On
from
pinterest
Which Nut Milk is Best? The MR Taste Test

For when you’re ready to ditch soy

best-non-dairy-milks-man-repeller-7

Remember when we thought soy milk was so good for us that we ordered it in every coffee, poured it over our cereal every morning and then men started to get boobs? That was the moment when soy milk started to go downhill for me. But there’s a new non-dairy milk in town that’s filling the gaping, carton-shaped hole soy milk left behind. That would be almond milk. A recent Nielsen study reported that the vaguely nutty, vaguely milky liquid is now America’s favorite dairy substitute, while consumption of cow’s milk is steadily decreasing.

If you’re not lactose intolerant, you may want to ask yourself why you’re drinking a dairy alternative. According to a recent article in The New York Times, the nutritional advantages of non-dairy milks aren’t all that apparent. When it comes to protein, plant-based milks fall short. They hardly contain any, while some have none at all. (For the record, cow’s milk has about eight grams, and soy milk has a comparable amount, but the jury is still divided on whether it’s good for you or awful.)

“But nuts are so healthy!” every nut milk drinker tells herself while she pours hazelnut-flavored almond milk creamer into her morning coffee. How about, healthy-ish. “Plant-based milk beverages do contain nutritional benefits from the actual ingredients they’re based on, but only small benefits since they’re generally strained liquids,” says Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook. “If you want to get the biggest bang for your nutritional buck, your best bet is to eat whole nuts, for instance.”

You say you’re drinking plant-based milks to help the environment? Good for you! It’s a bit more complicated than that. True, it takes a mind-boggling 144 gallons of water to make a gallon of dairy milk. But some say that the mad rush to grow profitable almonds has been catastrophic for California’s dwindling water supply. “This isn’t conclusive research; however, when comparing conventional dairy milk to almond milk, it seems dairy milk emits more greenhouse gases, yet almond milk uses more water for production,” says Newgent.

Hang on, you’re drinking nut milk because you like how it tastes? On a recent afternoon at Man Repeller HQ, we tried a sampling of plant-based milks (i.e., a curated selection of what we could find at our local Whole Foods), so we can tell you how they measure up.

Full disclosure, my milk of choice is whole, non-homogenized, cream-on-top. But, as much as there are certain truths in life that I don’t want to accept, the current dominance of nut milk is something I can’t ignore. We ended up tasting cashew, hemp, macadamia, a medley (in this case, coconut-almond), coconut, and, of course, almond milks. There was a clear winner.

But before we even took a sip, we looked at the ingredients. Most contained some combination of additives and stabilizers whose purpose is to create a silky mouthfeel and homogeneous consistency, but that also meant more random stuff in the ingredients list. Even when you’re buying a so-called healthy dairy alternative, cautions Newgent, you need to read the label. “Watch out for added sugar,” she says. “When in doubt, choose one that is the ‘cleanest,’ which doesn’t contain gums or other ingredient stabilizers which are meant to improve the product’s appeal, not it’s nutritional value to you.”

(If you really want control over what goes into your nut milk, you can always make your own.)

Califia Farms Unsweetened Almond Milk, 48 oz. for $4.99

Califia Farms Unsweetened Almond Milk

The almondy, marzipany smell of the milk gave way to a flavor that one taster called “stale cardboard,” and the color was a disconcerting pale grey. This milk is fortified with calcium and other vitamins, but caveat emptor, some nutritionists question whether these added-value vitamins are actually bioavailable (can be used by the body).

Suncoast Gold Unsweetened Macadamia Milk, 33.8 oz. for $5.99

Suncoast Gold Unsweetened Macadamia Milk

This one smells sweet (thanks, vanilla), but it actually isn’t. It tastes vaguely of salted macadamia nuts. The texture, which is a little gummy and coats your mouth, isn’t so good.

Living Harvest Tempt Hemp Milk, Unsweetened Vanilla, 32 oz. for $4.19

Living Harvest Tempt Hemp Milk, Unsweetened Vanilla

The more we tasted it, the less we liked this hemp milk. The texture was gritty and the aftertaste, bitter.

Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, Unsweetened Vanilla Coconut, 32 oz. for $2.19

Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, Unsweetened Vanilla Coconut

“It smells like dessert, but tastes like cardboard,” said one taster. “The branding speaks against my inclination of a Brooklyn-living, artisanal-loving lifestyle.”

So Delicious Unsweetened Organic Coconut Milk, 32 fl oz. for $2.99

So Delicious Unsweetened Organic Coconut Milk

For someone who wants an alterna-milk that doesn’t take like anything, this isn’t a bad choice. The flavor is deodorized coconut (read: no flavor at all), and the color, fittingly, is bleached white.

