Different milk substitutes
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With dairy substitutes increasing in type and popularity, restaurants have been taking advantage of these alternatives to better serve their patrons. Here are some of the most commonly used cow milk substitutes.

Soy Milk

Bowl of soy next to soy milk. A dairy alternative.

Soy milk is stable at high temperatures which means it is successful when used in baking, preparing creamy sauces, and creating warm savory meals. This multipurpose dairy alternative also has the ability to curdle with vinegar and transform into vegan buttermilk.

Benefits of Soy Milk:

  • May help to lower blood pressure
  • Produces a similar consistency to cow’s milk
  • Appropriate for sweet and savory dishes
  • High levels of protein and unsaturated fat
  • No cholesterol

Almond Milk

Hand holding almonds.

Almond milk has a thinner consistency than other dairy substitutes — its consistency is also comparable to skim milk. It is one of the ideal milks to use in smoothies as well as a substitute for coffee creamer, and in baking. One potential drawback of almond milk is it doesn’t contain much protein.

Benefits of Almond Milk

  • Low calorie
  • Comes in sweetened and unsweetened varieties
  • No cholesterol

Cashew Milk

Cashews

One of the more healthy alternatives, cashew milk is starting to take the place of almond milk in the cooking world. It’s creamier and offers more of a nutty flavor. It’s perfect when cooking sauces and ice cream alternatives. The great thing about cashew milk is its versatility. It can be added to sweet or savory recipes.

Benefits of Cashew Milk

  • Used as a substitute for chicken and vegetable broth for added creaminess
  • Barista blends add a nutty flavor and are specially formulated to prevent separating
  • It’s versatile and appropriate in sweet and savory dishes
  • High in monounsaturated fatty acids

Oat Milk

Oats spread out.

Oat milk has shot up in popularity over the last couple of years. Another alternative to those with nut allergies, oat milk has a great taste and is naturally creamier than other substitutes. Its taste is similar to whole milk and has taken the spot for substitutes in coffee shops. When added to shakes and smoothies, it increases the thickness of the mixture.

Benefits of Oat Milk

  • Replicates the viscosity of dairy milk but with added flavor
  • A great substitute for those with nut allergies
  • Sweetened oat milk can be used for desserts
  • Unsweetened can be used for savory dishes

Coconut Milk

Pair of coconuts with one cut in half showing what makes coconut milk, a dairy alternative.

Commonly used in Indian and Thai food, coconut milk very creamy and delicious. When choosing coconut milk as an alternative, remember that your dish is going to absorb a lot of that coconut flavor. The canned version works well in soup, stew, curry, sauce, and pudding.

Benefits of Coconut Milk

  • No cholesterol
  • High fat, low protein
  • Pairs well with tofu

Accommodate the Lactose Intolerant

Lactose intolerance is one of the biggest reasons alternatives are being added to menus. It is estimated that 65% of the world has some form of lactose intolerance. Lactose is a sugar found in milk, cheese, or ice cream. 

Given how many people are lactose intolerant and given the side effects, it’s no wonder foodservice managers are on the lookout for dairy-free beverages and ingredients. If a customer has a dairy and nut allergy, restaurant owners can use oat or hemp. To have versatility means to have more customers.

Add New Flavors to Your Menu

Cafes that use oat milk in coffee finds it adds a pleasant flavor and a more foamy consistency. Blends specifically created for coffee shops are specially formulated to froth with consistency as well as exhibit less of a reaction to the acidity of coffee.

If you’ve ever had soy milk curdle in coffee, it’s because of the acid in the coffee reacting with the binding agent used to keep the soy from separating out. When cooking with dairy alternatives, it’s important to replicate the number of proteins and fat that milk has so you can create the same consistency.

For Animals and the Environment

Much like the Impossible Burger, people and businesses who purchase dairy substitutes may be doing it for ethical reasons including the effect dairy farming has on the environment. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, “Dairy cows and their manure produce greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to climate change and poor handling of manure and fertilizers can degrade local water resources”. Plant-based alternatives may prove to be significantly better for the environment.

Dairy farming, at best, occupies a grey area in terms of whether or not it is a humane practice. Those with ethical concerns about the treatment of animals may prefer dairy alternatives as a means of doing right.

Non-dairy milk alternatives originally found only in traditional “health food” stores can now be found in local grocery stores across the country. With so many benefits to including dairy alternatives on your menu, it’s the perfect time for restaurateurs to start expanding their food and beverage offerings.

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