There are so many different types of dairy-free milk for sale nowadays that it can be a struggle to choose the best one. There are different plant-based milks that work best in different elements of cooking that it can just be a case of trial and error. The most common substitute is soya milk and is most readily available – this was my first experience of dairy-free milk.
There are many others you can try though including rice, oat, coconut and nut milks. Any nut milk is out of the question for our household because my mum has a nut allergy so we cannot have it in the house, and from personal taste, I am not so keen on the nutty flavour.
Comparing types of Dairy-free Milk
Oat milk is a good substitute, although I have never actively bought it, I had a hot chocolate once made with oat milk and a porridge tasting hot chocolate was definitely NOT what I was after. Safe to say there are other versions I would choose over this. However, my boyfriend loves the taste with his coffee, so this might be one to try if coffee is your thing!
In recent years I began to find that Soya milk caused bloating and after research found that the soya bean is a high FODMAP. This means that for those living with IBS, this could be a trigger. So, whilst I was enjoying endless hot chocolates and creamy coolers when I worked at Costa, the whole reason for my bloating symptoms were down to soya milk. After testing, I found that I am triggered by quantity rather than the substance itself so this is milk isn’t black-listed.
I have since moved onto rice milk and find that for most recipes, rice milk does the trick. It is a thinner consistency and is much watery than the other substitutes but works well. It is naturally gluten-free and a lot of the brands selling rice milk are also suitable for nut allergy suffers. This is what I call a win!
Making custard can be challenging when making with rice milk because of its thin consistency. The custard can end up being quite orange in colour too, and Mum usually has to put it back on the hob to let it thicken up.
A trick for this is to combine 2 different types of milk. When making the custard mixture, I use a dash of soya cream with the custard powder and sugar for a thick creamy mixture. We then heat rice milk on the hob and simply mix it with the custard base. Perfect custard every time!
Coconut milk is also a great choice for cooking with, especially Chicken Katsu Curry and Thai Green Chicken Curry. It is creamy and delicious, low in FODMAPs, and gluten-free. The only issue I have found is the cartons of coconut milk are not suitable for nut-allergy suffers because of cross-contamination in the factory and they ‘may contain’ nuts.
Although if you buy tinned coconut milk, this is fine for allergy suffers, although slightly clunky if using for tea. I use coconut milk for cooking so a tin works for me. Plus, a tin is recyclable so means less waste.
The Best Dairy-free Milk for Tea
The one thing I missed so badly after finding out I was lactose intolerant was having a nice cup of English tea. Peppermint tea and other herbal teas are great at settling down your tummy, but you cannot beat a nice proper tea! Unfortunately, rice milk tends to separate when added to tea, even when I’ve used tea bags especially formulated for non-dairy milk.
It has only been now that I have sat down and really worked out the magic of a dairy-free cup of tea. I like proper builders’ tea so the less milk the better, but find that dairy-free milks can be very strong in taste. I brew my tea for a much shorter time than if I was using normal milk and so only have to use a splash of non-dairy milk. Sometimes I treat myself with using soya cream – this really is the best, but most of the time use soya or coconut milk, if I have a can open.
One good thing about using the cream though is that it comes in a much smaller carton! So I know that I will be able to use it up before it goes out of date.
In summary, there are many different dairy-free milks to choose from. My personal preference is rice milk and soya milk/cream. They are fairly standard and are suitable for all allergens and intolerances in my family, and don’t have an overpowering taste.
Let me know which one is your favourite!