The 411 on Plant-Based Milks

The 411 on Plant-Based Milks

Kerry Roberts

Almond milk. Coconut milk. Oat milk. Pea milk. The ‘dairy’ aisle sure doesn't look like it used to!  If your eyes have crossed while trying to select from shelf after shelf of artisanalmylks” or a $7 bottle of pistachio milk has ever spoiled in your fridge simply because you did not know what to do with it—even though you really wanted to be that person—rest assured you are not alone. We are right there with you.   

We love the idea of using plant-based milk as a base to our smoothies. They offer a variety of flavor and nutritional profiles that will keep things interesting your blender, and hey, it’s always fun to experiment.  So, we went on a *little* deep dive on the topic and enlisted the culinary wizardry of everyone’s favorite holistic chef, Heidi to conjure up the very best plant-based milk pairings for our smoothies. Here are our findings on all things plant-based milk: 

Roll Call: The Most Popular Plant-Based Milks 

Almond Milk:  The homecoming queen of plant-based milk. People love it for its mild flavor, versatility, and low-calorie count.   

Things to know: While actual almonds are great sources of protein (6 grams in a single nut!) almond milk is relatively low in protein—just 1 gram per glass.  If you’re looking for a nutrient boost, you may want to go for the fortified version. Fortified almond milk typically contains vitamin D, calcium and protein, making it more similar to regular milk in nutritional content. However, almond milk is naturally rich in several vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E. And as always, be sure to read the label as almond milk can be full of added sugar and fillers. Simple rule? The fewer ingredients, the better.  

Oat Milk: You’ve probably seen this deliciousness popping up on the chalkboard menu at your favorite coffee shop. Oat milk offers a creamy, slightly sweet flavor that pairs well with your latte, among other things. And because oats absorb more water than nuts when soaked, more of the oat (and therefore, the oat’s nutrients and creamy texture) make it into the milk.   

Things to know:  While its protein content is still lower than cow’s milk or soy milk, it’s higher than most nut milk varieties. It’s higher in carbohydrates and fiber than fat, but that is its energy-giving secret sauce. 

Coconut Milk: Believe it or not, coconut milk does not occur naturally in coconuts (that would be coconut water). Coconut meat is blended with water to create what we know as coconut milk, in all it’s thick and creamy glory. Coconut milk is versatile, used in both sweet and savory dishes. It also makes a great addition to your smoothie. The flavor is not as mild as oat and almond milk, so play to the flavor!  

Things to know: Coconut milk is calorie-dense and high in healthy fats. This will help keep you satiated and help your body better absorb all the vitamins and nutrients in the coconut milk. Canned coconut milk will be thick and extra rich, while carton coconut milk has a thinner consistency.  

Pea Milk: It may be a funky concept, but don't sleep on it: pea milk is creamy, tasty, and has an impressive nutritional profile. It’s an excellent source of plant-based protein (8 grams!) and is rich in potassium, iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and calcium. Certain brands are also fortified with omega-3's. Total nutrient powerhouse! 

Things to know: While unsweetened pea milk is relatively low in carbs and sugar, be wary of the flavored varieties, which may contain added sugar and other ingredients.   

 CHEF HEIDI’S GUIDE TO PLANT-BASED NUT MILK PAIRINGS 

  1. Pina Colossal: This blend pairs best with a full-fat coconut milk (yes, the kind that comes in a can!). The fatty content of the milk allows the tangy flavors in this smoothie to blossom and complements the overall flavor profile very well. 
  2. Unbelievaberry: This berry blend pairs best with a vanilla-flavored almond milk. The sweetness and vanilla flavor add a complimentary zing to this tangy berry blend that helps to round it out while offering an interesting twist. 
  3. Greens With Envy: Oat milk is a wonderful complement to Greens With Envy. The mild flavor of this nut milk works very well with the complex flavors in the green smoothie blend. Almond milk also offers a nutty twist that brings out the almond flavor of the blend. 
  4. Ripe Rebound: Heidi recommends blending this immune booster with oat milk. Of the dairy alternative milks, oat has the mildest and smoothest flavor, and of our blends, Ripe Rebound has the most complex and robust flavor profile. Plus, oat milk adds a creamy finish!