Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Multi-product review: Non-dairy milk options

An Introductory Summary

The table below summarises the milks I have reviewed. I've also included nutritional information here, so it's easier to compare across milks. For purposes of comparison, I've listed details for skim and regular (full-fat) cow's milk too.

I update this table whenever I review a new milk, and have noted at the end of this post when updates were made. Milks are listed alphabetically. Note that all soy milks listed here make use of non-genetically modified soy beans.

The original post (October 2011) continues below, with a list of updates (and links to other relevant posts) at the end.

Non-Dairy Milk: Some Background

This post has been a little while in the making, and I’m excited to finally be able to post it. It’s been quite a fun process getting here.

Prior to this year, I had never given much thought to non-dairy milk alternatives. Although I was lactose intolerant as a child, the only milk alternative I remember at that time was soy, and I didn’t much like it. I’ve also never really enjoyed regular milk, and dairy products haven’t traditionally been a big part of my diet (except in yoghurt form).

Since actively trying to reduce or eliminate dairy, I’ve realised that not using milk a lot is very different to not using it at all. The small uses have proved surprisingly hard to change! This is especially true of tea and coffee, as I find non-dairy milks often curdle when added to hot drinks.

This is a summary of the different options I have tried over the last few months. It does, of course, reflect my own personal biases, and is by no means complete. The idea is to give a sense of some of the options out there, but there are more I haven't touched on.
So Good 99.9% Fat Free Soy milk

Soy products are still the easiest milk alternative to find in Australia. In the long-life milk aisle, there are non-fat, low-fat, calcium enriched and flavoured UHT options, from multiple companies, and refrigerated options are also available.

If you're switching from skim cow's milk, as I was, non-fat soy milk may seem like a good substitute. As the table above shows, it's certainly the closest option in nutritional terms.

Summary: I find this milk to be more watery (and slightly dirtier looking in colour!) than skim cow’s milk, but in my case this isn’t particularly off-putting. If you actually enjoyed milk, though, I think it would be.

Taste: Faintly soy-like, slightly watery.

Ingredients: Filtered water, soy protein (3.5%), corn maltodextrin, cane sugar, minerals (phosphates of calcium, potassium and magnesium), acidity regulator (332), natural flavours, vegetable based emulsifier (471), antioxidant (ascorbic acid), vitamins (A, B12, B2, B1).

Would I drink a glass plain: No.

Does it work in tea / coffee: No - it curdles, as I find most soy milks to do. (I drink instant coffee at home, and I think the problem is less noticeable if the milk is heated and used in a coffee maker.)

I would use it for: Baking, and on cereals where I don’t want a lot of milk (most of them!).

Price: ~$2.65 (Australian) for a 1L shelf stable UHT tetrapack.

Overall: 6 / 10. I tend to think of this as a default ‘go to’ option if I want to substitute a non-dairy alternative for cow’s milk, but I wouldn’t drink it plain. 

So Good ‘Chocolate Bliss’ chocolate flavoured soy milk

Summary: This comes in a 1L shelf stable tetrapack, and in packs of 3x 250ml individual tetrapacks. Although the small packs work out to be more expensive, I rarely want a whole litre of milk each week, and so they are better value for me. I enjoy this as a change from the other non-flavoured options and I like the chocolate taste.

Taste: Chocolatey, with a detectable but not overpowering soy taste. Thick enough for my liking.

Ingredients: Filtered water, soy protein (3.5%), cane sugar, corn maltodextrin, fructose, vegetable oils (sunflower, canola) [contains antioxidant (tocopherols) (contain soy)], minerals [phosphates of calcium, potassium and magnesium], cocoa powder (0.5%), acidity regulator (332), flavour, antioxidant (ascorbic acid), vitamins [A, B12, B2, B1].

Would I drink a glass plain: Yes.

Does it work in tea / coffee: Pretty sure not :P

I would use it for: Drinking plain, and on weetbix (try it!).

Price: ~$2.65 (Australian) for a 1L shelf stable UHT tetrapack, or ~$3.80 for 3x 250ml single serve tetrapacks.

Overall: 7.5 / 10. It’s one of the few milk-related drinks I would have plain, and despite being flavoured, it’s lower in sugar than some of the unflavoured alternatives coming up.

Vitasoy Protein Enriched Rice Milk

Summary: This appealed to me because of the addition of chick pea derived protein. I haven’t tried regular rice milk so am unable to comment on any differences between this variety and non-protein enriched options, but I certainly liked this.

Taste: Difficult to describe - there was a greater depth in flavour than most of the other milks. I would describe it as slightly nutty and slightly oaty, but I don’t know if others would agree. It doesn't actually taste of nuts or oats, but it seemed reminiscent of both in my mind. It's not too sweet, but it is sweet enough to seem drinkable plain.

Ingredients: Filtered water, whole brown rice (min 11%), chick peas (min 5%) sunflower oil, calcium, phosphate, sea salt.

Would I drink a glass plain: Probably.

