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11 best vegan milks for coffees, cooking and pouring over cereal

We were looking for dairy dupes as well as plant-based drinks to find the best vegan milk alternatives (The Independent)
We were looking for dairy dupes as well as plant-based drinks to find the best vegan milk alternatives (The Independent)

From silky lattes to the creamiest mac and cheese, milk is practically everywhere. A ubiquitous and admittedly handy addition to sauces, coffees, cakes and cuppas – you get the idea.

But what if you’re lactose intolerant? Or dabbling in veganism? Or perhaps you’ve just gone off the stuff. Luckily, the once niche vegan milk market is now brimming with choice. From oat and pistachio to pea and potato (yes, milk made from spuds), you’ll find an ever-expanding smorgasbord of substitutes to try.

A third of people in Britain are now opting for the vegan white stuff. Why? Well, for one thing it’s more sustainable. The diabolical environmental impact of the dairy industry isn’t exactly a trade secret, but plant-based milk produces a third of the greenhouse emissions that dairy does and uses far less land too – 10 times less to be exact. And, from an animal welfare perspective without the cruelty of the dairy farming industry, it shows more compassion to our cow friends too.

So whether you’re dipping your toe in the plant-based pool or planning to cut out dairy completely, we’ve been hunting for the vegan milks that are well worth the fridge space.

How we tested

We selected vegan milks from both industry leaders and newer brands on the block, testing for taste, consistency and versatility. We were on the hunt for both dairy dupes and plant-based drinks that were delicious but in a lane of their own – think coconut and pistachio.

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We looked for a tasty milk alternative for a stellar cup of tea, as well as a cracking cuppa joe. And all were tested using our favourite milk frother to see which had the silkiest of froths for our coffees.

The best vegan milks for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Lilk The Common Blend oat and rice: £1.90, Ocado.com

  • Best for cooking – Sproud plant-based milk unsweetened:£1.80, Ocado.com

  • Best for coffee – Oatly oat drink barista edition: £1.65, Ocado.com

  • Best almond milk – Califia Farms unsweetened almond: £2, Tesco.com

  • Best fresh taste – Innocent coconut: £1.75, Sainsburys.co.uk

  • Best for minimal ingredients – Plenish cashew m*lk: £2.50, Ocado.com

  • Best hemp milk – Jord oat and hemp drink: £1.80, Sainsburys.co.uk

  • Best sustainable option – Dug original: £1.80, Ocado.com

  • Best for something sweet – Rude Health roasted almond and oat drink: £1.60, Ocado.com

  • Best for aromatic indulgence – Borna lightly sweetened pistachio drink, 500ml: £2, Ocado.com

  • Best for tea – Alpro soya no sugars: £1.25, Sainsburys.co.uk

Lilk the common blend oat and rice

Best: Overall

Rating: 9/10

OK, so it’s unlikely plant-based alternatives will emulate dairy exactly – and besides, we wouldn’t really want them to – but this one comes pretty close. The brand’s idea, which came after drinking plenty of mediocre vegan milk in teas and coffees during lockdown, was to blend different grains together, so while oats can be heavy, and rice too sweet, this refreshing concoction blends the best of both.

Describing itself on the carton as “very, very milky”, it’s certainly not wrong. Similar to semi-skimmed milk in consistency, it’s neutral to taste but with a hint of sweetness, which was lovely on its own or poured over cereal.

As coffee drinkers we were relieved to find it frothed up nicely too, adding a subtle sweetness without any curdling. Testing its versatility, we also whipped up an incredibly more-ish batch of thick and fluffy pancakes and, to check out its suitability in savoury dishes, naturally, we had to have a crack at vegan cheesy pasta. The result? Quite possibly the creamiest, most heavenly cheesy pasta we’ve ever made.

Buy now £1.90, Ocado.com

Sproud plant-based milk unsweetened

Best: For cooking

Rating: 7/10

Made from the humble pea, this one took us way back to our green-bottle topped days. It’s sugar-free so the flavour is a little more neutral than milk, but the creaminess and milk-esque colouring might just have you fooled.

Splash this into coffee and it’s velvety smooth with no curdling at all, with a foam that’s silky smooth. Oh, and it blessed us with one of the thickest, creamiest bowls of porridge we’ve ever eaten – honestly, it was so lush we’d happily have it for dessert. As savoury dishes go, it did well, adding creaminess to a cracking batch of butternut squash soup too.

