What is a Substitute for Milk? – Best Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives

What is a Substitute for Milk? – Best Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives

Milk is an excellent source for good calcium, potassium, protein, and vitamins, but people are looking for dairy-free and vegan options due to allergies or for animal and environmental welfare. The increasing trend of the vegan diet has increased the demand for milk alternatives. So, what is a substitute for milk? In this article, we will discuss healthy milk replacements.

Whether you are vegan, lactose-intolerant, or seeking alternatives to change your milk routine, various milk substitutes can provide you with good nutrition profiles and flavors. Different types of options are available in the market, which makes it difficult to choose the right one, so what is the right alternative for milk. We are here to help you in choosing the right one. But before exploring the alternatives, let’s have a look at the reasons to opt for a substitute.

Reasons for Switching to Milk Alternatives

Cow’s milk has an amazing nutrient profile. It is rich in quality proteins and has a wide range of vitamins and minerals. However, it is not a suitable choice for everyone. Below mentioned are some of the reasons why people look for alternatives. 

Lactose Intolerance – It is estimated that approximately 75% of the population of the world has the issue of lactose intolerance (Source). Lactose is the sugar found in milk. It happens due to a deficiency of lactase, which is an enzyme that helps in digesting lactose. If you have lactose intolerance, then it is better to opt for milk alternatives. 

Milk Allergy – Around 2-3% of kids below the age of three have allergies from cow’s milk. It can lead to a wide range of symptoms like rashes, diarrhea, vomiting, and anaphylaxis. Many kids outgrow this allergy by 16. In the case of milk allergies, you can choose milk alternatives and butter alternatives.

Dietary Restrictions – Many people avoid animal products due to health or ethical reasons. For instance, people who follow vegan diets do not consume products that come from animals. So they use the milk alternatives for cooking and baking. 

Potential Health Risks – Some people avoid cow’s milk due to issues over potential contaminants, including hormones, pesticides, and antibiotics. 

What is a Substitute for Milk?

No matter whatever your reasons, the good news is that a wide range of milk alternatives are available in the market if you want to avoid cow’s milk. Now you must be thinking, what can I use to substitute milk? Here are some great recommendations.

Soy Milk

Soy milk is one of the most popular non-dairy milk alternatives. It is popularly used in the United States due to the copious production of soybean in the country. It has a mild and creamy taste and has nutrition similar to cow’s milk.

Soy milk is an amazing substitute for milk in baking and cooking. It contains natural flavor, which makes it perfect for different types of sauces. You can also use it for sweet and savory sauces. 

Unsweetened soy milk contains around 80-90 calories per cup and is loaded with 7-9g plant-based soybeans (Source). This milk is made by soaking and blending the soybeans and straining the leftover pulp before consuming it. 

Soy is loaded with antioxidants and fiber, which make the soy milk super nutritious. It provides our body with polyunsaturated fats. 

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is made using water and coconut cream, due to which it has a tropical taste as compared to other plant-based milk.

It is loaded with fat and has low carbohydrates as compared to grain or nut-based milk. 

Most calories present in this milk come from saturated fat. One cup of coconut milk contains around 4g fat, 45 calories, no carbohydrates, and no protein. It is a perfect option for those seeking products to reduce their carbon intake. 

The fat content helps in boosting the feel of satiety. The creamy consistency makes it perfect for adding it to tea or coffee. Coconut milk has a coconutty flavor, which makes it unsuitable for making certain types of sauces. It is not a perfect substitute for milk in baking and cooking. 

Almond Milk

Almond milk is the perfect answer to the question of what is a substitute for milk. It is made of almond butter or almonds and water. The texture of this milk is light and has a sweet and nutty flavor. You can add it to tea and coffee and can mix in smoothies. You can use it as a substitute for cow’s milk in baked goods and desserts. 

One cup of sugar-free almond milk is packed with 30-35 calories, 1g protein, 2.5g fat, and 102g carbohydrates. As compared to cow’s milk, it is low in carbohydrates and protein. It is one of the best low-calorie milk alternatives. If you are looking for options with fewer calories, this one is a perfect choice for you. 

Rice Milk

Rice milk is made using brown or mild white rice and water. It usually contains thickeners in order to enhance taste and texture. It is lead allergenic and is a safe choice for people with intolerance to gluten, soy, nuts, or dairy products.

