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I tried 8 plant-based creamers and may write off dairy forever

The winner of this taste test is a nondairy dream for your morning cup o' joe.

Some of us prefer our coffee black, while others prefer our creamer with a splash of coffee. If you fall into the latter category, but happen to be lactose intolerant or cutting back on dairy, it’s likely you’ve tried a bevy of plant-based options to fill the void of decadently creamy milk.

Of course, the type of plant-based creamer can be derived from any plant of choice: almond, macadamia, coconut, soy, oat or even pea. These will also affect consistency, texture and overall flavor, but for this week’s taste test, we’re sticking strictly to the latter.

Matthew Seigel, consulting beverage director for plant-based Little Saint in Healdsburg, California, is a certified plant-based creamer expert. Beyond his famous oat milk-based espresso martini, the Eleven Madison Park alum also incorporates the ingredient into recipes beyond cocktails, noting that it can be “swapped out for anything that real milk can do.”

There are, however, a few things to keep in mind while shopping for the perfect bottle or carton:

  • Watch out for canola or processed vegetable oils. This is a common additive in most plant-based creamers. “You will find fats hiding in many things, not just nondairy milks and creamers, however, these do need fat to bind to to create that silky texture we are all used to when enjoying a cappuccino or latte made with traditional milk,” says Seigel. While this is unavoidable with most mainstream brands, be sure to read nutrition labels and decide what works best for you and your dietary needs.
  • Go for organic. It’s coming from a plant, after all. “A shopper should look for organic first and foremost and, at the very least, non-GMO verified with as few ingredients as possible (especially ones that you haven’t heard of),” advises Seigel. This will ensure your pour isn’t chock-full of unnecessary chemicals. Purity is key.
  • Make up your mind about carrageenan. The thickening agent, used to allow for easy steaming, is derived from various forms of red seaweed and has attracted both fans and critics. “There are camps of people who believe that carrageenan can be harmful and cause inflammation or IBS, and conversely, there are those who believe it to be an antioxidant, antiviral and support healthy digestion,” shares Seigel. “In my opinion, it is a matter of preference.  If it makes you feel uncomfortable to have it in your beverage, then avoid it.”

For the sake of this taste test, I only sampled unsweetened products (sugar, of course, would give any of these a leg up), so keep this in mind before sliding into my DMs and asking why I didn’t consider more flavorful alternatives or mainstream brands like Oatly and Chobani. We want simple, no frills creamer here, people! 

Note: Before starting this taste test, I was a big fan of So Delicious’ line of plant-based unsweetened creamers because they are, in fact, so delicious. Unfortunately, they went through a complete recipe change that has caused an uproar in the plant-based creamer community. As to not confuse people with old vs. new iterations (since both can still be found on shelves), I have chosen to omit it from this list.

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8. Laird Superfood Unsweetened Superfood Creamer

Laird Superfood Creamer
Laird Superfood

Mushroom-packed Laird touts exceptional health benefits like energy improvement and immunity enhancement, but its taste — yikes. It was kind of sour, kind of salty, kind of like I scooped some soil from my succulent to add as a last-minute garnish. The carton was also quite difficult to shake up and pour out with an even consistency. And while I hate to rank this last (because I’ll suffer through anything that’s good for the bod), it just didn’t live up to its Amazon-review hype.

7. Elmhurst Unsweetened Oat Creamer

Elmhurst Oat Creamer
Elmhurst

While I was tickled to see an oat-based creamer sans seed oils (an uncommon occurrence), the texture was quite chalky and it ran a bit thin. You are better off with the brand’s flavored varieties for a much more palatable morning coffee experience. In fact, if this was based on vanilla options alone, it could have taken home top honors. But, alas, here we are ...

6. Nut Pod Almond + Coconut Original Unsweetened Creamer 

NutPods almond and coconut creamer orignal
Nutpods

I applaud Nut Pod’s commitment to sourcing high-quality ingredients. It tasted the most pure on this list and didn’t impart too much of an almond or coconut flavor (which would detract from the complexity of the coffee and my favorite sugar-free sweetener). That said, the consistency left much to be desired — watery and completely capable of diluting your brew if used in excess. Luckily, I only needed a tablespoon. Anymore and I would have felt like I was sipping a mug of hot water with a few coffee beans at the bottom.

5. Ripple Dairy-Free Half & Half Unsweetened Alternative

Ripple Unsweetened Creamer
Ripple

Pass the peas, please. But only if they’re milked to create this half and half alternative that was one of the creamiest of the bunch. Ripple’s protein milk was already a pantry staple, so it was no surprise that its plant-based take on creamer was also a star. It could have used a touch more of the natural sweetness found in the notoriously boring veggie, but that problem was easily remedied with a pump of syrup.

4. Super Creamer Half & Half Enhanced Alternative 

Super Creamer half and half
Instacart

I can’t say enough good things about this brand, which relies on potentially-brain-healthy MCT oil for fat (as opposed to canola or sunflower). It aalso use monk fruit and stevia to sweeten its flavored varieties. Was it the best thing I’ve ever tasted? No. But did it list ingredients I could feel good about as I transitioned from zombie to functioning human? Yes. Yes, indeed.

3. Sown Organic Unsweetened Oat Creamer 

Sown Organic Oat Creamer
Sown

We love a shelf-stable product that can be on stand in at a moment’s notice. Sure, this is full of canola oil (like many oat milks), but it was one of the most decadently rich and creamy varieties of the bunch. Because of this, it’s the one I’d grab for baking since it seemed to resemble dairy milk the closest. It’s also the one I’d grab for a cappuccino, latte or anything that requires a mini mountain of velvety foam to top it off and give Starbucks a run for its money.

2. Milkadamia Unsweetened Latte Da Barista Blend Macadamia Milk

Milkadamia Unsweetned Milk
Amazon

If you’re looking for a creamer that can double as milk in a pinch, this is the one for you. In fact, macadamia nut milk may be your new go-to dairy milk alternative with its ultra-rich and creamy mouthfeel. It was the sleeper hit of the bunch and I may or may not have bought cartons of the brand’s other options after polishing off this one. Looks like my summer iced coffee habit will start a lot earlier this year.

1. Califia Farms Unsweetened Almondmilk Creamer

Califia Creamer
Califia

Califia Farms boasts an impressive lineup of plant-based milks, so it was no surprise that the company’s creamer was also a certified hist. The almond milk-based bottle is a wonderful choice for anyone who despises the taste of coconut in their coffee (since so many creamers are made with the tropical fruit) and is looking for something balanced in both taste and texture. And since the brand offers a handful of other plant-based creamer options (including oat and barista blends), it reigns supreme in this space and snatches the crown. Califia Farms … I bow down to thee.