Does your menu offer milk-free options?

November 17 2014

There are many reasons that your customers may look for milk-free options when deciding what to eat. They may be allergic to cow's milk, lactose intolerant or vegan. Alternatively, they might be worried about animal welfare issues or the health implications of consuming too much dairy.

Whatever your customers' reasons for cutting the milk from their diets, it's a good idea to ensure that your menu has plenty of options for them to choose from - or that you are able to provide milk-free versions of certain dishes when requested.

A number of milk alternatives are available to choose from and when considering the options, you should think about their flavours and how they interact with other ingredients. 

It's also a good idea to think about why your customers have gone milk-free. For example, if someone has an allergy to cow's milk, they may be happy to consume goat's milk - but a vegan will want plant-based ingredients only. Meanwhile, someone who is lactose intolerant will be fine with cow's milk products as long as they are lactose-free.

Lactose-free milk

For customers who are intolerant to lactose (the sugar that is naturally found in milk) the easiest solution might be to offer lactose-free milk. This is simply cow's milk that has been treated to remove those sugars - a process that typically involves filtering the milk then adding enzymes that break down the remaining sugars.

The benefit of using lactose-free milk is that it tastes just like normal milk, it can be used in most recipes without any changes and it has all the same nutritional qualities of normal milk. However, it is not a suitable option for those who are allergic to cow's milk or who wish to avoid consuming animal products.

Other dairy products like yogurt, cream, butter and cheese are available in lactose-free versions and some cheeses are naturally free from lactose.

Goat, sheep and buffalo milk

While many people are allergic to cow's milk - or, more specifically, the proteins found in cow's milk - they may not suffer the same reaction when drinking milk from other animals.

Goat milk is one of the most well known of these alternatives. Fresh goat milk, butter and cheese are easy to find in most grocery stores. Sheep and buffalo milk products are also fairly easy to find. 

If you're looking for something even more unusual, milk products are also available from other animals. Donkey cheese, for instance, is considered a delicacy in Serbia.

Soy milk

When you think of milk alternatives, soy milk is probably what first springs to mind. It is made by soaking dry soybeans and then grinding them in water. It is available in a number of varieties, including plain and sweetened, as well as flavours like vanilla and chocolate. 

Soy milk works well in coffees and hot chocolate, as well as most sauces and it's also a popular option for pouring over breakfast cereal. Of course, its uses are much more wide-ranging and these days, you can find soy products ranging from cream and yogurt to cheese and custard.

Coconut milk and almond milk

An ingredient that has long been used in Thai and Indian dishes, coconut milk has a lovely sweet flavour and a creamy texture. It's often used in savoury dishes to offset hot spices but it's also a wonderful substitute for milk or cream in many desserts. 

As well as being a vegan-friendly ingredients, coconut milk is also a common ingredient on the Paleo Diet.

Almond milk

Made from toasted almonds that are ground and then mixed with water, almond milk has a mild flavour and is often provided in sweetened versions. It can be used in most dishes - such as soups, sauces and desserts - as an alternative to cow's milk, although it doesn't tend to work well in pudding or yogurt.

Grain-based milks

Oat milk and rice milk are two examples of milk alternatives that are made from grains. These typically have more carbohydrates and less protein than normal milk, but some varieties may be fortified with protein and vitamins. Oat milk is also thought to be good for heart health because it contains beta-glucan, which lowers cholesterol.