Vegan How To: Replacing Dairy Milk

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on January 7, 2013

Catching up?
Vegan How To: Introduction (Why this series?)
– Part 1: How To Make The Transition

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Part 2: Replacing Dairy Milk

Today I’d like to talk about one of the first changes that I made in my own personal journey – switching from cow’s milk to non-dairy milk. It was also one of the easiest changes I made thanks to a huge selection of non-dairy milks on the market. I’m always amazed when I see the mammoth wall of non-dairy milk in my grocery store. It’s taking over! There’s really something for everyone from almond milk to flax milk and everything in between.

And, boy, I’ve tried a lot. Here is a list of the non-dairy milks I’ve given a go:

  1. Soy milk
  2. Almond milk
  3. Hemp milk
  4. Oat milk
  5. Coconut milk
  6. Rice milk
  7. Almond-coconut milk
  8. Quinoa Milk
  9. Flax milk

I’ll admit, I’m not head over heels for all of them, but I have a few favourites that keep me more than happy.

My personal favourite non-dairy milks:

1. Almond Milk (Whole Foods 365 Organic)

2. Soy Milk (Edensoy Organic)for the protein

Soy milk was the first milk I tried back in 2008/2009 and while I didn’t fall head over heels initially, it eventually grew on my taste buds with time. (Actually, it wasn’t the first time I had soy milk; I was allergic to cow’s milk formula when I was a baby and my mom had to put me on soy milk instead). Soy milk is also the only non-dairy milk (to my knowledge) that has a similar nutritional profile to cow’s milk. My go-to brand of soy milk, Edensoy Organic, has a whopping 12 grams of protein per 1 cup serving making it the soy milk with the highest protein content. The ingredient list is also impressive: just organic soybeans and purified water! It’s great for smoothies when you don’t want to add protein powder, but still want a kick of protein. To be honest, the flavour of it unsweetened isn’t my favourite, but when I mix it into other foods I don’t notice it as much. They also have sweetened varieties of course. No matter the brand you buy, look for organic, GMO-free soy milk whenever possible.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of Edensoy soy milk vs. 2% cow’s milk:

Nutrition Facts
(per 8 fl oz serving)
Unsweetened Soy Milk (Edensoy) 2% Cow’s milk
Calories 120 cals 122 cals
Total fat 6 grams 5 grams
Saturated fat 1 gram 3 grams
Cholesterol 0 mg 20 mg
Sodium 5 mg 100 mg
Potassium 460 mg 366 mg
Total carbohydrate 5 grams 11.5 grams
Dietary fibre 0 gram 0 gram
Sugars 2 grams 12 grams
Protein 12 grams 8 grams

 

Almond milk. I obviously have a lot of love for this non-dairy milk and it seems to be taking over the world. Almond milk is creamy, deliciously nutty, and blends well into just about anything. My brand of choice is Whole Foods 365 as it is carrageenan free. Almond milk is very low in protein, so be sure to pair it with protein rich vegan foods like hemp seed, chia seed, beans/legumes, protein powder, etc.

Note: Please see my post, Carrageenan in Our Foods for a list of dairy and non-dairy products that contain this potentially harmful ingredient.

What about calcium?

A balanced vegan diet can actually be quite high in calcium even without a lick of dairy. My favourite example – 1 ounce of chia seeds (about 2.5 tbsp) has reportedly 300 mg of calcium. Other non-dairy foods high in calcium include: collard greens (357mg calcium), fortified soymilk (368 mg), black eyed peas (211 mg), firm tofu (204mg), calcium fortified OJ (200mg), blackstrap molasses (172mg), baked beans (154mg), kale (94mg), almonds (70mg) [per serving, source] Be sure to pair calcium rich foods with vitamin C and D rich foods for the best absorption. As extra insurance, I take calcium and vitamin D supplements daily. There are also fortified non-dairy milks on the market (I think these tend to be the refrigerated kind?), so that is an option too. Be sure to read your labels!

Sweetened or unsweetened?

When I started experimenting with non-dairy milk, I always bought the lightly sweetened option. I think this really helped with my transition. Once I got used to the change, I switched to unsweetened varieties. As I’ve said many times in the past, its amazing what the taste buds can get used to with time. If you are starting out, you might want to check out the lightly sweetened varieties to help with your transition. Another option is to make the transition gradual. Having cereal? Why not try subbing half the cow’s milk with non-dairy milk? Or try using creamy almond milk or coconut milk in a cup of tea. There are plenty of ways to gradually ease into the taste.

