Best Almond Milk of 2020

2.25.2020

Plant-Based Diet • Best Almond Milk of 2020Discover the best almond milk money can buy. We searched every grocery store in a 60-mile radius of our hometown Brooksville to find all the refrigerated almond milks. ( If this review is helpful, we definitely could see doing a similar review for all the “shelf-stable” almond milks. […]

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Discover the best almond milk money can buy. We searched every grocery store in a 60-mile radius of our hometown Brooksville to find all the refrigerated almond milks. ( If this review is helpful, we definitely could see doing a similar review for all the “shelf-stable” almond milks. )

We bought 15 different brands of unsweetened almond milk from the refrigerated section, then did an extensive test on every one of them.

Predictions were made as to which brands would win, and we were shocked with some of the results! We also looked at these brands based on ingredients to determine the top winners. Read on for the best and the worst (in our humble opinion). 

best almond milk test in Jen Hansard's kitchen

Almond Milk Ratings

Cut through the chaos when choosing the best almond milk in the refrigerated section. Discover how these unsweetened, unflavored almond milk stacked up against one another.

Scoring System

BESTBETTEROKAYNOT GREATHORRIBLE

Results

The best almond milk brands we tested against one another

Our Quest for the Best Almond Milk

Dan and Erin from the Rawkstar Team spent a day driving around Tampa Bay buying every brand they could find. They went to…

We then gathered at my house, ate pizza to cleanse our palates, and set up the “taste test”. We blindly rated each milk based on taste and texture. Then we rated based on quality of ingredients and packaging (design and sustainability).

While we know taste and texture are huge buying factors, we also compared ingredient lists to give our best recommendations.

If it tastes horrible, we can’t spend the money just because it is ‘clean.’ The very best way to get delicious, clean almond milk is to make it ourselves. Yet, that’s not always possible or the direction we’re gonna choose.

The samples of milk used to test for taste and texture

The Healthiest Brands in Stores

Almond milk is NOT all created equal. Many brands add fillers, gums, fortify with vitamins, and alter taste with “natural flavors” to make it taste better. Always read labels when shopping; you never know what you’re gonna get if you don’t. The branding may look clean, attractive, and healthy, yet the ingredients tell a different story.

The top 3 healthiest milks on the market right now are Elmhurst, Malk and Trader Joe’s Simple Almond.

Is Almond Milk good for you?

Plant-based milks have exploded in the market in recent years. Consumers are buying more plant-based products, and grocery stores are listening. To be clear, we have nothing against dairy, yet it is a common allergy or sensitivity.

See how 1 cup of almond milk stacks up to 1 cup of dairy milk below:

Unsweetened Almond Milk

  • between 30 – 50 calories
  • 1 – 2 grams of carbs
  • 20-50% daily Vitamin E
  • 20%-45% recommended daily intake of Calcium (manufacturers enrich most almond milks to compete with dairy milk)

Low Fat Dairy Milk

glass of almond milk with whole almonds scattered around the table, and part of the milk carton next to it

Gums in almond milk?

Food companies know that if they want to sell a ‘healthy looking’ product, they need to label it corn syrup free and non-GMO. Yet they continue to add fillers, like gums, that aren’t exactly “whole food”.

The four gums we found during our best almond milk test were:

  • Carrageenan (the worst): Added to food to thicken, emulsify, and preserve. It is made from red seaweed and the US National Library of Medicine determined it can cause inflammation, damage the digestive system, and colon cancer. 
  • Xanthan Gum (not so good): added to food as a thickener, a preservative. It’s created when sugar is fermented by a certain kind of bacteria. It is a soluble fiber, meaning our bodies cannot break it down. This means it has no nutritional value. Xanthan gum comes from sugar found in wheat, corn, soy, and dairy. Therefore, people can be allergic to it, and should avoid if suffer allergies to any of the above foods. 
  • Gellan Gum (better): Added to food to thicken, stabilize, and texturize. It is a plant-based alternative to gelatin. Studies are inconclusive so far in determining the safety/benefit vs the risk of adding gellan gum to food. Some studies show that it can reduce constipation. Other studies link it to abnormalities in stomach lining.
  • Locust Bean Gum (better): added to food as a natural thickener. It is made from the seeds of a carob tree. It has several health benefits such as lowering blood sugar, high in fiber, and can reduce reflux in infants (added to infant formula). While it is more naturally occurring than the other gums we mentioned, there also isn’t a whole lot of research yet on how good or bad it can be for our bodies to ingest in the long run.

