Got Milk? How About the Not Milks?

Calvin and Hobbes comic via United Feature Syndicate

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Got milk?
Gotten milk recently?
It’s no easy feat. The dairy case seems awfully crowded these days.
Soy milk, the dairy alternative, has been joined by a slew of soy alternatives. Now you’ll find milk made from nut varieties, grains, and even law-skirting hemp seeds.

Why all the milk alternatives?
We know that a cow’s life on a dairy farm is hardly the bucolic idyll of our imaginations. Supporters of animal rights and anyone looking to avoid growth hormones and antibiotics has already moved on from large-scale milk producers. Then there are vegans, the allergic and lactose intolerant, and anyone looking to reduce fat and cholesterol. The first stop for most was soy milk, but there is growing awareness that soy is a high spray, intensively farmed, rain forest-depleting crop, and most of the soy grown in the U.S. is genetically-modified. Now what are we supposed to put on our cereal?

Rice milk is low in fat but high in carbohydrates and sugar. It is thin, with a sweetish but neutral flavor. It’s not creamy enough to replace a splash of half-and-half in your morning coffee, but it will hold a cappuccino foam about  as well as nonfat cow’s milk.

Almond milk is low in fat and high in protein. It is slightly sweet with slightly bitter undertones, very creamy, and has an off-white color. It foams impressively and is a good dairy substitute for cooking and baking. While it’s dairy-free, commercially produced almond milk almost always contains some soy.

Hazelnut milk is delicate and lighter in consistency than other nut milks, but has a rich flavor, a powerful nutty fragrance, and just a tiny touch of sweetness. The hazelnutty taste is boosted when it’s made from roasted nuts, rather than the more common raw nuts, making it a good choice in coffee and desserts for fans of the taste. Hazelnut milk holds a credible foam for espresso drinks, although the flavor dissipates in the heat.

The coconut milk you find in half gallon cartons is not the same as what comes in a can. It’s also not the same beverage as coconut water. It falls somewhere between the two when it comes to fat content. sweetness and consistency; this means it’s pretty sweet, fatty, and creamy. It tastes undeniably of coconut, so use it where you want the flavor. It is prefect for non-dairy smoothies and creamy desserts, and has the virtue of being made from just one ingredient: coconut.

I’ll warn you that oat milk is a bit thick. It doesn’t go down like porridge, but it’s not what you would call light and refreshing. Oat milk is not the best option for coffee, but it’s great on cereal and in baking where the grainy flavor is welcome. It is very low in fat, when compared with nut or dairy-based milks, and actually has more calcium than cow’s milk. It also avoids the natural sweetness of most of the dairy substitutes, making it a good option for savory dishes like mashed potatoes.

Hemp milk is made from the same seeds as pot plants. It is not legally grown in most states in the U.S. (most comes from Canada). It will not have you playing Pink Floyd and eating vast quantities of pizza. Hemp milk plants are bred and processed to contain almost no THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. The milk can be an acquired taste—off white, slightly chalky, with tart, grassy notes. It’s as high in fat as cow’s milk, but the good kind, with lots of healthy Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. It holds a respectable foam for cappuccino.

Moving beyond 1%

All of these not milks are readily available in supermarkets and natural food stores. Alternatively, they are fairly simple to reproduce at home, where you can also experiment with other nuts and grains. There are a few general rules that always apply to the milk alternatives:

  • they are always more palatable when served chilled; especially if you are drinking them straight-up
  • shake them up; they all separate like crazy
  • read the labels— the ingredients aren’t always organic, and some of even contain dairy, usually in the form of casein and other milk-derived additives
  • ease into the non-dairy case by trying some of the flavored milk varieties or non-dairy yogurt and ice cream

Make your own with these recipes for nut milks and grain milks.

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9 Responses to Got Milk? How About the Not Milks?

  1. thanks for sharing the info.that is interesting.

  2. I truly appreciate this blog post.Thanks Again. Really Cool.

  3. Janice says:

    Yes, a foamability infographic. Oh, if only I were so clever and artistic.

  4. Janice says:

    Elle:
    I’m thinking of the Nutella-like possibilities for hot chocolate.

  5. Really nice detail on the “not milk’s”. I am now on a mission to find hazelnut milk!

  6. thank you for sharing this information

  7. I love the not milk rundown. Especially the part on each milk’s foamability. Excellent. Be fun to see in a chart or something.

  8. There’s nothing like cream in my coffee, but rice milk on cereal is the best. I’m intrigued about a hemp milk cappuccino though — that I have to try. Theresa

  9. G Martin says:

    I’m one of those people whose systems can’t handle milk, but I don’t tolerate soy milk either. My solution is the lactose-free milk, and for the most part I do well with it. I do wish there was a lactose-free cheese.

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