The world has truly turned for those of us that simply can’t have dairy. Whether it’s simply a choice of veganism, a slight lactose intolerance, or a full-blown allergy to dairy, cutting out addictive cheesy treats is not easy. Yet, that has all changed. Not only do we have a plethora of non-dairy food products — from mac n’ cheese to good old cheesy pizza — but there are also a host of plant-based non-dairy milk options. And the list keeps growing.
One of the hottest and lesser-known options to hit the plant-based milk market is pea-based milk. So, let’s take a closer look at this new dairy-free milk product to see if it’s worthy of a place in your fridge!
What is Pea-Based Milk?
Pea-based milk is made from yellow peas, also, known as a yellow vetchling. This particular pea is part of the legume family native to North Africa, southern Europe, and parts of Asia, but it has been introduced to northern Europe and North America where it is actually referred to as a weed. The yellow pea plant gets its name from the yellow flowers that bloom from the pea plant.
In order to make pea-based milk, yellow peas are processed into a yellowish powder called pea isolate. Then the laboratory uses a combination of “heat, pressure, temperature, and other factors to purify the pea protein” for consumption. During this process, the ‘plant’ flavor is stripped leaving just the plant protein.
Pros and Cons of Pea-Based Milk
With so many plant-based, non-dairy milk options, how do you choose the best for your lifestyle? There are many criteria you can base your choice off of including environmental factors, taste, nutrition, and price. Here are a few pros and cons when it comes to pea-based milk that may help you choose the right milk for you!
It’s true that non-dairy milk beverages are a booming empire. While dairy milk sales fell seven percent in 2015, their counterpart sales, non-dairy milk, rose nine percent in the same year. Even though dairy milk definitely ranks the highest in carbon footprint, some non-dairy milk also takes their impact and topping the list is one of the most popular plant-based milk, almond milk.
Almond milk requires both copious amounts of almonds and water. Almond farmers need to drill thousands of feet into the earth to reach aquifers of water. This drilling adds to a higher rate of subsidence, referring to the ground sinking due to underground material movement, which then leads to a higher threat of damage to infrastructure.
One of the great positive sides of investing in pea milk is aiding in the reduction of environmental impact. Peas are native to areas that like lots of rain, which means farmers don’t have to drill for water, there are smaller amounts of necessary irrigation, and therefore an overall lower threat of environmental impact.
Packed with Protein and Fortified with Vitamins
One of the most noticeable differences between pea-based milk and other non-dairy milk alternatives is the amount of protein. While there aren’t many pea-based milk providers yet, those companies that do make it show that per serving pea milk generally offers around a whopping eight grams of protein! Along with protein most pea-based milks are fortified with vitamins and minerals and are also “dairy-, soy-, nut-,” and gluten-free and are a great alternative for true vegan dieters.
To take a closer look, I’ve researched the nutrition information for one of the leading providers of pea-based milk, Ripple. Ripple’s pea-based fortified milk has eight grams of plant-based protein, zero grams of sugar, 50 percent more calcium and a considerable amount more iron than your standard two percent dairy milk, and 32 milligrams of DHA omega-3 fatty acids.
Be Wary of Added Vegetable Oil
One of the drawbacks of pea-based milk is added vegetable oil. Milk from cows is wonderfully creamy due to a high fat content. Since peas don’t have any fat, pea-based milk products have turned to adding vegetable oil in order to add a creamy texture.
Unfortunately, recent studies show that vegetable oil can be detrimental to your health due to highly unstable substances such as polyunsaturated fatty acids. Also, a higher vegetable oil content means more omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are already plentiful in our diet, therefore we don’t necessarily need more. Therefore, if you decide pea-based milk is your jam, take a second look at the nutrition label to make sure they don’t use those veggie oils!
Pea-Based Milk Options
Pea-based milk is incredibly new to the plant-based diet scene. When it comes to brand options, there aren’t that many yet. Luckily, there are two leading competitors, Ripple and Bolthouse Farms, both of which have proven their product quality with their other plant-based milk products.
Ripple Foods PBC
The creators of Ripple Foods PBC, Neil Renninger and Adam Lowry, spent both of their lives helping others and working towards sustainability. Neil started out in a laboratory helping to develop an anti-malarial compound, which is used in treatments today. Adam created sustainable cleaning products through his company Method. Together, in 2014 Neil and Adam created the plant-based milk company called Ripple.
As mentioned above, Ripple’s pea-based milk is fortified with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and iron, while naturally providing protein and zero grams of sugar. Plus, Ripple pea-based milk is provided at almost every local grocery store. Online you can purchase in bulk for $30.50. One Amazon user writes:
“I recently purchased the 48-oz version in the fridge section of Target and we all loved it. My family and I do drink milk, but also, like to supplement with non-dairy milk. We are fans of several brands of nutmilk — and my homemade cashew milk — and my EXTREMELY PICKY SPECIAL NEEDS son ABSOLUTELY LOVED this milk — so much so, that he chugged a smaller size as we finished up our shopping.”
Bolthouse Farms has been in business since 1915, yet they didn’t begin their farming business with plant-based milks, but, instead, carrots. While their initial farm began in Grant, Michigan, almost 100 years later Bolthouse Farms has expanded all the way to California. Carrots may have been the motivator for this farm for a century, but now this experienced farm has moved into the pea-base milk product business., and has been on the rise ever since.
