Lilk the common blend oat and rice
- Best: Overall
- Type of milk: Oat and rice blend
- Size: 1l
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 milkin 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.
Sproud plant-based milk unsweetened
- Best: For cooking
- Type of milk: Pea
- Size: 1l
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.
Oatly oat drink barista edition
- Best: For coffee
- Type of milk: Oat
- Size: 1l
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”.
Califia Farms unsweetened almond
- Best: Almond milk
- Type of milk: Almond
- Size: 750ml
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 like 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 (£2.10, Asda.com).
- Best: Fresh taste
- Type of milk: Coconut
- Size: 750ml
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).
Plenish cashew m*lk
- Best: For minimal ingredients
- Type of milk: Cashew
- Size: 1l
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.
Jord oat and hemp drink
- Best: Hemp milk
- Type of milk: Oat
- Size: 1l
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 are 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.
Dug original potato
- Best: For sustainability
- Type of milk: Potato
- Size: 1l
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.
Rude Health roasted almond and oat drink
- Best: For something sweet
- Type of milk : Almond and oat
- Size: 1l
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.
Borna lightly sweetened pistachio drink, two pack
- Best: For aromatic indulgence
- Type of milk: Pistachio
Aromatic and sweet but not at all cloying, the pistachio flavour here is a little addictive – we had to stop ourselves friom 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.
Alpro soya no sugars
- Best: For tea
- Type of milk: Soya
- Size: 1l
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 (£1.85, Sainsburys.co.uk).