A wise man (Gaylord Focker of Meet the Parents) once said you can milk anything with nipples, and while almonds may be lacking in that department (trust me -- I checked), apparently you can milk those too.
Whether you're vegan, lactose intolerant, or just pretentious, almond milk is the ultimate replacement for the popular dairy drink in everything from cereal to coffee. But all almond milks aren't created equal, even if they look the same. To help you make up your mind in a supermarket stocked with sometimes suspicious-looking options, I bought every one I could find and then drank them. Then felt kind of sick.
So without further ado, here's an official ranking of 11 brands of non-flavored almond milk.
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With "10x the protein!" of other brands, this is the ideal beverage for the lactose-intolerant gym bro -- or, say, anyone who's just hauled 10 cartons of almond milk two miles through Manhattan -- namely because it's essentially a watery protein shake masquerading as almond milk anyway. Basically, if Muscle Milk had a weird hippie cousin that hits the gym in jean cut-offs, it would be this chalky, beige beverage. Do you even almond milk, bro?
10. Imagine Foods Dream Ultimate almond beverage
If you're looking for a drink that you need to wash down with another drink, this is it. With a nearly eggnog-caliber viscosity, the super-thick, almost grainy liquid makes you question at first whether you're actually drinking almond milk or almond butter. It coats the inside of your mouth in much the same way it coats the inside of your glass, and is likely to result in an 'stache rivaling that which has decorated the faces of celebrities since the iconic "Got Milk?" campaign debuted in 1993.
That being said, if you're not a celebrity, you should probably wipe your mouth.
9. Engine 2 Plant-Strong Almondmilk
If you think the term "plant-strong" emblazoned across the carton of this almond milk isn't exactly evocative of a creamy, creamy, milkshake-like product, well, you're right. Part of the Engine 2 Diet product line and only available in unsweetened varieties (at least at your local Whole Foods), this is probably the healthiest and definitely the healthiest-tasting of the bunch.
And, yeah, healthy-tasting is kind of a euphemism for bland. But you can't have it both ways, I guess. #PLANTSTRONG
8. 365 Organic Almondmilk
One day, many moons ago -- or whenever this alt-milk craze began -- a Whole Foods exec said, "Well, I guess we better make an almond milk," and the 365 version was born. It's light, obviously organic, and pleasantly average. The general lack of actual almond taste means no flavor distractions, making it the ideal vehicle for whatever weird muesli you're at Whole Foods to purchase that particular day.
As a bonus, it rings in at around $2.19, meaning it's probably the cheapest item at Whole Foods.
7. Mand'Or organic almond milk
This one tastes almost suspiciously almond-y, like instead of using actual almonds Mand'Or-contracted thugs broke into a Starbucks and stole the flavored syrup being used for this season's beloved sorority-girl latte. It's almost sweet enough to serve as dessert on its own, which makes sense, considering the almonds' supporting cast includes twice the sugar and calories as many of the other brands. That's probably why it tastes this good.
Plus it's from Italy, which somehow makes it feel authentic for no real reason whatsoever.
6. Silk almond
If you're a fan of Silk's soy milk, this won't disappoint. With just enough almond flavor and an appropriately smooth texture -- OH, THAT'S WHY THEY CALL IT SILK! -- this would be a good choice If I wanted to dump a bunch of something into my coffee… which I always do.
Decently creamy, subtly sweet -- all in all, it's a pretty quality almond milk, especially for one that's mass-produced by an (upscale?) chain supermarket. However, when you consider the fact that you're at Trader Joe's and could buy a bottle of Two Buck Chuck for roughly the same price, we won't fault you for opting for the latter instead. We're sure shiraz pairs beautifully with Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
4. Blue Diamond Almond Breeze
Like many other things you might sit down and sample 11 different kinds of (just me?), when it comes to almond milk, only the really good, the really bad, and the really weird stand out. Most of the others are pretty interchangeable. To that effect, Blue Diamond's take on the old AM is on the same level as TJ's and Silk, but scores bonus points for being a tad sweeter than the others… and mostly for having a cool name like Almond Breeeeeze. But maybe that's just the almond-milk goggles talking.
Also, I don't feel very good right now.
3. Pacific Foods organic almond
This was the first one I sampled, and it's likely the one I'll be buying from now on due to pure drinkability. The almond taste is recognizable without being overpowering, resulting in a beverage that's pleasant, versatile, and would probably do just as well in a cereal or smoothie as it would serving as the dairy component of a vegan mac & cheese or even, dare we say, in a White Russian?
BRB CHECKING ON SOMETHING REAL QUICK.
2. The New Barn Almondmilk
I was a little suspicious when I opened this one up to find a weird, white, hair conditioner-like goop on the rim of the bottle, but as an adventurous drinker -- and mostly someone who's too lazy to walk back to the store -- I shook it vigorously and hoped for the best.
Turns out, I should've hoped for the second best, because that's what it is. New Barn's milk is slightly sweet but without any weird aftertaste -- likely because it's sweetened with maple syrup -- and boasts a velvety thickness that could best be described as runny Go-Gurt (but, like, in a good way). Plus, due to the plastic packaging, it lacks the weird cardboard notes that plague some of its cartoned competition.
Just be sure to shake well.
1. Califia Farms Almondmilk
Can't quit the cow stuff? For those more interested in the milk than the almond, Califia is the most reminiscent of the dairy version. With the totally all-American, 2% thing it's got happening in terms of taste and texture, it's the ideal option to satisfy your milk-and-cookie cravings without succumbing to the dairy devil, and you can almost imagine a milkman dropping off a few bottles at your door (you know, if that were a thing that still actually happened).
While this would totally do the job and delightfully cream-ify your coffee, it's also worth noting that for those who are serious about their cups o' joe, the blue-ribbon brand also offers an alternate Barista Blend that makes for "full-bodied foam and better latte art."
My tastes, personally, haven't progressed that far.
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Sam Sumpter is a Brooklyn-based writer who will be eating nothing but cereal for the foreseeable future, and she's totally OK with that. Follow her other (dairy-free) adventures @sam_sumpta.