Calcium: Calcium Carbonate vs. Tricalcium Phosphate

Many almond milk manufacturers fortify their milk with calcium to help almond milk compete with dairy milk. The 2 main kinds of calcium added are calcium carbonate and tricalcium phosphate.

They have roughly the same amount of elemental (real) calcium per unit, however, calcium carbonate is more easily digested, as it is more naturally occurring than tricalcium phosphate. Companies choose the more processed, less natural form of calcium, tricalcium phosphate, because it’s cheaper. We docked them in our report if they did this.

Sunflower Lecithin

Many of the almond milk brands have an ingredient called sunflower lecithin. We have lecithin naturally in our bodies, it is made up of fatty acids. Sunflower lecithin in particular is non-GMO, which makes us happy. This supplement is added to food as an emulsifier. Basically, it keeps fat and oils from mixing with other substances in our bodies.

There are several health benefits to sunflower lecithin, such as:

  • Improves Heart Health through breaking down fat
  • Lowers Cholesterol
  • Promotes liver health
  • Helps breastfeeding mothers avoid clogged ducts
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves digestion
  • Fights dementia symptoms 

We noticed that a few of the milks had a strong nutty taste (yet not like an almond), which we think is from the sunflower lecithin.

Top 3 Almond Milk Winners:

  1. GOLD: Elmhurst Milked Almonds, Unsweetened
  2. SILVER: So Delicious Organic Almondmilk with Cashew, Unsweetened
  3. BRONZE: Publix Unsweetened Original Almondmilk

Best Taste + Texture

  1. Publix Unsweetened Original
  2. Elmhurst Milked, Unsweetened
  3. So Delicious Organic with Cashew, Unsweetened

Best Clean + Simple Ingredients:

  1. Elmhurst Milked, Unsweetened
  2. Trader Joe’s Simple Almond Beverage
  3. Organic Almond Malk Unsweetened

Best in Design + Sustainable Packaging:

  1. Elmhurst Milked, Unsweetened
  2. Organic Almond Malk Unsweetened
  3. So Delicious Organic Almondmilk with Cashew, Unsweetened

Best Priced Almond Milk:

  1. Friendly Farms Almond Original Unsweetened Almond milk ($1.79/Aldi)
  2. Great Value Almond milk ($2.36/Walmart)
  3. Good and Gather Unsweetened Original Almond ($2.59/Target)
  4. Trader Joe’s Almond Beverage Original Unsweetened ($2.69/Trader Joe’s)

Which Milks Surprised Us:

The lowest scoring milks were the most shocking. Before the taste test, we hypothesized that Malk and Califia Farms would probably be one of the highest ranking milks. They are both ‘specialty, high-end’ brands and seem to make big waves in the plant-based community (we are talking partnerships with major plant-based influencers).

Yet when it came to the taste test, they scored among the lowest.

I want to point out that this was a blind taste test for us, so it was as unbiased as we could be. Malk is also the most expensive milk we found, for the smallest quantity (though we loved the packaging!). Califia Farms was the most widely found, and at different price points depending on where it was purchased. 

Green smoothie in a mason jar next to almond butter, a bowl of spinach, and bowl of berries, and bananas

5 Recipes that use Almond Milk

We love using almond milk as a base in recipes to create a creamy, protein enriched meal. Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Chocolate Banana Protein Smoothie
  2. Maple Cauliflower Smoothie Bowl
  3. Spiced Almond Milk
  4. Cherry Almond Cinnamon Green Smoothie
  5. Chocolate Fiber Smoothie Cubes

Drop a comment below and let us know your favorite almond milk… and if you found this Rawkstar Report helpful. This is our very first one and we’d like to do more if you we get enough positive feedback.

COMMENTS
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  1. Jennifer Skaggs says:

    I have always wondered about the different kinds of almond milk with some being so much more expensive than others! Of course I want it to taste good but I will give in some on that for cleaner ingredients! Loved this and thanks for doing it!

  2. Laura says:

    Very interesting! Did you test the Kirkland brand from Costco? I didn’t see it on the list, but noticed you shopped there.

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      Hey Laura, the brands listed on the Ratings/Results scoresheet are all the ones they bought and tested. 🙂

  3. Gina says:

    Many thanks for the Rawkstar Report on best almond milk!! I look forward to future research!!

  4. Elizabeth Creighton says:

    Love the picture!! Great job. I hope you will do an analysis of shelf stable boxed almond milk. I was totally into boxed milks until I realized that the refrigerated cartons were a much better buy — more for less cost — even in the same brand. Buying boxed milks allowed me to go to the store less often. Now we live across the street from the grocery store and I can walk over and get some more milk, but I still like to have extra supplies in my pantry.

