Looking for the best lactose-free milks? Rude Health founders Nick and Camilla Barnard talk us through the top dairy-free alternatives to try. From potato, oat and almond milk, to soya and hemp – we discuss the health benefits of each and how to use them at home.


If you follow a dairy-free diet, check out our delicious dairy-free recipes for breakfast, dinner and dessert. Plus, read our guide on how to follow a plant-based diet.

Some of us avoid milk because of a lactose intolerance, while others do it for environmental reasons. Whatever your reason for ditching the dairy, we’re very lucky to have a wide choice of alternative milks to choose from.

What are plant-based milks?

Plant-based milks often resemble cow's milk in colour and texture, but they're made from plants, nuts, seeds or vegetables. These are often boiled, steeped or soaked in water before being blitzed and strained to make a pourable liquid.

While there used to be a small number of plant-based milks available in health stores, they're now commonly available in most supermarkets. Most of these milks are versatile enough that they can be used in everything from tea and coffee to cakes and baking.

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What are the nutritional benefits of lactose-free milks?

Each dairy-free drink has the same nutritional benefits of the ingredients it's made with. If a drink contains oats, then it will have the benefits of the oats. You can also find fortified milks, where calcium, iron and other nutrients are added in to make sure you're getting what you need.

What are the pros of plant-based milks?

  • Plant-based milks have a smaller environmental impact than cow's milk as they use less energy and water and omit less carbon
  • They can be consumed by people with a dairy or lactose intolerance
  • Most plant-based milks are low in saturated fat compared to animal varieties
  • Plant-based milks contain some fibre
  • Certain plant-based milks are enriched with vitamin D and B12

What are the cons of plant-based milk?

  • Even fortified plant-based milks don't supply the levels of calcium your body needs
  • They may contain sweeteners, preservatives, thickeners and other additives which our bodies struggle to process
  • Some plant-based milks have a lower environmental impact than others. Almonds and rice, for example, use a lot of water to grow

What to look for when buying dairy-free milk

Start with flavour – experiment with a few milks to find out your personal preference. Do you prefer a slightly sweeter taste, a neutral milk or something nutty?

Consider the benefits – if you have a dairy allergy, you may want to find a fortified milk with added calcium. If protein is important, try a nut milk.

Check the ingredients – always look out for additives, such as sweeteners, oils and preservatives. These give the milk a longer shelf-life but not all of them are good for you. If possible, choose a milk that uses good quality, organic ingredients.

How you'll use it – you might want a mild-flavoured milk which stirs well into tea, a thick milk for making the perfect cappuccino or a milk with a strong flavour which lends itself well to baking, such as coconut.

Please note: we cannot guarantee the complete absence of dairy in the below alternatives. Always check the label.

What are the best dairy-free milk alternatives?

Soya milk

Soybeans and soy milk

Taste: Smooth, sweet and creamy.

Process: Dried soybeans are soaked overnight; once rehydrated the beans are ground with enough water to create the texture of milk.

Nutrition: Lower in fat than most other non-dairy milks, but higher in carbohydrate. We don’t recommend drinking it all day every day, as it has a higher concentration of protein than whole soya products.

Best use: The most similar to dairy milk, it can be substituted without any problems. Discover our best dairy-free recipes.

olive loves: Alpro organic no sugar soya drink, Sainsbury's £2.10

Potato milk

Potato milk in a glass

Taste: Sweet, creamy, not overpowering.

Process: It's a more sustainable choice than other milks, such as almond, as potatoes require less water to grow. To make it, potato flakes and oil are combined to make a smooth, creamy liquid. Sweetener and salt may be added, too.

Nutrition: It's naturally gluten-free, suitable for anyone with nut allergies and contains healthy fats, carbs, proteins and fibre.

Best use: Use it like you would any other milk alternative. Add to cereal, pancakes or other breakfast recipes. Add a splash to your tea or coffee for a sweeter hot drink.

olive loves: Dug barista potato milk, Waitrose £1.80

Almond milk

Taste: Less creamy than soya milk with a subtle nutty hint.

Process: Blended almonds and water – very easy to make at home.

Nutrition: Almonds naturally contain a variety of essential vitamins and minerals. Choose unsweetened for daily use.

Best use: As versatile as milk because of its subtle flavour. Add to coffee at room temperature to avoid separation.

olive loves: Rude Health organic almond drink, Ocado £2.30

Use it to make our vegan banana bread or sip on our almond milk smoothie.

