Milk might be a dish best served cold, but that isn’t stopping non-dairy milk’s popularity from being white hot. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that sales of non-dairy milks have exploded in recent years, and are expected to keep growing. Made from nuts, grains, beans, and seeds, there are options for every palate and price point. Below is a handy guide for those looking for a sauce thickener, the best coffee creamer, or just wanting to kick the dairy habit.
Perhaps the most well known of the milk alternatives, soymilk was first documented being made by the ancient Chinese as early as 220 AD. A popular alternative to cow’s milk because of its high protein content and low levels of saturated fat, soymilk, like all plant-based foods, contains no cholesterol. Soymilk makes a great creamer and base for milkshakes or smoothies.
Nuts for Almond Milk
Almond milk, which is quickly gaining popularity with grocery store shoppers, is often the least expensive non-dairy milk. Its mild, nutty taste enhances morning coffee and is perfect for cookie-dunking. It is also the least caloric of the bunch at around 60 calories per one-cup serving and is a great source of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin E. It’s even easy to make  at home.
Loco for Coco(nut)
Thick, smooth, and perfect right out of the carton, coconut milk is made when the meat of a coconut is blended with water. The thicker consistency, which makes coconut milk a great substitute for whole milk, is attributed to its higher fat content—there are five grams in a one-cup serving. Make sure to get it out of the carton though—canned coconut milk has been used in many tropical cuisines for centuries to create delicious curries and desserts but is higher in fat and harder to gulp from a glass.
No longer just a hippie buzzword, hemp milk (made from hemp seeds that are soaked and ground with water) is a healthful alternative to dairy. Unlike other substitutes, hemp milk contains all ten amino acids, providing a complete protein in a glass. Additionally, hemp milk contains omega-3s, calcium, and iron. While harder to find than some of its counterparts, hemp milk is nutty, earthy, and provides a serious nutritional bang for your buck.
Grain on the Brain
Rice, oats, spelt, rye, and quinoa are but a few of the grains that are now being made into milk. While these milks are higher in carbohydrates and lower in calcium and protein than soymilk, those who enjoy grain milk’s thin texture and light taste can find many brands which are fortified with vitamins and minerals including calcium and vitamin B12. Great in a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, grain milk is a perfect choice at morning meals.