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Taste Test: Dairy Alternatives

Once an alternative aimed at the health-conscious and lactose-intolerant, nut- and grain-based “milks” have come a long way, even swaying people typically devoted to dairy. The options are varied, run the gamut of sweetness, and are well-suited to coffee, cereal and smoothies, or for sipping solo. In recent years, oat milk has emerged as a dominant force within the category, though almond-based options continue to please, and nuts like macadamia, walnut and cashew are also growing in popularity.

Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almondmilk Unsweetened Original Almonds are one of California’s largest agricultural exports, and Sacramento-based Blue Diamond joined the alt-milk movement by launching Almond Breeze in the late ’90s. This exceedingly smooth “milk” captures the creaminess of almonds and has a toasty flavor with no sweetness.

Califia Farms Barista Blend Almondmilk The rise of nut-based milks proved precarious for baristas seeking to replicate the texture of real dairy. Fortunately, Califia has achieved a silky, barely sweet option with their Barista Blend. Added thickeners lend a full-bodied feel and make it an excellent option for at-home foam.

Chobani Oat Plain Chobani’s line of oat milks—Zero Sugar, Chocolate, Vanilla, Plain, and Plain Extra Creamy—offer the same delicious quality we’ve come to expect from the company who helped make Greek yogurt the phenomenon it is today. For everyday use, the Plain offers a medium-bodied mouthfeel and light sweetness, perfect for cereals, hot drinks, and smoothies.

Elmhurst Unsweetened Milked Walnuts A proprietary cold-milling process fills New York–based Elmhurst’s stylish carton with genuine walnut flavor. Without stabilizers or thickeners, the milk’s texture is remarkably velvety and light. There’s a hint of maple sweetness that makes it a great option for baking or as a coffee creamer.

Forager Project Cashewmilk Original The creamy consistency of cashews makes this “milk” extra smooth. Dates lend a hint of fig-like sweetness, and a pure cashew flavor shines through each sip.

Malk Unsweetened Almondmilk Made with just three ingredients (organic almonds, Himalayan salt and filtered water), this almond milk from Texas’ family-owned- and-operated Malk won us over with its marzipan aroma and pure almond flavor. It has a hint of bitterness from freshly shelled, sprouted raw almonds, and its texture is a touch lighter than others, but the clean flavor is spot on.

Mand’Or Organic Almond Milk Made from a blend of organic almonds grown in Italy, this “milk” uses organic grape juice in place of added sugar, which lands the flavor on the sweeter side, but its luscious texture makes it a natural companion to coffee or tea.

Milkadamia Original Macadamia nuts harvested from family-owned farms on the eastern coast of Australia are used in this alt-milk that mimics the smooth texture of real dairy. With marshmallow-like sweetness upfront and a pronounced flavor of its namesake nut, this creamy option is a superb addition to morning coffee.

Oatly Barista Edition An ideal companion for your morning brew, Oatly devised this oat-based milk specifically to pair with coffee, and it has taken off in cafés everywhere since. With a texture that’s delightfully weighty and an even balance of sweetness, the lightly flavored oat milk foams up perfectly in a latte.

Pacific Organic Oat Pacific is known for its popular and well-established range of dairy alternatives, including almond, cashew, hemp, coconut, hazelnut, soy and oat. The organic oat has a natural sweetness and a pleasant texture, and it’s certified-organic and carageenan-free. Pacific’s excellent Barista Series also features their extensive flavor range formulated specifically for use in coffee drinks.

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