Easy Vegan Banana Bread Sliced on a Board

Hazelnut milk

Hazelnut milk in glass with nuts alongside

Taste: Thick and creamy… drinking on its own tastes (and looks) like an indulgent chocolate milkshake.

Process: Hazelnuts are gently roasted before grounding and blending with water.

Nutrition: A source of vitamin B12 that some say can help reduce tiredness.

Best use: Makes a delicious hazelnut-flavour coffee or hot chocolate. Also a great replacement in baking for those who can’t, or choose not to, have dairy.

olive loves: Alpro hazelnut drink, Sainbury's £2.20

Coconut milk

Glass bottle with coconuts and coconut milk

Taste: Refreshing yet full-bodied with a subtle hint of coconut.

Process: Watered down coconut cream mixed with rice milk.

Nutrition: Lower in calories, but higher in saturated fat than other alternative milks.

Best use: Great in porridge, cereal and blended in smoothies. Also the best option for savoury cooking, including soups, curries and stews.

olive loves: Koko unsweetened milk, Morrisons £1.85

Use it to make our fragrant vegetarian curry.

Chickpea and Squash Coconut Curry Recipe

Rice milk

Rice milk in a glass

Taste: The thinnest of the alternative milks and not strongly flavoured.

Process: The rice is normally pressed through a mill to create a liquid and any remaining grains are then removed. It can also be made by boiling rice and blending, or by mixing rice flour with water and straining.

Nutrition: Shop-bought rice milk is usually fortified with vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin B3, and iron.

Best use: Not so good in coffee because of its watery texture, but great for cereal or to drink as you would a glass of cow's milk.

olive loves: Rude Health brown rice milk, Ocado £2.20

Learn how to make your own rice milk with our easy recipe.

Oat milk

Oat milk in a glass with oats

Taste: Deliciously smooth and naturally light.

Process: Oats blended with water.

Nutrition: Rich in fibre and contains naturally occurring sugar. Be aware that gluten-free oats are not always used, so check the label before buying.

Best use: Making even oatier porridge, or great in pancakes.

Olive loves: Plenish organic gluten-free oat drink, Ocado £2

Use it to make our healthy banana pancakes.

Plate of pancakes with syrup and bananas

Cashew milk

Raw cashews and a glass of cashew milk

Taste: Rich, creamy and similar in taste and texture to whole cow's milk.

Process: Raw cashews are soaked in water then blitzed and drained to make a smooth milk.

Nutrition: It's naturally gluten-free and low in calories, however it's low in protein and not suitable for those with a nut allergy. Sweeteners are often added.

Best use: The creamy consistency means it would be good in a smoothie or added to pancake batter.

olive loves: Plenish organic cashew nut drink, Ocado £2.50

Hemp milk

Hemp milk and seeds

Taste: A nutty flavour, but like rice milk, one of the thinner options.

Process: Crushed hemp seeds are blended with water and strained to remove any leftover solids.

Nutrition: Hemp is a trendy superfood that naturally contains 10 essential amino acids as well as being a great source of protein and vitamins.

Best use: The high protein content makes it great post-workout, either on its own or blended into smoothies.

olive loves: Good Hemp seed milk, Sainbury's £1.65

Split pea milk

Split pea milk in a jug

Taste: Creamy and similar to cow's milk in thickness.

Process: Yellow split peas are ground into a flour, the protein is then separated from the starch and mixed with water.

Nutrition: Peas are packed with protein, as well as other nutrients including iron and calcium.

Best use: There may be oils or thickeners added to pea milk, so avoid adding to tea. It would be good in milky coffee, such as a cappuccino.

olive loves: Mighty unsweetened dairy-free pea milk, Sainsbury's £1.90

Tiger nut milk

Tiger nut milk with cinnamon stick

Taste: Naturally sweet, on the creamier side with a nutty flavour.

Process: Tiger nuts are soaked overnight with a pinch of salt, then blended and strained.

Nutrition: As tiger nuts are technically tubers, not nuts, it can be enjoyed by those with a nut allergy.

Best use: The sweet flavour means it would work well in breakfast recipes, such as pancakes and porridge

olive loves: Rude Health tiger nut milk, Ocado £2.50


Check out more plant-based ideas here:

Plant-based recipes
Vegan meal ideas
Quick vegan recipes
Vegan iron-rich recipes

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