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      Thanks for your feedback, Elizabeth! We are hoping to do a report on shelf-stable almond milks in the near future.

  5. Karen Trepte says:

    Great report Jen! I have moved your emails to my primary on Gmail and really enjoy reading all of your content and even more so putting as much as possible into action and my diet. Your app is absolutely fantastic for anybody who is thinking about getting it. You have categorize things so well and your recipes are delicious. Amazing! Thanks for all you do. I’m a fellow B school graduate.

  6. emilita says:

    This is so incredibly in-depth!! I’m going to bookmark this for future reference. Thank you for doing everyone such a big favor, and without pushing a bunch of ads in our faces 🙂
    (Also- I have yet to make homemade almond milk, but if the taste is light-years above store-bought like homemade coconut milk is, I’ll probably never want to go back!)

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      Thank you, Emilita! We’re very happy you found this so helpful. And… we won’t tell you homemade almond milk tastes amazing (except, yes we will, it’s SO GOOD)! When you’re ready to make your own, we got you!–> How to Make Almond Milk

  7. sue says:

    THANK YOU! Thank You!! … for such a detailed (not sponsored) review!!

    I prefer to make my own but it isn’t always possible so I do stock up on shelf stable almond milks – any chance of reviewing those in the future?

    On that note, do you suggest refrigerated is better, healthier, etc than the shelf stable mylks?

    Thanks!

    • Jen Hansard says:

      Hey Sue— we we’re talking abut doing a Shelf Stable review since there are SO many more choices in that section now too. So glad you mentioned that! As for refrigerated vs shelf stable— it really just depends on the brand. Fun fact: Elmhurst is actually a shelf stable mylk. They just product place it in the refrigerated section to help elevate it + soften the higher price (that last part is totally my own opinion).

  8. Mary Sterling says:

    I make my own almond and coconut milks. They are so easy to make and taste the best. Only downside is that they aren’t fortified with anything like calcium.

    • Jen Hansard says:

      Agreed. NOTHING beats making your own almond milk. It’s truly the best taste and you can control the ingredients.

  9. Jeannette Charles says:

    My favorite almond milk is Silk unsweetened. No upset stomach on this. I have tryed alot of them. This one, I find works the best for me.

    • Jen Hansard says:

      That’s awesome you found the one for you! Are you doing the organic or original? I’m alwyas so curious about this and love how everyone responds so differently. As long as you’re happy, we’re happy for you. 🙂

  10. A says:

    Great review! Very helpful. But can you make a legend for the color coded leaves? I’m assuming red is the worst but not sure about the in between colors. Thanks

    • Jen Hansard says:

      Hahaha— I’m not sure how I missed that! I just added it to the top of the chart. Thanks for the heads up Andrea!

  11. Robyn says:

    We used to use almond milk but since learning about the environmental impact (e.g. Commercial almond production in California requires diverting ground and surface waters from the state’s aqueduct system for irrigation. As cited in an article in the New York Times, it takes approximately 15 gallons of water to produce just 16 almonds, https://sustainability.ucsf.edu/1.713 ) have decided to switch to either Soy or Oat milk instead. What do you think of the environmental impact as a factor in choosing a dairy alternative?

    • Jen Hansard says:

      Hey Robyn. I think Almond milk is a good option for someone stepping into a more plant=based diet. Of course making it at home is the best option, yet a busy life often gets the best of our day. We did take the environmental impact of the packaging into consideration with this report and scored the more eco-friendly packaging higher because that’s important to us (and you too!). I saw the environmental impact report you mentioned as well and we hope to do Rawkstar Reports for other milks as well— esp Oat Milk and Coconut Milk. Exciting times when we have so many options and resources to dig deeper into everything we do and eat!

  12. Solomon Martinez says:

    Wow! I’m also surprised that the Califia was low scoring! That’s what I mostly get. I guess I’ll be trying the so delicious and elmhurst!

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      Solomon, it seems like a lot of people are saying the same thing as you (me included)! We’d love to hear what you think of So Delicious and Elmhurst after you give them a try.

  13. Beverly Doucette says:

    This report was super helpful. Thank you for taking the time to taste all of these! I’ll def be giving Elmhurst a try this week.

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      Thanks, Beverly! So glad you found it helpful. Let us know what you think of Elmhurst!

