Milk Alternatives To Save Our Planet

By Aronya Waller 

There has been an influx of dairy alternatives following the increased interest in vegan and plant-based lifestyles and lactose-free or other allergy-friendly options. Thankfully there are a variety of plant-based milk substitutes that are now available. It can be overwhelming at times to decide which one would be best for both you and the environment. Therefore, we will be  highlighting some of the well-known ones, including the original—soy milk. So, sit back and enjoy your café con leche, hot chocolate, or bubble tea, and maybe you will find a new option to try.

Soy Milk 

Soy milk is one of the most popular milk alternatives. It is made by soaking and blending soybeans, then straining the leftover pulp or by using soy protein isolates. Soy milk has a mild flavor and creamy texture, which is excellent for replacing cow’s milk in most drinks, desserts, and baked goods. It is a good source of protein and calcium and is low in saturated fats. It often contains added sugars and thickeners to create a texture like cow’s milk. Deforestation is a big problem with soy milk production. If possible, choose organic soy milk to reduce the impact. 

Almond Milk

Almond milk is made with either whole almonds or almond butter mixed with water. It has a light, nutty flavor that can be used with most recipes and drinks. Due to its production process, it may have a more watered-down flavor and texture than some other milk alternatives. Almond milk is low in calories and protein and contains thickeners to replicate milk’s texture. Unfortunately, almond milk is not the most environmentally-friendly option. Almond plantations require six liters of water to make one liter of almond milk. Most almond trees are grown in California, which has suffered severe droughts for multiple years.

Oat Milk

Oat milk is the new, trendy plant-based dairy product quickly gaining popularity. It is made from oats that have been soaked in water, blended, and then strained. Oat milk has a creamy texture and a slightly sweet flavor. It is an excellent option for your cereal, and it can be a good milk alternative for most recipes and drinks. It is gluten-free, higher in fiber, and contains soluble fiber. Pesticides and weed killers are sometimes used when growing oats, but it is less likely to be used in organic brands. It has a lower environmental impact compared to soy and almond milk. 

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is made by combining coconut cream and water. It has a creamy texture, but is not as thick as the canned versions. Some people may say it has a tropical taste due to the subtle coconut flavor. However, be careful, as the coconut flavor can overpower some of your baking recipes. It is safe for people with nut allergies. Coconut milk contains good saturated fat, known as MCT, which goes straight to your liver and gets digested  for energy. It is low in protein and higher in calories. 

Hemp Milk

Hemp Milk is made by blending hulled hemp seeds and filtering them with water. It has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor and a watery texture. The nutty flavor is very distinctive from other plant-based dairy alternatives and may overpower the flavors within your recipes. Due to its thin consistency, hemp milk may replace skim milk in recipes. It is a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and is gluten-free. It is one of the few plant-based complete proteins that contain all the essential amino acids our bodies cannot make. Hemp milk may be one of the more eco-friendly non-dairy options since the whole plant is of use, but more research is needed to confirm its environmental impact.

Potato Milk

Potato milk is made by emulsifying potatoes with rapeseed oil. It is creamier than oat milk but has more of a bitter taste. Potato milk is also gluten-free and is suitable for those with nut allergies. It is one of the most-balanced plant-based alternatives because it contains healthy fats, carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. Potato milk has several additives to improve taste and texture, including pea protein. It has a low carbon footprint and is environmentally friendly because potatoes are sustainable. Potatoes also require less water to produce compared to other non-dairy alternatives.

Chia Seed Milk

Chia seed milk is one of the newest milk alternatives on the scene. It can be made with any combination of chia seeds, chia oil, and chia protein mixed with water or coconut milk. Depending on the base—water or coconut milk, it can be just as creamy or even creamier than oat milk. Chia seed milk may be one of the closest non-dairy alternatives to milk. It is low in carbohydrates and contains omega-3 fatty acids, MCT (an excellent saturated fat), and protein. Some brands add protein powders for texture and consistency. It also can be loaded with additives and sweeteners. Chia seed milk is environmentally friendly because chia seeds are adaptable, can grow in low-quality soil, and have little strain on resources.

Hazelnut Milk

Hazelnut milk is made by blending soaked hazelnuts and water. It has a robust and nutty taste and is used best for coffee and baking. It is low in calories, gluten-free, contains Vitamin E, and has no saturated fat. Hazelnut milk can sometimes be high in sugar and is low in protein. It has a better environmental footprint than almond milk because it uses wind for pollination instead of bees. In addition, it uses much less water.

Rice Milk

Rice milk is made from ground rice grains filtered with water. It is more watery than other non-dairy alternatives, and may be best used for cooking. It is the least likely of all plant-based alternatives to cause an allergic reaction. It is low in calories and protein and high in carbohydrates. Rice milk usually contains additives to improve consistency and flavor. It is high in inorganic arsenic, which is not suitable for children. Rice can absorb a lot of water, and rice milk produces more greenhouse gas emissions than any other milk alternative. 

Pea Milk

Pea milk is made from yellow split peas that are ground into flour. The protein is extracted and combined with water to produce milk. It is creamy and more milk-like than many other plant-based dairy alternatives. It is a good source of nutrients, including iron and calcium. It is gluten-free and a good source of protein. Many pea milks contain oils, sweeteners, and thickeners to improve the taste and texture. While pea milk has a smaller carbon footprint in terms of farming, the transport of the peas can increase that footprint.

Additional Milk Alternatives

  • Banana Milk
  • Cashew Milk
  • Flax Milk
  • Macadamia Milk
  • Peanut Milk
  • Pecan Milk
  • Pistachio Milk
  • Quinoa Milk
  • Sesame Milk
  • Spelt Milk
  • Tiger Nut Milk
  • Walnut Milk


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