When I’m doing any savoury cooking, I always use unflavoured and unsweetened almond milk. Keep the vanilla flavoured milk for your sweet recipes and smoothies.

Ok, now I’ll pass it over to you guys!

Have you made the switch from cow’s milk to non-dairy? Was it difficult?

If you drink non-dairy milk, which varieties do you like the best?

Do you prefer sweetened or unsweetened?

Coming up, a homemade nut milk bonanza!

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

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Sandy April 22, 2014 at 2:49 pm

I just switched to 365 Orangic Almond milk from 2% Whole Foods milk for my morning cereal and developed stomach aches. I’ll stop using it for a few days and try it again but I haven’t had an issue with cow’s milk before, I just thought it would be a healthy switch to use Almond milk instead. I’m not doing/eating anything different..so, it’s the Almond milk that’s the culprit imo.

I wonder if this is typical for some people?

There’s no carrageenan in 365’s Almond milk so, it could just be introducing a new food that I’m not use to. I also can’t say I love it…it’s a bit thick for my taste but I was willing to get use to it since I only use about 1/2 cup.

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Karen June 11, 2014 at 8:35 pm

I’d say stay away from soy milk if possible, most soy is genetically modified and super processed. Almond or seed milk (like sunflower) is high in nutrition and really delicious. It is VERY easy to make! You can sweeten it with raw honey or maple syrup and avoid “sweetened” brands filled with sugar.

Check out meghantelpner.com for some good articles on the “healthwashing” of our food, soy milks and products included. There is also other fantastic info on just eating whole foods, unrefined and pure. Not only myth-busting about nutrition, but great recipes and easy alternatives…I’ve been hooked for a long time now. Vegan-friendly!

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Tammy Facey July 21, 2014 at 9:05 am

I’ve read a lot about soy products, soy beans and fermented soy plant foods (and drinks) and I have to say that soy(a) milk is dangerous . It is detrimental to your health because it contains high levels of phyto-oestrogen. They are often promoted as ‘natural’ substitutes for oestrogen, but the plant-based form of oestrogen has been linked to a number of diseases.

Soya products also aggravate the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome, which includes acne, excess hair and weight gain. Since cutting out soya milk my sister (who has this condition – but lives a perfectly healthy life), has noticed that her acne has completely gone, and her body hair is no longer as thick. She stopped drinking soya milk 10 months ago and saw the effects within 3 months.

Although results are inconclusive, it frightens me that a drink could increase the chances of breast cancer. Frankly, I’d rather not risk it.

Go for almond, coconut and oat milk – much safer.

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Sharon November 13, 2014 at 11:07 am

My friend just recommended your blog to me. You have done a great job.

Thank you

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Trevor January 28, 2015 at 11:33 pm

Way late to the game here, but I have an awesome tip to share. A coffee shop near us has developed a housemade cashew-almond milk that they believe is the closest they can get non-dairy milks to the taste and texture of dairy milk. I wish I had a recipe to share, but I’m only just at the stage of trying to figure out how to make it at home myself. The coffee shop is Corvus Coffee in south Denver, in case anyone in the area wants a shot at it.

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Mariam April 23, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Hello Angela,

I know this is an old post for you, but I am a new follower to your blog, and allow me to tell you that I love it. Thanks for the nice blog!

I have been wanting to switch to Silk almond milk, but I know that the original one has added sugar in it. I am afraid to try the unsweetened one and not like it especially when I have cereal. What do you recommend? Is it that much of a difference?

Also, I have been wanting to ask you about cereals. I love cereals (I choose the healthy brands too) but I always see how small the serving sizes are especially when we only have to add 1/2 cup of milk! These may not be filling. I try to add fruits, but what about the milk? Do you have any recommendations how to eat cereals with milk and still enjoy it without the guilt?

Thanks for your time!

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Louis June 30, 2015 at 9:50 pm

Silk Unsweetened Almond Milk no longer caries B12. I wrote them, and the representative who wrote back said that they took it out, but “The quality of the product is unaffected”, not true if you are a Vegan and relied on it as your primary source for B12

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Anne August 14, 2015 at 9:17 am

soy milk….no longer considered healthy, many controversial links not least due to soya being one of the worlds biggest GMO crops. Highly processed

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Veggie Viewer August 20, 2015 at 5:45 am

Heads up non dairy fans, I have read on Peta website that SILK and International delight creamers… are the same manufacturers!!!

