Almond Milk vs Cashew Milk vs Coconut Milk

Almond Milk vs Cashew Milk vs Coconut Milk: An In-Depth Comparison

Almond MilkCashew MilkCoconut Milk
Nutritional ValueLow in calories and fat. High in vitamin E and calcium.Low in calories. High in heart-healthy fats and minerals like magnesium and potassium.High in healthy fats. Low in protein.
Calories39 calories per cup25 calories per cup445 calories per cup
Protein1 gram per cup1 gram per cup5 grams per cup

As an expert in plant-based nutrition and environmental sustainability, I compare the nutritional valuetastecost, and environmental impact of popular plant-based milk alternatives: almond milkcashew milk and coconut milkCan You Use Almond Milk for Thai Curry?

Key Takeaways:Almond Milk vs Cashew Milk vs Coconut Milk

Plant-Based Milk

Almond Milk 🥜

  • ✓ Lowest in calories
  • ✓ Most calcium
  • ✓ Neutral flavor
    • ❌ High water usage
    • ❌ Low protein
    • ❌ Added carrageenan

Cashew Milk

    • ✓ Creamy texture
    • ✓ Good heart health
    • ✓ Magnesium & potassium


  • ❌ Allergy risks
  • ❌ Low protein
  • ❌ Can be pricey

Coconut Milk

  • ✓ Tropical flavor
  • ✓ Creamiest texture
  • ✓ Boosts metabolism
    • ❌ High in calories
    • ❌ Risks weight gain
    • ❌ Strong taste

Nutritional Value Comparison

The nutritional value of non-dairy milks can vary greatly depending on the main ingredient.

Almond Milk

Almond milk is low in calories and fat, but high in vitamin E and bone-strengthening calcium.

Here is the nutritional profile of one cup of unsweetened almond milk:

  • 39 calories
  • 3 grams fat
  • 1 gram protein
  • 451 mg calcium (45% DV)
  • 454 mg potassium (9% DV)
  • 1.01 mcg vitamin E (5% DV)

Almond milk provides a hefty dose of calcium and vitamin E. The almonds also contain magnesium, iron, fiber, zinc and vitamin E. Benefits Of Almond Cashew And Coconut

However, some brands add unnecessary sweeteners and thickeners that turn it into a high-sugar drink. Be sure to choose unsweetened varieties without carrageenan or guar gum.

Cashew Milk

Creamy cashew milk is lower in calories and fat than almond milk, with more magnesium and potassium.

Here is the nutritional profile of one cup of homemade cashew milk:

  • 25 calories
  • 2 grams fat
  • 1 gram protein
  • 20% DV magnesium
  • 8% DV potassium

The healthy fats in cashews can help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and improve heart health.

Cashews also contain iron, zinc, selenium and phosphorous. But calcium levels are not as high as fortified almond milk.

Coconut Milk

Full-fat canned coconut milk is very high in calories – mostly from saturated fat. But the MCTs may provide health benefits like faster metabolism and lower cholesterol.

Here is the nutritional profile per cup of canned coconut milk:

  • 445 calories
  • 48 grams fat
  • 5 grams protein

Coconut meat also contains manganese, copper, selenium and other minerals. Just avoid sweetened “light” varieties with additives.

So in terms of nutrition, unsweetened almond milk and homemade cashew milk are the lowest in calories and fat, while canned coconut milk is extremely high in fat and calories in comparison.

But the type of fats matters. The medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) fats in coconuts may boost metabolism and support brain function.

Meanwhile, almonds and cashews contain mostly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol.

Now let’s explore the differences in taste…

Taste Test Comparison

The flavors and creamy textures vary quite a bit between non-dairy milks. Here is how they compare in blind taste tests:

Almond Milk

Almond milk has a mild and slightly nutty flavor. The texture tends to be on the thinner side, but many brands add thickeners to make it creamier.

It has a more neutral, versatile taste for blending into smoothies, oatmeal, coffee drinks. The almond flavor pairs well with fruits, chocolate, vanilla and spices like cinnamon.

Just avoid sweetened varieties with added sugar. Unsweetened almond milk contains 0 grams of sugar.

Cashew Milk

Creamy cashew milk has a subtly sweet and buttery flavor from the cashew nuts. The rich texture is similar to dairy milk, making it ideal for smoothies, cream soups and coffee drinks.

It pairs well with chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, berries and citrus fruits. The slightly sweet, nutty cashew flavor also stands up nicely on its own as a beverage.

Be sure to use raw cashews instead of roasted, which have a stronger flavor.

Coconut Milk

The flavor of coconut milk is strongly…coconut!

It has a richer consistency akin to dairy cream. The natural sweetness and coconut essence are delightful in curries, smoothies, oatmeal and baked goods.

But some find the strong coconut flavor overpowering on its own as a drink. Pair it with cocoa, coffee, vanilla or fruits to mellow out the coconut essence.

Now that we compared the nutrition and flavors – how do the prices compare?

