This is a collaborative post.
Who says that the rich taste and nutrient content of milk is limited only to dairy? Perhaps we’ve gotten so used to the dominance of dairy milk in the modern market that we can’t imagine milkshakes, lattes, ice creams, or chowders without it. In contrast, the plant-based milks favoured by vegans might seem too novel and even a bit intimidating to use.
But while nut milks and the like may come off as a recent invention, they’ve been in people’s diets for several centuries. In fact, before modern technologies like pasteurisation and refrigeration, using cow’s milk in regular dishes was unheard of as it was so easily prone to spoilage. Our ancestors from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa happily achieved creaminess, texture, and depth of flavour with ingredients like almond milk, soy milk, and coconut milk.
That same non-dairy goodness that satisfied our forefathers is now accessible to us, in the form of healthy options like milked nuts. Today’s range of vegan milk alternatives can now tickle our taste buds, address all our nutritional needs, and fulfil our desire to be kinder to our earth. Among the delicious and healthy plant-based dairy alternatives out there are the following:
Almond milk was a fixture in the Middle Ages, and it was commonly incorporated into gruels and gravies. Back then, it was notably easy to digest, even by children, and it was factored into some medicinal recipes. In contemporary times, almond milk is one of the most popular plant-based milks, and its US sales eclipsed even those of soy milk in 2013. This sweet but creamy milk now figures in almost everything from vegan soups to ice cream.
Cashews have long been a staple in Chinese and Indian cuisine. In their nut form, they’re added to stir-fries and curries to impart both protein and appetising texture. But cashew dairy alternatives, such as cashew milk and cashew cheese, have taken international vegan and vegetarian cuisine by storm. Cashew milk adds a tantalisingly natural creaminess to smoothies, puddings, and no-bake cheesecakes.
The rich and slightly bitter walnut is a reservoir of health benefits, hosting high omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidant phytonutrients, and monounsaturated fats among other things. In addition, raw, vegan, and Paleo-friendly walnut milk is both easy to purchase and to make at home. This heart-healthy dairy alternative will be a welcome ingredient to vegan hot chocolate, vegan pastries, and vegan stews.
Hazelnuts have a distinctively decadent flavour, and are commonly paired with coffee, chocolate, and nougat. But hazelnut milk is also a heavenly substitute for dairy, and it also contains high calcium, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, and vitamin D to boot. Use this milk in place of dairy milk to make muffins, creamy pumpkin soup, or a divine milkshake that’ll beat out the commercial kind.
One of the more familiar plant-based milks on this list, soy milk has been in use since the 14th century and arrived in the US at the cusp of the 1900s. It’s lauded for its ability to reduce cholesterol, mitigate the risks of certain cancers, and supplement the diets of those with kidney disease and diabetes. But before you tear open a carton for use in your latte, you may want to ensure that the product is free of any GMO traces.
The equally adaptable rice grain can be used not only for savoury carbohydrate dishes, but also as a base for milk. Milled rice and water yields a milk substance that’s lactose-free and safe for those allergenic to nuts. It can be fortified with additional nutrients like calcium and vitamin D, but it may not pair as well with tea and coffee. In addition, it’s not the ideal dairy substitute for those looking to keep their sugar down.
Oats are already a staple in breakfast foods, so the nutty and mild taste of oat milk can only serve to make familiar dishes even better. You can add it to your coffee, to pancake or muffin batter, or to a banana and chocolate smoothie. For an additional surprise, you can even mix it into your favourite vegan pasta recipe. This plant-based milk has the advantage of high fibre, low cholesterol, and low calorie content.
There’s a variety of plant-based milk out there, and each one has the potential to change up the flavour profile of your favourite dish. But as more than an alternative to the taste of dairy milk, plant-based milk is an alternative dietary choice that’s cruelty-free, environmentally sound, and supportive of sustainable farming and trading practices. To this we say, bottoms up with your favourite glass of plant-based milk!