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The Only Non-Dairy Milk Guide You Need

Everything you need to know about 6 (!) different milks and exactly which you should be drinking when.

chanel fall 2014
Illustration by Meghann Stephenson
Meghann Stephenson

“Do you have any almond milk?” We’re going to wager you’re guilty of uttering those six words just this morning. As non-dairy options crop up with increasing regularity down grocery store aisles and on corner coffee shop counters, you’ve likely found yourself lingering over your options. That’s where the questions begin. Will it clump up in my coffee? Or make it taste...different? What’s better in my smoothie? Is it even actually good for me?

We teamed up with McKel Hill, the nutritionist behind Nutrition Stripped, for a handy little go-to guide to break down just about every alternative milk there is. So the next time you find yourself being forced to choose between soy, hemp or coconut, you’ll know exactly what to reach for.

TASTE PROFILE: Slightly sweet, nutty.

BENEFITS: “Almonds naturally contain vitamin E, B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and healthy fats (monounsaturated).”

BEST WITH: “I use almond milk with everything from oatmeal porridge, in smoothies, hot cocoa, my famous Turmeric Milk, and other dishes where dairy milk is typically used. It’s my go-to non-dairy milk and the most versatile.”

BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE IN COFFEE? “Great if you blend a little bit with coconut milk! Almond milk tends to separate when heated, therefore the best practice may be to add room-temperature almond milk to warm or hot coffee.”


TASTE PROFILE: Smooth, creamy, slightly sweet.

BENEFITS: “Soy milk has a nutrition profile most similar to dairy milk (higher in protein, carbohydrates, and lower in fat than most other non-dairy milk). I don’t recommend drinking soy milk multiple times a day, every day, as the soy proteins in soy milk are concentrated more than those proteins would be found in whole foods like organic edamame, organic tempeh, or organic soy nuts. Be mindful of your soy intake overall, but there’s no need to eliminate soy as it has beneficial phytonutrients.”

BEST WITH: “Any recipe [in which] you would typically use dairy milk; soy milk is the most similar to dairy milk in texture.”

BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE WITH COFFEE? “Soy milk tastes great in coffee, dissolves well without any clumps or grittiness. Depending on the brand, soy milk in a coffee can give it an aftertaste.”


TASTE PROFILE: Creamy, sweet, the least nutty flavor of all nut and seed milks.

BENEFITS: “A good source of healthy fats, copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc.”

BEST WITH: “Cashew milk is great for when you need to thicken smoothies, add richness to non-dairy ice creams or savory dishes. My favorite way to enjoy cashew milk is poured into a tall glass with a side of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies.”

BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE WITH COFFEE? “Cashew milk is one of the three non-dairy kinds of milk I use in tea or coffee (the others being coconut milk or almond milk) due to the flavor, richness, and how it mixes with coffee. Homemade cashew milk is the best to use in coffee and mixes well! Try it with my Nourishing Muesli.”


TASTE PROFILE: Slightly sweet, nutty, watery texture.

BENEFITS: “Hemp seed milk’s nutrition profile is highest in omega-3 fatty acids (anti-inflammatory and heart-healthy fats), and the actual seed contains the most protein out of all the non-dairy nuts and seeds, with about 11g of protein per three tablespoons.”

BEST WITH: “To drink on its own, enjoyed with cold cereal, incorporated into smoothies or anything that requires lighter milk (compared to skim dairy milk).”

BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE WITH COFFEE? “Hemp milk is the thinnest of the non-dairy kinds of milk, with a close second being rice milk. Hemp milk can be used in coffee, yet if you’re looking for a rich and creamy milk to add, coconut milk would be best. Leave hemp milk for drinking or adding to hot tea. Try it with my Super Seed Muesli with Hemp Milk.”


TASTE PROFILE: Slightly sweet, neutral.

BENEFITS: “Easy on digestion, especially great for those who have nut, soy, or seed allergies of any kind. Rice milk’s nutrition profile is slightly higher in carbohydrates than most other non-dairy milk due to its source, which is a carbohydrate. Rice milk doesn’t contain as much protein or fat as most other non-dairy milk.”

BEST WITH: “Mixed in smoothies, porridges, cold cereals, and is great for the little ones to drink on its own.”

BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE WITH COFFEE? “Rice milk, like hemp seed milk, is more watery than most other non-dairy kinds of milk.”


TASTE PROFILE: Sweet, subtle coconut flavor, thick, rich, and creamy.

BENEFITS: “High in healthy saturated fats, mainly in the form of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) which are a type of fat that is absorbed and utilized as energy similar to a carbohydrate rather than other fats (like almonds, olive oil, et cetera). Bullet coffee has made coconut oil and MCT oils famous in the past several years for its ability to transform coffee into a frothy treat by emulsifying the oils with coffee.”

BEST WITH: “Savory dishes like curry, soups, stews; perfect for thickening smoothies, smoothie bowls, porridges or other hot cereals. Try it with my Blue Morning Smoothie Bowl.”

BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE WITH COFFEE? “The cream of the crop, literally, coconut milk is the thickest and creamiest non-dairy milk and is best for coffee in my opinion. A little goes a long way, but the texture is most reminiscent of heavy cream or dairy milk.”


McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN is an internationally known Registered Dietitian, wellness nutritionist and the creator of Nutrition Stripped, the guide to living whole and well. Visit for nourishing recipes, her advice on living the whole lifestyle, inspiration, and for nutrition expertise. Her cookbook will be published early 2016. Be sure to check out her guide and tutorial for making your own nut and seed milks at home: Guide to Nut Milks.
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