Does it work in tea / coffee: No - still curdles, sadly :(

I would use it for: This works amazingly well with cereal and oats, especially if the oats are left to stand for a few hours or overnight (they go super, super fluffy!). It could also be used in place of milk in most recipes, sweet and savoury, and I would use it in smoothies.

Price: ~$2.85 (Australian) for a 1L shelf stable UHT tetrapack.

Overall: 9 / 10, because of the protein and calcium ticks, the reasonable price, the pleasant taste, and the number of things I would use it for. I really liked this milk!

Pure Harvest Organic Almond Milk, unflavoured

Summary: This was the first almond milk variety I tried, and the one that is most commonly available at supermarkets near me. Although this variety is unflavoured, it seems like a ‘sweet’ milk - and that is borne out when looking at the sugar content per 100g. It's definitely suited to cereals and fruit rather than savoury use.

Taste: This is a slightly paradoxical milk: it's sweet and slightly creamy but doesn't seem heavy or overpowering; it's very low in fat but certainly not lacking in flavour; and it's unflavoured (albeit sweetened) but I found it reminiscent of vanilla. 

Ingredients: Filtered water, organic almonds, organic rice syrup, organic sunflower oil, sea salt.

Would I drink a glass plain: Maybe.

Does it work in tea / coffee: No (still curdles), to my disappointment.

I would use it for: As an alternative to soy milk in baking and on cereals, or in smoothies.

Price: This is the downside - about $5 (Australian) for a 1L shelf stable UHT tetrapack.

Overall: 7.5 / 10. It’s enjoyable and a nice alternative to soy, but is costly, has negligible protein and calcium, and is the highest in sugar of the milks I tried.

Pacific Natural Foods Organic Almond Milk, in low fat vanilla

Summary: I was so excited when I found this (and the coconut milk discussed below) at a small IGA supermarket near me. It took me by surprise and before discovering it, I genuinely believed that vanilla almond milk wasn’t available in Australia. Given this initial excitement, I was very disappointed at how little I liked this milk. Very disappointed!

Taste: Watery, artificially vanilla-y, and simultaneously too sweet but lacking in flavour (how?! why?!).

Ingredients: Organic almond base (filtered water, organic almonds), organic evaporated cane juice, potassium citrate, sea salt, natural vanilla flavour with other natural flavours, Carrageenan, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin A, Palmitate, Vitamin D3.

Would I drink a glass plain: No.

Does it work in tea / coffee: No (curdles).

I would use it for: I wouldn’t.

Price: About $5 (Australian) for a 920ml shelf stable UHT tetrapack.

Overall: I had such high hopes, and sadly they were dashed. Combined with the high price, lack of protein and calcium, and presence of a few ingredients I’d rather weren’t in there (Carrageenan, a seaweed extract often associated with GI distress, for one), this is a product I won’t be buying again.

I would still like to try the Pacific Natural Foods unsweetened almond milk, but at this stage I think I’m probably leaving almond milk alone until it’s either cheaper or there are more brands for me to choose form.

So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage, in original

Summary: This was the second of my exciting IGA milk discoveries, along with the vanilla almond milk mentioned above. In truth, I think I was excited because it was an American product and something new, rather than due to the coconut nature of the drink (I’m not a huge coconut fan, although the taste is growing on me in adulthood). However, I ended up really liking it! Certainly a lot more than the vanilla almond milk.

Taste: Slightly coconuty but not overwhelmingly so, and sweet without being too sweet.

Ingredients: Organic coconut milk (organic coconut cream, water, guar gum), organic evaporated cane juice, calcium phosphate, magnesium phosphate, Carrageenan, Vitamin A palmitate, Vitamin D-2, L-Selenomethionine (Selenium), Zinc Oxide, Folic Acid, Vitamin B-12.

Would I drink a glass plain: Probably.

Does it work in tea / coffee: Yes! Yes!

I had almost given up hope by this stage that anything would work in hot drinks, but this worked beautifully. No curdling and no clashing of flavours either.

I would use it for: In tea and coffee :D Also on cereal, and in smoothies. I’m not sure how well it would go as a substitute for milk in savoury recipes, but I would use it in baking too.

Price: ~$5.00 (Australian) for a 920ml shelf stable UHT tetrapack - again, this is the downside.

Overall: 9 / 10, because it works in hot drinks, it’s a different taste and a slightly sweeter one (without actually being too high in sugar), and it has novelty value. However, I probably won’t buy it on a very regular basis because of the cost and some of the ingredients.

The other exciting thing about this milk, though, is that it inspires hope that other So Delicious coconut products may turn up in Australia in the future. Ice cream and yoghurt would be very welcome indeed!

In conclusion...

At the time of writing (October 2011), I would rate the protein enriched rice milk as the overall winner in terms of nutrition, taste, possible uses and price. The coconut milk was a close second in terms of taste and possible uses, and soy remains a good go-to option that is easy to source. Almond milk has proved a bit hit and miss, and too pricey to justify given that is the case!

I'm conscious of not reviewing oat milk or some of the other soy brands and varieties, so there are certainly other options beyond these.

What are your favourite milk options? Do you move between dairy and non-dairy, or are you fully committed to one camp or the other?



