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What's the Deal with Alt Milks? Here's Your Non-Dairy Cheat Sheet

Learn more about these wildly popular plant-based drinks.

Assistant Editor
alt milks cashew almond oat hemp hazelnut
Photography by: Sidney Bensimon

From left to right: oat, cashew, almond, hemp, and hazelnut.

They’re sitting pretty in grocery stores and coffee shops, and all are dairy-free and low in saturated fats. Here’s how to choose (and use) these creamy plant-based beverages. When choosing store-bought options, look for a short ingredient list; this typically means the milk contains fewer sweeteners and stabilizers. You can also make these milks yourself with our master recipe if you’re inclined to soak, blend, and strain away. 

 

Get the Alt Milks Master Recipe

Oat

This nut-free drink is mild and versatile. It has a silky texture that foams and froths nicely, so it’s delicious in a latte. It’s also apropos in cereal and works well in broccoli soup, says Amy Chaplin, an award-winning vegetarian chef and author. Sweeten it with a touch of maple syrup.

 

OUR PICK: Oatly! Organic Oat Drink

 

Cashew

The natural softness of the nut lends this liquid a satiny finish that comes very close to cream’s. It holds its own in a strong cup of coffee, and its mellowness swings savory, too: Chaplin recommends swapping a homemade batch into a cream-based pasta sauce.

 

OUR PICK: Forager Project Original Cashew Milk

 

Almond

Medium-bodied and subtly sweet, this milk is the most allpurpose of the bunch. “It’s high in protein and not as rich as others,” says Chaplin, and it’s neutral enough to enhance a roster of recipes, from smoothies to mashed potatoes.

 

OUR PICK: Three Trees Unsweetened Original Almondmilk

 

Hemp

“A grassy taste distinguishes it,” says Chaplin, who suggests pouring it cold over granola or cereal for a nice boost of omega-3 fatty acids. Unlike nuts, hemp seeds don’t have to be soaked before they’re blended, so you can make this milk quickly.

 

OUR PICK: Living Harvest Tempt Hemp Milk, unsweetened

 

Hazelnut

This variety has the sweet richness of the nut it’s derived from, so it pairs naturally (and scrumptiously) with vanilla and chocolate. Use it in a dairy-free pastry cream, or blend it with cocoa for a Nutella-esque drink. It can enliven breakfast, too: Stir it into iced coffee or oatmeal.

 

OUR PICK: Elmhurst Milked Hazelnuts