Almond Milk: The Best and Worst Brands

Do you drink Almond milk? Here is a round-up of the best and worst almond milks, and what to look for in a brand.

Almond milk is one of an ever-growing line of non-dairy alternatives to traditional cow’s milk.

The current list includes: oat milk, soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, flax milk, hemp milk, and coconut milk hybrids. Oh, and don’t forget hazelnut milk, and even cashew nut milk.

What’s prompted this post is my experiences with almond milk. I purchase almond milk every now and then (and this varies for me depending on price).

I find the “original” varieties to be over-sweetened.

To add insult to injury, some manufacturers make single serve formulations of these beverages. Often with almost identical packaging, the single serves can contain a whole lot more sugar.

Silk and Almond Breeze are both the target of a class-action lawsuit claiming that they only contain 2% almonds. Unfortunately, labeling requirements in the USA allow manufacturers to withhold the percentage of almonds in the beverage.

We were unable to find Almond percentages for any USA brands. However, one brand’s exported product (Almond Breeze) did show the percentage at 2%.

The highest percentage we were able to find is an Australian brand (Pure Harvest) at 10%.

silkSilk

Their range includes Original (7g sugar per cup), Vanilla (16g sugar), Light (5g sugar), Light Vanilla (11g sugar), Unsweetened, Unsweetened Vanilla.

Ingredients can include: Almondmilk (Filtered Water, Almonds), Cane Sugar, Sea Salt, Natural Flavor, Locust Bean Gum, Sunflower Lecithin, Gellan Gum. Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin E Acetate, Zinc Gluconate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D2.

  • Uses non-GMO almonds.
  • Carrageenan free.
  • Almond Percentage: Unlisted.

More: silk.com

(Discounted at Amazon).

almondbreezeBlue Diamond Almond Breeze

Range includes Original (7g sugar per cup), Vanilla (13g sugar), Chocolate (20g sugar !) Unsweetened, Unsweetened Vanilla. They also have chocolate flavors.

Ingredients can include: Almondmilk (Filtered Water, Almonds), Evaporated Cane Juice, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Citrate, Sea Salt, Sunflower Lecithin, Gellan Gum, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, D-Alpha-Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E)

  • Almond Percentage: 2% (source: bluediamonduk)
  • Also has a coconut milk blend.
  • Uses non-GMO almonds.
  • Now carrageenan free in the US.
  • In other countries like the UK, it still may contain carrageenan and it doesn’t contain added vitamins.
  • Chocolate flavoring is from ‘dutch process’ chocolate (read more here).

More: www.almondbreeze.com

Discounted at Amazon.

sodeliciousSo Delicious Almond Plus

Range includes Original (7g sugar per cup), Vanilla (8g sugar), Unsweetened.

Ingredients can include: Almond Milk (Water, Almonds), Dried Cane Syrup, Pea Protein, Rice Protein, Calcium Phosphate, Magnesium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Natural Flavor, Locust Bean Gum, Kosher Sea Salt, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D-2, L-Selenomethionine (Selenium), Zinc Oxide, Folic Acid, Vitamin B-12.

  • Almond Percentage: Unlisted.
  • The 5+ range contains extra protein (pea and rice protein).
  • Uses non-GMO almonds.

NOTE: There is now a newer range (simply called Almondmilk) from So Delicious that is Carrageenan-free, and uses Vitamin A Acetate.

More: Sodeliciousdairyfree.com

Discounted at Amazon

elmhurstElmhurst Harvest

Their range includes Original (7g sugar per cup), Unsweetened (0g sugar), Chocolate (18g sugar).

Ingredients can include: Almondmilk (Filtered Water, Almonds), Cane Sugar, Calcium Carbonate, Sunflower Oil, Sea Salt, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Gellan Gum, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin).

  • Carrageenan free.
  • Almond Percentage: Unlisted.

More: elmhurstharvest.com

(Discounted at Amazon).

pacificorganicPacific Organic Almond Milk

Range includes Original (7g sugar per cup), Vanilla (10g sugar), Unsweetened, Unsweetened Vanilla.

Ingredients include: Almond Base* (Water, Almonds*), Dried Cane Syrup*, Potassium Citrate, Sea Salt, Carrageenan, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2

  • Almond Percentage: Unlisted.
  • Non-GMO almonds.
  • USDA certified organic almonds and sugar

More: www.pacificfoods.com

Discounted at Amazon.

naturaNatura Almond Milk

Range includes Original (7g sugar per cup), Chocolate (18g sugar), Vanilla (15g sugar), Unsweetened.

Ingredients include: Filtered Water, Almonds, Cane Sugar, Calcium Carbonate, Sea Salt, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavours, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Gellan Gum, Zinc Sulfate, Riboflavin, Vitamin D2, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A Palmitate.

  • Almond Percentage: Unlisted.
  • Non-GMO almonds.

More: www.nutrisoya.com

tradejoesTrader Joe’s Almond Beverage

Range includes Unsweetened and Vanilla Unsweetened.

Ingredients include: Almondmilk (filtered water, almonds), tricalcium phosphate, sea salt, gellan gum, dipotassium phosphate, xanthan gum, natural flavors, sunflower lecithin, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin d2, dl-alpha tocopherol acetate (vitamin e).

  • Almond Percentage: Unlisted.

wholefoodsalmondWhole Foods Market 365 Almond Milks

Ingredients: Organic almond milk (filtered water, organic almonds), organic evaporated cane juice, tricalcium phosphate, sea salt, xanthan gum, potassium citrate, sunflower lecithin, vitamin A palmitate, ergocalciferol (vitamin d2), dl-alpha tocopherol acetate (vitamin e).

