Since I was a child, I have absolutely detested the smell and taste of dairy milk. I hated it in my cereal (a staple in my breakfast foods then) and I hated that it was the only option to dunk my chocolate chip cookies in. No worries through, this in no way negatively impacted my love and now minor obsession for yogurt, cheese, and ice cream. When I was around 12 years old, a family friend introduced us to almond milk, and this was in the early days of this type of “milk alternative” option. Almond milk was the start of normalizing the plant-based revolution we see happening in the dairy and meat categories today (which I am a huge advocate for). Now almond milk is yesterday’s news and you can find nearly any nut (and oat) variety of milk in the store – whatever suits your fancy!
When quarantine started, I thought it would be fun to do a nut milk experiment by trying a new milk alternative each week to see which was the best in the four following categories: Taste on its own (aka is it cookie dunking worthy?), consistency in coffee, taste in cereal, and consistency in cooking/baking. I know you all are GRIPPING your seats, so let’s dive into to my results.
Note: I intentionally did not include soy milk in my experiment. I have tried it and, while it is tasty, soy is generally not good for females to consume regularly for hormonal reasons, so I try to stay away from it when possible.
Week 1: Almond Milk (Control)
Brand: H-E-B Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
Price: $1.98 for half gallon
Nutrition per Serving (8 fl oz): 40 calories, 3 g fat, 1g sugar, 1 g protein, 45% calcium
This is my control group for this experiment since it is what I typically use. I wanted to get a feel for each categories with my base case before I started getting fancy with the other alternatives. Here is what I determined:
- Taste on its own: Almond milk has a smooth, thin consistency. It is not too creamy, but not watery either. It still makes me feel full when I drink it on its own, and the flavors does not overpower a cookie either. Its refreshing, light and tasty.
- Consistency in coffee: Just no. Almond separates in coffee, it does nothing to cut the acidity of the coffee and it actually makes the coffee taste more bitter than it does on its own. I have tried it in iced coffee and it is a bit better there, and it works in tea, but again the lack of taste isn’t really cutting it for me.
- Taste in cereal: Plain, no flavor added to it, light, does not overfill you. I would say it is a solid and reliable cereal partner in crime.
- Consistency in cooking/baking: For the most part, it does its job in cooking and baking, except in my healthy pancakes recipe. If you need the milk portion of the recipe to bring an aspect of creaminess to the food, then almond milk is not your guy. Almond milk as a non-dairy ice cream option though – HIGHLY recommend. Lighter, less fattening, less calories and just leaves your body feeling better than regular dairy-based ice cream.
Week 2: Oat Milk
Brand: Silk Oat Yeah! Oatmilk – Original
Price: $3.48 for half gallon
Nutrition per Serving (8 fl oz): 90 calories, 3.5 g fat, 5g sugar, 2 g protein, 25% calcium
Okay so oat milk is not a milk alternative, but it has been pretty poppin in the trendiness department for the past 6 month, so I wanted to include it in the mix. Turns out, it is a pretty great option based on my four categories!
- Taste on its own: I would give it just an “alright” rating of the taste on its own. The name doesn’t lie, it really does taste like plain oats so take that with what you will. I like oatmeal, but I don’t like drinking milk that just tastes like it without any of the add ins or flavor.
- Consistency in coffee: Oat milk in a hot beverage is stellar. It brings an element of creaminess consistency that can hold its own in hot coffee in a way that almond milk can’t. I recommend using oat milk if you want to make homemade lattes or golden milk with your coffee.
- Taste in cereal: Again, the oat flavor was really throwing me off, as well as my cereal flavor.
- Consistency in cooking/baking: The creaminess of oat milk is PERFEECT for recipes that need that same moisture and body that regular milk would provide. For example, I make these “healthy pancakes” that I have tried using the other milk alternatives in, but none of them work the way oat milk does. The other nut milks are too thin to hold the body I need in a dough consistency.
Week 3: Cashew Milk
Brand: Silk Unsweetened Vanilla Creamy Cashew Milk
Price: $2.98 for half gallon
Nutrition per Serving (8 fl oz): 25 calories, 2g fat, 0g sugar, 1 g protein, 45% calcium
First of all, check out those nutrition facts – cashew milk takes the cake. Confession that I LOVE cashews as a nut in general, so I was super excited to splurge and try this milk alternative. I know it has been around for a while, but it hasn’t quite taken off the way I have seen almond milk or coconut milk take off, so I am I am wondering if there is barrier to entry for cashew milk because it is more expensive and why trade one nut milk for another that is pricier? Well, I am here to tell you why it might be worth that extra $1. In all transparency thought, I am SUPER cheap so I will probably only buy it on rare occasion as a treat to myself. Yes, this is me saying $1 matters to me.
