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Best Non-dairy Milk Alternatives

My Picks for the Top Dairy-free milk Substitutes

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The good news is that most stores carry many varieties of non-dairy milk alternatives, including soy milks, rice milks and almond milks, both in non-refrigerated boxed products as well as refrigerated varieties. The bad news for many new to the dairy-free diet, however, is that most stores carry many varieties of non-dairy milk substitutes! Which ones are the best and what are the differences between one kind of substitute and the next? This list will give you some helpful tips on choosing the right dairy-free milk alternative for the dish.

Almond Milk

Blue Diamond Almond Breeze
Blue Diamond

Almond milk is a great substitute for milk in every aspect of cooking and baking as well as over cereal or in your morning coffee. Creamy, usually just a little sweet and high in vitamin E and other essential nutrients, almond milk is almost always found in with the other non-refrigerated boxed beverages. These dairy-free milk alternatives are usually not soy-free however, as they almost always contain soy lecithin.

While there are many varieties of almond milk available, the brand that I like the best is Blue Diamond's Almond Breeze, and I usually purchase the Original Unsweetened Variety, though the others I have tried have been tasty as well.

Coconut Milk Beverages

© Turtle Mountain
In the past few years, the public has been made more and more aware of gluten and soy allergies as well as allergies to dairy, and so coconut-based products that are soy-free, gluten-free and dairy-free have been making their way onto grocery shelves more and more. Turtle Mountain, the manufacturers who make some of my favorite dairy-free ice creams, also make my favorite coconut-based milk substitute, So Delicious Coconut Milk. The name is accurate: it is so delicious! Rich and creamy, So Delicious Coconut Milk is great in cooking and baking, and it's my preferred dairy-free milk substitute when I want to drink it straight from the glass.

Coconut Milk

Prepared from fresh coconut meat, coconut milk is a great option for richer dairy-free dishes. Although it is high in fat and saturated fat, coconut milk is a delicious way to add creaminess to any number of dairy-free and vegan dishes, from curries to pasta sauces to puddings to dairy-free whipped cream. I've tried zillions of coconut milks over the years, but my pick for the best, accessible coconut milk on the market is Thai Kitchen's Coconut Milk both the lite and original varieties.

If you've never tried cooking with coconut milk before, you should! Here are a few tasty dairy-free recipes that use coconut milk:

  • Coconut Cupcakes
  • Coconut Curry Rice with Tofu
  • Harvest Pumpkin Soup
  • Pumpkin Curry Soup
  • Vegan Whipped Cream
  • Vegetable Coconut Curry
  • Homemade Almond Milk

    © 2009 Ashley Skabar, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Even if you love store-bought varieties of almond milk like I do, sometimes it's just nice to make your own. This Homemade Almond Milk Recipe is an easy recipe that uses all raw dairy-free and soy-free ingredients, and it's incredibly easy to dress up with carob powder, maple syrup, Medjool dates or other flavors.

    Rice Milk

    © 2008 Ashley Skabar, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Rice milk is generally thinner in consistency than nut milks or soymilk, and it has a lighter, sweeter flavor that is perfect for using with cereal or in coffee. While rice milk works well in baking recipes, for using in dairy-free sauce recipes it generally requires some sort of binding or stabilizing agent such as agar flakes, eggs, flour or xanthan gum.

    My pick for the best rice milk? After trying many different varieties, the brand I use almost exclusively is Rice Dream Enriched Original in shelf-stable or refrigerated varieties.

    Soy Milk

    © 2008 Ashley Skabar, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Soymilk is one of the richest of non-dairy milk alternatives next to coconut milk, contributing density through fat, fiber and protein while still free of cholesterol and saturated fats. Excellent for baking, cooking, in a glass or over cereal, soy milk is an easy way to add protein and dimension to your recipes, and it is the milk alternative I prefer for preparing dairy-free sauces, as it remains more stable at higher temperatures.

    For baking, I prefer to use Westoy's Organic Unsweetened Soymilk, but for making sauces, I like using Silk's Plain Soymilk as it has added carrageenan that acts to further stabilize the liquid.

    For lattes or other coffee beverages, Pacific Natural Foods makes a soy milk intended for professional use.

    Related Video
    How to Make Soy Milk From Scratch
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