16 Different Types of Milk (‘Cause It’s Good to Have Options)

From whole to hemp

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different-types-of-milk: Various organic vegan plant based milk in glasses and glass bottle and ingredients (nuts, oatmeal) on beige background.
Tanja Ivanova/Getty Images

Most of us already have a 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.

Evaporated Milk vs Condensed Milk What’s the Difference?

How Are Nut Milks Made?

The process for making nut milk is really quite easy and can be done at home. In fact, homemade nut milk is actually better than the store-bought stuff since it doesn’t have any additives and boasts a purer flavor. That said, store bought and homemade nut milks are made in mostly the same way: nuts (or seeds) are soaked in water; put in a blender, along with the soaking water, and the resulting liquid is strained to produce silky-smooth nut milk.

Picking the Right Milk for You

When it comes to picking a type of milk, it’s really just a matter of personal preference along with any dietary concerns (like lactose intolerance, for example, but more on that later). If you’re watching your weight, you’ll want to keep in mind the fat content of any milk you choose as well as keeping an eye out for any added sugar. If you’re trying to pick a nut milk out of the bunch, the best way to decide is simply to put them all to a taste test, as each type has its own unique flavor profile.

What Is Lactose Intolerance?

According to the Mayo Clinic, lactose intolerance is usually caused by a deficiency of an enzyme called lactase. When the body doesn’t produce enough of this enzyme, the digestive system isn’t able to adequately process that lactose found in dairy, which can result in bloating, gas, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort. The condition is relatively harmless, but the symptoms are decidedly unpleasant, so folks who suffer from lactose intolerance benefit from an alternative like soy milk, nut milks or any of the other dairy-free options described below.

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.

Try It: Fairlife Whole Fat Milk ($5.79)

2. Nonfat Milk

Organic Valley

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). It’s worth noting, though, that people who don’t enjoy the taste of non-fat milk and would also like to avoid the higher fat content of whole milk, can always opt for 1% or 2%—a Goldilocks solution for some.

Try It: Organic Valley Ultra Pasteurized Fat Free Milk ($5.19)

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

Great Value

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.

Try It: Great Value Lactose-Free Vitamin D Whole Milk ($3.38)

5. Buttermilk

Ronnybrook Farm

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.

Try It: Ronnybrook Farm Dairy Cultured Buttermilk ($4.69)

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.

Try It: Nestle La Lechera Sweetened Condensed Milk Squeeze Pack ($17.99)

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.

Try It: Elmhurst Unsweetened Cashew Milk ($6.99)

8. Oat Milk

Planet Oat

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.

Try It: Planet Oat Original Oatmilk ($4.39)

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.

Try It: Meyenberg Goat Milk ($7.99)

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

Try It: Dream Rice Drink ($7.22)

12. Hemp Milk

Pacific Foods

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.

Try It: Pacific Foods Hemp Milk ($4.99)

13. Coconut Milk

Thai Kitchen

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.

Try It: Thai Kitchen Unsweetened Coconut Milk ($2.98)

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.

Try It: Silk Original Soy Milk ($5.49)

15. Almond Milk

365 by Whole Foods

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.

Try It: 365 by Whole Foods Marked Unsweetened Almond Milk ($3.49)

16. Hazelnut Milk


Hazelnut milk is easy to make at home using the soak-blend-strain process described earlier, but it’s also widely available in stores. If you chose to buy it rather than make your own, be sure to look for the unsweetened stuff. As far as flavor is concerned, hazelnut milk is pretty distinctive (though it’s a taste you’ve likely encountered before if you’ve ever eaten Nutella). In terms of nutritional value, hazelnut milk is a solid choice—namely because it’s rich in vitamin E, B vitamins and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.

Try It: Elmhurst Unsweetened Milked Hazelnuts ($6.99)

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...