Ask the Vegan: What Can I Use Instead of Milk?

For the sake of not boring you senseless with rhetoric about why it is unethical to burden cows with milk production, or invoking nausea with the pus-laden details of dairy, I am going to assume that you already know it’s a bad option, and that is why you are here looking for pointers.

Luckily for you, and the rest of us tree-huggers, there are a bazillion varieties of plant-based milk. While dairy drinkers only get to decide between the fat contents, we get to choose between hazelnut, coconut, rice, soy, hemp, almond, and more! What’s more, we can even make the milk ourselves (if we like!), saving us money and giving us more control over what we are consuming.

(photo courtesy of LivenLoveCestlavie)

So let’s talk about the most common varieties first.


Easiest to find in the supermarkets. High in protein and vitamins, low in fat, and store bought varieties usually contain added calcium and B12. Can also be found in yogurt form, cheese, ice cream, coffee creamer and aerosol whipped cream varieties.  DIY Recipe


Usually a bit thicker than soy milk, and with a hint of almondy flavor, this is another popular milk alternative that you can find in most supermarkets. Almond milk is low in calories, the unsweetened variety is as little as 40 calories per cup! Can also be found in yogurt form, cheese, and ice cream. DIY Recipe


Rice milk is pretty thin in comparison to other subs. I would liken it to skim milk. Its sweetish taste makes it work best in baking or your morning cereal. Commercial brands are usually fortified with vitamins and minerals. Rice Dream is the brand I see most frequently, and they even make ice cream! DIY Recipe


Coconut milk is harvested from the grated meat of the coconut. The canned variety is rich and creamy, while the carton variety has been diluted. Coconut milk is packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants and healthy fats. It also contains the rare lauric acid, which among its many benefits, reduces heart disease and stroke risks. Which milk you use depends on your use. The canned stuff works well in cooking, smoothies, and making whipped cream (see below.) The carton version is a good all around milk for cereal, baking, etc. You can also find coconut milk in greek-style yogurt, coffee creamer, and ice cream forms. DIY Recipe


When you’re through being safe and ordinary, I suggest you give some of the less common varieties a whirl. If you take a gander at your non-dairy milk section, especially in a store like Whole Foods, or a natural foods store, you will find out just how varied your choices are.

Other nut and seed milks include cashew, hazelnut, hemp, sunflower, and sesame. If you are not crazy about the taste of the nut/seed, you probably won’t be into the milk. Cashew is a more neutral flavor, so if you’re hesitant, start there.

Other grain milks include multigrain and oat. Like rice, they tend to be thinner and lower in protein, but many people swear by them. I wouldn’t advise them for use in coffee, though.

The best advice I can give you is to take baby steps. If you have been drinking dairy your whole life, it can take a minute to adjust to new tastes. I know that the first time I tried soy milk, long before my veganism, I wasn’t into it. I later came to prefer the taste of soy and almond milk, even though I still consumed dairy. Don’t try one brand and quit if you hate it. Every company has their own flavor…you just have to experiment and see what works for you!



Condensed milk

(photo: Gormandizewithus)

Heavy cream

(photo: Chocolate Covered Katie)

(*note: I think soy works best)

(photo: The Veg Life)

Whipped Cream

(photo: LunchBoxBunch)

Evaporated milk

(photo: Diet Taste)

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