- Taste on its own: Like I said, I am a cashew fanatic, so I loved the taste. It is thicker and creamier than almond milk and you can definitely taste the hints of cashew in it. I enjoyed drinking it on its own as much as I do almond milk.
- Consistency in coffee: Cashew milk brings a whole new punch to coffee. It maintains its creamy consistency so it is great for cutting the acidity and for adding flavor. I drink H-E-B Houston Blend coffee and the cashew milk adds this extra flavor that complements the other flavors in the coffee well. Needless to say, I loved it in my coffee!
- Taste in cereal: Again, it brings a lil somethin’ extra to the cereal party like it does with coffee.
- Consistency in cooking/baking: I did not experiment with it as much as I did with oat milk in my baking and cooking, but I did try it in my healthy pancakes recipe as this is a good indicator for the consistency it brings to baked goods. Cashew milk is somewhere in the middle of almond milk and oat milk, so if you are going to pay $3 for a milk alternative to use in cooking and baking that works, I say stick with the oat milk.
Week 4: Coconut Milk
Brand: Silk Unsweetened Coconut Milk
Price: $3.07 for half gallon
Nutrition per Serving (8 fl oz): 45 calories, 5g fat, 7g sugar, 0g protein, 45% calcium
I has had coconut milk before for cooking purposes like curry, but I have never drank or used it otherwise. I think this stems from my brain associating coconut milk with coconut water, which I can’t stand. So I made myself add coconut milk to the list of nut milk alternatives to give it a try. I would day it does not give me much more excitement that the almond milk I normally buy. Coconut milk is also a pretty standard nut milk alternative at this point like almond milk is, but strangely the price for coconut milk is still $1 more than almond milk. I am here to tell you, it isn’t worth the $1 extra unless your recipe superficially calls for it (i.e. yellow coconut curry which I made for lunch during this week).
- Taste on its own: coconut on its own reminds me of being at the beach and sippin’ on a cocktail, but it isn’t enough to wow me as compared to almond milk as an “on its own” preference. It is thinner and more watery than almond milk.
- Consistency in coffee: It doesn’t separate like almond milk does, but it doesn’t add a ton of extra flavor or creaminess like the other milk alternative options do. If I was going to pay extra for it, I wouldn’t choose the coconut milk. I will say though, café’s typically have coconut milk as a option, so if you don’t want almond milk nor regular milk nor soy, and they don’t carry oat milk, go for the coconut milk in your latte instead! It works well.
- Taste in cereal: Light, does not overfill you, adds a little extra flavor of coconut as expected. I would say it is a solid cereal dance partner, but it is no Patrick Swayze.
- Consistency in cooking/baking: Unless you are talkin’ curry, do not use coconut milk. It does not have the creaminess nor the body you need for baked goods and it will leave them with a weird consistency.
Week 5: Walnut Milk
Brand: Mariani Original Walnut Milk
Price: $3.07 for half gallon
Nutrition per Serving (8 fl oz): 45 calories, 3.5g fat, 2g sugar, 1 g protein, 45% calcium
In the nut category, walnuts do not bring me the level of joy that a cashew or a pistachio would, or let’s say an almond croissant. Sometimes I include walnuts in my breakfast parfaits for added protein but I am not over here getting stoked about walnuts being in my cookies and brownies like I am when I see an almond croissant with excessive almond paste in it. You get the point. But walnut milk… really surprised me!! Like blew me out of the water surprised me. It is not popular in my area yet so there is only 2 SKUs out of at least 200 SKUs in the milk fridges at the grocery store – one for Mariani Original, one for Mariani Vanilla. SHOOT, is it worth the $1 extra and the leap of faith? Yes, yes it is.
- Taste on its own: Amazing, creamy, not overpowering walnut flavor but not too plain either
- Consistency in my coffee: WOWZA. I would put this on the same level as the cashew milk. Extra flavor, perfect creaminess, keeps its consistency, and brings an extra excitement to my coffee cup. Add this magic to your life immediately. As I would tell my parents, “it’s life changing.”
- Taste in cereal: I do not know what it is but adding walnut milk to my honey nut cheerios was out of this world. I know it’s a little thing, but shooooot it was delicious!!
- Consistency in cooking/baking: Again, I did not experiment with it as much as I did with oat milk in my baking and cooking, because I was too busy perpetuating my caffeine addiction with it in my coffee but I did try it in my healthy pancakes recipe and I would say it was up there with cashew milk but not better oat milk.
All this milk experimenting to say, I love the varieties for plant-based milks but the price difference in the milks kept me from trying them or making the switch in the past. Like I said, I will most likely stick with almond milk for the majority of my uses for cost reasons, but I might keep a spare oat, cashew or walnut milk in my fridge for special baking and coffee add-in purposes as a treat to myself.
Have you ever tried a nut milk option? Do you have any other milk alternatives I should try? What other plant-based foods have you enjoyed recently?