Rice milk is mild, and the best part is that it has a naturally sweet flavor. The milk contains watery consistency, which makes it suitable to drink. You can also use it in desserts, oatmeal, and smoothies. 

One cup of rice milk is packed with 130-140 calories, 1g protein, 2-3g fat, and 27-28g carbohydrates. The number of calories in rice milk is similar to that of cow’s milk. It contains less fat and protein comparatively. 

Oat Milk

Oat milk is made of oats and water. However, manufacturers add extra ingredients like oils, salt, and gums in order to produce texture and taste. Oat milk is mild in flavor and sweet in taste. It is a perfect substitute for milk in baking and cooking. It can be used like cow’s milk and tastes amazing with smoothies and cereals.

Oat milk is creamy and is perfect for adding to tea, cereal, coffee, or a homemade smoothie. One cup of oat milk contains 140-170 calories, 2.5-5g protein, 4.5-5g fats, and 19-29g carbohydrates. The best part about oat milk is that it is loaded with fiber and beta-glucan. It is a type of fiber that produces a thick gel when it passes through the gut. 

Cashew Milk

Cashew milk is made from a mixture of cashew butter or cashew nuts and water. It is creamy, rich, and has a nutty and sweet flavor. It is perfect for smoothies and coffee due to its creamy texture. You can also use it as a cow’s milk substitute in desserts. 

One cup of cashew milk contains around 25-50 calories, 0-1g protein, 2-4g fat, and 1-2g carbohydrates. As it has low protein content so it might not be a suitable option for people with protein requirements. However, due to low calories, unsweetened cashew milk is a suitable option for people seeking options to reduce their calorie intake. 

Hemp Milk

Hemp milk is made by using seeds of the hemp plant. At the present time, hemp products have high demand in the market. The milk is a great choice from a nutritional point of view. Hemp milk is loaded with magnesium, vitamin D, and calcium, depending on fortification. It also provides omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. 

One cup od hemp milk contains around 60-80 calories, 2-3g proteins, 4.5-8g fat, and 0-1g carbohydrates. The only drawback of the hemp milk is taste. It has a nutty taste, which can be bitter if you are habitual of using other sweeter plant-based alternatives. Hemp milk is a perfect choice for vegetarians and vegans as it provides high-quality proteins and all essential amino acids. 

Quinoa Milk

Quinoa is an edible seed that is consumed and prepared like a grain. The milk is made from quinoa and water. It is highly nutritious, gluten-free, and is loaded with high-quality protein. The milk is a little bit nutty and sweet in taste and contains quinoa. 

One cup of quinoa milk contains 70 calories, 2g protein, 1g fat, and 12g carbohydrates. It contains carbohydrates similar to that of cow’s milk; however, it has lesser calories. It contains less protein and fat comparatively. Quinoa milk is a great option for vegans and vegetarians as it contains high-quality protein. 

Macadamia Milk

Macadamia milk is made of around 3% of macadamia nuts and water. It has a rich, smooth, and creamy flavor. It is perfect for adding to smoothies and coffee. Macadamia milk is smooth and thick and has a real taste that is not just sweetness or sugar. It is strong and has fruit flavor, which makes it worth trying alone. 

One cup of macadamia milk is packed with 50-55 calories, 1-5g protein, 4.5-5g fat, and 1g carbohydrates. Macadamia milk is low in calories and carbohydrates and is high in monounsaturated fats. The low carbohydrate content in macadamia milk makes it perfect for people seeking products to reduce their carb intake. It is also low in protein and carbohydrates. It is also suitable for people with diabetes. 

Pea Milk

It is a new kind of non-dairy milk in the world of plant-based milk. It is made from water, pea protein isolates, and other emulsifiers such as sunflower oil, algal oil, and guar and gellan gums. Pea milk creamy in texture, like soy milk. It does not taste like pea; it has a less nutty taste. 

Algal oil is used in the milk to provide DHA, which is a primary omega-3 fatty acid. It is associated with cognition and heart health. The unsweetened pea milk contains around 8g protein and is loaded with nutrients like iron, vitamin D, and calcium. It is highly versatile, which makes it a perfect substitute for milk in baking and cooking. Due to its versatility, you can use it in a number of recipes.  

Peanut Milk

Peanuts are crown jewels in the world of food. They are not only good for you but also for the planet. The taste and nutrient profile of these nuts are similar to that of tree nuts, but they are grown underground, and they use less water. 

