I hate to say it, but cows are old news. With the rise of health trends like veganism, it seems like alternatives to food products are created every day, and milk is no exception. Almonds, soy, coconuts, oats—the options have become endless. You shouldn't have to think so hard when deciding what to put in your cereal or latte.
So I decided to break down each of these variations of milk based on nutritional value, taste, and texture in order to see what the hype was all about. Could they really replace the classic? For this experiment, I made six cups of coffee and swapped my normal two percent milk for different non–dairy alternatives, and these were my results:
Taste: When pouring the soy milk into my coffee, I first noticed how white my coffee had turned. Out of all the milk substitutes that I tried, it was the one that made my coffee look the creamiest, but that didn’t mean it was the creamiest. I missed that element of richness that comes with other milks, but it still had a strong flavor. Its sweetness helped to cut the bitterness of the coffee.
Nutrition: 6 grams of protein, 100 calories, 3.5 grams of fat
One of the major benefits of soy milk is that it has the highest protein content of all milk substitutes, so while it may not be straight from the udder, it's still packed with protein. Soy milk is also a good source for many other vitamins and necessary nutrients such as potassium, calcium, B vitamins, and vitamin D, so don’t worry about any sort of deficiency.
Taste: Immediately after taking a sip of my almond milk coffee, I noticed how rich it tasted. There was a smooth nuttiness that was just absolutely delicious and made me question for a second whether or not I had put actual milk in my coffee or not. There was just the right amount of sweetness to the coffee that wasn’t too sugary, but instead the perfect subtle taste to help calm the coffee’s bitter bite.
Nutrition: 1 gram of protein, 30 calories, 2.5 grams of fat
What it lacks in the protein game, almond milk makes up for in its calcium. It provides 45% of your daily calcium in just one cup as well as giving the body vitamin E, which is good for preventing diseases like coronary heart disease and boosting your immune system.
Coconut Milk (Unsweetened)
Taste: I absolutely love coconuts and so had high hopes for this milk. But I was let down when I took a sip and tasted how watery the beverage was. Coconut milk has the right flavor, combining light sweetness and a slight nuttiness, but it didn't add a dimension of richness that one desires in a cup of coffee with milk. It was more watery than flavorful. The coffee tasted black, as if the coconut milk was never there.
Nutrition: 5 grams of protein, 45 calories, 4 grams of fat
While sweetened coconut milk can be seen featured in desserts with high sugar and calorie amounts, unsweetened coconut milk is a healthy alternative for any dairy product thanks to its lower calorie count. However, due to its higher fat content, it is not the ideal substitute if you are looking to promote heart health.
Taste: I had never heard of oat milk until recently, when the cafes I visited had introduced oat milk to their list of options. After hearing about it from a friend, I was expecting it to taste like the creamy milk left over from a warm bowl of oatmeal—in a good way! And it honestly did. With oat milk, my coffee was not too bitter and not too sweet and had a unique but appealing texture. While there was no trace of that nutty flavor that comes from almond milk or coconut milk, I definitely am considering making oat milk a constant addition to my daily cup of joe.
Nutrition: 4 grams of protein, 130 calories, 2.5 grams of fat
As one of the newer dairy substitutes to hit the market, oat milk has revolutionized the milk market with its fiber content, as normal cow’s milk often has little to no fiber in it. Oat milk also provides more protein than other milk substitutes, helping promote better digestive and muscle health.
Taste: I had thought that the coconut milk left me disappointed in the creaminess factor, but that was until I tasted my coffee with rice milk. When I say this cup of coffee was watery, it was watery. The texture and taste reminded me of a cup of coffee that was brewed with a K–Cup being used for the second time, lacking richness, and just tasting like bitter liquid. While there was a hint of sweetness, I was ultimately left disappointed with myself as I questioned whether or not I had actually just had coffee, or the leftover water that comes with boiling rice.
Nutrition: 1 gram of protein, 130 calories, 2.5 grams of fat
Like almond milk, rice milk is another milk substitute to have low protein content with merely a single gram per cup, but that doesn’t mean it lacks in other nutrients. With low fat content and high amounts of calcium, combined with enriched vitamin D and B to promote bone and cell growth in the body, rice milk has more than enough nutritional benefits to get you through the day.
Taste: I’m not going to lie when I say that I was actually scared to try hemp milk. I barely knew what hemp was and that it was even edible in the first place, so I braced myself while pouring it into my coffee. Expecting the worst, I was actually surprised with how okay it was. Was it the best cup of coffee? No, but there was a light yet rich texture to the coffee that definitely felt like some sort of milk was added to it. My mouth was left with a little bit of an off–putting aftertaste, but there was a gentle hint of sweetness that made drinking the coffee actually quite pleasant.
Nutrition: 3 gram of protein, 70 calories, 5 grams of fat
Five grams of fat per cup may seem frightening at first, but do not be alarmed. What makes hemp milk stand out from the rest of milk substitutes is its content of heart–healthy omega–3 fats, so if you need to find a way to get in the fats that your body needs, hemp milk provides just the solution.
Overall: If you’re going to go non–dairy, I would recommend almond milk or oat milk. They provide great flavor, texture, and nutrients, but it all comes down to personal preference. I will probably stick to my usual coffee with half–and–half, but my milk substitute journey has me definitely considering switching up what I put in my coffee every now and then.