Most dairy is ok on the keto diet. Just a couple of examples include cheese, heavy cream, greek yogurt, and, let’s not forget, butter!
With so many milk derivatives allowed on the keto diet, newcomers are often surprised to find that milk is not on the list. But why is that so?
Well, dairy milk, as it turns out, is too high in net carbs to work with this diet. Thankfully, there are more than enough tasty alternatives with little to no carbs out there.
At My Sweet Keto, we prefer two popular keto milk alternatives in most keto recipes. But we also think you should have the freedom to choose your own favorites.
Let us see why milk is not keto-approved and what milk alternatives are best on keto.
Got Milk? Not on Keto: The Surprising Reasons Why
Milk is relatively high in carbohydrates. More precisely, a cup of whole milk provides 11.7g of net carbs . While that may not seem like much initially, keep in mind that you likely won’t drink a glass of milk on its own as a complete meal. Instead, you’ll combine it with other ingredients, and the carbs can quickly add up.
The sugar in milk is called lactose, a type of disaccharide. It gives milk its mildly sweet taste and is meant to provide energy to growing calves.
This milk sugar is very likely to raise your blood glucose levels to where you’d be kicked out of ketosis. And studies have even found that it affects insulin , so it may be best to avoid milk and its sugar.
Besides that, there are other reasons you may want to rethink milk. One reason is that milk is often hard to digest. In addition, many people lack enough of the enzyme lactase necessary for the body to break down lactose.
Researchers believe 65% of the world population is lactose intolerant . Fermented and other dairy products often have much lower levels of lactose, which makes them easier to digest.
The Cream of the Crop: Keto-Approved Milk Substitutes
You’ll most probably want to avoid milk on a low-carb diet. So, which keto milk alternatives do you use instead?
Lucky for you, there are plenty of substitutes to choose from, most being the non-dairy options.
One dairy option, however, is heavy cream. It has half the milk carbs and plenty of milk fat . You can dilute it with water if you find it too heavy or use smaller quantities in things like smoothies, keto cereals, pancakes, etc.
As far as non-dairy keto milk alternatives go, we prefer the following two:
A glass of unsweetened almond milk has about 1g of net carbs , which should be reason enough to add it to your keto pantry. It’s also low in calories, and some brands have added calcium and vitamin D, which you need for healthy bones. However, it is also relatively low in fat at around 3g of fat in a cup.
Almond milk has a mild, nutty taste and a beautifully creamy texture. We use it in our pancakes, cupcakes, cakes, and even panna cotta. It’s ideal where you would like to combine a lower-fat liquid with high-fat ingredients. Or use it when you’re simply watching your calories.
You can have two types of coconut milk on a keto diet: canned and carton. Canned coconut milk is much higher in fat and energy than carton, providing about 21g of fat and 200 calories in a 100g serving . But both types are low in carbs, usually providing less than 3g of net carbs in a 100g serving.
When buying carton coconut milk, make sure to read the label and look out for added sugars. Many brands add sweeteners to improve the flavor of their drinks. And as far as uses go, canned coconut milk can be used in dessert recipes that call for cream due to its high-fat content. On the other hand, carton coconut milk is excellent in low-carb cereals, smoothies, and meals that require a lighter drink.
Besides these two favorites, keto dieters can also safely opt for flax milk, macadamia nut milk, hemp milk, and pea milk, to name a few. With the “milk” market expanding thanks to the growing demand for milk alternatives, you can rest assured that there will be even more low-carb options for your meals in the future.
DIY Keto Milk: Save Money and Satisfy Your Taste Buds
Store-bought nut milk is convenient, but it can be pricey. The prices of plant-based milk are often double that of dairy. So, if you’d like to save on keto milk alternatives, consider making from-scratch ones at home.
It’s easy simple, and you can produce better-quality milk than what’s often offered in stores. Here is how to do that.
Homemade almond milk
- 1 cup almonds
- 5 cups water
- Soak almonds overnight or for at least 8 hours.
- Drain and add to a high speed blender together with the 5 cups of water. Blend on high speed until smooth.
- Strain the almond milk into a bowl using a nut milk bag or cheesecloth.
- Transfer to a jar or bottle and keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Feel free to add flavorings and sweeteners before blending. Some great options include vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, stevia, erythritol, or yacon syrup. The above amounts yield about 5 cups of almond drink. You can discard the pulp or, much better, use it to make homemade almond flour. And for mild-tasting almond milk, peel the skins off before transferring the almonds to the blender.
Homemade coconut milk
- 2 cups shredded coconut
- 4 cups water
- Add the shredded coconut to a blender.
- Heat the water until very hot and pour into the blender. Blend on high speed until creamy and allow to cool until lukewarm.
- Pour into a bowl through a nut milk bag or cheesecloth. Transfer the coconut milk into a bottle or jar and store in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Since coconut milk is loaded with coconut flavor and impressive as is, there’s no need for added flavorings. Like with homemade almond milk, you’ll have leftover pulp that you can use to make coconut flour. The above amounts will give you about 4 cups of coconut milk. If you don’t use it immediately, you’ll notice separation within a couple of hours. That is normal. Just heat the milk and stir it before using it.
Most other plant-based kinds of milk follow the above principles, i.e., soaking, blending, and straining. Therefore, making nut milk at home will not only help you save on keto milk substitutes, but you’ll also have almond and coconut flour as a byproduct — further helping you budget your keto diet.
Bake Outside the (Dairy) Box: Low-Carb Dairy Alternatives for Delicious Results
In most recipes, you can substitute plant milk for dairy at a 1:1 ratio. But you may get different results depending on the recipe. Dairy milk contains a high amount of protein, which provides tenderness, flavor, and browning to baked goods. Milk proteins also help creams and custards set.
In recipes where a high-protein liquid is better suited — like this Keto Rice Pudding or Ultimate Keto Crème Brûlée — use heavy cream. Use plant-based alternatives in baked goods, especially those that include butter and eggs, to add structure and texture. Use coconut milk where you’d like more creaminess and richness and almond milk for a fluffier and lighter result.
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Milk, whole. October 2020. - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1097512/nutrients
- Salminen E, Karonen SL, Salminen S. Blood glucose and plasma insulin responses to fat free milk and low-lactose fat free milk in healthy human volunteers. Z Ernahrungswiss. 1987;26(1):52-55. doi:10.1007/BF02023819
- Malik TF, Panuganti KK. Lactose Intolerance. [Updated 2021 Jul 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532285/
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Cream, fluid, heavy whipping. October 2020. - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170859/nutrients
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. ALMOND MILK. October 2020. - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/476436/nutrients
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Nuts, coconut milk, canned (liquid expressed from grated meat and water). October 2020. - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170173/nutrients