  • No carrageenan, but uses Xantham Gum as a thickener (this may have been updated to Gellan gum and Locust Bean gum).
  • They use organic almonds and sugar.
  •  Available in original, unsweetened, and vanilla

newbarnalmondmilkNew Barn Almond Milk

This newer milk is USDA organic, contains no carrageenan. Available at Whole Foods Market. Unsweetened, sweetened, and vanilla.

Ingredients (unsweetened): organic almonds, spring water, organic acacia gum and sea salt.

califiafarmsCalifia Farms

Their range includes Original (5g sugar per cup), Vanilla, Unsweetened, Chocolate, Coconut, and even a Barista Blend.

Ingredients can include: Almondmilk (Water, Almonds), Pure Cane Sugar. Contains Less Than 2% of the Following: Vitamin/Mineral Blend (Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin D2, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2, Zinc), Sunflower Lecithin, Sea Salt, Potassium Citrate, Natural Flavors, Locust Bean Gum, Gellan Gum.

Note that Califia says: “We are in the process of replacing carrageenan across all of our product line, and we will have an entirely carrageenan-free portfolio by the end of 2015.” They have completed this and we’ve updated the ingredient list above.

  • Almond Percentage: Unlisted.
  • Non-GMO project verified.

More: califiafarms.com

Discounted at Amazon

Starbucks Almond Milk

Starbucks offer an Almond Milk (the call it almondmilk)that is their own formulation. This is not a separate product as such, but can be chosen in some stores instead of dairy milk. It has less sugar per serving than any other milk product in their stores.

Ingredients: almond milk (filtered water, almonds), sugar, tricalcium phosphate, sunflower lecithin, sea salt, xanthan gum, guar gum, vitamin A palmitate, and vitamin D2.

Per serving: 60 calories, 4 grams fat, 110 mg sodium, 5 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 3 grams sugar, and 2 grams of protein

  • Almond Percentage: 3%.
  • Carrageenan-free

Almond Milk Nutrition Issues

Carrageenan
A texturizing additive derived from seaweed. Regarded as safe by the FDA, although some people report gastro-intestinal issues (see more). It is used predominantly in dairy and meat products, but does sometimes turn up in Almond Milk. (Here’s a large review, if you’re really concerned.)

Additives
Different kinds of thickeners and gums can be found in non-dairy milks. Chris Kesser sums this up well “gums can be problematic for those with digestive issues simply because they’re mostly indigestible, but it’s very unlikely any of them will actually cause harm.”

Vitamin A Palmitate
Many ready-to-drink products are fortified with vitamins. There is some controversy surrounding vitamin A palmitate, as it may be sourced from palm plantations that are damaging to ecosystems.

All commercial almond milks listed here (except possibly New Barn) appear to contain Vitamin A Palmitate. If you wish to avoid additives, the only way is to make your own.

“Chocolate Almond Milk Has How Much Sugar?!”

One thing I learned: A cup of Almond Breeze Chocolate Almond Milk has almost as much sugar as Coca-Cola!

  • Chocolate Almond Milk: 20g
  • Coke: 26g

The Best Choice Is…

Look for unsweetened varieties. If you can’t handle the blandness, then try an unsweetened vanilla.

Carrageenan-free brands offering unsweetened varieties (available in the US) include: Silk (buy online), and all other brands except So Delicious and Pacifica.

If you’re in Australia, the Australia’s Own Organic is a great product.

Getting Almond Milk

PS. Have a look at Thrive Market – a subscription based site where premium organic products are heavily discounted. We spotted both califia farms and other brands organic almond milk. Membership is about $45 per year (but apparently they will negotiate this).

Other non-US Brands

  • Almond Fresh – Canadian, similar sugar content, contains carrageenan.
  • So Good – NZ & Australia. Contains carrageenan. Sweetened and unsweetened varieties. Almond Percentage: 2.5%
  • Australia’s Own Organic – Almond Percentage: 3% – Probably the best find of everything reviewed here. Certified organic, no carrageenan, lightly sweetened with Agave Syrup.
  • Macro Organic Almond Milk (Australia / NZ) – A store brand (Woolworths/Countdown) with 4% almonds.
  • Pure Harvest – Australian. Certified organic, uses Rice Syrup to sweeten. Claim 10% almond content (activated almonds).
  • Alpro Almond Milk – UK. No carrageenan. Slightly sweeter than other brands.

Almond Pasteurization

Many nutrition labels list almonds as raw. This is not strictly true as (from 2007 onwards) all almonds grown in the US must be pasteurized (after some outbreaks of Salmonella during the early 2000s). This process is either done by steam treating the almonds, or by using the fumigant Propylene Oxide (PPO) (see more). PPO is an animal carcinogen, but the USDA and EPA consider the dosage levels on almonds to be so low as to be completely safe.

If you wish to avoid almond milks that were sterilized with PPO you must choose an organic source which will have been treated with steam.

Back to Basics

If you want straight Almond milk – make your own. The recipe is simple: try this one here at Nourishing Simplicity.

We’ve made Almond milk at home. I found the taste reflected the quality of the almonds. Sometimes I find that almonds I buy are old, and have that slightly… hmmm… rancid undertone?

I recommend using a nut milk bag to strain the almonds.

MORE: Dark Chocolate: The Best and Worst Brands

References

  • Pan, Z., Bingol, G., Brandl, M. T., & McHugh, T. H. (2012). Review of current technologies for reduction of Salmonella populations on almonds. Food and Bioprocess Technology, 5(6), 2046-2057.
  • Chang, S. S., Han, A. R., Reyes‐De‐Corcuera, J. I., Powers, J. R., & Kang, D. H. (2010). Evaluation of steam pasteurization in controlling Salmonella serotype Enteritidis on raw almond surfaces. Letters in applied microbiology, 50(4), 393-398.

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