WINNER

Malk Organics Unsweetened Cashew Milk, $8.99 for 28 ounces

Malk Organics Unsweetened Cashew Milk

This organic cold-pressed nut milk is the purest, and most expensive, of the bunch. It was also the most delicious by far. The ingredients are just water, cashews and Himalayan salt. It smells a bit like cereal milk and tastes like it too — a little salty, a little nutty. The finish is clean, i.e., no strange aftertaste, and the mouth feel, instead of being viscous or slippery, is just normal. We couldn’t stop drinking it.

Photos by Krista Anna Lewis.

Get more Beauty ?
  • My favorite non-nut-but-also-non-dairy products are oat milk and rice milk, sugarfree. I tried to find THE nut milk but none could convince me.
    And after having tried to live for a month without dairy, I had to admit to myself I could leave out everything, just not without milk (whole milk). After 2 weeks. No cheese, no problem. No milk, yes problem.

    • Yes, I love oat milk as well! Doesn’t have a potent taste (which I prefer) and it goes great with oatmeal (duh), which is what I primarily use it for! I do drink coffee with normal 1,5% fat milk though, but only once a week- I prefer tea instead 🙂

      • YES. Oatmeal with oat milk. Needed a few months to think of that and try it out 🙂

        • I know!!! Sounds self-explanatory but I didn’t connect the dots until a couple months ago haha!

  • Olivia Dello Buono

    My nut milk options are limited since I’m allergic to carrageenan (double whammy – it breaks me out, too). I stick to brands that don’t use it in their products.

    Vanilla soy milk is my favoriiiiite, but I use it sparingly because of the debate on whether it’s good/bad for you.

  • tinyyyy

    the whole soy vs real milk (which ones worse for you) is soooo boring. if you’re worried about what gmo’s go into soy and it’s effects think about what effed up hormones they’re shooting up cows with to make them produce more milk at rates they normally cannot produce.

    i mean ethically, literally think about how your momma started lactating and breast fed you after she gave birth to you and then think about how a cow was forced to give birth (via injections to induce it) and then dragged her away from her baby so she could get hooked up to a bunch of wires and get shot up with hormones so humans could drink her baby’s milk and meet demand

    also there is an “original” flavor for a reason what alien buys unsweetened some sugar won’t kill you.

    and stop thinking about nut milks as a dairy replacement but instead as an option. milk is now a broad spectrum: almond milk, cashew milk, cow milk, goat milk, etc. like almond milk will never taste like cow milk like y’all it doesn’t need to convince you anything.

    also, there is so little life in the article i wanted to die reading it

  • Bee

    I actually really love the Califia unsweetened original and don’t think it tastes like cardboard at all.

    • Ashley Marie Perkins

      Agree, this was shocking to me. Our household survives on the unsweetened regular one, the unsweetened vanilla one, and the coconut-almond blend one. Plus I love that they stopped putting carageenan in it.

      • Olivia

        x3 I’m obsessed with Califia and use it in everything. Plus they make the cutest and best cold coffee drinks (Oh herro salted caramel thing-y) and my local bodega carries it.

      • Analisa

        I used to love Califia, but carrageenan isn’t the only ingredient that’s bad. They use several other gums that make the liquid thick. It’s better to make it at home.

  • Abby

    The Forager nut milks are seriously the best, but the bottles are tiny and expensive 🙁

  • Mae

    Incidentally, cashew milk ice cream is also my favourite non-dairy ice cream. Nothing will ever be as good as real ice cream but, you know, allergies.

    • earlyholo_scene

      So Delicious Cashew Milk Salted Caramel ice cream, FTW

  • Ok but ‘Malk?’ What a terrible name.

    • BK

      I think it’s a reference:

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ovfM7dvFto0

      • Gigi

        I don’t think it’s a reference. It’s a Mom, just went to their website. I think it’s for milk alternative. Who cares it has 5 ingredients!

    • Analisa

      Malk. I like it! It got you to comment didn’t it?

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    I use Califia which I actually REALLY like – I switched from Pacific Almond Milk to that one and I’m happy with the switch. I would try Malk if it wasn’t so insanely expensive. 8.99? Give me a break…

    • Analisa

      It’s pricey, but at least they don’t lie to your face. I buy it because I can’t make it at home, and when I do, it lasts for 3 days. Organic nuts are expensive and they use a bunch of them… and Malk lasts long. You should ask yourself why your almond milk costs $3. It’s probably the fact that they add a bunch of crap and actually made you believe it has almonds in it. I’ll pay $9 for real food anyday because I love myself!

      • ValiantlyVarnished

        I’m aware of what’s in my milk – it’s listed right on the back of the bottle. It’s great that you love yourself enough to spend $9 on a bottle of milk. I love myself also. I simply don’t have the luxury or privilege to afford to spend $9 on milk.

  • g

    would love if you could change the end of the first sentence. in general i really appreciate man repeller’s efforts to be super inclusive so this felt off to me! some men do have boobs and i think this line could be alienating to trans folks. it just didn’t sit right with me. curious what others think!