The best part about peanut-based products is that they are less extensive as compared to the dairy substitutes. In addition to this, they are high in protein. Peanut milk has a creamy texture and taste, which makes it perfect for milk replacement. 

Half a cup of peanut milk is packed with 105 calories, 5g protein, 128g potassium, 3mg sodium, and 68 mg phosphorus. Peanut milk is high in calories and fat content, but still, it is best for weight loss. It is loaded with protein and fiber, which increases satiety for a longer time and reduces the intake of calories. 

Walnut Milk

If you are looking for a milk replacement, perfect to increase your intake of plant-based omega-3, then walnut milk is the perfect solution for you. It has a more earthy taste as compared to other milk substitutes. 

Walnut milk is low in carbs, high in protein and fat, which help in keeping the levels of blood sugar steady. It is loaded with antioxidants and is the perfect source for essential fatty acids. In addition to this, walnut milk is also a rich source of fiber. You can use walnut milk in coffee or tea in order to shake up your morning routine. You can also add it to smoothies in the morning to balance out the sweet taste of fruits. 

Tips to Consider When Buying Milk Substitutes

Below are some of the essential things you need to look for while choosing the milk alternatives. 

  • It should have a protein quantity of at least 7-8 grams per serving.
  • Should not have a lot of ingredients.
  • It should not have added sugar.
  • There should be limited saturation fat (especially in the ones that are made with added protein or coconut).
  • It should have nutrients that you personally want (like omega-3).
  • Should have less than 140mg sodium per cup.
  • It should be loaded with calcium.

A wide range of non-dairy milk is available in the market, which makes it difficult to choose the right one. Here is a list of tips to consider when buying milk alternatives.

Dietary Needs

Some people have an intolerance to specific ingredients that are used in plant-based milk, like nuts, soy, and gluten. If you have allergies or intolerance to any specific ingredients, then it would be better to check the labels. Make sure to check the ingredients in the milk alternative that you are planning to use. It will help you in avoiding possible health concerns.


Some non-dairy milk alternatives contain additives like vegetable gums and carrageenan in order to provide the milk with a smooth and thick texture. These additives are not necessarily unhealthy, but many people prefer avoiding them. So, if you do not want any additives in your milk substitute, make sure to check the labels for the same. 

Calcium Content

Cow’s milk is a rich source of calcium, which is essential for healthy bones and teeth. Your muscles, heart, and nerves require calcium to function properly. Calcium is necessary to avoid issues like osteoporosis. Most of the non-dairy milk or milk substitutes are fortified with calcium. Opt for the milk alternatives that contain at least 120 mg of calcium with every serving of 3.4 ounces. 


Non-dairy milk is more expensive as compared to cow’s milk. In order to cut costs, it is a good idea to make plan-based milk at home. Making the milk at home will not only help in saving money but will also help you in assuring a high-quality product. The only drawback of making plant-based milk at home is that it will not be loaded with vitamin B-12 and calcium. 

Added Sugar

Sugar is often added to plant-based milk to enhance texture and flavor. It is better to opt for milk alternatives with unsweetened varieties. Say no to flavored milk substitutes. Try to avoid brands that add sugar to plant-based milk. Make sure to check the label before buying the product. Do not buy the products which mention sugar as one of the first three ingredients. 

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is naturally present in animal products. It is highly essential for a healthy immune system and brain and helps in keeping the nervous system and blood cells healthy. It also helps in preventing anemia, which makes people weak and tired. 

If you avoid animal products, then it is better to opt for milk that is loaded with vitamin B12. It will help you in providing your body with sufficient B12.

While purchasing milk alternatives, it is essential to consider a few things like nutrient content, additives, and added sugar. Checking the labels can help you in understanding what all is present in the milk that you are purchasing. 

Final Words

For many people, cow’s milk is a must to include in their diet. However, there are certain reasons which might lead you to choose milk alternatives. Such reasons include ethical reasons, allergies, or concerns related to potential health risks. 

Now, what is a substitute for milk? Fortunately, there is a wide range of alternatives available in the market, including the ones on the list. No one milk is suitable for everyone. The nutrition, cost, and taste of the above-mentioned milk alternatives vary remarkably, so it might take some time to find out the best one for you. If you find the above-mentioned information helpful, drop a comment. 


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