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Plant-based NotMilk says it mimics cow's milk. We put it to a taste test

A registered dietitian tried NotMilk — the plant-based milk that says it tastes, feels and functions like cow's milk. Here's how it stacks up.
We tried two versions of NotMilk: 2% and whole.
We tried two versions of NotMilk: 2% and whole. Courtesy Frances Largeman-Roth

Earlier this year I checked out NotMilk for my round up of healthy food trends for the year. NotMilk is made by NotCo, a food brand whose mission is to reinvent favorite foods without the use of animals, while not compromising on taste. They use plant-based ingredients and accomplish this by using artificial intelligence. In fact, their AI has a name — Giuseppe. According to the company, Giuseppe can quickly identify ingredients from plants that are ideal replacements for animal-based products, replicating them based on taste, feel, function and nutritional profile.

While plant-based milks have saturated the dairy aisle the last few years, they are generally categorized by their main ingredient — oats, almonds, coconut, cashew, etc. The difference with NotMilk is that their non-dairy blend is an odd-sounding assortment of plant ingredients, including water, pea protein, chicory root fiber, pineapple juice concentrate, coconut oil and cabbage juice concentrate. That last one may be a head-scratcher, but it’s what Giuseppe came up with.

How does it taste?

Most plant milks function like cow’s milk in the sense that you can use them in the spots where you’d normally use milk — in coffee, cereal and some recipes — but we don’t necessarily expect cashew milk or pistachio milk to taste like cow’s milk. But an AI-created milk that’s meant to actually replace the real thing? That’s a different story.

I tasted NotMilk straight from the fridge, starting with the 2% reduced fat. It was slightly transparent, which reminded me of skim milk. The flavor was pleasant and somewhat sweet, with vanilla notes. The whole milk looks creamier when you pour it but doesn’t have the bright white appearance of dairy milk. The flavor though, in my opinion, is the closest that any non-dairy milk has come to tasting like the stuff from cows.

Both varieties of NotMilk foamed nicely with an electric frother. Both were great in cereal, but the whole milk version tasted better. For coffee I found that the whole NotMilk was tasty but didn’t turn my coffee the expected shade of caramel brown that it does with my organic whole milk. Both versions worked nicely in smoothies, but I preferred the whole milk version in my banana muffin recipe.

Is NotMilk better for you?

Now that the taste had been approved, we wanted to take a look at NotMilk to see how it compares nutritionally to the original stuff from cows. Here is a side-by-side comparison:

Cow’s milk, whole (8-ounces)

  • Calories: 219
  • Fat, total: 8 grams
  • Saturated fat: 4.6g
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Sugars: 12 grams
  • Added sugars: 0 grams
  • Calcium: 306 mg
  • Potassium: 374mg
  • Sodium: 95 mg
  • Vitamin D: 3 micrograms
  • Iron: 0 mg
  • Vitamin A: 75 micrograms
  • Vitamin B-12: 1.34 micrograms

NotMilk, whole (8-ounces)

  • Calories: 110
  • Fat, total: 8 grams
  • Saturated fat: 5 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Sugars: 3 grams
  • Added sugars: 3 grams
  • Calcium: 310 mg
  • Potassium: 7.4 mg
  • Sodium: 180 mg
  • Vitamin D: 4.6 micrograms
  • Iron: 1.3 mg
  • Vitamin A: NA
  • Vitamin B-12: 0.8mcg

As you can see, you are saving over 100 calories with NotMilk, but that’s about it. The amount of fat in both products is similar, but you’ll get half as much protein and far less potassium, an important nutrient, from NotMilk. You might wonder how it stacks up in the sugar department. After all, a glass of milk does contain 12 grams of sugar. But that’s coming from the naturally occurring lactose sugar in the milk — there is no sugar added. NotMilk has just 3 grams of sugar, but it’s from the sugar that is added to the product.

Both versions of NotMilk worked nicely in smoothies, but didn't do as well in baked goods. Not Milk

When it comes to cost, regular milk is cheaper. Unbranded whole milk sells for about $2.69 for a half gallon ($3.99 for organic), while the suggested price of a half-gallon of NotMilk is $4.99. For comparison, a half-gallon of almond or oat milk is about $3.99.

Who should try NotMilk?

For anyone who is lactose-intolerant, but still loves the flavor of real milk, plant-based options haven’t been a great replacement. NotMilk is much closer to the flavor and texture experience of cow’s milk and since it’s created from plants, NotMilk is lactose-free. It is also free from soy, gluten and genetically modified organisms.

For people who are concerned about the environmental impact of dairy farming, a cow-free milk might be a smart choice. NotCo conducted an internal audit in 2020 and says that it its product reduced the energy used in the production process compared to regular milk by 74%. The audit revealed that the process to produce NotMilk also uses 92% less water and 74% less carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted compared to regular milk. For their part, dairy farms have been working on reducing their carbon footprint and water usage as well. One study did a life cycle analysis of dairy farming in California, the state that produces the most dairy, and found that thanks to efficiencies in breeding and farm management, emissions have decreased by 60% and water usage has dropped by 90% in recent decades.

As with many other things, consumers have a lot of choices to make in the crowded dairy aisle. Flavor-wise, NotMilk is worth trying, but I'm still a big fan of the nutritional benefits of cow’s milk. Good thing there’s plenty of space in my fridge!

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