The best brands of plant milk are not found on supermarket shelves. Granted there are many to choose from (and officially you can now recycle Tetrapak, but it’s difficult). But there are concerns with factory-farmed dairy, cholesterol and hormonal cancers, so many people are switching. If you drink dairy milk, go for no-slaughter brands like Ahimsa.
But this is just one tiny company, in a country that drinks millions of pints of milk dairy. So if you don’t agree with factory farms (where baby male calves are mostly shot at birth, and ex-milkers are sent for slaughter), you may wish to try alternatives. We hear of cats lapping saucers of milk, but most are lactose-intolerant, and best with water. Don’t give them these plant milks, as many contain pet-toxic ingredients like nuts.
There are many types of plant milks to choose from (read The New Milks for a great guide on which to use – rice, oats, hemp, soy, hazelnut etc – know which ones make the best mashed spuds or biscuits, or which ones are best in your coffee without curdling). But a newer business is now starting to take off: plant milks in glass bottles.
- Mlkman offers oat and coconut milk. Suitable for barista use, it started in London and now is available in many cities including Bristol, Brighton, Cambridge, Oxford, Sheffield and some counties.
- ReRooted offers oat, almond and coconut milk in glass bottles, delivered to doors in the Devon area. Reinventing how people drink plant milk, all these are organic, in glass bottles from the ‘milkman of the future’. This company was founded by a former player for Manchester United, who opened up England’s first zero waste shop. There are plans to go nationwide in electric floats. New Milk offers a similar service in Bristol.
- Not-Milks are made in London, sold in glass bottles. Made with nuts, choose from almond, hazelnut, pistachio, and chocolate milk.
- Oato is packed in glass or cans (with upcoming Oato coffee and ice-cream). It’s all delivered across northwest England (rolling out nationwide soon) in reusable containers.
Make Your Own Plant Milk
Avoid nuts, seeds and nut/seed butters for young children. Live with pets? Toxic foods to keep out of harm’s way include macadamia nuts, chocolate & nutmeg (used in plant milks) and the sweetener xylitol.
- Roxy and Ben can show you how to make your own milks from oats or cashews, which is obviously the best choice. You’ll need a nut milk bag, which you can also use to make jam and vegan cheese.
- The New Milks is a beautiful book with charts showing you which plant milks make the best mashed potatoes and bake the best biscuits, or which ones are best for tea and coffee. Includes 100 recipes.
- Vegan Dairy includes recipes for plant-based milks and other dairy products, which are easy to make with ingredients from any grocery store. Includes recipes for vegan butters and coconut kefir.
- Homemade Vegan Cheese, Yoghurt & Milk is a beautifully designed book by a Belgian chef, who offers dairy-free recipes.
Why Drink Plant Milk?
So you know that you’re supposed to be cutting down on dairy. But you’ve heard that soy destroys the rainforests, hemp sounds odd, and you don’t want to use a nut milk bag and make your own. So how do you know the best plant milk to try? Not to fear, here’s a quick lowdown.
Plant milks are NOT the same as baby formula. So if you use formula, talk to your midwife. Those horror stories you read about vegan parents whose child died, are often due to feeding them homemade nut and seed milks, rather than feeding proper formula. Also see breastfeeding help for new mothers.
A little dairy likely won’t do harm health-wise (unless you have an allergy). But there is increasing evidence that the hormones in most dairy milk (especially in factory farms that get injected with regular antibiotics) is linked to asthma, hormonal cancers, diabetes and heart disease. You can get calcium from other foods (dark green leafy veggies, apricots, nuts and seeds, legumes and many fortified foods, including plant milks).
There are many brands on the market, but most are still packed in plastic cartons. You can’t recycle Tetrapak cartons in your normal recycling but you can usually take them to the recycling bank now. However, it’s not ideal but we do have ‘glass bottle plant milkmen’ arriving – see below). Here are the main types of plant milk sold:
- Soymilk is likely the most popular. PCRM (a US medical charity run by doctors) has a useful page on its safety, regarding hormones and cancer etc. If you buy it, ensure it’s an organic brand so it’s not from rainforests. Soy is pretty creamy and if you like the taste of dairy milk, this is likely the best choice for drinks and cereals.
- Rice milk is more watery. It’s not the best choice for drinks, though some like it on cereal. It’s also pretty good in baked goods.
- Oat milk is creamy and popular in drinks, and makes a good hot chocolate. Baristas often use this milk in coffee bars for ‘vegan cappuccinos’. It’s high in protein. Also makes good cream and ice-cream. Oatly is the brand leader, and offers wholesale barista milks.
- Almond milk is quite popular. Although it is a bit more watery in drinks. Again, it’s good in baking and high in protein and calcium.
- Pea protein milk is a new type of milk, high in protein.
- Hemp milk is not narcotic, but comes from a plant related to cannabis. It has a nutty taste and is good in baked goods.
- Coconut milk is very popular, but check your brand does not use ‘slave monkeys’ to harvest the coconuts (sending terrified monkeys up trees). Lucy Bee is a monkey-free brand. It does have a strong taste, so be aware you will get ‘coconut-flavoured coffee!)