Remember when the only substitute milk you could buy was soya? Over the last few years the dairy-free market has rocketed, with nearly every nut, bean and pulse being soaked, blended and sieved through a cheesecloth in the hope of crafting the next best milk. Here we help you choose the best for your needs…
Best for sweeter baking & porridge
Great to use in smoothies and sweeter baking recipes. Fabulous addition to porridge and will usually last longer in the fridge than many milks.
Almond milk isn’t the best fit for hot drinks. It is liable to splitting in coffee and can be overwhelming when used in tea (unless the tea has nutty, chocolate notes). It’s not ideal for use in savoury cooking as the almond can overwhelm your dish.
Nutritional benefits Almond milk has a hefty serving of calcium, vitamin D (fortified versions) and is naturally high in magnesium and
vitamin E. Almond milk is lower in fat than many other plant milks, too.
DIY? Almond milk is pretty easy to make. All you need is to soak some almonds for a day in filtered water, drain and blend with a litre of fresh water, then sieve using a cheesecloth.
Brands Califa Farms (Sainsbury’s stock this) is my favourite brand for quality and creaminess. However, Alpro unroasted is a sweet and subtle drink that is very versatile.
Best for hot drinks & sweeter baking
I am biased here, as I absolutely LOVE coconut milk. But I can honestly recommend coconut milk for coffees, teas and all beverages hot or cold. Coconut milk is beautiful in porridge, and any sweet recipes such as yoghurt and ice-cream.
Not suitable for most savoury dishes (with the exception of curries) because the coconut flavour will be poignant. Also, not suitable for low-fat cooking.
Nutritional benefits Rich in fatty acids, coconut milk is extremely hydrating and it contains a high level of vitamin E and manganese (a rare micronutrient).
DIY? Easily made using the almond milk method.
Brands I adore Blue Diamond’s chilled coconut drink; Pret also carries Provamel’s Coconut milk, which is an incredible blend in coffee.
Best for savoury baking
Unsweetened soya milk is best used in savoury cooking and baking because it can be a great creamy base for sauces and curdles well for use in baking mixes. Soya milk is also perfect for any amateur yoghurt makers out there.
In coffee or tea, as most brands are liable to splitting or curdling; however, barista blends can reduce the likelihood of this occurring.
Nutritional benefits Rich in calcium and most are fortified with vitamin D and B12. Soya milk is also high in protein, making it a great alternative to cow’s milk.
DIY? Soya milk can be hard to make at home due to the nature of the bean itself. It’s best to buy the pre-made options.
Brands I prefer organic soya milk due to high GMO farming methods associated with soya. Provamel provides a ‘clean’ soya milk; alternatively, Alpro’s Professional blend will help reduce curdling in beverages.
Best for hot drinks
Oat milk is my personal favourite when it comes to hot drinks. It is subtle enough not to overwhelm the flavour of your beverage and will almost always hold your coffee and teas in suspension. Oat milk is versatile and you can use it in both sweet and savoury recipes, working very well in baked goods.
I wouldn’t use oat milk in a custard or sweet/savoury sauce because the texture can sometimes be a little chalky. Oat milk is not the best for Matcha lattes or hot chocolates, either.
Nutritional benefits Rich in Beta Glucan to lower cholesterol, oat milk also boasts a high level of calcium (35% of RDA for calcium in one glassful) and vitamin A (10% RDA per glass).
DIY? Similar method to almond milk and great home results are easy to achieve.
Brands Oatly is the don of the oat milk world! Its organic and professional barista blends are delicious and create a lovely, smooth hot drink.
Best for desserts & sweeter baking
Hazelnut & cashew milk
These milks taste phenomenal in hot chocolates, decadent desserts and baking. They really impart a nutty undertone to whatever you decide to add them to. I love using cashew milk in smoothies, too.
I would avoid using these milks in teas because they will overpower the delicate tannins. Not suitable for savoury foods, although cashew milk makes a mean base for a cheese sauce!
Nutritional benefits Both will be rich in vitamin E, riboflavin and healthy fatty acids. They may be slightly higher in saturated fats than other alternatives and lower in calcium.
DIY? Cashew milk follows the same process as almond milk. Hazelnut milk may be a little trickier to master.
Brands Provamel again comes out on top for me, personally; however, Plenish and Alpro weigh in when it comes to these nut milks.
Best for coffee & smoothies
Rice milk works very nicely in coffee as it is not inclined to split. It works well in sweet recipes and makes a delicious smoothie, too.
Not suitable for those who prefer a savoury drink because rice milk is generally very sweet. I would also avoid using rice milk in savoury dishes because of its sweetness.
Nutritional benefits Naturally gluten-free, with higher levels of manganese and selenium than most other milks, and very low in fat. The only issue is that the level of calcium is pretty low in rice milk.
DIY? Quite difficult to make at home, so I would advise buying this one in.
Brands Rice Dream and Riso Scotti do some lovely brown rice milks, with emulsifiers and oils to help reduce splitting.