Cost Comparison

Dairy milk is generally the cheapest option. But between the three plant-based varieties, here is how they typically compare:

Almond milk tends to be the most affordable nut-based milk alternative.

National grocery store brands range from:

  • $2.50 – $3 per half gallon
  • $1.50 – $2 per quart

Organic almond milk costs a bit more:

  • $4 – $5 per half gallon

Cashew milk prices are moderate and similar to almond milk.

A 32oz carton costs roughly:

  • $3.50 – $4.50

Making your own cashew milk can lower the price to under $1 per quart.

Coconut milk tends to be the most expensive option. Especially when buying “light” low-fat coconut milk beverages.

National brands cost:

  • $2 – $3 per quart carton
  • $4 – $5 per half gallon

Canned coconut milk costs less than cartons:

  • $1.50 – $2.50 per can

To save money, make your own coconut milk for under $1 by blending coconut flakes with water.

So in summary from cheapest to most expensive:

  1. Homemade nut & coconut milks
  2. Store-brand almond milk
  3. Coconut milk cans
  4. Cashew milk
  5. National brand non-dairy milks

The price differences mainly come down to the costs of the raw nuts, coconuts and production processes involved.

Now let’s explore one of the most important considerations today…

Environmental Impact

Many consumers choose plant-based milk alternatives due to ethical concerns over animal cruelty in the dairy industry.

However, some non-dairy substitutes have negative environmental impacts in their own right.

Here is how the popular nut and coconut varieties compare:

Almond Milk

The rise of almond milk demand has led to serious sustainability issues. Growing the water-intensive almond trees leads to polluted runoff and places stress on drought-stricken California’s water supply where 80% of the world’s almonds are grown.

  • It takes over 15 gallons (56 liters) of water to produce just 16 almonds.
  • In California it takes over a gallon (3.8 liters) of water to grow a single almond.

So while ethical in theory, the reality is almond milk ranks low for environmental sustainability. Heading forward, almond farmers use water conservation tactics to reduce usage.

Cashew Milk

The cashew nut trees used to produce plant-based cashew milk have a much lower water usage and environmental impact than thirsty almonds.

  • Cashew trees are drought resistant and can grow in semi-arid regions.
  • Most cashews are ethically sourced from small family-run farms in Southeast Asia and Africa.
  • But beware that some large cashew operations exploit workers with unfair wages and poor conditions. Choosing fair trade cashews supports ethically produced cashew milk.

Overall, cashews rank as a moderately sustainable nut milk choice.

Coconut Milk

Coconuts grow abundantly across the tropics without much need for watering or pesticides. What’s more, coconuts play an important role in preventing soil erosion in coastal areas.

  • Coconut palms thrive along tropical coastlines and help reduce erosion from tides and storms.
  • Coconuts grow naturally without pesticides in much of the developing world, providing income for local economies.
  • But some mass-production farms cut down rainforest to make room for coconut plantations. Choosing sustainable sources helps alleviate this issue.

So while coconuts hold sustainability advantages over almonds and soy, it’s important to choose ethical sources that don’t disturb rainforests.

In summary, coconuts are the most eco-friendly option, followed by cashews. Meanwhile, popular almond milk comes with sustainability drawbacks from its vast water usage and farming expansion in drought-prone California.

Now that you know how they compare nutrition-wise, cost-wise and sustainability-wise, let’s summarize the key differences…

How to Make Your Own Non-Dairy Milk

Making DIY nut and coconut milk at home costs just pennies on the dollar compared to store-bought.

You can control the ingredients, avoiding unwanted additives like added sugars, emulsifiers and stabilizers.

Here is an overview of how to make each type at home:

Make Almond Milk

  • Add 1 cup raw almonds and 4 cups filtered water to blender
  • Blend on high for one minute until frothy and combined
  • Pour milk through a nut milk bag or fine mesh strainer – twist to squeeze out milk
  • Store almond milk in an airtight container for 2-3 days
  • Shake or stir before drinking – the almond pulp may settle at the bottom

Make Cashew Milk

  • Add 1 cup raw cashews and 4 cups water to blender
  • Blend for 1-2 minutes until smooth and creamy
  • Pour cashew mixture through strainer and cheesecloth
  • Press cheesecloth firmly to squeeze out all the milk
  • Store in airtight glass jar for 2-3 days
  • Shake gently before pouring

Make Coconut Milk

  • Add 1-2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut and 4 cups hot water to blender
  • Blend for 2 full minutes so coconut cream separates from water
  • Pour through cheesecloth and press out all the liquid
  • Refrigerate coconut milk for up to a week
  • The thick cream will rise and solidify on top – mix this back in before using

So with just a blender, nut milk bag, cheesecloth and jar you can easily make fresh almond, cashew or coconut milk at home for far cheaper.

Baking and Cooking Uses

All three varieties work well as base ingredients in recipes that traditionally rely on dairy milk.

Almond milk serves as an affordable and neutral-tasting option for baked goods, oatmeal, smoothies, coffee drinks and pour-over beverages.

