While this is more of a plant milk guide than an ode, to avoid disappointment:
Rich and creamy and refreshing as sin,
We’ve found the replacement for cows.
Dairy can go in the bin.
When my Mum first became vegan almost 30 years ago, the options on the menu for a nice meal out at a restaurant were always the same… chips and salad. If she was lucky she *might* get a risotto, usually having to send it back because of the cheese grated on top or the ‘just a little bit of butter’ that had been mixed in by a horrified chef.
Now we live in a relative utopia of plant-based options, from chick’n nuggets to melt-able mozzarella, going vegan no longer means having to go without food options. Nowhere is the new found bounty of vegan substitutes clearer than in the diverse variety now available in the plant milk section of the supermarket: oat milk, almond milk, cashew, hazelnut, rice and even pea milk.
So, with all these new options, how do we decide what to drink? Ultimately, nothing beats tasting the milks first-hand and finding your preference, like with anything, everyone’s taste is different.
But here’s a handy guide as to which milks can lend themselves best to different uses. Some of these milks are even easy to make at home too!
Of course, for many of us, the reason we decided to pursue a plant-based diet was because of the environment, amongst the many other good reasons. This handy calculator helps compare the impact of different foods on the environment for you, including different plant-based milks.
Soy milk is probably the non-dairy milk that’s been around the longest, it’s certainly the first I ever heard of. In fact, soy, in all its forms, is a vegan staple, forming the base for tofu, tempeh, soy sauce, and most vegan yoghurts.
Despite being a veteran dairy alternative, soy might not be the best option for everyone. For starters, it’s a common allergen. It affects so many that it is categorised in America as one of the ‘big 8’, meaning it is one of the 8 allergens that together account for 90% of food allergy reactions. Some also site soy being a source of oestrogen as a reason they won’t consume it, but there is some debate as to whether that actually makes it healthier or damaging.
That being said, soy milk does have the highest protein content of all the plant based milks which might appease the meat eaters asking ‘but where do you get your protein from?!’
When buying soy milk, an important thing to be aware of is where the beans were grown. In some areas, particularly in South America, the growing of soy beans has led to significant deforestation. You can more about this issue here.
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The start of everything 🌱@theartyvegan .. #soyamilk Did you know that we don’t add anything to our base product 💛 – No preservatives, no nasties it’s just pure soya beans and water.. We are big believers in keeping our food as simple as possible, because we feel simple is the best. The less you put in, the more you get out!! (If only that was true for most things, right? Lol) Our soya milk is at the heart of what we do, our #tofu our #scheese – and we respect that more than anything – from washing the beans in cold water at the crack of dawn, and blending kilos of beans – you end up dreaming of them- to squeezing out every last bit of pure goodness and comparing forearm muscles at the end of shifts – it’s all worth it.. and why you may ask? Because making something so unaffected and then passing that goodness on to you guys, in the form of good food! .. well somewhere along the line we can’t help but feel that’s an act of change .. it may be small, but in that small way we help to allow you the possibility to choose what kind of food you want to eat, where your food comes from and how it’s made! And we think there is power in making thought out choices! 🤜🏽🤛🏽 littlebusinessbigideas ☺️ #sustainability #greenliving #compassionateliving #cleaneating #worldconscious #veganfood #veganrecipes #veganlocal #veganbusiness #eastlondonvegan #londonvegan #vegan #hackney #fooddeliveryservice #ecofriendlyliving #ecofriendly #veganworldview #veganfoodlovers #veganfoodlovers #veganhealth #mindbodysoul #greenlife #plantmilk #vegandeli #cleanfoods #vegansofinstagram photo and styling @shisodelicious
Oat milk is my personal favourite. It’s especially good in hot beverages (hot chocolate in particular), but I use it for everything, from putting it in my baking to drowning my cereal.
It’s easy to make at home too, although recently I’ve been hooked on Oatly barista style version which froths up and has an extra creaminess to it. What I enjoy about Oatly, beyond their commitment to sustainability, is their incredible marketing. Their marketing is so good that they accidentally caused a shortage of their own product.
That being said, nothing beats buying from local, small businesses, so have a look around your area and ask in your closest ethical supermarket whether they know of anyone making these products locally.
While almond milk is the most common, there are few nuts that seem to have gone un-milked. The key thing to look out for with nut milks is that they are often sweetened, so if you’re looking for a healthier alternative it’s best to go for an unsweetened version.
Flavour-wise, nut milks tend to taste at least a little like the nut, so your preferences in nuts will be a good way of judging which you might prefer. Knowing that they have somewhat of a distinct flavour can also inform how you use these milks, depending on which recipes will be complimented by a certain each nut. For example, I have used hazelnut milk to make a vegan crème pâtissier with a nutty twist which I used to fill choux buns.
Nut milk is another one that is easy to make at home, and doing so can enable you to tailor it to your preferences, especially if you like your milk to be creamier. Cashew milk in particular doesn’t need to be strained, making it easy to make and full of fibre.
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P L A N T . M Y L K . Ranging from almond, coconut, rice, oat, soy, hemp and cashew, plant milks are becoming more and more popular. . I swear they take more space on the supermarket shelves now than cows milk 🙌🏼 . However, like all things boxed, bottled or packaged it is important to read the ingredients and know what is really inside that bottle of plant milk. They often contain unnecessary ingredients like sunflower oil, sugar, vegetable gum, carrageenan, acidity regulators, sunflower Lecithin, thickeners and artificial flavourings… uumm NO THANKS 🙅🏼♀️ . In fact, to make it from scratch, you only need 2 ingredients: water and the nut/plant of choice so it’s important to have as little ingredients as possible when you buy it… or to make it yourself. There is nothing more delicious than making your own nut milk👩🏽🍳🤤 . Here is my Almond milk recipe if you want to give it a go (makes 750ml). •Ingredients: -1 cup organic or spray free almonds, skin on -750ml water . •Method: 1️⃣ Soak the almonds in warm water for 8-24h 2️⃣ Drain and rinse the almonds, discarding the water 3️⃣ In a food processor, blend the almonds and water for 3-4mins until smooth (I use Magimix and i usually do this in 2 phases otherwise it gets messy 🤪) 4️⃣ Drain the mixture through a nut milk bag, pressing all the liquid out 5️⃣ Bottle your milk and keep in the fridge ~ it will last 4-5 days 6️⃣ Don’t throw out the pulp! There are sooo many uses for it like raw balls, cakes, extra fibre for smoothies or dry it and keep in the pantry as your almond meal! .
Coconut milk is used pretty widely across vegan substitutes, much like soy, however it lacks soy’s neutral flavour. For me this is a problem as I hate the taste of coconut, but many find it an attractive alternative to dairy products.
While this is by no means a comprehensive guide, I hope it’s given you some idea about plant milk and somewhere to start from on your own journey of discovery. I wish you a very happy international milk day, and hope that unlike me, you haven’t quite gone crazy enough in quarantine to start writing poetry about plant milk.
By Kahina Bouhassane