Best Non-Dairy Milk for Coffee

Best Non-Dairy Milk for Coffee

September 11, 2021

Milk substitutes have been in coffee shops for decades, but these days, there are more options than ever. To help you find your favorite, we’re breaking down the best of the best milk alternatives when it comes to taste, texture, and stretch (i.e., foaming capabilities). Plus, we’ve got delicious plant-based recipes so you can try all the best dairy-free latte trends at home.

Oat Milk

Oat milk is one of the newer non-dairy milks on the café scene, and it’s quickly become one of the most popular milk substitutes thanks to its neutral taste, texture, foaming capabilities, and allergen-friendliness.

What does oat milk taste like?

Oat milk has earned a reputation for tasting pretty similar to cow’s milk – at least when it’s mixed into coffee. It has a thicker, creamier texture than many milk alternatives and more natural sweetness than most nut milk. You can expect notes of well, oats, but don’t worry, it won’t taste like you’ve thrown a spoonful of oatmeal into your morning coffee. The taste is subtle and pleasant, and even die-hard dairy fans still enjoy oat milk lattes.

Creamier texture than many milk alternatives and more natural sweetness than most nut milk...the taste is subtle and pleasant.

Does oat milk froth well?

Yes! Like dairy milk, oat milk has a great balance of fats, protein, and sugar needed to create and maintain the foam. If you want silky microfoam to create latte art, barista blend oat milk will give you the best results, but even regular oat milk should be able to hold a layer of thicker foam.

Honey Oat Milk Latte Recipe

If your local café offers a specialty oat milk latte, there’s a good chance it has honey in it. Give one a try, and you’ll see why this simple combo is such a popular trend. The natural sweetness pairs perfectly with the creamy, slightly oat-y taste of oat milk. Or skip the coffee shop and recreate it at home:

  • 2 oz espresso or 4 oz strongly brewed coffee
  • 6 oz coconut milk (a barista blend if available)
  • 1 tsp honey, plus more for drizzling

Almond Milk

Almond milk is one of the most popular milk alternatives out there, and it’s come to rival soy milk as the milk alternative of choice in many coffee shops.

What does almond milk taste like?

Unsurprisingly, almond milk tastes a lot like almonds and can lend a toasted nut flavor to your coffee.

Tastes a lot like almonds and can lend a toasted nut flavor to your coffee.

Does almond milk froth well?

Almond milk has enough protein that it froths moderately well, but it is prone to separation. In other words, you might end up with a latte that’s creamy and foamy on top but watery underneath. The gums and emulsifiers in barista blends can help create a more consistent texture.

Cinnamon Matcha Almond Milk Latte Recipe

Almond milk is a popular choice for dairy-free matcha lattes as the nuttiness provides a nice balance to matcha's sweet, grassy flavors. We think it’s a great choice for our cinnamon matcha latte:

  • 1 scoop of matcha
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • Pinch of cinnamon

Coconut Milk

What does coconut milk taste like?

Like all non-dairy milk, the taste of coconut milk will vary according to the brand, but in general, coconut milk tends to be creamier than other milk alternatives, thanks to its high-fat content. Coconut milk in cans will typically have a very strong coconut flavor, so opt for coconut milk in cartons instead if that’s not what you’re going for. Their flavor is more neutral, with just slight hints of sweet coconut.

Coconut milk tends to be creamier than other milk alternatives...flavor is more neutral, with just slight hints of sweet coconut.

Does coconut milk froth well?

In general, no. Coconut milk is much lower in protein than any other milk alternatives listed here, so it doesn’t hold bubbles or foam nearly as well. However, barista blend coconut milk adds extra gums that help achieve that can help you achieve a stable foam.

Hot Vanilla Bean Coconut Milk Latte Recipe

Even if you can’t find a barista blend to achieve that creamy froth, coconut milk lattes still taste delicious, especially when you add complementary flavors like whole bean vanilla. Recreate the trending vanilla bean coconut milk latte at home using our classic latte recipe as a base:

  • 2 oz espresso or 4 oz strongly brewed coffee
  • 6 oz coconut milk (a barista blend if you can find it)
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean (the pulp of about ½ of a vanilla bean)

Soy Milk

For years, soy milk was the most popular – and often the only – milk alternative available at coffee shops. Its sweet, neutral taste and foaming capabilities mean it has remained a popular choice even as other plant-based milk have come on the scene.

What does soy milk taste like?

Soy milk has a subtle natural sweetness and is neutral-tasting, with just a hint of legume-like flavor. Though it is somewhat creamy, it tends to be thinner than whole milk and is more similar in texture to skim or 2% milk.

Subtle natural sweetness...with just a hint of legume-like flavor.

Does soy milk froth well?

Yes, soy milk offers some of the best foaming capabilities of any milk substitute, perhaps rivaled only by oat milk. Pro tip: even if you aren’t interested in frothing your milk, you may still want to heat soy milk before adding it to your coffee, as cold soy milk may curdle when exposed to the heat and acidity of your coffee.

Classic Soy Milk Latte Recipe

The soy milk latte is such a classic that it’s worth trying plain. Sub soy milk for dairy milk in our classic latte recipe and add a hint of vanilla or sweetener if desired:

  • 2 oz espresso or 4 oz strongly brewed coffee
  • 6 - 8 oz soy milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • sweetener to taste (optional)

Cashew Milk

Cashews milk is famous for its creaminess and neutral taste, though it isn’t as widely available as many other plant-based milk alternatives.

What does cashew milk taste like?

Though cashew milk has a very light nutty taste, the nutty flavor is much more subtle than in almond milk. Its natural creaminess and pleasant, neutral flavor are its standout features.

Very light nutty taste, the nutty flavor is much more subtle than in almond milk.

Does cashew milk froth well?

Cashew milk produces some froth, but the bubbles tend to be large and short-lived. It is prone to separation like almond milk and can create an inconsistent texture in lattes, so you’ll have better luck foaming barista-blend cashew milk.

Lavender Cashew Milk Latte Recipe

Cashew milk can be tough to find at most coffee shops, so whipping up a cashew milk latte at home might be the easiest way to try it. We think it’s a perfect base for the floral flavors of a lavender latte.

* Be careful not to confuse lavender extract with lavender essential oil.

Whatever your milk-alternative-of-choice, temperature is critical when it comes to plant-based milk. Many soy and nut milks will curdle or separate when they’re too cool, so we always recommend warming them first and enjoying them in your Ember Mug² for optimal texture, from first sip to last.

Related Articles

Cinnamon Dolce Latte Recipe
Cinnamon Dolce Latte Recipe

November 09, 2022

When it comes to cinnamon-flavored fall beverages, few drinks are as big of a crowd favorite as the cinnamon dolce latte.

Read More

Ember’s Favorite Fall Coffee Recipes
Ember’s Favorite Fall Coffee Recipes

October 27, 2022

We’ve put together a guide to our favorite fall coffee drinks, including recipes for pumpkin spice lattes, apple crisp macchiatos, and many more!

Read More

(RED) Hot Spiced Cider Recipe
(RED) Hot Spiced Cider Recipe

October 26, 2022

Stay warm this season with a hot spiced cider recipe from Ember and learn how you can support health programs around the world with the purchase of an (Ember)RED Mug.

Read More