Perhaps you want to know which plant milk tastes the creamiest? The most nutritious substitute for fitness enthusiasts? Or maybe you want to ensure that your new fridge staple has the lowest possible carbon footprint?
Whatever your reasons, you’re here now and we’ve done a ton of taste testing and thorough research to find the best dairy milk alternatives.
This definitive list of cow’s milk substitutes provides information on flavour, nutrition, sustainability, and consistency. We’ve even done tea and coffee tastings to give you our verdict on the plant milk most suitable for hot drinks.
The cream of the crop (sorry, not sorry 😅)? We’ve included some of our favourite brands that are available to buy in the UK and the US!
Based on our own experience, oat milk is the best plant milk ever! But don’t just take our word for it, this dairy alternative always comes out tops in any poll we’ve come across on social media.
Oats are low in fat, packed full of dietary fibre, and contain relatively high levels of protein compared to other grain cereals. What’s more, they’re a great source of calcium, vitamin A, and iron.
Many oat milk brands also supplement their products with nutrients such as iodine, omega-3, and vitamin B12 (all very important nutrients, particularly for those on a vegan diet).
Oats have been shown to lower cholesterol, decrease the risk of heart disease, support the immune system, and boost gut health (by feeding all those friendly gut bacteria with prebiotics).
Not only do oats thrive in colder regions of the world (making them a great locally-grown choice for those living far from the equator), but they also pose many other benefits when grown as part of crop rotations.
Oats and other cover crops hold soil and moisture in place, reduce soil erosion, control pests without the heavy use of pesticides, and require relatively few resources to grow.
Over time, a diverse crop rotation using oats breaks pest cycles, boosts soil health, and increases the yields of other crops grown as part of the rotation as well!
Consequently, oat milk a pretty sustainable dairy alternative.
Mild, creamy, and naturally sweet, it’s perfect for porridge and plant-based miso ramens. To be honest, we use oat milk (barista version) in pretty much any scenario where we would have previously used cow’s milk.
Although we did have a non-vegan friend once tell us that our tea tasted like porridge 😅 …
Basic oat milk can be relatively thin but it holds its own in hot drinks and doesn’t usually split. Most brands add flavourings and other ingredients to thicken the texture.
The barista versions of oat milk offer thicker and creamier results, perfect in a cup of tea, hot chocolate, or coffee!
Our Favourite Oat Milk Brands (UK)
Looking for a low-carb dairy milk alternative with plenty of protein? Then pea milk is your new best friend!
Made with yellow split peas, this plant milk contains very few calories and is naturally low in sugar. It’s also great for those with soy or nut allergies.
However, most other nutrients found in the raw pea crop are removed during milk production so try opting for a brand that is fortified with more good stuff!
If you live somewhere that experiences a lot of rain (🙋🏻♀️ UK), then pea milk is a great eco-friendly choice as they naturally grow in areas with high rainfall, meaning they require little to no irrigation.
Moreover, a study undertaken by Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems has demonstrated that growing more legumes, such as beans and lentils, offers significant environmental benefits as well as increased nutritional value for human.
Thankfully, pea milk doesn’t taste like peas! Instead, it has a delicately creamy and subtly sweet flavour. It’s perhaps not strong enough to complement hot drinks (unless you enjoy the plain taste of tannins) but we love it in smoothies to add an extra boost of protein.
Pretty watery and thin.
The brands that emulsify their plant milks with vegetable oils tend to be thicker.
Our Favourite Pea Milk Brands (UK)
Nutty and well-balanced, hemp milk is an extremely nutritious alternative to dairy! It’s made from hemp seeds, which grow on the hemp plant, otherwise known as Cannabis sativa. But don’t worry, you won’t get high every time you take a sip of this plant milk, since hemp seeds only contain trace amounts of THC (the chemical involved in producing marijuana’s psychological effects).
Probably one of the more nutritious plant milks, hemp is a valuable source of essential amino acids and fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, and fibres. The great news? The majority of fats are polyunsaturated, which can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
It’s also a great alternative for vegans since it contains high-quality complete protein (all essential amino acids). In comparison to cow’s milk, hemp milk has much lower levels of carbohydrate and about half the calories.