These little peas have a lot going for them sustainability-wise, using far less land and water to produce than dairy, as well as soy, nut and oat milks. They’re also packed with three times the amount of protein you’ll get from oat milk, and five times that in almond milk.

Buy now £1.80, Ocado.com

Oatly oat drink barista edition

Best: For coffee

Rating: 8/10

For creaminess and foamability, this is where it’s at. The OG of oat milk since the early Nineties, Oatly’s offbeat marketing has somehow made oat milk synonymous with cool, but beneath all that there’s a very, very good taste.

What makes a “barista” milk is essentially a higher fat content, and extra ingredients to help it foam up when it’s steamed or frothed. While frothers are best for airier foams, you might want to use a steamer to create silkier foams for lattes. We opted for the former and used Oatly’s barista milk with IndyBest’s best frother, which worked a treat – think a seriously luxe mouthfeel that plonks you on a stool at your local coffee haunt.

On to taste, it is buttery and not too oaty – you know what we mean – with a hint of sweetness that smooths any bitterness without masking the taste of the coffee. We were equally thrilled to find it’s not too heavy when sipped straight or added to cereal, so you won’t need milk “for coffee” and milk “for everything else”.

Buy now £1.65, Ocado.com

Califia Farms unsweetened almond

Best: Almond milk

Rating: 7/10

We’re not usually big fans of almond milk, but this one from Californian brand, Califia Farms, won our affections for its subtlety. Don’t get us wrong, it does taste of almonds. But it’s smooth and creamy and balanced out with a hint of sweetness – and it’s gluten-free. Its foam isn’t the silkiest, but we’d really recommend adding a few glugs to iced coffee.

The subtle flavour also added creaminess to our berry smoothies without making them too nutty. And with 50 per cent more calcium than milk, it’s a good swap if you’re worried about missing out on calcium after ditching dairy. For velvety chocolate deliciousness, we thoroughly enjoyed the chocolate, coconut and almond blend (£2, Asda.com).

Buy now £2.00, Tesco.com

Innocent coconut

Best: Fresh taste

Rating: 8/10

As the kid who used to eat all the Bountys at Christmas, we’re a sucker for coconut milk, but this one is next level. It’s naturally sweet but still tastes fresh, and we love that it’s got the odd fleck of coconut in there. And other than being fortified with a natural source of calcium, the ingredients list is short but sweet (no additives here, thank you very much). We enjoyed it straight from the fridge and over cereal – though it’s so more-ish that our milk to cereal ratio was way off.

Innocent is also a B corp, which is obviously a big plus – for the uninitiated, these are companies that have hit the highest standards across everything from the way its workers are treated to its environmental impact. The brand uses only sustainably sourced coconuts from Fairtrade suppliers, funds projects helping the world’s hungry, and raises money for Age UK (which has a lot to do with those dinky knitted hats you’ve probably seen before on its smoothie bottles).

Buy now £1.75, Sainsburys.co.uk

Plenish cashew m*lk

Best: For minimal ingredients

Rating: 7/10

As far as nuts go, cashews are premium, so we were expecting big things here. Especially given that this cashew milk – which is made of organic cashews, water and sea salt – is a 2017 Great Taste Award winner with no nasties lurking on the ingredients list.

Instead, Plenish packs copious amounts of cashews into each carton – three times the amount in the average nut milk apparently – which are blended to a nut butter before reaching their final form which is, of course, delicious, and partially why it’s so pricey. High in protein, it’s creamy and pretty neutral to taste, which was perfect for our overnight oats, and quite the game-changer in our strawberry and banana smoothie.

Tea and coffee drinkers should take note, though, as it does separate slightly in hot drinks. However, we found that leaving the drink to cool a little before adding it, per Plenish’s suggestion, did seem to help stop this from happening. And, having gained a B corp accreditation, we rate that its cartons are 100 per cent recyclable too.

Buy now £2.50, Ocado.com

Jord oat and hemp drink

Best: Hemp milk

Rating: 8/10

Hemp milk was a new one for us – we were expecting it to have a small amount of CBD, but there actually isn’t any in the seeds used to make the milk. It’s also not straight up hemp either as there’s oats in there too (both of which are organic), along with water and a pinch of salt. Personally, we love a short ingredients list, as it keeps things simple and au naturel, which definitely pays off in the taste. Fresh, clean and slightly sweet, the oats bring a creaminess to the malty, nuttiness of the hemp, and we thoroughly enjoyed it straight, splashed over cereal and in our overnight oats.

