There are numerous reasons why a person might seek out a milk alternative. Maybe you oppose the dairy industry or are simply trying to stay away from animal products. Maybe you're lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy. Or maybe you just think it's kind of weird to be drinking something that came from a cow boob.
Whether you're fully abstaining from moo juice or you're just interested in trying out different options, you'll find that in today's market there are a plethora of different types and flavors of "milk". We were amazed how many we found even in our local suburban Kroger. While it would be an amazingly tough, but fun journey to taste test all the different types, we decided to start by pitting a couple of the classics against one another.
We chose Blue Diamond Original Almond Milk (the one in the refrigerated section) and matched it against Whole Foods Store Brand 365 Original Soy Milk (also refrigerated). With this face-off, we were judging in several areas: how it tastes on its own, how it goes with our morning latte and cereal, and how well it works in cooking and baking.
Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almond Milk Original Flavor
First off, we are big, big fans of almonds, so we were pleased to discover that our nutty little friends had teats large enough to produce milk for us. Concerning the nutritional value of this almond milk, it is low in calories and fat (60 and 2.5 per cup, respectively). It also offers a touch of fiber, fairly low sugar content, and a respectable amount of calcium (30% of your RDA), Vitamin D (25%), Vitamin E (a whopping 50%), and a little Vitamin A (10%). Not too shabby.
Pouring ourselves a glass of almond milk, we were surprised how bright white it was. It certainly looked like milk, even bubbling up gently along the edge of the glass. The taste was a little creamier and milkier than we had expected. The nut flavor was very subtle, and not at all overpowering. It had a nice sweetness to it that would lend itself well to breakfast cereal. When we added it to our doubleshot, it was actually very tasty, with enough sweetness already in it (thanks to the addition of evaporated cane juice) that we didn't even need to load it full of vanilla syrup, our usual morning vice. Thus far it was yummy on its own, had a good consistency, and paired well with our granola and latte. So far, so good.
Now for the cooking test. We decided to try the milk in a few different recipes. We happened to be cooking mashed potatoes, cupcakes, and cornbread that week, so these recipes were the guinea pigs for our experiment. With the mashed potatoes, we found that the almond milk was a bit too sweet for our taste. Our dinner guests were torn, though. Some enjoyed the back note of sweetness and thought it added a nice uniqueness to the potatoes, while others balked at the divergence from the classic.
The cupcakes, however, were a huge success! The sweet almond flavor in our vanilla bean cupcakes was so delicious that many of our guests ate two or three of the little treats. We would recommend almond milk for baking sweets even if you're a hardcore cow milk devotee. The cornbread turned out well, too. No complaints and the consistency was still nice crumbly.
365 Organic Soymilk Original Flavor
We are those hippie-ish type of people who really like soy: we order tofu just for fun and eat edamame daily. So we had high hopes for this milk alternative mainstay. Let's quickly get the dirty work out of way: the nutritional facts. The soy milk is one and half times the calories of almond milk (90 per cup), though this is still low. The fat content is a bit higher as well (3.5). It also offers twice the fiber, less sugar, and the same amount of calcium (30% of your RDA), more vitamin D (30%), less vitamin E (25%),plus a host of other vitamins such as B12 (50%), Zinc (10%), and Riboflavin (40%). Quite a healthy little beverage.
The first thing we noticed when pouring a glass was that the color was a bit darker and more beige-y than milk. It had a little bubble to it, but seemed denser than the almond milk. The taste was rich with a distinctively non-dairy flavor. It was definitely drinkable, but would be unlikely to fool anyone into thinking they were imbibing cow's milk. Like the almond milk, it had a subtle nutty aftertaste which was quite good.
We added it to our afternoon latte (yes, we drink too much espresso) and again found the taste uniquely original, but still good. It was not quite as satisfying as the almond milk latte and we did find ourselves adding in some vanilla simple syrup. The next morning, we added the soy milk to our bowl of raisin bran and had a good breakfast, but again preferred the light sweetness of the almond milk.
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Next it was time to try it out on our dinner guests. We added some soymilk to our Yukon Golds and made a nice dish of mashed potatoes. Everyone enjoyed these and found them preferable to the almond milk counterpart. In the cupcakes and cornbread, the soy milk was an excellent substitute. We didn't find that it altered the flavor or texture significantly at all.
The good news is: for people eschewing cow's milk in favor of plant sources of milk, both almond and soy milk were great alternatives. We recommend going with the Almond Milk for breakfast foods, baking sweets, and if you're really looking for a good doppelganger for cow's milk. For savory cooking and baking, go with the soy stuff.
Coming soon - these two tried and true favorites take on their arch nemesis: rice milk.