Bolthouse Farms offers four flavors including original, vanilla, unsweetened, and chocolate. Each of their products is vegan, non-GMO, and doesn’t contain “dairy, lactose, nuts, soy, or gluten.” Taking a deeper dive into the nutrition of their Bolthouse Farms Plant Protein Milk Original Flavor, we find that one serving provides 10 grams of protein, five grams of sugar and fat, as well as a whopping 450 milligrams of calcium and trace amounts of iron and vitamins A, E, and B12.
Veggemo Unsweetened Veggie Based Non-Dairy Milk
Veggemo Unsweetened Veggie Based Non-Dairy Milk has 6 grams of protein, is rich in Calcium and vitamin D, and is an excellent source of vitamin B12. Veggemo is dairy free, gluten free, cholesterol free, soy free, nut free, non-GMO, vegan and kosher. $11.30. One Amazon user says:
“My 13 month old has always been unable to process milk based formula, both hypoallergenic and gentlease would cause him severe chronic constipation. After trying to transition to whole milk I couldn’t bear watching him strain so I bought the veggie milk after seeing lots of milk allergy moms recommendation. His reflux has gotten better and his poops are consistently mushy like when I exclusively breastfed him.👍🏽👍🏽👍🏽 Five stars and 3 thumbs up! And he drank it with ease…his 11 yo sister with a milk allergy says it tastes pretty good and is Better than the vanilla soy milk.”
Cooking with Pea-Based Milk
Pea-based milk is simply another plant-based milk. This means feel free to substitute your pea-based milk product with any other milk item in a recipe. With that said, keep in mind that pea-based milks have a very low fat content, therefore, in some specific recipes, you may need to add a plant-based fat such as 100 percent fat coconut milk.
Magical Mango Matcha Shake/One Green Planet
Other than your morning bowl of cereal, cooked oats, or cup of coffee, one of the most popular uses of plant-based milks is in a smoothie. Luckily, pea-based milk is a perfect substitute! With a lower sugar and a higher protein content, this milk will turn your traditional smoothie into a super healthy smoothie. Try it out in a few of these plant-based milk smoothie recipes: Magical Mango Matcha Shake, Green Goddess Golden Milk Smoothie, or this Nourishing Autumn Chai Smoothie.
Tortellini With Peas and Pesto Cream Sauce/One Green Planet
Some of the most difficult recipes to mimic when it comes to using plant-based milks are creams and sauces. Generally, creams and some sauces rely on fat in order to make them creamy. Yet, high-fat milks such as cashew and coconut, will do the job just fine. If you’ve transitioned to pea-based milk, then this may be a perfect opportunity to experiment with combining plant-based milks. Get creative in the kitchen with this Tortellini With Peas and Pesto Cream Sauce, which calls for full-fat coconut milk, yet you can try cutting it with half pea-based and half coconut milk. If you’re looking for an easy supplemental recipe, try this Veggie Carbonara With Cashew Cream Sauce, which uses the fat of cashew cheese instead of fat from plant-base milks. Simply substitute your pea-based milk for the one cup of almond milk.
Last, but definitely not least, are plant-based milk dessert recipes. If you’ve tried pea-based milk in smoothies and you’ve worked out substituting it in cream sauces, then take a stab at creating your favorite dessert with your new milk alternative! With that said, pea-based milk may best be substituted in recipes that use lower fat milks, think almond or oat, such as in this Deep-Dish Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Silk Tart, which asks for a small amount of almond milk, or this rich Caramel Sauce, which uses a full cup of oat milk.
Peas pack an incredible protein punch. If you’re interested in using peas to get your protein, check out these products to see if they might be right for you.
Pea Protein Powder
“After a week of experimenting, I have some favourite ways of using this protein powder. It is tasteless, apart from being a bit salty, and most easily mixed with water and fruit (frozen, fresh, freeze dried) in a blender. Added to hot cereal, it becomes tiny bits of cooked egg white, which looks weird but has no flavour. I’ve started mixing in a quarter cup when I bake bread or muffins, and know that I’m increasing the protein content a bit, without changing the texture of the recipe. I can’t eat dairy products, but I suspect that this egg white protein could be used wherever you have been using whey powder.”
Naturade Plant Based VeganSmart Pea Protein
“Though not the best tasting protein powder, it has very little effect on my glucose numbers. I’m a diabetic. I only need half a serving at a time as it makes a large amount per serving. It’s a good base for a healthy smoothie. I mix it with water and it definitely quiets the hunger pangs. I wouldn’t use it as a total meal replacement unless glucose readings are already high because it’s not enough of a carb load to keep blood glucose levels even.”
Protein Powder for Women and Men Pea and Rice Plant Based Nutritional Supplement
Protein Powder for Women and Men Pea and Rice Plant Based Nutritional Supplement is dairy free, egg free, soy free, animal product free, and whey free. NON-GMO vegetarian formula for a healthy body. $11.99. One user says:
“Amazing supplement for your diet. It’s really good because it’s vegan and a lot of protein shakes are hard to digest. Not this one. It digests so smoothly and it provides you 100% of the amino acids you need to build muscle. I have definitely noticed good results using this protein in my diet. Tastes soo good too I love it”
Looking for more recipes to try pea-based milk as a substitute? Try downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
Lead Image: Magical Mango Matcha Shake