The 8 Healthiest Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives—and 3 To Avoid
Once upon a time decades ago, non-dairy milks were the stuff of the crunchy hippie lifestyle, available only at health food stores or a small "natural" section of the grocery store. But these days, plenty of mainstream households stock up on non-dairy options alongside cow's milk. In fact, according to research from 2020, about 23% of shoppers consumed non-dairy milks almost exclusively!
So-called "mylks" offer an easy alternative for those who can't tolerate dairy due to allergies or lactose intolerance. People on plant-based diets can also enjoy them without worrying about consuming animal products. And though these beverages don't have identical nutrition as cow's milk, they function like regular milk in baking, cereal, and smoothies.
Nowadays, with so many options on grocery shelves, it can be tough to pick apart which alt-milks are actually good choices—and which ones are less so. Here are 8 of the best and 3 of the worst.
How we chose the healthiest milk alternatives
- Short ingredient lists: Not every additive in non-dairy milks is dangerous. (Some are simply extra vitamins and minerals.) But in general, a lengthy ingredient list is a red flag for a highly processed alt-milk. We choose milks with fewer ingredients.
- Plenty of micronutrients. To compete with the calcium and vitamin D in cow's milk, many non-dairy options add vitamins and minerals. That's a good thing! We chose products fortified with micronutrients your body needs.
- Higher protein. Most non-dairy milks are fairly low in protein, so we sought out varieties that offer more protein bang for your buck.
- Lower sugar. Sweetener is a common ingredient in alternative milks—but, as in any food, added sugar in these drinks won't do your health any favors. The healthiest faux milks have minimal sweetener (or none at all).
8 Healthiest Non-Dairy Milks
Best: Mooala Simple Almondmilk
Talk about a short ingredient list! Mooala Simple Almondmilk is made with only three components: filtered water, organic almonds, and sea salt. It's just like almond milk you'd make yourself at home (only a whole lot less time-consuming). And at 50 calories and 2 grams of carbs per cup, it's a simple, smart choice if there ever was one.
Best: MALK Unsweetened Almond Milk
Not every almond milk gives you a punch of fiber, but MALK's Unsweetened variety comes with an impressive 3 grams per cup. Plus, with minimal ingredients, it's an unprocessed choice. "I love that it is free of fillers, gums, oils, artificial flavors, and other additives," says Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, CPT, of One Pot Wellness.
Best: Pacific Foods Hemp Plant-Based Beverage Original Unsweetened
For something a little different, try hemp milk. This unusual non-dairy option works for just about anyone with allergies. "For those with nut, soy, dairy, and/or legume allergies, Pacific Foods Hemp Plant-Based Original Unsweetened beverage is a creamy option with a delicious, nutty flavor," says Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN, owner of Malina Malkani Nutrition and author of Safe and Simple Food Allergy Prevention. Malkani also points out that this option delivers 3 grams of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
Best: Califia Farms Toasted Coconut Almond Milk
Califia Farms shakes up the usual almond milk with the addition of toasted coconut flavor. "[This milk] is the perfect plant-based pour by itself, added to cereal, or enjoyed in coffee," says Catherine Karnatz, MPH, RD, Rhode Island-based dietitian and owner of Nutrition Education RD. "An 8-ounce cup of this creamy non-dairy milk provides 4.4 micrograms of vitamin D and 440 milligrams of calcium, which are important nutrients that support bone health."
Best: Ripple Original Plant-Based Milk
Plenty of protein powders powered are by peas—so it's no surprise that pea protein can make its way into non-dairy milk, too. Ripple's Original Plant-Based Milk turns peas into a pourable beverage. "[This] is my go-to recommended non-dairy milk for people with food allergies," says Jamie Adams, MS, RDN, owner of Mamaste, who says that Ripple is free of dairy, nuts, soy, and gluten.
Besides its allergy-friendliness, Ripple stands out for its tip-top protein content. At 8 grams per cup, it contains as much protein as cow's milk! "It also makes a great non-dairy milk option for kids who need calcium for bone growth and development, providing almost 50% more calcium than cow's milk per serving," Adams says.
Best: Silk Organic Unsweet Soy Milk
No added sugar, 20% of your daily calcium, and 7 grams of protein? Yes, please! Silk Organic Unsweet Soy Milk offers all this and more. "This silk milk is great because it's not overly sweet," says Katie Schimmelpfennig, RD, founder of Eat Swim Win. "It's a fantastic option for use as a non-dairy milk in savory recipes or added to a bowl of cereal."
Best: Chobani Oat Milk Zero Sugar Original
Creamy and thick, Chobani Oat Milk Zero Sugar Original is a healthy choice for those times when you want the richness of dairy milk without the dairy itself. "This is one of my favorites," says Sheri Berger, RDN, CDCES, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant for Consumer Health Digest. "It is made with gluten-free certified oats, fortified with calcium and vitamins D and A, and has no added sugar."
Best: Forager Project Organic Cashew Milk
Tired of almond or soymilk? Cashews and oats form the base of this four-ingredient non-dairy choice. Whereas some alt-milks have surprisingly high sodium, Forager Project's Cashewmilk contains just 25 milligrams per cup. And with very low sugar and 3 grams of protein in each serving, it checks multiple nutrition boxes.
3 Non-Dairy Milks to Avoid
Worst: Blue Diamond Vanilla Almondmilk
Vanilla flavor is all well and good, but not when it comes at the cost of high levels of added sugars. Blue Diamond's Vanilla Almondmilk packs 12 grams of added sugar per 1-cup serving. And since it's rather high in sodium and low in protein, this one doesn't have much to offer for nutrition.
Worst: So Delicious Organic Coconutmilk Beverage
Coconut products have developed a health halo in recent years—but that doesn't mean everything coconut-based is good for you. The organic coconut milk from So Delicious contains 20% of your daily saturated fat in a single cup, not to mention 7 grams of added sugar. It also has gums and fillers you may prefer to avoid.
Worst: Great Value Chocolate Almond Milk
With "chocolate" in the name, it's no surprise that Great Value's Chocolate Almond Milk doesn't make the list of healthiest non-dairy milk beverages. It's brimming with one of the highest added sugar counts of any almond milk on the market: a whopping 17 grams per serving. Skip this one unless you plan on drinking it for dessert.