  14. Kelly says:

    I loved this!! I always get califia cuz I like the taste and thought it was one of the best nurtrituonally. Guess I’ll start looking at so delicious (no Trader Joe’s near me)

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      Kelly, I thought the same also! Really glad you liked this and it helped you. Let us know what you think of So Delicious once you try it.

  15. Debra Senger says:

    Thank-You for the study on almond milks..!!! I think this information for us Health Hawks are Very Valuable……
    Now i know which ones i can buy and I Trust your Testing…., I will be passing this info on to my Friends and family.

    I know about Trader Joes’ but is it possible you can list where the Elmhurst and Malk Almond milks are found.?
    Thank-You.

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      Debra, thank you for your feedback! They got Elmhurst from Publix, a regional supermarket that you may not have, depending on where you live. But, you can also buy Elmhurst online. And they got Malk at Whole Foods.

  16. Michelle Ocasio says:

    I have Califia Farms in the fridge right now mostly because I love the packaging! I shop at Publix, looking forward to trying Elmhurst.

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      I love Publix, Michelle! I always shop there when I’m in Florida (I know it’s in other states but that’s where I’ve seen it 🙂 ). Let us know what you think of Elmhurst after you give it a try!

  17. Emmanuelle L. says:

    I loved this. Thank you so much. My mom is lactose intolerant and so we switched to almond milk when I started my first green smoothie chalkenege and then after that cleanse. I didn’t know there was such variety and can’t wait to try the winners!

    • Jen Hansard says:

      Isn’t it crazy how many there are! And we honestly only hit the southern part of the US. I’m certain there are prob 10+ other brands across the US that we could test at some point too. Yet it really was eye opening for us to compare like this.

  18. Susan Riddle says:

    This is an awesome report! I really appreciate that the testing wasn’t sponsored. I would love to see more of this kind of comparison reporting!!!

    • Jen Hansard says:

      I’m glad you liked this (esp that it isn’t sponsored. Gotta keep the integrity!). I do hope we can do more so thank you for letting me know you’d like that too. I’m thinking oat milk might be next.

  19. Amy Wells says:

    Can you list where the different brands can be found?

    • Jen Hansard says:

      This is where we shopped (some stores carried multiple brands so you can get more of them there): Costco (Silk), Whole Foods (365, Malk, So Delicious), Sprouts, Trader Joes, Walmart (almond Breeze, Great Value), Target (Good & Gather), Aldi (Friendly Farms), Publix (Calafia, Elmhurst, Silk, Almond Breeze)

  20. Brett Russell says:

    Thanks for this. I’m surprised you didn’t include Thrive Market.

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      You’re welcome, Brett! Glad you found this helpful. Jen loves Thrive Market but I believe she didn’t include it since it’s an online store and she was focusing on the brick and mortar grocery stores in her area. She did mention the possibility of doing a similar review for all the shelf-stable almond milks and I think the products that can be purchased online would fall into that category. So stay tuned!

  21. Sommer says:

    I found Califia Farms to be the best tasting, in my opinion, out of all the almond milks I’ve tried. I love that you guys did a blind taste test and I’m excited to try the Elmhurst brand.

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      Thanks for weighing in, Sommer! Glad you enjoyed this report. If you can’t find Elmhurst at your local grocery store, you can actually order it online (it doesn’t have to be refrigerated, even though they sell it in the refrigerated section). Come back and let us know what you think of Elmhurst after you give it a try!

  22. Dieta says:

    Very much appreciate your research. Will now read labels even more carefully, eg I did not know the difference between the gums. Some of the tested brands are not available in Toronto, but I have seen So delicious (we enjoy the coconut milk beverage) and have actually bought 365.

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      Thanks, Dieta, glad this could help you! Are there any not on this list that you’ve tried in Canada? Once you give some new ones a try, come back and let us know what you think of them.

  23. Ellen says:

    So I can assume that the dark green leaf is the best but can you break down the other colors so I have an easier time comparing.

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      Ellen, of course! Here’s the rating system (from highest rating to lowest): dark green, light green, yellow, orange, red.

  24. Suzanne says:

    Thanks for this study. Always nice to have an unbiased opinion. Would love to see this for the shelf stable brands as well.

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      Suzanne, glad you found this helpful! Thanks for your feedback, we hope to do more of these so I’ll make sure to pass on your comment to the entire Rawkstar Team!

  25. Michelle says:

    I love Simple Green Smoothies and I have followed you for a long time so I say this with love, but why leave out the protein when comparing to milk? I do think it’s an important distinction. Milk has a good amount of protein while almond milk has next to none, so it’s not necessarily a perfect replacement if you’re looking to have that extra protein.

