Q: Mary – As vegetarians, our greatest challenge to becoming vegan is that we deeply enjoy our morning ritual of traditional European coffees and Australian “flat whites” [made with organic milk]. However, our attempts at milk substitutes have not been successful when we have tried hemp, oat, soy, and almond milks — all to no avail. We cannot capture either the mellow flavor enhancement dilution by milk to coffee, nor the creamy texture — and pure coconut milk as a “milk for coffee” substitute also has not worked, as it just makes the coffee oily.
Are there any other potentially viable options out there that we have simply not tried yet?
A: Alisa - It is times like these that I wish I drank coffee, so that I could give everyone a personally taste-tested answer. Nonetheless, I referenced our Non-Dairy Product Lists, researched the brands, and pooled opinions from many coffee drinking friends and fans to give you the best dairy-free creamer options available to date …
But first, it is important to make a quick distinction. Many coffee creamers are labeled as “Non-Dairy” but they are not actually dairy-free by ingredients. With foods such as whipped topping and creamers the term non-dairy may be used if the product contains 0.5% or less milk by weight, in the form of casein / caseinates (milk protein) (reference: Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook). These products may be okay for many lactose intolerant individuals, but could still be a problem for people who are allergic / sensitive to milk (since casein is the most allergenic protein within milk) and for those seeking truly dairy-free or vegan products specifically.
The following suggestions do not contain any dairy in the ingredients (casein, whey, lactose, etc.), but as with all products, do your homework if milk cross-contamination is a concern for you. Counterintuitive as it may seem, many dairy alternatives are made (or packaged) in shared facilities or on shared lines with their dairy-based counterparts.
I have heard from many people who simply enjoy almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk beverage, or just a touch of regular coconut milk in their coffee. Though these may be rich enough, milk alternatives frequently separate in hot liquids and they don’t have the same mouth feel as commercially made creamers. For some coffee lovers this is not a problem, but for others like Mary, dairy-free creamers have been invented …
So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer – I have heard the most raves about this product in terms of taste and quality. People seem to love splashing coconut creamer into their morning cuppa joe. I have also heard from two different bloggers that it makes a mean batch of ice cream. Unfortunately, the price is a big deterrent for many. It isn’t the cheapest option out there, erring more on the side of a splurge. Also, it can be harder to find since it is refrigerated and must be purchased in stores. But, for the coffee connoisseur, this may be worth the extra effort and expense. This creamer is labeled as vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free. For information: www.turtlemountain.com
MimicCreme (Discontinued) – This is an interesting one because MimicCreme actually has a dairy-free coffee creamer, but all of the people who have recommended this brand to me for coffee actually purchased the regular MimicCreme, which comes in the larger packages in unsweetened, sweetened, and sugar-free sweetened.
When I initially responded to our questioner, Mary, I sent her several recommendations. She chose to purchase MimicCreme. Mary was kind enough to report back with her opinion … “The MimicCreme arrived from Amazon.com today. The verdict: AMAZING!!! The MimicCreme works really well with coffee as it is extremely rich in texture, and it complements the coffee in creating the cafe au lait shading that is so inviting in many coffee drinks, both hot and cold. Additionally, MimicCreme froths nicely, even as it is rich and heavy in texture.” Like the others, Mary bought the regular unsweetened MImicCreme, not the one labeled as coffee creamer. We have yet to receive votes on that one.
MimicCreme is shelf stable, so you can order it online and stock-up if you find a good price. This is a nut-based creamer (almonds and cashews), and it is labeled as 100% vegan, gluten-free, and non-soy.
**MimicCreme closed their doors in late 2012 with the hope of reopening when they found a production facility. We haven’t heard any good news of their return as of yet.
Silk Soy Creamer – This seems to be the coffee creamer of choice for those not willing to pay the higher price for coconut creamer, or who simply prefer the taste and texture. Silk has been around longer than any other dairy-free creamer that I know of, and it has therefore gained quite the following. Plus, it is relatively easy to find in most cities; even major grocers often carry Silk brand soy creamer. Like the coconut creamer, it is sold in little cartons in the refrigerated section. According to the Silk website, this product is vegan and gluten-free. For more information: www.silksoymilk.com
And, there are some brands which we haven’t received any feedback on as of yet …
Trader Joe’s Soy Creamer – You can view the ingredients and a review of this product here.
Taam Tov Instant Creamer – This one can be hard to locate, but it is a powdered non-dairy creamer that is truly non-dairy. It is has been noted as kosher parve (OU) and vegan.
Want more options for dairy alternatives? Dairy-free coffee creamers, milks, ice creams, cheeses, sour creams, and more can be found in all of the Non-Dairy Product Lists and are the focus of the “Just the Subs” Product List for Multiple Food Allergens. Trust me, there are more options in these lists then you have ever imagined!
For more dairy-free Q&A topics, see our Ask Alisa Page.
Alisa Fleming is the founder of GoDairyFree.org and author of Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. In addition to her own dairy-free lifestyle, Alisa has experience in catering to the needs of various special diets, including gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, vegan, and multiple food allergies.