Why would you advocate Silk brands when the company has ties to the dairy industry and veal production?

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Emma December 13, 2015 at 11:48 pm

Great article, thanks :) I only have one thing I was disappointed to see – that you promote an organic, GMO-free stance. There are no science based reasons to go organic or GMO free. In fact, GMO foods are usually better for the environment because they’ve been made specifically to increase yield or decrease inputs like . Also, the pesticides that are used on organic foods, although natural, are often more toxic than synthetic pesticides, and often have to be applied more often because they aren’t as effective. Please take a look at the actual science behind these issues, and don’t pay attention to the marketing ploys of those promoting an anti-science agenda.

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Joe January 30, 2016 at 11:19 am

Still trying to make the transition but am not a fan of the store bought alternatives to dairy.. especially the cheeses.. my biggest non vegan addiction. And am going to have to invest in a blender as am house sharing and other sharers are moving out n taking only blender with them. Also, finding any fridge space to store anything is a mission, let alone somewhere to store nut/oat milks. :) But, I’ll find a way. :D

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Goddessence February 4, 2016 at 8:08 pm

How do you do it? Almond milk separates in my tea and isn’t a good appetising look. I love a daily cup of sweet black tea with milk. I used to use soy milk but now refuse anything in a Tetra Pak and the fresh soy milk doesn’t taste nice. It overtakes the tea flavour. I use coconut in lots of other areas so don’t want to consume even more!
I only use fresh. So is that the problem?
I used to sweeten my tea with raw natural honey but gradually moved to Rice Syrup, although I’m not really happy using a refined heated ingredient. I might go back to raw local honey, but CANNOT CONSUME dairy ever again!
I became vegetarian at a young age but mistakenly thought it was ok to eat dairy because cows weren’t killed. Since becoming aware of the obscene cruel treatment of animals in the dairy industry, the thought of popping any grief stricken dairy is deeply disturbing and nauseating. I REALLY need to find a good alternative for my morning tea :-((

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Christine February 29, 2016 at 4:11 pm

I am slowly transitioning to eating more vegan foods after watching Forks Over Knives. I love your recipes, too, and just bought your cookbook. (Your chocolate chip cookie dough lara bar is the best food in the world!)

Any good ways to replace the half n half for my morning coffee?

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K March 7, 2016 at 3:50 am

Great article. I’m going to start transitioning my 14 month old off formula soon. Any recommendations for the best milk or mix that has the highest nutrition?

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Nicanis francisco March 20, 2016 at 1:35 pm

Hi, my name is Nicanis and I’m actually trying to transition
Into vegan. I live in NYC and I was wondering if you can
Refer me to any support group you would know of.
I have no support from any of my friends or Fiance
And this is something I am truly passionate about doing.

Thank you!
Nicanis

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Janet Colquhoun March 30, 2016 at 6:13 am

I have been vegan for 6 years..and still find that my savoury dishes have a sweet aftertaste..eg..scalloped potatoes made with unsweetened soy or coconut or almond milk…any suggestions?
P S.. I love “Oh She Glows “…..is there a follow up book?

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Angela Liddon March 30, 2016 at 6:35 pm

Hi Janet, I always use unsweetened and unflavoured almond milk, so my first suggestion would be to make sure what you’re using isn’t sneakily sweetened or flavoured with vanilla. I would also suggest trying a less sweet non-dairy milk, such as hemp milk. It has more of a grassy flavour. Mind you, I haven’t personally tried this so it could be a bust, but that would be something I would try out. And yes, there is a follow-up book! Oh She Glows Everyday is set to be released September 6, 2016, and you can already pre-order on Chapters/Indigo and Amazon. :)

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C. Miller May 2, 2016 at 2:08 pm

Have you found a vegan sour cream without carrageenan? Daiya has vegan cheeses and cream cheese without carraganeen. Follow Your Heart used to have a carrageenan free version of sour cream but they no longer make it.