Buy now £1.80, Sainsburys.co.uk

Dug original potato

Best: For sustainability

Rating: 7/10

As excited as we were perplexed, we couldn’t wait to give spud milk a go. The first-ever potato milk, made by Swedish brand Dug, hit UK shores earlier this year and promised to be the most sustainable option. More specifically, spud milk is twice as efficient (land wise) than oats, and needs 56 times less water than almonds.

Out of all three iterations – that’s original, unsweetened and barista – the OG came out on top, as the unsweetened was a little too strong for our tastes. Flavour-wise, it’s definitely different. There’s a slightly acidic kick in there somewhere but, to our relief, no discernible potato notes, and a hint of sweetness that worked well in our coffee. Given its relatively low-fat content, it is slightly thinner than the pea and oat milks we tried, but that didn’t stop it from having one of the silkiest foams on test.

Beverages aside though, we rustled up an extremely creamy porridge, fluffy, bubbly pancakes and, though we’re not signing up for Bake Off just yet, a pretty good batch of vegan brownies.

Buy now £1.80, Ocado.com

Rude Health roasted almond and oat drink

Best: For something sweet

Rating: 8/10

Despite having just four ingredients – organic roasted almonds, oats, salt and water – we were happily surprised by the depth of flavours going on here. As it turns out, roasting almonds is quite the game changer. We expected a simple oats and almonds blend but instead got a sweet, toasty and very more-ish milk. Unsurprisingly, the London-based brand has clocked up 23 Great Taste Awards over the years so, naturally, it was a well-balanced treat for the taste buds, and we were hooked after the very first sip.

We sipped (read: glugged) it straight from the carton, but found it made a cracking froth for our coffee too – with no curdling whatsoever – and gleefully added it to our morning cereal. We can see this being a go-to for comforting lattes on frosty winter days. Also certified as a B Corp, Rude Health’s milk is palm oil free, and we really rate that it donates to food waste and poverty charity FareShare too.

Buy now £1.60, Ocado.com

Borna lightly sweetened pistachio drink

Best: For aromatic indulgence

Rating: 8/10

Aromatic and sweet but not at all cloying, the pistachio flavour here is a little addictive – we had to stop ourselves scurrying back to the fridge to finish the lot. It is a little pricey, but as the first 100 per cent natural pistachio milk alternative, the south-east London based-brand is something of a trailblazer, and totally free of gums, artificial flavours and additives – a big tick for plant-drink purists.

We loved the dinky 500ml cartons too, which is something you don’t really see with vegan milks, and would make them handy for taking on the go, say, if you wanted to take milk into the office (just remember to put your name on it). This one did separate in our hot coffee a little, but it’s glorious splashed over muesli for an indulgent breakfast.

Buy now £2.00, Ocado.com

Alpro soya no sugars

Best: For tea

Rating: 8/10

We don’t know about you, but soya milks can be too sweet and cloying, and can split in hot drinks, but not Alpro. Hailing all the way back to 1980, this is a brand that’s been around for yonks, and was actually the first and only brand we used for dairy-free products for a long while, from its dairy-free milks to its chocolate desserts (we heavily recommend).

What we really love about this unsweetened soya milk, though, is it’s perfect for a cuppa, with a rounded, neutral flavour that’s pretty indistinguishable from the real thing (if that’s what you’re after), while it’s also lovely chilled over cereal. As for coffee, the foam was quite honestly ludicrous, and possibly even taller and silkier than some of the barista milks we tried.

Plus, despite being low in saturated fat, it’s creamy and smooth, high in protein and serves up a good dose of calcium. If you’re wholly committed to your cuppas though, we also loved the Alpro My Cuppa soya milk, which has been specifically created for the perfect brew (£1.70, Sainsburys.co.uk).

Buy now £1.25, Sainsburys.co.uk

The verdict: Vegan milk

We love Lilk’s oat and rice blend for its versatility and how it’s so similar to dairy – great for those who like the taste of milk, but still delicious for those who don’t.

If you’re looking for something to swig out of the fridge then it’s got to be the creamy but oh-so fresh coconut drink from Innocent, while Alpro’s soya milk was lovely in tea.

For cooking, Sproud’s pea milk was a good one to have knocking about and, for coffee, it’s just got to be Oatly’s barista oat milk.

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