  • Grace B

    The only thing I will even consider using almond milk for is to make golden milk (from a mix) in the evenings and even then I rarely finished a 1/2 gallon. I just wanna be cool.

  • Rebecca

    The Califa Barista Blend is actually super good!

  • I am forwarding this to nondairy teen son. He will be delighted to drop his spare change on the Malk. I am sure it’s in the Whole Foods by his Seattle high school.
    (face palm).
    My widowed father dated a woman whose ex was an almond farmer. It took me a very long time to eat/acknowledge almonds after that. Which is worse for the environment: almond or cow? Tough call. I can buy milk from a coop that I know is decent to its workers, so I go there.
    And the Califia XXX Espresso mix is the bomb. But mostly the “Espresso/available in the gimme cooler at the Safeway checkout” part I believe. I’m an exsmoker and not much of a purist. And cheese.

    • Resisting temptation to be trolly and reply CHEESE for everything. I have discovered that I can cut everything out (including chocolate) but cheese. Booze, sex, bacon, but cheese. This self-knowledge is valuable.

      • Nicole

        The main protein in cheese (casein) has been shown to be addictive (have opioid effects) 🙂

  • I actually recently discovered that the hormones in dairy products were linked to the acne on my jawline. Words cannot describe how hard it is to not eat cheese or yogurt or ice cream anymore but now I’m kind of looking forward to trying a “milk” that isn’t so bland! Thanks MR!! =)

    • earlyholo_scene

      Yes! I tell everyone I know who has jawline/chin/neck acne that this is strongly linked to dairy allergy.

  • Hahhahaht the winner you picked, weirdly named “MALK” made me think of this hilarious video from way back when https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ty62YzGryU4

  • Lisa

    when i went to paris many years ago and the choices for milk were creme and demi-creme. thank you lord. nothing will ever compare to that.

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    Wow, did not think you could describe fake milk in so many cool ways. “Gummy” was a particularly interesting descriptor.

  • Gabby

    I love the Malk brand! You guys should definitely try the maple pecan milk- it has an amazing mix of salty and sweet.

  • Stacey

    I know you previously stated that you picked up what you could find at Whole Foods, but the refrigerated nut milks generally have less additives than the shelf stable ones and this could affect the taste as well at the nutritional value.

  • chouette
    • Deah

      It’s MALK for Milk Alternative… probably not the Simpsons… and it’s effing delicious… totally clean and my brand of choice.

  • Lucy Smith

    I stopped drinking cows milk because it has been strongly linked to cancer, I have tried many nut milks and the Califia brand is by far the best tasting one I’ve found, it is the only nut milk I can drink straight out of the glass

  • BK

    I only drink milk around three drops at a time diluted in tea so don’t really have a horse in this race, but if you’re already going to go through the whole arduous, labour intensive, low-return of making your own nut milk (can you tell I’ve done it before?) may I suggest ROASTING said nuts beforehand. It’s not like the heat will destroy the incredible nutritious benefits of the end milk product, because it has none, but it gives it a richer, nuttier flavour.

  • Katherine

    Did anyone click the “man boobs” link? The guy was drinking nearly 3 LITERS of soy milk per day!!! And this is the only “man boobs by soy milk” case I’ve ever heard of (and hear it over…and over…).

    Soy products actually have been shown to decrease cancer risk. If you’re worried about GMOs, remember that 85% of GMO soy/corn is fed to the animals that are pumping out the dairy milk you’re drinking (plus all the crazy sex hormones you’re getting – that cow is PREGNANT, think about it). It’s super unfortunately that there’s so much misinformation on this topic, and sadly much of the studies that demonize soy have been funded by the dairy industry.

  • Jess Greenspan

    HAZELNUT MILK ya’ll

  • nikilips

    Next time can you please include pea milk? I can never find it to try it for myself, but I’m v curious about Ripple.

  • Juniper

    Just tried MALK for the first time at Blue Bottle at Rockefeller and it was the best latte I have ever had. They told me all of NYC has made the switch to MALK and I am so glad! Fan for life!

  • LadyLeo

    The thing about store bought nut milks is they barely contain any nuts. You’re better off making your own if you’re looking to reap any nut derived health benefits. I like hemp, even though some may not like the taste. Always read ingredients to avoid carrageenan, the unhealthiest thing in so-called “health foods.”

  • Noer Nabila Fajri
  • Nina

    What about flaxseed milk? I LOVE the unsweetened kind from Good Karma. I’ve used almost every kind of milk alternative and flax as well as unsweetened coconut come closest to taste/texture of real milk.

  • Anna Duren Reid

    Almond milk *is* actually processed almonds so it’s not as healthy as people think (more like healthy as opposed to drinking dairy, which is terrible for you). and… I have to say…. the protein content shouldn’t be an issue. the SAD diet is lacking in fiber which is the biggest cause of all our health problems, not lack of protein. ps I love
    Your blog!!!