What can I substitute for milk?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “What can I substitute for milk?” with an in-depth analysis of the possible substitutes of milk and their nutritional components.

What can I substitute for milk?

We can have a large number of substitutes for milk such as yoghurt which is thicker than milk and has even more fat, a cream that is also prepared by milk, and has all the nutritional supplements that are necessary for body maintenance.

Grocery store shelves and refrigerated cases have for many years carried numerous non-dairy products with package labels that include the word “milk,” such as almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, oat milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, and pea milk. According to Dairy Management Inc., retail sales of these products reached 8.7% of the combined milk and non-dairy milk alternative beverage market on a volume (gallons) basis in 2019 (1).

Substituted products

Cow’s milk is considered one of the most nutritional products among all other dairy products and also it is a staple meal in many places. Its consumption process can vary like it can be taken as a beverage, can be added to tea or coffee, and also it gives a good taste to smoothies and cereals.

Some people avoid milk to drink, reason can vary from individual to individual, as some avoid it based on personal preferences, some might have an allergy or it might be possible that they have an intolerance of milk or maybe due to diet restrictions, such as hypercholesterolemia (2).

In the substituted products, dairy and non-dairy both are available, like

Soy milk

Soy milk is usually extracted from soybeans or it can be from isolated soy protein components. It might contain thickeners to increase the consistency of milk and also the taste. These thickeners may be vegetable oil.

Its flavour is mild and creamy, and its taste varies between brands. It is a good alternate drink that can be used in many dishes, maybe in coffee or in cereals.

In nutritional terms, soy milk is a non-dairy product that is approximately equal to cow’s milk. The amount of protein is almost the same in both the dairy and non-dairy products of milk. Soy milk contains 7g of protein per 8 ounces (236.6ml) which is comparable with dairy milk. It also contains isoflavones, which prehistorically are well recognized for their protective effect against some most important health conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis (2).

Soybean is one of the plant-based products which is enriched with high protein, which gives all necessary amino acids. These amino acids are not self-generated in the body, these must be given through the diet.  The basic functions of protein’s in the nutrition system to supply adequate amounts of essential and non-essential amino acids. Soymilk contained a considerable amount of essential and branched chain amino acids. But the low content of the essential amino acid L-methionine in soy protein limits its nutritive value (3). 

Soy milk is not recommended for those people who are with FODMAP intolerance. The absence of a-galactosidase in the human intestinal tract makes oligosaccharides present in soy milk like stachyose and raffinose indigestible and thus leading to gas production (2).

FODMAP is termed as short-chains of carbohydrates that are naturally present in food, which cann cause digestive problems such as bloating and gas.

Almond milk

Almond milk is also a non-dairy product which is a good alternative to cow’s milk. 

It has a mild sweet taste with a light texture and nutty flavour. It can be added to tea, coffee can also be used in baking goods, in most of the desserts, and can also be mixed in smoothies.

In a comparison with cow’s milk, it is low in nutritional components such as it has almost a quarter of the calories and fat content is also half than the cow’s milk. Almond milk is also lower in carbohydrates and protein.

It is a good option of milk for those who want to consume milk with lower calories.

The positive side of almond milk is that it is enriched with Vitamin E that protects the body from disease-causing agents that may be called free radicals. Vitamin E is termed a group of antioxidants that have several benefits for a healthy body. It also contains vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6, monounsaturated fats and phenolic compounds (2). 

The nutritional content of almond milk is less than the almond itself because in almond milk we have to mix it with water to make a runny fluid.

Most of the brands use 2 percent of almonds and the rest of the water in almond milk, which is also said that it is balanced often with the brown peel of almonds that has a lower content of protein, vitamin, and mineral content.

For good almond milk, choose those brands which are higher in almond content that may be 7 to 15 per cent.

Coconut milk

Coconut milk is creamy in texture with a sweet taste but having the subtle flavour of coconut. It is prepared by mixing water with the flesh of the coconut which is inside the brown skin.

It is one of the most sale items in non-dairy milk products especially in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine, where this diluted version of coconut milk is sold in cartons.

The level of calories in coconut’s milk is one-third of the cow’s milk, fat is half, protein and carbohydrate level is significantly less than cow’s milk.

Presence of medium-chain triglycerides makes coconut milk an easily digestible nondairy substitute. Unlike other milk analogs containing long chain fatty acids, coconut contains medium-chain fatty acids that can be easily absorbed and metabolized by the liver to convert into ketone compounds, which are useful in brain functioning and to relieve memory impairment like Alzheimer. Along with medium-chain fatty acids, soluble and insoluble fiber content increases the nutritional value of coconut with various antioxidant properties. The milk also contains a fairly good amount of minerals and vitamins. Coconut milk contains the highest amount of fat and the least amount of protein among the non-dairy milk (2).

In coconut milk, most of the calories almost 90 per cent come from saturated fat, consisting of a kind of saturated fat that is known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).

Other FAQs about Milk that you may be interested in.

Can you give milk to dogs?

Can vegetarians drink milk?

Can you freeze milk?


In this short article, we have answered the question “What can I substitute for milk?” with an in-depth analysis of the possible substitutes of milk and their nutritional components.


  1. Stewart, Hayden, et al. Are plant-based analogues replacing cow’s milk in the American diet?. J Agric Appl Econ, 2020, 52, 562-579.
  2. Paul, Anna Aleena, et al. Milk Analog: Plant based alternatives to conventional milk, production, potential and health concerns. Crit rev food sci nutr, 2020, 60, 3005-3023.  
  3. Mazumder, Md Anisur Rahman, and Anjuman Ara Begum. Soy milk as source of nutrient for malnourished population of developing country: A review. Int J Adv Scient Technic Res, 2016, 5, 192-203.