Update 5th December 2011: Details of Pacific Natural Foods hazelnut chocolate milk, So Delicious unsweetened original coconut milk, and So Good almond milk have been added to the above table, and are discussed here.

Update 30th April 2012: Details of Blue Diamond Almond Breeze unsweetened almond milk have been added to the above table, and are discussed here.

Update 22nd November 2012: Details of Blue Diamond regular Almond Breeze almond milk have been added to the above table.

Update 22nd December 2012: Details of So Good unsweetened almond milk have been added to the above table, and are discussed here.

Update 13th March 2013: Details of which milks contain carrageenan have been added to the above table, along with details of Almond Breeze chocolate almond milk and Vitasoy vita cafe soy milk.


  1. what an informative post! As someone that also drinks non dairy milk in my tea / coffee - I understand the curdling issue - so frustrating!!!

    My latest love is oat milk, which is delicious! And I also love the vanilla soy in my coffee (decaf that is!)

  2. *hyperventilates* The So delicious exists in Australia?! AAAH!!!! I used to be able to get a few flavours of their soy-based ice cream, but haven't seen it for years. I miss those so much! The coconut milk came out after I left America, but I truly miss Almond Breeze. But ugh, the non-fat So Good? Like dirty dishwashing water; like paying for gummy water. I usually get the Lite one or the Essential one with extra calcium :)

  3. What a great list! I'm lucky that lactose and I are happy friends, but I know many people who aren't on the same good terms so it is useful to know what to have on hand to offer them.

  4. great post - I am so ignorant of vegan milks - started drinking more soy until sylvia came along and then went back to dairy - but I want to try others - unfortunately I've never found a milk I like and E likes it in some hot drinks and cereals so I feel I must abide by his tastes - though I use milk in sauces and baking. I did mean to experiment more during vegan mofo but I seem to always be in a rush in the supermarket and haven't had time to get to other shops that might sell it - maybe it should be on my to do list

  5. I thought soy milk was good in chai lattes? I've tried the non dairy milks and I think they all taste awful. I'm fortunate though that I'm not lactose intolerant, though Zymil milk is made for lactose intolerant peeps and is what I recommend to my lactose intolerant clients who like a bit of milk in their tea/coffee

  6. Ooh, perhaps I should have tried oat milk after all. I think I will now - and vanilla soy too. Thanks :)

  7. I know! I almost danced in the supermarket :) (Who am I kidding, I did dance in the supermarket.) So exciting!! I hope it hits Canberra too.

    I vaguely recalled you having a very low opinion of the non fat So Good. It certainly doesn't look great, I will concur there!

  8. Thanks Lisa. I'm lucky that I can have some dairy without problems, but it is fun knowing how many alternatives are about.

  9. I think you'll find it enjoyable, if you do find the time :) I'm a bit like you though, in that my partner is firmly attached to regular low-fat dairy, and so we always have that in the house. Often that goes in my tea and coffee as I can't always justify a whole litre just for me.

  10. I've not heard of Zymil - interesting. There are some UHT cow milk options in the supermarkets around me that are lactose free, which I find an interesting but odd concept.

    Somehow coffee shops get soy milk to work very well in hot drinks! I enjoy it in chai lattes too. I just can't get it to work in my instant coffee at home :P

  11. *laughs* I love that you can remember my griping about that :P

  12. Thanks for this handy guide. It'd be great if you add to it over time (other rice milks, oat milk etc). If so could you add in any info about whether the soy in genetically modified or not? Will try the protein enriched rice milk next time I see it :)

    Liz, some people who react to dairy are also milk protein intolerant so the lactose-free option doesn't always work. I wonder if there are even more dairy intolerant people around since low fat dairy became so popular? It's super high in lactose to make up for the lack of fat.

  13. fantastic post!!! I learned long ago to give up drinking coffee with milk.... and sugar... now I drink herbal tea and espresso...

    you get used to it.. I promise :)

  14. there's one out there you like... I HATE soy milk.. like ALL soy milk cant stand it.. I'm a rice milk girl all the way... you get used to it being thinner... I also just started drinking black coffee and herbal tea... helped cut down my sugar intake as well (not having sweet milky tea)

  15. Thanks Gill - and I like the updating over time idea. I will definitely do so, and make a note of the GM soy aspect (should have thought of that before really).

    Interesting point about the higher lactose in non-fat milk. I hadn't thought of that, but it is rather a disconcerting thought.

  16. Thanks Carla! Maybe I need to switch to espresso in that instance...although I cringe at the thought of doing so with instant coffee. Maybe I need to upgrade my standards too :)

  17. Hmmm...Rice Milk? It's the first time I've encountered that. I'm into coconut milk. Sometimes I'd go about my way and search for the fresh ones, straight from the tree! I'd just sip from it right there and then.

    1. If I could find one straight from the tree I would definitely join you :) What a wonderful way to enjoy it.

  18. What an informative post. Thank you for going to all that trouble.

  19. Yashashree Food Product is fast growing dairy milk products manufacturing company in Pune area. All products are Frozen Milk Products and can be utilize up to 90 days. We are processing around 2500 Lit of Milk every day.


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