Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.
However you’ve landed on needing a good milk alternative, we’re guessing you have your reasons.
After all, plant-based milk alternatives (sometimes called “mylks”) have been known to cost as much as twice the price as regular dairy milks, according to a 2021 study from Food Dive.
Maybe you’ve developed a lactose intolerance or are simply looking for tastier new additions to your plant-based diet. Whatever has brought you to your search for the perfect milk alternative, this guide will help.
As someone who’s spent the better part of the last five years trying every mylk option under the sun, I’ve learned a thing or two along the way about which brands and varieties taste best, what they pair well with, and how much they cost.
Here’s our handy guide to the eight absolute best milk alternatives.
What’s the Deal With Plant Milks?
Before we dive into which milk alternatives made our list, it’s helpful to understand a bit about the plant milk industry, which provides insights into why these drinks cost so much, and also why they can be found seemingly everywhere these days.
The main reason for both of these things is that plant milk companies are required to spend a lot of money on processing, packaging, and marketing in order for their products to succeed.
On the flip side, the same researchers behind that Food Dive study say the dairy milk companies don’t spend nearly enough on R&D and also that they price their products too low.
Translation? Plant milk might not be expensive so much as it is accurately priced for profit.
But one thing’s for sure: The plant milk industry is on fire. In 2021, plant-based milks accounted for 16% of all retail milk dollar sales, to the tune of $2.6 billion in sales, according to a recent study from the Plant Based Foods Association.
The trajectory for plant-based milks doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon either, since these numbers also represent a 33% growth in the industry over the past three years, which is part of a larger trend of the nearly 79 million American households now buying plant-based foods.
All of which is to say: If you’re buying plant-based milk, you’re in good company. Here are some of our favorites for you to consider next time you’re at the grocery store.
Best Plant Milks at a Glance
- Best for Health Nuts: Pacific Foods Soy Milk Unsweetened Original
- Best for Gluten Sensitivities: Almond Breeze Original Unsweetened Almond Milk
- Best Eco-Friendly: Pacific Foods Hemp Unsweetened Original Beverage
- Best for Cooking: Silk Organic Unsweetened Soy Milk
- Best in Coffee: Silk Original Oatmilk
- Best in Smoothies: SO Delicious Organic Unsweetened Coconut Milk
- Best with Cookies: Great Value Extra Creamy Oat Milk
- Best to Drink Plain: Silk Nextmilk
Best for Health Nuts: Pacific Foods Soy Milk
Price: $3.79 per 32 ounces
If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to cow’s milk, soy milk might be your best bet. That’s because nutritionally it has a similar profile to cow’s milk.
More specifically, the Unsweetened Original soy beverage from Pacific Foods, currently priced around $3.79 per 32 ounces, offers 16% of your daily value of protein and 10% of your potassium intake.
Expensive though it may be, this soy milk is delicious and versatile, so you can use it in everything from baking to your bowl of cereal. I also like that these come in smaller, packable units that don’t require refrigeration — meaning you can stock up on a bunch and just open them as needed.
Something to keep in mind is that soy can be hard to digest for some people. If that sounds like you, then you might want to try something a bit easier on the gut.
Best for Gluten Sensitivities: Almond Breeze Original
Price: $3.79 per 64 ounces
Speaking of easier on the gut, Almond Breeze Original Unsweetened Almond Milk is a great choice for anyone trying to play it safe with a gluten allergy.
Although most almond milks steer clear of any gluten additives, this company is an industry leader that you can trust won’t accidentally expose you to anything.
It’s also just a really delicious plant-based milk from a company that’s been selling almond products for years. Currently retailing for $3.79 per half-gallon, this almond milk can also be found in a variety of flavors including vanilla, chocolate or extra creamy.
The reason we chose the unsweetened original has to do with versatility. You can use this delicious and healthy milk in just about anything, but it’s especially good in recipes where you want a lighter milk (i.e., less creamy).
Best Eco-Friendly: Pacific Foods Hemp Unsweetened Original Beverage
Price: $3.80 per 32 ounces
You’ve likely heard the argument before: Almond milk uses a lot of water, and soy milk production contributes to deforestation.
So which plant milk is actually okay for the environment? Each obviously has its own impact, but one of the best options we’ve found is hemp milk.
Since nearly all parts of this relatively unfussy plant get used, and it actually enriches the soil it grows in, hemp has risen to the top of our list for eco-friendly plant milks.
It’s also a pretty delicious milk for everyday use, and this particular one from Pacific Foods has an especially nutty taste and creamy texture that I’ve come to love.
Currently retailing at $3.80 per 32 ounces, this milk is definitely on the higher end of the price spectrum.
Best for Cooking: Silk Organic Unsweetened Soy Milk
Price: $4.49 per 64 ounces
If you plan to use your plant milk to make lots of creamy soups or sauce recipes, then you’re going to want to choose a milk that’s high in fat, like this Organic Unsweetened Soy Milk from Silk, currently priced at $4.49 per half-gallon.
Versatile enough to be used in baking sweet treats or concocting up a savory dish, this milk also has a relatively smooth flavor profile, meaning it won’t overpower whatever recipe you’re going for.
Best With Coffee: Silk Original Oatmilk
Price: $5.49 per 64 ounces
I’m a pretty big coffee drinker, so you can trust me when I say I’ve tried a lot of milks in my homemade lattes. But by far the most delicious of these has been the Silk Original Oatmilk.
Slightly sweet and incredibly creamy, this plant milk alternative checks all the right boxes whether you’re mixing a dirty chai, or just adding a splash to your morning brew.
Out of all the milks on this list, this one is probably my favorite taste-wise, and you can almost always find it in my fridge.
Currently retailing at $5.49 per half-gallon, this plant milk certainly isn’t cheap, but it still beats the cost of going out for coffee.
Best in Smoothies: SO Delicious Organic Unsweetened Coconut Milk
Price: $6.49 per 64 ounces
Although you will need to actually like the taste of coconut to benefit from this suggestion, this highly-drinkable carton of coconut milk is one of my favorites for smoothies and other blended drinks (Pina Colada anyone?).
Since coconut is naturally sweet, I prefer this unsweetened version, which also has 120% of your DV in vitamin B12.
You can currently buy this delicious coconut milk for roughly $6.49 per half-gallon.
Best With Cookies: Great Value Extra Creamy Oat Milk
Price: $3.79 per 59 ounces
There are certain nostalgic milk-food pairings that aren’t easily mimicked with plant-based milks, but this Extra Creamy Oat Milk from Walmart’s in-house brand comes pretty darn close.
Another reason I love this milk (and that it’s my No. 2 favorite on this list)? The price. Currently going for $3.78 per 59 ounces, this oat milk is significantly cheaper than the competition.
It also, as the name would suggest, has that extra creamy flavor profile that makes it the perfect choice for drinking alongside your favorite sweet treat (like a chocolate-chip cookie).
Best to Drink Plain: Silk Nextmilk
Price: $5.89 per 59 ounces
For those reading this who just want plain old deliciously satisfying, can’t-tell-it’s-not-milk milk — this one’s for you.
The aptly named Silk Nextmilk is the company’s own proprietary blend of oat milk, coconut milk, soy and a whole slew of added vitamins that creates the closest thing to milk (while still being plant-based) that I’ve ever tasted.
Available for $5.89 per 59 ounces either in a full fat and reduced fat version, this highly drinkable beverage is also versatile enough to be used in cooking, with your morning cereal or just about any other way you’d normally consume a dairy milk.
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