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T. May 4, 2016 at 8:55 am

let me start by saying im not a vegan by any means, but id like to be and ive been looking into it more and more lately. anyway, i made the switch to soy milk about a year ago, then from soy to rice milk a few months ago. i never really liked the feeling dairy milk left in my mouth or in my belly. im super happy with the switch as i actually prefer the flavour of rice milk over any other milk ive tried, including dairy milk. i barely eat any red meat, if do its super processed garbage thats barely meat at all, and i only eat a bit of chicken… my main problem going vegan would be cutting out fish and cheese, tuna is my staple sandwich meat and i usually eat about 1.5 kilos of the stuff every 2 weeks. cheese i put on pretty much everything as i absolutely love it and if i do go vegan i know cheese will be the very last thing to go.

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Eric D. Greene June 2, 2016 at 9:17 am

I wanted to make mention of an awesome dairy alternative – macadamia nut milk! Recently being made available now at whole foods, from Royal Hawaiian Orchards. It’s about 2x as expensive but it’s so worth it.

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Angela Liddon June 2, 2016 at 2:45 pm

Thanks for sharing, Eric!

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Kate webster October 19, 2016 at 1:34 pm

Which non dairy milk taste best in coffee ?

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steffyc October 26, 2017 at 3:47 pm

Cashew or coconut!

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Janet Crandall March 1, 2017 at 6:43 pm

Hi there – I realize this article is a few years old, but I wanted to share this for those who are fans of almond milk.

It seems that Almond Breeze (made by Blue Diamond) is a favorite. Fans of this particular brand may be interested to know that Blue Diamond recently settled a class action lawsuit for $9 million with regards to Almond Breeze and another product.

Almond Breeze is apparently made up of only 2% almonds (the industry standard is 30%), and potentially a considerable amount of carrageenan. Looks like they’ll be changing their packaging, but not the product.

You can read more here –
http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2017/01/bought_blue_diamond_almond_bre.html

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Caitlin February 11, 2018 at 4:34 pm

I don’t know about the 2% almonds, but I bought unsweetened original at the store today. It no longer contains carageenan.

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YARA K RAMIREZ May 23, 2017 at 8:50 am

I drink Malk cashewmilk and it’s AMAZING! or I make my own.

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Isabel June 17, 2017 at 10:14 pm

In my case, drinking non-dairy milk was my first step into veganism. I loved cow milk very much, and I had the habit of drinking 2-3 glasses a day since I was a kid. Over a year ago I switched to non-dairy and never switched back. Now I usually drink oat milk, and now and then I buy some soy/rice/almond milk to add variety. I also drink tea more regularly than before.

I didn’t had any problems with the change, because I really liked most of the varieties since the beginning, and it was interesting trying new ones. At first I tried soy milk for a while, but I heard a lot you shouldn’t drink soy too regularly even if its an organic brand. Almond milk is expensive here, and has a strong taste that tires me out if I drink it too often. So I went with oat milk and so far so good, and it has a high iron content, which is something I’m usually short of.

If you ever come to Spain, I recommend trying ‘horchata’, a popular summer drink here, basically tiger nut milk (the supermarket version is good, but no match for the artesanal horchata they sell in many ice cream shops, most of them along the east coast).

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steffyc October 26, 2017 at 3:45 pm

I know I’m late jumping in here but I love cashew nut milk by Silk (unsweetened)

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Caitlin February 11, 2018 at 4:31 pm

I would like to try going dairy less or dairy free to see if it would help my psoriasis. I have hypoglycemia and my body doesn’t tolerate added sugar (real or artificial well.) I have tried some unsweetened almond and cashew milks. I was really pleasantly surprised by cashew milk since I that is my least favorite nut to eat. What I have been unable to find substitutes for is yogurt. I eat unsweetened greek yogurt on a daily basis. Both for the protein and the probiotics. I have yet to see any non-dairy yogurt options that aren’t packed full of sweetener of some sort. I don’t have time to make my own yogurt. Any ideas?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) February 12, 2018 at 8:18 am

Hey Caitlin, I can relate..I’ve been on a hunt for a great vegan high-protein, low sugar yogurt myself. I haven’t found one yet near me that I love. Maybe other readers have suggestions? I’ve heard Kite Hill is a great brand, but I don’t know how much protein it has and sweetener.

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Chelsea March 8, 2018 at 8:25 pm

You forgot one kind of milk, chocolate milk. ;)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 9, 2018 at 9:37 am

haha oh yes I did!! I do think there are plant-based versions out here now for chocolate milk too :)

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