Is making your own alternative milk healthier? Do you need fancy gadgets to do it?

Is making your own alternative milk healthier? Do you need fancy gadgets to do it?
  • PublishedMay 2, 2024

There’s often an assumption that “homemade” is best.

Does this hold true when it comes to alternative milks?

Alternative milks are on the rise, and bench-top appliances are even being marketed for the sole purpose of creating plant-based milks in a “healthier” way.

A dietitian’s take on store-bought vs homemade milks

Accredited dietitian Nicole Dynan from Gadigal land in Sydney says “there are probably a few pros and cons” to making your own plant-based milks or buying a carton.

She explains you get a greater percentage of whatever you are trying to “milk” by making your own. So more actual almonds, for example, in the final mix.

Nicole Dynan smiling at the camera, standing by shelves lined with green fresh produce.
Nicole Dynan says benefits can come with buying alternative milk from the supermarket. (Supplied: Nicole Dynan)

But, she says a “pro” of store-bought alternative milk is that many include added calcium.

“The added calcium that you would get from some of the store-bought products is something that’s not naturally occurring in a lot of those alternative milks,” Ms Dynan says.

You can check for calcium, and it’ll be listed among the ingredients as “added calcium or calcium fortified”.

She recommends giving these milks a good shake before you use them because the calcium can settle as a sediment at the bottom of the container.

“You can get calcium from other sources, you don’t necessarily need to get it from your milk. It’s just a really easy and convenient way to make sure at least you’re getting some calcium in your diet,” Ms Dynan says.

“Having adequate calcium in the diet is really important, especially for women.”

A label showing the nutritional information and ingredients on a yellow almond milk carton.
Nicole Dynan says many store bought alternative milks include added calcium.(ABC: Anna Chisholm)

Protein is another factor to consider when you’re weighing up your options.

When compared to dairy milk, Ms Dynan says that “the only real plant-based alternative that’s got something that’s equivalent, in terms of protein, is soy”.

She says “it’s just good to know that you’re not comparing apples with apples” when you’re choosing what kind of milk to buy or make yourself.

Ms Dynan recommends choosing “the ones that have less added things in them, so less added sugar”.

Her own “plant milk of choice” from the grocery store is soy, because of the protein and calcium content.

Supermarket aisle shelves full of different brands of alternative milks.
Plant-based or alternative milks are now supermarket staples. (ABC News: Anna Chisholm)

Are homemade plant-based milks cheaper? 

Margaret Sevenjhazi, also from Gadigal land in Sydney, has worked as a line chef, recipe tester and food stylist, and has given making alternative milks a try.

Ms Sevenjhazi says the cost benefit of making your own depends on the brand you would ordinarily buy versus the variety you want to make at home, as well as the “quality and price of the ingredients you choose”.  

She says oat milk would be the cheapest to make at home.

“The up-front [cost] for nut milks would be higher since you’re buying a bag or a bulk amount to get the savings.”

Ms Sevenjhazi says you have to weigh any savings up against “the time and effort it takes to make this milk from scratch”.

Most recipes and guides say homemade milks keep for 2–3 days, so it’s something you’d probably be making quite regularly, she says. 

Making your own if you do want to 

Ms Sevenjhazi says making your own is “not too tricky”.

Gadgets with self-cleaning and heating functions are likely very convenient, Ms Sevenjhazi says, but she recommends using what you already have first.

Common kitchen items such as saucepans, strainers and blenders usually get the job done.

A young woman with a dark bob and black crew neck pictured in front of an old European looking building
Margaret Sevenjhazi says if you’re curious about making it at home try with a small batch at first. (Supplied: Margaret Sevenjhazi )

If it’s your first foray into making your own alternative milks, Ms Sevejhazi suggests seeking out simple beginners’ recipes.

“Just make sure when you’re looking at recipes they are a ‘cheat’s version’ or ‘one-day version’ … I would even try ‘minimal-effort version.”

Recipes usually include soaking soybeans and almonds, draining, blending and straining them — and in the case of soy milk bringing it to the boil. Oat milk recipes are normally a variation of blitzing and straining.

All alternative milks and their respective recipes are not created equal, so she says it’s important to find one that’s not too time or labour intensive to begin with.

But if making homemade oat, almond or soy milk is “your jam”, by all means commit to a milk gadget in your price range, she adds.


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