For allergy awareness week I’ve taken a step into the world of dairy free milk alternatives. Whether you’re allergic or intolerant to milk, vegetarian, vegan or just dislike the taste, finding a suitable dairy free alternative is important for calcium intake. I’ve been checking out what dairy free milk substitutes are available and putting them to the tea-test to see how they compare to normal milk in my daily cuppa.
While there are many types and brands of dairy alternatives available, I’ve gone out and bought the most commonly available here in the UK – almond, coconut, hazelnut, hemp, oat, rice and soy. As a result I have a fridge that is absolutely bursting to the seams with different ‘milks’!
When choosing a dairy replacement it is always a good idea to choose one that has been fortified with calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones strong. Fortified versions will typically have 120mg calcium and 0.75µg vitamin D to meet 15% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) in 100ml. Unfortified (and homemade) versions will not contain anywhere near as much, if any. If you see a milk alternative which lists vitamin D in the ingredients list but doesn’t include it in the nutritional information, this just means that it isn’t enough to meet that 15% RDA requirement. It’s interesting to note that milk alternatives are almost always low in protein. Where normal milk contains around 3g of protein per 100ml, milk alternatives can be as low as 0.1g per 100ml. I’ve compared the dairy free milks I tried against whole cows milk because this is what I normally drink.
Made from roasted almonds and spring water, almond milk has a slightly sweet nutty taste that is quite pleasant to drink straight like milk. I chose
an original version which is actually a bit higher in sugar than some of the other milk alternatives. Looking at the ingredients I can see that it actually contains more sugar than almonds! It might be worth trying an unsweetened variety if like me you don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Used in tea it actually wasn’t too bad. I could detect the nuttiness but it wasn’t overpowering as only a slight hint of almonds lingered.
Made from freshly pressed flesh of coconuts, coconut milk has a lovely subtle coconutty hint to it and is little bit higher in saturated fat than some of the other milk alternatives. I found that I needed to use about 100ml worth of coconut milk for it to seem ‘milky’ enough in my tea, but I felt that this was a doable option if normal milk wasn’t available. It did add a bit of a sweet taste to the tea (I don’t like sugar in tea at all), but it was subtle and I think I would be able to manage it.
Hazelnut milk is delicious!!! Similar to the almond milk, hazelnut milk is predominantly made from ground hazelnuts and spring water. I found it also contained more sugar than hazelnuts (2.5%) but as it is a much stronger nutty flavour it didn’t seem quite as sweet. While hazelnut milk tastes amazing in coffee, I’ve decided it’s probably not the best choice for tea. All I could taste were hazelnuts! I like hazelnuts but hazelnut tea? Hmm, not so sure!
They say that hemp milk is an acquired taste. I’m afraid I’m going to have to agree with them on that! Made from ground hemp seeds, hemp milk to me smelled and tasted a bit like what I imagine that glue paste you use in school to taste like! For those who can tolerate or enjoy the flavour, it’s worth noting that hemp milk is a good source of omega 3 with one glass meeting 50% of your recommended daily allowance of Omega 3.It probably would be find in baked goods when there are other flavours available to mask it, but it definitely failed the tea test for me. The milk had quite a strong nutty or beany flavour which completely over powered the tea. One mouthful and I had to throw the rest of my tea away!
This was my first experience trying oat milk and I was really impressed with how it tasted. The slightly porridge-like flavour made it easy and pleasant to drink. Nutritionally the oat milk stacked up well, with no added sugar in the ingredients list. Oats are a good source of beta-glucan and one 250mg glass of oat milk can meet a third of the recommended 3g per day of beta-glucan for heart health and cholesterol lowering. Oatly enriched oat milk is an example of a milk alternative that contains vitamin D in the ingredients list but not on the nutrition information panel. All this means that it didn’t register high enough to be able to claim the 15% RDA for vitamin D. I found with the oat milk that it was crucial to shake it up really well. Pouring it into a glass bottle really demonstrated just how much the oat milk separates when settled. I don’t like strong tea, so the colour of the tea did put me off a little bit – it looked WAY too strong for my liking. I expected it to taste quite weird but it wasn’t as bad as I expected, you could detect the oats vaguely but not enough to put you off your cup of tea.
Both white and brown rice milks are available on the market, although I only sampled the white variety on this occasion. While slightly transparent in colour looking almost as though it has been watered down, rice milk has a really nice flavour that is soft, subtle and slightly creamy. It’s worth noting if you have kids that rice milk isn’t suitable for infants and children under the age of 5. It worked really well with tea and I was very impressed. Because of the lack of colour I was expecting it to taste like I’d just added more water or something, but it added a slightly floral note to the tea I thought (or perhaps that was just the tea!). It was very mild and I found myself drinking this cup of tea quite easily.
Probably the most well known milk alternative, soy milk has quite a distinct beany flavour that works well in smoothies, baked goods and coffee. However it was an immediate fail for me during the tea test – I didn’t even swallow the first mouthful! Personally I couldn’t handle soy milk in tea as I found it too strong a flavour however I think it’s great in hot chocolate and coffee. Soy tea though? I’ll pass!
The clear winners of the tea test for me were coconut and rice milks. Each added it’s own subtle flavour without overpowering the tea in any way.
Since originally writing this post I have also come across quinoa milk! Similar in colour to hazelnut milk, quinoa milk had a surprisingly pleasant taste and was very easy to drink.
Do you have a favourite milk alternative?
The milk alternatives referred to in this review were purchased by myself. I do not promote these more than others that I haven’t reviewed. See my disclosure policy for more details.