Our Definitive Ranking of Nondairy Milks
Going dairy-free but can't find that just-right milk alternative? We've got you covered. Our team tested eight of the most popular products to find the best nondairy milk for your fridge.
Looking to cut back dairy at home—or cut it out entirely? It can be done. There are so many tasty dairy-free dishes out there that won’t have you missing milk in the least. But what happens when you’re craving a tall glass of cold milk to go with that dairy-free dessert? Which milk substitute do you reach for?
That’s why I had to grab as many milk alternatives as I could find, a handful of taste testing experts and a few good cookies (gotta have something to enjoy with all that milk). In total, we tried eight options, some common—think soy and almond—and a few that we hadn’t sipped before, like flax and oat. Check out how they ranked.
Before we dive in, make sure you know everything there is to know about nondairy milk alternatives.
At Taste of Home, we love coconut. When Aldi released its new line of coconut products, we were first in line. We weren’t quite as excited about coconut milk, though. To be clear, this is not coconut milk as you might recognize it from a can (save that for your curries).
We found it to be a bit watery and not very flavorful. On its own, we weren’t fans. However, our nondairy milk experts at this tasting assured me that this would be great for smoothies. I can definitely see that!
Another surprise! As lovers of all things nutty, we thought cashew milk would fair a bit better in our tasting. However, we just couldn’t jive with this dairy-free option. It didn’t give us the rich cashew flavor we expected. Instead, it was a touch watery and bland. Like coconut milk, though, we’d happily blend it into a smoothie—have you tried these yet? And its enriched formula provides plenty of vitamins B12 and D. We do like that!
When it comes to dairy-free milks, soy is often what comes to mind, though it’s not what we preferred overall when it came to taste. When it comes to unsweetened and unflavored soy milk, we didn’t find ourselves enjoying it as much as we expected. This milk was very mild and didn’t have the milky consistency we wanted, though it was exceptionally smooth. Some found its slightly yellow coloring offputting. In all, dairy-free participants admitted that they prefer sweetened or flavored soy milk—bear that in mind next time your run to the store.
Rice milk was a bit more polarizing in this test. Some folks really enjoyed it’s slightly sweet taste. Other folks thought it tasted a bit too much like the water leftover from making rice. This dairy-free milk might be one that’s more subject to personal taste, and that’s just fine. Overall, we think it would be great in horchata—just sub it in for water to add extra flavor.
When it comes to dairy-free milk, we’ve all heard of soy, tried almond milk and even sipped oat milk a time or two. Flax milk, though was pretty foreign to many of us—but it ended up being one of our preferred picks. The consistency of this milk was akin to skim milk and, like skim milk, was pretty mild in flavor. We could tell if we opted for a sweetened version, we’d definitely find a few more applications for this one. But as it stood unsweetened, we have to say this wasn’t too bad!
For the dairy-free folks on the testing panel, almond milk is a go-to, so it was no surprise that it ranked so highly in this test. This almond milk from Almond Breeze gave us that just-right consistency—very much like traditional dairy milk. The almond flavor was fairly subtle making it great for folks that aren’t head-over-heels for nut milks, but still obvious enough to satisfy almond fans. While some testers prefer the sweetened version to use at home, we all agreed this option would be a good replacement for skim milk to drink or to use in cereal.
This one surprised many folks who thought oat milk might just be too, well, oatmeal-like. Oat milk turned out to be one of our favorite dairy-free options. This milk from Pacific Foods had the right consistency for milk, which made drinking and dunking shortbread cookies all the more enjoyable. It did taste a bit like the dregs at the bottom of your cereal bowl, but, hey, some of us like cereal milk. Instead, this slightly sweetened oat milk got high praise for its flavor and how well folks thought it went with coffee (oat milk lattes are pretty popular in the office). This version was sweeter than some of my colleagues preferred, but in all it was tasty. It also would do well in dairy-free baking.
In the end, our favorite was hazelnut milk. This nondairy milk gave us that nice, creamy consistency that we had been searching for. We found it to be very much like regular milk, perhaps even just a bit richer. The flavor was very much hazelnut-forward with a hint of sweetness (cane sugar is added to this brand’s product). Drinking it, we found it to be smooth and satisfying.
We loved this option the most because it was positively the most drinkable on its own. Testers finished their samples and came back for more. It was also just right for cookie dunking. We happily dunked tasty chocolate shortbread and cranberry-pistachio cookies from Watanut into the hazelnut milk. We think these dunkable cookies would also work well. While we snacked, testers dreamed up ways to use up the rest of this carton of hazelnut milk: stir it into coffee, use it to make a favorite dessert dairy-free (I’m not sure this sweetened option would be good for savory dishes, though).
In the end, we were all so satisfied that we tried this Elmhurst hazelnut milk. It was a first for many of us but certainly not the last time we’ll be sipping!
Choosing a nondairy milk that’s right for you can be difficult. We understand that everyone’s choices are pretty personal—some folks can’t have nuts or soy, while others prefer to opt for sugar-free everything.
In the end, though, we have this to say: A slightly sweet milk was most satisfying to us to drink plain or sip with cookies. Though if you’re planning on using nondairy milks in cooking or savory applications, an unsweetened option is likely your best bet. I’ll say, though, that no matter the flavor, the texture is huge when it comes to dairy-free milk. Our favorite milks all had a richer texture on par with regular cow’s milk.
We hope this test makes shopping for your dairy-free options slightly easier! Now, go start on our 30-day dairy-free meal plan.