Your Go-To Guide to Plant-Based Milks (or Mylks)
You may have heard the term “plant milk” and wondered what it means. In simple terms, plant milk is a non-dairy beverage made from a plant extract — like nuts and grains — and consumed as an alternative to dairy milk. Also known as “mylk”, it has been gaining significant popularity over the past few years in light of recent trends. A rise in lactose intolerance among both adults and children has been one of the main drivers of this. Additionally, vegan and plant-forward diets are gradually becoming more mainstream, whether for ethical reasons or health reasons.
As a result, supermarket shelves and coffee-shop chains have become flooded with a wide variety of plant milks, including fortified, flavored, sweetened, and unsweetened versions. With so many options out there, you may be wondering, “Which plant milk is the most beneficial for my health, as well as my favorite recipes?” Below, we’ve detailed some information about each one to help guide you to the milk alternative that suits your needs and interests the best.
Tips & Tricks for Buying Plant Milk
Before you head over to the grocery store, it’s important to be aware of the phrases and terms that are going to lead you to the optimal plant-milk brand and type. Here is a simple checklist to help guide you in the right direction:
- Avoid synthetic food additives, and always try to buy plant milk that’s organic.
- As you browse, check for the “no added sugars” label to ensure you avoid excess sugar consumption.
- Be on the lookout for hidden sugars and unnecessary ingredients such as vegetable oils, emulsifiers, and thickeners (such as guar gum and corn dextrin).
- Carrageenan is an ingredient often found in nut milks. An additive derived from seaweed, it’s been described as inflammatory and harmful, and there is now a movement to have it banned in certain countries.
Different Plant Milks
Almond milk is one of the most popular dairy-free options as it is incredibly versatile. In terms of nutrition, almond milk serves as a beneficial source of calcium and vitamin E. It is also a lighter option than other nut milks. Its light texture, crisp flavor, and nutty overtones go nicely with fruity and chocolatey smoothies, cereals, and even coffee.
Cashew milk contains protein, as well as other nutrients like vitamin K (especially if it is homemade). However, since it has a slightly pronounced taste, it’s not as versatile as almond milk. That being said, its creamy texture makes it an ideal choice for recipes such as soup, vegan Béchamel, vegan cheese sauce, ice cream, and vegan cheesecake.
Hazelnut and Walnut Milk
Both hazelnut and walnut milk are good sources of vitamins and nutrients, like vitamin E and omega 3. Because they have a pretty strong flavor, they’re best used in desserts and chocolate-flavored smoothies.
Macadamia nuts have gotten a bad rap in the past for their high-fat content. However, the majority of that is monounsaturated fat (or the good kind that helps lower your cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease). Macadamia nuts also boast some of the highest levels of flavanoids (an antioxidant) found in tree nuts. They’re low in carbs and are unlikely to spike your blood-sugar levels.
When used with coffee, this milk adds a delicious, nutty flavor and smooth texture to a latte.
The OG milk alternative, soy milk offers seven grams of protein per cup. However, it’s important to note that soy is a common allergen, and that the majority of what’s available on the market is a highly genetically modified version of it.
If you manage to get your hands on a good brand of soy milk, you’ll find that it’s highly versatile and great to add in coffee and different kinds of smoothies. You can also use it to make soup, creamy dressings, and vegan mayonnaise.
Rice milk is the lowest source of vitamins and minerals when compared to other plant milks. However, if you’re trying to avoid soy and nuts, it’s a good alternative. Because of its very light texture, it’s not the best option if you’re looking for creaminess. Instead, consume it with cereal, oatmeal, or simply by the glass.
Oat milk is gaining popularity, especially as a coffee creamer alternative. High in fiber and iron, it has a neutral flavor and smooth consistency that pairs well with hot beverages. Its light sweetness works well in cakes and cookies. However, if you suffer from a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, most oat milks are a no-go for you unless they are treated in a gluten-free facility and say so clearly on the carton.
A beneficial source of healthy fats, coconut milk is heavier when compared to other plant milk options. Thinned coconut milk is rich, sweet, and creamy, making it a perfect addition to all types of desserts (raw and baked) — as well as curries. You can also use it to make whipped cream and vegan yogurt. Because carton coconut milk is lighter in taste and texture, it goes well with smoothies and hot beverages.
High in fiber and protein, quinoa milk has a low glycemic index, which means it causes a slower rise in your blood-sugar levels. Because it has a pronounced taste that can be overpowering, it is best used with cereals, quinoa porridge, or quinoa risotto.
How to Make Your Own Mylks
Homemade plant milk is more cost-effective and nutritious than ready-made packaged options as many plant milks are diluted with water and mixed with additives, which strips away their nutrients. Making your own at home also enables you to adjust the creaminess and flavor to your liking. One batch can last up to four days in the refrigerator, as long as it’s stored properly in a sealed glass container (remember to shake well before serving).
- Begin by soaking one cup of nuts of your choice in two cups of mineral water for eight to ten hours. Alternatively, you can also soak them in boiled water for one hour.
- After rinsing and draining the nuts, blend them with three cups of water. At this stage, you can add dates for sweetness, in addition to flavors such as vanilla, cinnamon, sea salt, etc.
- After blending, strain the milk using a nut milk bag. You can then recycle the pulp in different recipes, like cookies, cakes, smoothies, and vegan cheese, to avoid wasting it.
- Soak one cup of oats in two cups of water for 15 minutes.
- Rinse and discard the liquid.
- Blend the oats with four cups of water and other optional ingredients of your choice, such as dates and vanilla.
- Use a nut milk bag to strain it or serve it as is. If you wish to use it as a coffee creamer, add less water to the mixture.
- Blend one cup of cooked quinoa with three cups of water until it’s almost smooth.
- Strain the mixture using a cheesecloth or strainer.
- Blend the quinoa milk in a blender with dates, vanilla, cinnamon, sea salt, or any other ingredient of your choice.