Most of us already have a milk of choice, but if you’re curious about the boatload of other ‘milk’ varieties on offer—be it because you’re navigating new dietary restrictions, or you’re simply curious about what else is on the market—our guide to the different types of milk has got you covered. Read on for the full rundown on the most popular dairy and plant-based options, and why you might want to give them a try.

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15 Different Types of Milk (‘Cause It’s Good to Have Options)
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1. Whole Milk

We probably don’t need to tell you what whole milk is, since this type of cow’s milk is what most of us consider to be, well, regular milk. It’s also the purest form of commercially available cow’s milk because, aside from being pasteurized and homogenized to meet food safety standards, whole milk isn’t processed or altered in any way. For this reason, whole milk has a higher fat content (roughly 3.5 percent) than other kinds of cow’s milk, and a particularly rich and creamy taste.

2. Nonfat Milk

Nonfat milk, also known as skimmed milk, is whole milk’s leaner cousin. In fact, this type of cow’s milk starts out whole and is then skimmed to remove all the fat (i.e., cream). The end result of this process is a thin, watery milk that’s favored by folks who are watching their waistline (and generally snubbed by those who prioritize taste).

3. Raw Milk

Raw milk is cow’s milk that’s udderly (sorry, couldn’t resist) untouched. Yep, this type of milk is neither homogenized nor pasteurized, which is a fancy way of saying that it hasn’t been heated to kill any disease-causing pathogens that might be present. As such, the FDA advises against drinking raw milk and its commercial distribution is prohibited in all but 13 states. Still, proponents of the stuff argue it contains beneficial nutrients, enzymes and probiotics that are harmed by pasteurization—though there’s little to no science supporting these claims. (Hint: You can read the FDA’s brutal takedown of raw milk here.) If you’re unfazed by food safety concerns and curious about this strong smelling and robustly flavored stuff, you can acquire some at a local dairy farm.

4. Lactose-free milk

Lactose intolerance is a fairly common condition in which lactose—a naturally occurring sugar present in milk—triggers digestive symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, bloating and gas. Fortunately, there’s a solution for people who want to enjoy the flavor (and nutritional benefits) of regular milk, but can’t stomach the stuff. Lactose-free milk is cow’s milk that has had lactase—an enzyme that breaks down (i.e., digests) lactose—added to effectively eliminate the lactose content. Best of all, this alteration to the lactose content has no effect on the nutritional profile or flavor of the cow’s milk, so you really can drink down a nearly identical form of dairy without the digestive woes.

5. Buttermilk

Contrary to popular belief, modern buttermilk has nothing to do with butter. Though it was once made from the slightly sweet cream that’s left behind after churning butter, this cultured milk product is now simply made by adding sugar, salt and stabilizers to whole (or sometimes reduced fat) cow’s milk, which is then left to ferment. Once the milk has fermented, buttermilk—a super rich milk with a tangy taste and serious leavening power—is born. Buy this stuff in the store whenever you’re trying to achieve a super crispy breading for fried fish or chicken, or tackling any number of baking recipes that call for it.

6. Condensed Milk

Condensed milk is whole cow’s milk that has been heated until 60 percent of the water content is removed and then sweetened with copious amounts of sugar. The end result is a shelf-stable milk product that’s thick, creamy and well-suited to use in a wide range of dessert recipes.

7. Cashew Milk

Creamy, silky and naturally sweet—this type of plant-based milk is made from cashews that have been soaked in and blended with water. Cashew milk is protein-rich and packed with healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds. You can buy cashew milk at the store in both sweetened and unsweetened varieties, or make it at home for a 1:1 substitute for cow’s milk that works in most, if not all, circumstances.

8. Oat Milk

Everyone has heard of adding milk to oatmeal, but did you know you can actually make milk out of oats? Oat milk is a dairy-free alternative to milk that’s conveniently free of most common allergens, including gluten, nuts and soy. It’s also a breeze to make—just blend oats (preferably rolled oats, but any kind will do) with water and strain out the liquid. The resulting ‘milk’ will be thin and slightly creamy with a pleasant nutty aroma that lends itself to use in smoothies, baked goods and cold beverages.

9. Toned Milk

Toned milk, commonly used in South Asia and India, is made by adding skimmed milk to full-cream buffalo milk in order to reduce the fat content of the latter without diminishing the nutritional value. Don’t be fooled by the name, though: This type of milk likely won’t help you achieve your New Year’s resolution—namely because it’s still considerably higher in saturated fats than cow’s milk. That said, toned milk is rich, delicious and ideal for making other decadent dairy products like ghee and cream cheese. (But not nearly as indulgent as straight up, calorie-laden buffalo milk—you know, in case you’re trying to choose between the two.)

10. Goat Milk

One of the more popular types of milk, goat milk has a very similar macronutrient content to cow’s milk, but with more protein (and saturated fat) and slightly less cholesterol. It also serves up an impressive amount of vitamins and minerals (calcium, potassium and Vitamin A, to name a few) and is thought to be easier to digest than cow’s milk, as it contains less lactose. It’s worth noting, though, that goat milk has a tangy, grassy taste that’s great for making cheese, but might take some getting used to if you’re accustomed to the mild flavor of cow’s milk.

11. Rice Milk

Much like oat milk, rice milk is blessedly free of common allergens and well-suited to gluten-free and plant-based diets. It’s also naturally sweet and a close match to cow’s milk in terms of its flavor profile, making it a particularly versatile dairy alternative that can be used in savory and sweet recipes alike. Still, with its high carbohydrate and calorie count and low protein content, it’s fair to say that rice milk leaves something to be desired in the nutrition department

12. Hemp Milk

Hemp milk has managed to stay surprisingly under-the-radar as far as plant-based milks are concerned, but this well-kept secret kind of puts other dairy alternatives to shame. For starters, hemp milk is made by crushing, soaking and blending hemp seeds with water—and hemp seeds happen to be a complete protein, which means they contain all the essential amino acids our bodies are unable to make. (Hemp seeds, unlike other parts of the hemp plant, won’t get you high…but we’ll let you decide whether that’s a pro or con.) Plus, hemp milk is earthy, nutty and oh-so creamy—attributes that make it a stand-out substitute for cow’s milk in most any recipe.

13. Coconut Milk

This ridiculously thick and creamy milk is made from the meaty flesh of (you guessed it) the coconut. Coconut milk is also downright delicious, and can be used in everything from spicy curries and stews to smoothies and decadent desserts (think: coconut rice pudding with rhubarb compote). Oh and did we mention that coconut milk is loaded with calcium, fiber, potassium and a host of other vitamins and nutrients? Let’s just call that the cherry on top of your vegan ice cream sundae.

14. Soy Milk

One of the most popular plant-based milks, soy milk contains nearly as much protein as cow’s milk (seven grams and eight grams per serving, respectively) and is an excellent choice for folks who suffer from dairy, nut and gluten allergies. Soy milk is also low in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories, and, being a complete protein, has all the essential amino acids found in the dairy-based stuff. In other words, if you’re looking for a creamy, flavorful and nutritious alternative to regular milk, soy milk will not disappoint.

15. Almond Milk

When it comes to dairy milk substitutes, almond milk and soy milk are neck in neck. Almond milk is a safe choice for the lactose-intolerant, and has fewer calories and a flavor that many prefer to soy milk. That said, almond milk lacks the heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats, impressive protein content and dreamy (i.e., richer) texture of soy milk, so it’s kind of just a toss-up.

RELATED: Almond Butter vs Peanut Butter: Which Is Healthier?

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