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Dairy-Free Alternatives to Cow’s Milk

When catering for a vegan or lactose-free person, there are many alternatives to cow’s milk that can be included within cooking or offered as an accompaniment to cereals and hot beverages. The volume of alternatives now available can be overwhelming, especially when the taste and best purpose for each differs slightly. Some of the most popular types are explored below:

Almond Milk

Made from ground almonds, water and (in most cases) sweetener, almond milk is sweet with a creamy texture similar to dairy milk. This versatile milk-alternative can be used across cooking and baking, as well as easily added to beverages or served with cereals. Almond milk contains plenty of vitamin E, with about 50 percent of the daily value in one cup. However, almond milk has far less protein than dairy milk or soy milk.

Soy Milk

A popular alternative to dairy milk, soy milk is a bean extract of soybeans and commonly sold in sweetened, unsweetened and flavored varieties. In many ways, soy milk is nutritionally equivalent to cow's milk, as it's often fortified with calcium, vitamins A and D, and riboflavin, plus usually includes 8 to 10 grams of protein per serving. Soy milk can also contain isoflavones, which have been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Its taste and texture is similar to almond milk, and therefore is also highly versatile.

Coconut Milk

Prepared from fresh coconut meat, coconut milk is much heavier and richer than other dairy-free milk varieties, making it most comparable to whole dairy milk. Its fattiness and slightly nutty flavour makes it excellent to use in dishes such as curries, pasta sauces, and desserts, but coconut is certainly not the best option to add to your morning coffee. It's both soy and gluten-free, so those with multiple food allergies can tolerate this substitute. Whilst coconut milk has far more potassium per cup than dairy milk, it lacks the nutritional value of dairy milk. One cup of coconut milk contains 80 calories, 1 g of protein and 100 mg of calcium—compared to 100 calories, 8 g of protein and 300 mg of calcium for 1 percent dairy milk.

Rice Milk 

Made from boiled rice, brown rice syrup and brown rice starch, rice milk is a popular alternative for cow's milk. This is the most hypoallergenic of the milk alternatives, as it's free of soy, gluten and nuts, making it a must within allergy-friendly cooking. Rice milk is generally thinner in consistency than nut milk or soy milk, and has a lighter, sweeter flavour that makes it perfect for using with cereal or in coffee. While rice milk works well in baking recipes, sauces containing rice milk generally require some sort of binding or stabilising agent such as agar flakes, eggs, flour, or xanthan gum. Also, if you're watching your weight, rice milk is high in carbohydrates. And it's low in protein and calcium compared to dairy milk.

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