Comparison of the week: Soy milk vs almond milk

Sarah Brandon 25 February 2019 NEWS

Soy and almond milk are the two most popular dairy milk alternatives. But which is better?

We compare virtually everything at Finder and our Comparison of the Week isn't afraid to tackle the big questions. This week we put soy and almond milk to the test.

Looking for a dairy-free alternative for your morning latte? Soy and almond milk are leading the way as the two most commonly used types of non-dairy milk in Australia and New Zealand. But which one is tastier, cheaper, healthier and better for the environment? Whether you’re lactose-intolerant, vegan or just looking to try something new, we’ll help you compare soy and almond milk so you can choose the best option for you.

The essentials

An estimated 65% of people have difficulty digesting the lactose found in milk. Soy and almond milk are dairy-free, vegan milk alternatives. Almond milk is made of – you guessed it – almonds, while soy milk is made from soaked soybeans. Both are then mixed with water to create the milk or "mylk" you can now find in grocery stores and cafes around the world. Almond and soy milk are naturally lactose-free, low in calories and come in a variety of flavours.

The comparison

Almond and soy milk can be used in coffee, tea and just about any recipe you can think of, but there are some important differences between the two.

Soy milk Almond milk
Price Prices typically range from $1.50 to $5 per litre. Prices typically range from $2.00 to $6.50 per litre but can be as high as $10 per litre for speciality flavours such as dark chocolate and cacao.
Taste Plain soy milk has a distinctive taste. Some people describe it as slightly sour, beany or chalky. However, when mixed with coffee or tea, most people don’t notice a distinct flavour. Popular flavours include plain, vanilla, chocolate, coffee, banana and strawberry. Plain almond milk tastes nutty, watery and can be a little bitter. Some people find it to have a slightly grainy texture. Popular flavours include plain or unsweetened, vanilla, chocolate, coconut and caramel.
For use in coffee Soy milk is the most popular non-dairy milk for coffee because it blends well, has a creamy texture and can produce a foam similar to dairy milk for your daily latte, flat white or cappuccino. When overheated, soy milk can curdle or separate in coffee, especially in brands without preservatives. Plain almond milk can make coffee taste a little bitter, which is why many baristas use sweetened or vanilla almond milk in coffee. Almond milk doesn’t create foam or steam as easily as soy or dairy milk, and often has a watery texture underneath the foam. Like soy milk, almond milk can curdle when mixed with very hot coffee.
General nutrition Plain soy milk has more calories than almond milk but less than skim and full-fat milk. It’s low in saturated fat and cholesterol and a good source of potassium and vitamin B. Soy milk doesn’t contain calcium, but fortified formulas are a good source of calcium and vitamin D. Almond milk is low in calories and saturated fat and a good source of vitamin A and vitamin D. Plain almond milk contains no calcium, but fortified options are available with added calcium and vitamins. Unlike soy milk, almond milk is allowed if you’re following a paleo diet.
Protein Soy milk is higher in protein at around 7 to 12 grams per serving. While raw almonds are relatively high in protein, almond milk contains more water than almonds and only has around 1 gram of protein per serving.
For use in cooking Soy milk is a popular cooking ingredient due to its high protein content, but some people don’t like the taste that soy milk adds to dishes. Try using soy milk on a small batch of whatever you're cooking first to make sure you don’t mind the flavour. Has a neutral flavour when used for cooking and baking and is a popular ingredient in dairy-free sauces, soups, desserts and baked goods.
Environmental impact Soybean production has been blamed for adding to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. However, soy milk is only a small part of this soybean production as most of the world’s soy is used as feed for animals or in industrial production. Growing almonds uses a lot of water (around 12 litres per almond) and more than half of the world’s almonds are grown in California, which is currently experiencing a drought. However, almond milk production still doesn’t require as much water as dairy milk.
Allergens Suitable for those with dairy allergies, coeliac disease and lactose intolerance. However, soy is an increasingly common food allergy. Soy consumption may also be a problem for those with thyroid conditions. Almond milk is lactose-free, dairy-free and suitable for those who have coeliac disease or are gluten-free, though it’s not suitable for those with nut allergies.
Availability Available just about everywhere in stores and cafes. Available in most stores and becoming a more prevalent option in cafes, especially in urban areas.
Can you make it at home? Yes, you can make soy milk by soaking soybeans in water overnight, then blending and straining the mixture. Yes, you can make almond milk by soaking almonds overnight, peeling off the skins and blending them until smooth. Then use a cheesecloth or muslin cloth to strain out the pulp.

The lowdown

If you’re looking for a milk alternative with similar nutrients to cow’s milk, soy milk is protein-rich and fortified formulas offer a similar amount of calcium to dairy milk. It also blends well with coffee and can produce the perfect foam for a latte or cappuccino. Almond milk, on the other hand, can replace milk in most recipes without affecting the flavour of the dish and can be supplemented with vegan protein powder for added nutritional value.

Ultimately, it comes down to taste and dietary requirements. If you don’t have allergies to nuts or soy, try both in a few flavours to see which one you prefer. You might find that you like one for coffee, while the other is better in your morning cereal. And if you don’t love either, there are plenty of other dairy-free options to try including oat milk, rice milk and macadamia milk.

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