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      Michelle, that is a good point but if we’re talking about smoothies specifically, we prefer to use fruits and veggies with higher protein content (e.g., avocado, kiwi, spinach) as well as plant-based protein powders, so the protein content of our liquid base is less important. We believe dairy can do more harm than good, which is why we prefer to always reach for a plant-based milk over cow’s milk.

  26. Mari Corona says:

    I was shocked that my brand ranked so poorly. I use Almond Breeze but def will try out your top three suggestions. Great share.

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      I felt the same about my preferred brand, Trader Joe’s. So glad you found this article helpful! After you try out some new ones, come back and let us know what you think of them.

  27. Kavli Kukreja says:

    This is such a helpful article!!! Thank you so much for putting it together! I’ve always loved New Barn Almond milk but I can’t find it in my Whole Foods anymore so I switched to the So delicious almond with cashew milk. Now I’m so curious about Elmhurst! Thanks again!

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      Thanks, Kavli! So glad you found the article helpful. Once you give it a try, let us know what you think of Elmhurst!

  28. Paula says:

    What a giganticWASTE OF TIME! Not all these brands are available me nation wide. For my money, Silk is the best because taste is number one. Unless you have lived on another planet, these nut juices have been around long enough for people to know what the want.

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      Hi Paula! So sorry you feel this way. Jen did clarify that they searched grocery stores near her hometown of Central Florida (so she’s aware not all almond milks on her list may be available to folks in other areas). However, many of them are! We understand that everyone has their own preferences and if Silk is the one for you, then it’s great you know that! The truth is, there are many people who are new to plant-based milks. There are even folks who have been drinking almond milk for years but who are open to learning more and trying new brands to see if they like another one better. I’m actually one of those people, so they do exist! We hope to do more reports like this and hopefully we’ll be able to expand where we can pull products from for the testing. Until then, rawk on!

  29. Pam says:

    Hey SGS team,
    I think this was a winner. I appreciate the side by side comparison. I have many of these options readily available, but often wonder if it really makes a difference in taste. I typically buy the Kirkland brand organic unsweetened vanilla flavor. While you did not have it in the mix of taste testing, your reviews gave me things to look for on the label.
    I’d love to see you do this with coconut milk or maybe frozen fruits?
    Thanks for sharing this good info!

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      Pam, we’re glad we could help you! Thank you for your feedback, this was our first Rawkstar Report and Jen hopes to do more so I’ll pass on your suggestions!

    • Jen Hansard says:

      Hey Pam! I was always curious if there would really be a difference in taste. When we did the blind taste test it was SUPER obvious and kinda blew us away at how different they could all be. I think coconut milk sounds like a good one to do too! Thanks for the suggestion.

  30. sheila says:

    Excellent Article thank you!

  31. Jenna says:

    Appreciate the review. I like to make my own almond milk but sometimes need a quick fix (haven’t soaked the almonds yet…). Thanks for doing my homework for me

  32. Tracy says:

    Thank you so much for doing this! It was very eye opening for sure. I try to eat at clean as I can so now I am going to check my label of the one I use. I am in Michigan and the brand I use (Simple Truth) wasn’t on your list. I am going to see if I can find the Elmhurst in my area.

    • Jen Hansard says:

      Simple Truth is a Kroger brand, I believe and we don’t have it down here in Florida. Wish we did! I would be curious how the taste + texture compares to the list. You’ll have to try Elmhurst and compare it to Simple Truth and let me know!

  33. Marcia says:

    Can you buy Elmhurst Almond Milk in Colorado? Where did you buy the Elmhurst and the So Delicious Organic Almond Milk? Thank you. Great blog post!!

    • Jen Hansard says:

      You can order Elmhurst online too through their website (https://elmhurst1925.com/). Yet you can also prob find it at Whole Foods. They sell it at my local grocery store, which is called Publix. You might find it at yours. I feel like Colorado will have it (and so much more!).

  34. Beth says:

    I used to buy Califia Farms exclusively, but I found their quality control has gone down the tubes. I switched to oat milk in a different brand that’s how bad I found it to be. I’m interested to see how Elmhurst is, if I can find it.

    • Jen Hansard says:

      Hey Beth— I was buying Califia too and it was crazy to realize it compared with the others with this taste test. You can order Emnlhurst online too (It doesn’t have to be refrigerated, even though they sell it in the refrigerated section).

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      Beth, let us know what you think after you try Elmhurst!

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