What to Know About Plant-Based Milks

You may have noticed the rise in popularity of plant-based milks in the last few years. Grocery store shelves are stocked with milks made with everything from oats, hemp, almonds, coconut, rice, pea, and more. Most coffee shops offer a few of these alternatives as add-ins to your coffee, with Starbucks recently adding a fourth plant-based milk (oat) to their menu. 

Why Drink Plant-Based Milk

People may choose to drink an alternative milk for many reasons. The biggest reason being lactose intolerance — even people without diagnosed lactose intolerance sometimes experience stomach issues from traditional milk. Other people avoid cow’s milk due to the negative environmental impact of dairy farming — such the amount of land and resources used and greenhouse gas emitted. Animal welfare advocates may choose plant-based milk because they don’t want to support the practices of factory farms. Allergies or dietary restrictions also may play a factor in why people drink plant-based milk. And of course, some people may just simply prefer the taste or texture of a plant-based milk over cow’s milk. 

Plant-based milk can be used in anything you’d use cow’s milk in — use it as a substitute for milk in any kind of recipe from baking to creamy mac & cheese. For the most part, it works as a 1:1 substitute for milk. You can also pour it in cereal, use it as a creamer in coffee, or just drink it plain. 

What to Know about Plant-Based Milk

There are many types of plant-based milk available on the market today. Here are some of the more common ones you will find in many San Diego grocery stores, along with basic nutritional information. 

  • Oat Milk – A good source of protein and fiber. Milk made from oats is usually sweet and creamy. Oat milk can be frothed and is great in lattes. 
  • Soy Milk – Made from soybeans or soy protein isolate, soy milk contains all the essential amino acids, and is a good source of protein and potassium. It contains little saturated fat and no cholesterol. However, soy is a common allergen, so it may not be the right choice for everyone. 
  • Almond Milk – Contains less fat and carbs than dairy milk and is one of the lowest-calorie alternative milks. Many brands supplement almond milk with vitamins A & D and calcium. Obviously, this type of milk isn’t suitable for anyone with an almond allergy. 
  • Coconut Milk – Coconut is high in fat but it does contain triglycerides that are good for the immune system and heart. Often used in baking, this sweet milk is safe for people with nut allergies. 
  • Rice Milk – Made from rice and water, while rice milk doesn’t have many natural nutritional benefits, most brands are enriched with vitamins like D or B12 and calcium. This milk is good for people with nut allergies and has a mild taste. 

How is Plant-Based Milk Made?

The process to make the various plant-based milks is pretty similar — the nut, grain, seed, or other type of base is soaked in water. Then, it’s blended until smooth, and filtered to remove any solids left behind. After that, the maker may add flavors, sweeteners, or vitamins and minerals. 

Alternative Milk Recipes 

Making plant-based milk at home is easy, quick, and allows you to avoid additives and preservatives. You can also customize flavors to create some really unique and delicious milks! You’ll need a blender and a strainer, then whatever ingredients are required to make the milk itself. 

Here are a few plant-based milk recipes to try:

Hazelnut Chocolate Milk

Soak hazelnuts in water overnight, then blend with dates and cacao powder to create a dairy-free milk with a similar flavor to Nutella. This is great in coffee or just to drink on it’s own. It’s a healthier alternative to chocolate milk that kids will enjoy!

Oat Milk

This oat milk recipe blends oats, water, vanilla extract, maple syrup, and dates together for a flavorful and creamy milk. Try some in your morning coffee or in baked goods. 

Vanilla-Cinnamon Almond Milk

After soaking almonds in water overnight, blend with Medjool dates, a chopped vanilla bean, cinnamon, and a pinch of fine salt to create a lightly-sweet milk with notes of caramel and cinnamon. Pairs well with cookies or used in a bowl of granola. 

Turmeric Milk

If you’ve seen “golden milk” listed on the menu at your local cafe, here’s a recipe for you to make at home. Pour your homemade almond milk into a blender or saucepan and add turmeric, dates, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, black pepper, and salt. Besides being delicious, turmeric milk has many benefits such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents. 

Vegan Hot Chocolate

If you’re craving hot chocolate on a cold day, you can make one using plant-based milk. This recipe has you heat up a plant-based milk of your choosing, and then add cocoa powder, chopped vegan chocolate, and a tiny bit of brown sugar. 

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