The Great Big Dairy-Free Challenge

And not a cow in sight Photo credit: harry bligh

By Harry Bligh and Katie Siwek

In the twenty-first century, we are constantly bombarded with conflicting arguments about the latest health fad. Our grandparents grew up on fresh meat, eggs and bread… yet we are repeatedly told to reduce our consumption and warned of the implications of not doing so. The latest alternative range it seems, are milk substitutes. No, they haven’t suddenly appeared. But the market is growing, as are the varieties available. People go dairy free when it comes to milk for many reasons, fitness, health, lactose intolerance, or just a personal dietary choice.

The average UK household buys 5.2 litres of cow’s milk annually, so not everyone has been swept up in the recent developments when it comes to dairy free alternatives.

However, inspired by the shelf space these alternatives are getting in our supermarkets, we decided to put them to the test with many different results.


Harry – Pro-Cow’s milk

“I drink cow’s milk probably every day, usually in tea or coffee or sometimes just on its own. I also use it in cooking and in breakfast foods like porridge and pancakes. However recently I have become more aware of how cow’s milk may be detrimental to health, particularly skin and cholesterol. For this reason, I was interested in finding a good, healthy alternative, something that I like the taste of and I can still enjoy in my beloved Yorkshire Tea.”

Katie – Anti Milk

“I haven’t drunk cow’s milk for years. In fact, I can’t remember drinking a glass of it. For as long as I can remember I have not liked the taste at all. That’s not to say I’m stubborn about it… Or against cow’s milk for any reason. I would love to love it. I do however buy it to cook with, and will happily use it in my porridge most mornings. I have recently become interested in finding something to substitute milk with, so I can switch things up at breakfast time and enjoy cereal for once.”

Harry’s Predictions

From the selections, at first glimpse, I expected the nutty milks to be the nicest, Cashew, Hazelnut and almond, all nice foods. I expected oat to be the worst. I hadn’t heard wonderful things about oat milk and I can’t imagine how plain oats could be transformed into anything like milk.

Katie’s Predictions

“After glancing over the pints on offer, I thought the best milks for me personally would be either Cashew or Hazelnut. How could they not taste amazing? It did not take long for me to form preconceptions about what I wouldn’t like: Hemp and Oat. I did however keep an open mind.”

Harry’s Conclusions – “For me, cashew and soya were the winners. Cashew tastes so nice, and it isn’t too obvious that its actually from cashew nuts. Though in tea and coffee, it just doesn’t taste as natural as soya did as a cow’s milk alternative. Hazelnut and Rice were close contenders, both taste more than pleasant but are so far from the taste of cow’s milk, I wouldn’t use them as a substitute. I must say, both would work in a milkshake, assuming the flavour goes with the taste of hazelnuts or rice pudding. For now, I think I will try replacing milk with soya for hot drinks and cashew for cereal and maybe cooking. Can I totally cut out cow’s milk? Right now, yes, but it may be unrealistic for me.

Katie’s Conclusions – “Unfortunately, the Cashew milk did not live up to my expectations. Personally, it was just too much like regular milk for me, and this is what I was trying to divert away from. As predicted however, Hazelnut came through! I didn’t fall in love with any of these milks as I was hoping to, but I will be trying to get used to the ones I enjoyed the most. Maybe one day I will begin to love the taste of cow’s milk, but until then these will have to do!”

So, there you have it. A detailed guide to students – from students, on what alternative might suit you if you are in the need to change things up!

Check out our podcast for a detailed, concise and somewhat fanciful milk-alternative study:

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