Non-Dairy Alternatives to Cow’s Milk

Non-Dairy Alternatives to Cow’s Milk


Soy milk is growing in popularity as a beverage. In some homes it is even replacing dairy milk both as a beverage and as an ingredient in cooking. This may be due to allergies, a desire to avoid all animal products in the diet, or for some other reason. It should be noted, however, that soy is not the only possible substitute for plant based milk maker that carton of pasteurized cow’s milk. Rice, oats, various nuts, and even potatoes are all qualified candidates.

These milks may look like the skim, 2% or homogenized milk so commonly found in the dairy section of your local grocery store, but they are not, of course, the nutritional equivalent of that milk, nor do they taste exactly the same. There is nothing wrong with that. They are simply different. Whether they are better or worse depends upon what you expect from these various choices.

Some of the Options

Fresh, Pasteurized Cow’s Milk: Nutritionally rich, this milk is a prime source of Vitamin D, and well as calcium and a number of other minerals. It is also high in protein and often fortified with Vitamin A, and some Vitamin C. Carbohydrates are present in all forms of cow milk, although fat content will vary depending upon the type of milk chosen. Skim milk, of course, contains the least with a calorie content of approximately 90 calories per cup compared to 130 for 2%. Dairy milk is the basis for most yogurts and drinks such as egg nog. With a shelf life of one and a half to two weeks and requiring refrigeration, in its liquid form it is not suitable for long term food storage.

Powdered Milk: Powdered milk is made from fresh milk which has been pasteurized, evaporated and then spray dried. Generally, skim milk is used, as fat content tends to lower shelf life. Skim milk powder has a storage life of about 18 months (or longer if properly packaged). There is little nutritional loss from the fresh product, but taste may be affected. Refrigeration of the un-reconstituted milk is not required, but high relative humidity and high ambient temperatures while in storage can degrade nutritional values

Instant Milk: Although similar in appearance to powdered milk, and costing a little more, instant milk is produced using a freeze drying or crystallization process. Nutrients are preserved, and many consider the taste to be superior. It also is easier to mix than the powdered variety.

Soy Milk: This is the most common substitute for dairy milk. Easily produced at home, especially with use of a soy milk maker, soy milk is, indeed, a healthy alternative. It has almost as much protein as its dairy counterpart, less fat, and no cholesterol. Soy milk does have a lower mineral content than cow’s milk, but, on the other hand, it provides additional heart protection with phytochemicals, which are found in abundance in soy milk, whereas dairy milk lacks these helpful chemicals.

Soy milk can easily substitute for cow’s milk as a beverage, in recipes of all sorts, and in many other ways. It can even be used to produce a nice, creamy home made yogurt. Although not normally quite as thick as dairy yogurt, it can be thickened through the use of agar powder, corn starch or arrowroot. If using corn starch, which is readily available, mix 2 tsp. of starch in 30 ml. of cold water and add the mixture to the soy milk just before boiling.

As has been said, the flavor is different, so a little experimenting might be in order. Some, for instance, suggest adding a touch of vanilla flavoring to soy milk when using it on cereal. Soy beans have an 18 month shelf life, so home made soy milk is a good candidate for your long term, food storage program.