Cashew milk shines in cream-based soups, curries, desserts, smoothies and lattes. Its subtly sweet flavor also works in puddings and protein shakes.

Canned or homemade coconut milk adds a touch of tropical essence plus a rich, creamy texture to curries, stews, mashes, ice cream, smoothies and more.

So next time a recipe calls for regular cow’s milk, almond milk likely makes the most convenient one-to-one substitute. But cashew and coconut milk can also replace milk or cream depending on the flavors you want.

Potential Drawbacks

While almonds, cashews and coconuts offer worthwhile nutritional benefits, some potential drawbacks are worth noting:

Almond Milk

  • Bloating or mild allergic reactions in those with nut allergies
  • Most brands add carrageenan linked to gut inflammation
  • Low protein levels don’t curb hunger or support muscle tissue like animal milks

Cashew Milk

  • Allergic reaction risks for those with nut allergies
  • Low protein doesn’t satisfy hunger or build muscle as well as cow’s milk

Coconut Milk

  • High calories and fat if consuming more than a few tablespoons
  • Allergies occur less often but can cause rashes, upset stomach
  • Lacks protein and nutrients like vitamin D

So those with nut allergies should certainly steer clear. And anyone looking to build muscle should ensure adequate protein intake.

But for most healthy adults, incorporating small-moderate amounts poses little risk.

Potential benefits like healthier fats, minerals, less sugar and ethical considerations outweigh possible drawbacks for many shoppers.

The Bottom Line

While long-term studies on humans are still limited, the balance of current research indicates almond, cashew and coconut milk boast unique nutritional perks. From a sustainability perspective, coconuts also hold an advantage.

So based on your specific wants and needs around health factors, taste preferences, ethics and affordability, each non-dairy variety makes a sensible cow milk substitute.

Frequently Asked Questions: Almond Milk vs Cashew Milk vs Coconut Milk

Which is healthier: almond milk, cashew milk or coconut milk?

There is no clear winner as the “healthiest” option. All three have pros and cons nutritionally.

Almond milk is lowest in calories and fat, making it a smart choice for low or reduced calorie diets. Almond milk also contains more vitamin E and bone-strengthening calcium than the other two.

However, cashew milk contains useful minerals like magnesium and potassium and provides benefits for heart health from the monounsaturated fats.

Coconut milk offers medium chain triglyceride (MCT) fats that boost metabolism and support brain function. But the calories and saturated fat levels are quite high in coconut milk.

So consider your own nutritional needs. Almond milk makes a better lower calorie option, while cashew and coconut milk offer their own advantages.

What milk alternative works best in coffee drinks?

All three varieties can make delicious non-dairy additions to coffee beverages. However, cashew milk stands out as the closest flavor and texture replacement for using dairy creamer or milk in coffee.

The subtly sweet and creamy cashew notes pair wonderfully with the bitterness of coffee. Almond milk also works well but tastes a bit thinner. Coconut milk overpowers the coffee too much for most people’s preferences, unless you want a “coconut latte” flavor.

Which one is the most environmentally sustainable milk substitute?

From an environmental perspective, production and farming of coconuts has the lowest water usage and land requirements. Coconut trees also prevent coastal erosion and provide economic opportunities in developing tropical regions.

Cashew and almond trees still have significantly lower emissions than dairy. But almonds in particular place more strain on water usage, especially in drought-prone California where most come from. Over 80% of the world’s almonds are farmed in California.

So coconuts have the least environmental impact overall, followed by cashews and distant third, almonds. But consumers should still choose responsible producers for all three.

Can children drink non-dairy milks?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends dairy milk over plant-based milks for children under one year old. However almond, cashew or coconut milk is safe for older toddlers and kids as part of a balanced diet.

Just be mindful that non-dairy varieties lack key nutrients like protein, vitamin D, riboflavin, phosphorus and vitamin B12 levels on par with cow’s milk. So kids should get those essentials from a well-rounded diet. Fortified almond milk helps increase nutrient levels. Consulting a pediatrician is wise to address any child-specific diet concerns.

What’s the easiest way to make non-dairy milk at home?

Making DIY almond, cashew and coconut milk takes just minutes with a basic blender. To make any homemade nut milk:

  • Add 1 cup raw nuts and 4 cups water to blender
  • Blend 2 minutes until smooth and frothy
  • Strain through nut milk bag or cheesecloth

The same method applies to shredded coconut. Simmer the coconut briefly to help release the oils and cream for richer coconut milk. Then store your homemade milk in the fridge, gently shaking before drinking.

So with minimal time and ingredients, you can easily whip up fresh nut or coconut milk at home for far cheaper than store-bought cartons and cans. This allows you to control the ingredients, avoid unnecessary additives and reduce waste from packaging.

Additional Questions or Thoughts?

I hope these answers help explain some of the key similarities and differences between almond, cashew and coconut varieties. Please let me know if you have any other questions in the comments! I’m happy to provide more detail comparing these popular plant-based milk alternatives.

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