The nutritional benefits don’t end there as hemp seeds are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 and omega-6 (at the optimal ratio as well).
The magical hemp plant has a marvellous root system that rapidly pulls carbon dioxide out of the air to store underground, which makes it a perfect addition to systems designed to sequester carbon and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Hemp roots can also draw nutrients from deep soil closer to the surface, nourishing the soil so it’s ready for future crops without the need for fertilisers.
It’s not only fertilisers that farmers won’t require when using hemp as part of a regenerative crop rotation practice; the plant also requires little to no pesticide since its fast-growing canopy blocks the sunlight from reaching any weeds that might attempt to grow underneath.
Nutty, delicately sweet, and scrummy!
We find that plain hemp milk is not so great in hot drinks but there are some great blended plant milks and barista versions that taste amazing.
Watery and thin texture but some brands emulsify for a thicker consistency.
The barista versions tend to be less watery.
Our Favourite Hemp Milk Brands (UK)
The traditional choice for vegans, soy milk has been doing the rounds for a long time now and it’s sparked a lot of controversy over the years!
But soy isn’t as bad as many make it out to be, particularly if we don’t focus on it as being the only alternative to dairy. Luckily, as you can see from this post, there are so many milk substitutes now on the market, it’s unlikely to be much of an issue.
Looking for a lower-fat substitute for cow’s milk? Soy contains half the calories, fats, and carbohydrates but roughly the same amount of protein!
Similarly to hemp milk, it is also a great source of high-quality complete protein and many other beneficial nutrients.
There has been some concern over the effect soy milk might have on the function of the body’s hormones (due to the high levels of isoflavones found in soy) but there is currently no scientific evidence to suggest that consuming moderate amounts will have any adverse effects on health.
The sustainability of soy is often where debates about veganism get heated. The truth is that soy has played a major role in the deforestation of South America. However, only 6% of the world’s soya is fed directly to humans. The majority of it is given instead to livestock.
Of course, if we all went vegan then our consumption of soy products will probably increase. But we would need far less of it than what is fed to livestock – eating soya is still no way near as damaging to the environment as eating animal products! In fact, a vegan diet is responsible for roughly half the greenhouse gas emissions of an omnivorous one.
Still, if you’re unsure, there are plenty of other plant milks to choose from!
Mild and creamy and sometimes slightly sweet.
Soy milk is pretty decent in hot drinks since its flavour is quite well-rounded and smooth.
Thicker than most other plant milks and froths up quite nicely.
Be careful as you pour soy milk into a hot drink though as some brands have a tendency to split.
Our Favourite Soy Milk Brands (UK)
The new kid on the block, creamy and rich macadamia milk has appeared on the market with a bang!
Although it’s a nut milk, it’s surprisingly low in fat and overall calories.
The fat it does contain is mostly monounsaturated, which can support healthy cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
As with many other types of plant milk, macadamia milk is often fortified with plenty of other healthy nutrients.
Another surprising thing about macadamia milk is that it’s relatively eco-friendly! The macadamia tree has demonstrated a great ability to adapt to climate change and manage its own water use, producing a reliable and consistent yield without too much intervention.
What’s more, the tree has been shown to sequester significant amounts of carbon and all of the by-products are reused or recycled.
We’ve actually not tried this one yet BUT we’ve heard so many good things! It’s supposed to be relatively neutral for nut milk but with an incredibly rich, creamy, and balanced flavour.
The healthy fats in macadamias help give this plant milk an extra creamy and smooth texture – perfect for a cup of coffee (or so we’ve been told)!
Our Favourite Macadamia Milk Brands (UK & US)
Homemade Plant Milk Recipes
Making your own plant milk couldn’t be easier! Most nut and seed milks simply need to be blended with water and then strained out (or drunk as is if you don’t mind the bits). Additional ingredients and flavourings are optional.
Below we’ve provided some of our favourite recipes for you to try making your own dairy-free milk at home: