delicious in cereal but for anyone who would prefer something thicker, this milk is a skim-like consistency. So if you love skim, choose this one.
6. Moolala Bananamilk Chocolate
The outlier here is this tasty but thick chocolate milk which we honestly bought by accident. Still, our tasters lined up to have a sip because it reminded them of their childhood treat. We loved it but would not drink it often because of the overwhelming sweetness. If you reach for a chocolate fix daily, then this is a great go-to. Make popsicles or a chocolate protein shake. Drink it straight out of the glass and give your sweet tooth something to talk about. It tastes like the Horizon chocolate milk you stab the straw in, except creamier. The best way to describe the taste is a thick chocolate milk, almost like a smoothie or a melted and chilled chocolate pop, with a hint of banana. We could only take one bite of the cereal and wanted to drink the rest of the milk, separately. If you’re a chocolate lover and want healthier options, this milk alternative is for you. Overall, we wouldn’t use either of these kinds of milk for cereal. Try making a protein shake and add a spoonful of peanut butter.
7. Mooala Banana Milk
It’s time to go bananas. This is the most unique tasting milk we put to the test, by far. Made from bananas and cinnamon, it’s sweet like a dessert and would taste the best with a decadent cereal if you wanted a sweet treat.
Bottom Line: The banana milk also has the thickest texture, thicker than Oatly Oat Milk. I wouldn’t eat this with cereal but instead, I would mix it into a smoothie, or use it for baking. If you’re the kind of coffee-drinker who likes half & half or a creamer substitute, this is the milk for you. One of our testers noted that it was almost like drinking a kids’ “Danimals Kids” yogurt smoothie from his childhood. However, if you do use it in a smoothie, we recommend you leave out the banana since it already has a strong banana taste.
8. Ripple Pea Milk
Although Oatly won our hearts, this pea milk deserves a special honorable mention for being a crowd-pleaser and healthful, with a big protein punch and skim-like consistency that those of us who prefer a thinner texture will enjoy. There are two big differences in Ripple Pea Milk compared to Oatly Oat Milk: First, you notice the taste of peas is stronger than the taste of oats in oat milk. Second, the texture is a bit thinner than oat milk. Finally, pea milk packs 8 grams of protein, more than double that of oat milk. So if you need extra protein, pack in the peas.
Bottom Line: Best in cereal, coffee, or smoothies. The pea milk lacks some of the sweetness of the others so if you’re avoiding carbs, this is a good choice. But it has a wallop of sodium, which some people who work out a lot and sweat out their salts may not mind but anyone worried about their sodium intake may consider avoiding.
9. Good Karma Flax Milk + Protein, Unsweetened
Honesty is harsh sometimes, but here’s the truth: This was our least favorite milk because it tastes “too healthy,” like you were drinking your vitamins. This Good Karma product may be full of positive zen vibes, but it's not big on taste. The thin consistency would make a skim-milk lover happy, but we didn’t enjoy the chalky texture.
Bottom Line: Although we wouldn’t choose this for our morning cereal, it would be great in any smoothie because it delivers 8 grams of plant-based protein and 1,200 milligrams of Omega-3s per serving, which is the winning count for the entire milk category. Another major positive: this milk is made from flaxseed, so if you have a nut allergy or need to increase your fiber for health reasons (and don’t we all want more fiber?), then this milk is a great plant-based choice.
10. Rice Dream (Original)
We loved the light texture and hint of brown rice aftertaste, which kind of reminds us of a bran muffin. It gave our cereal a sweeter and richer taste. One of our testers described the taste as the leftover milk you drink after you finished the cereal in your bowl.
Bottom Line: Overall, we enjoyed the taste and would drink it simply by itself—the added sugar made it slightly sweet and delicious. This milk is low in fat but a bit higher in carbs than some of our other choices.
11. Silk Coconut Milk
This milk has less of a coconut taste than most other brands using coconut but has a smoother texture. We loved the nutty vanilla flavor (surprising, since this is strictly coconut). Although both the Silk coconut milk and So Delicious coconut milk taste very similar, we liked this one better in cereal than the So Delicious because of its creamier texture.
Bottom Line: Dip a coconut cookie into it for a sweet treat or use it as a coffee creamer.