Australian supermarket vegan milk taste test: one soy is gold-standard, all almond milks are

Spend more than a minute in a coffee shop anywhere in the country and you’ll quickly learn that soy, oat, almond and other alternative milks have become anything but alternative. Though non-dairy milks still only make up around 7.5% of retail milk sales, a 2021 survey of over 900 cafes found that oat, almond, soy and other plant-based alternatives already make up 25% of milk coffee sales. And that number is climbing.

But while I’ve seen more and more supermarket real estate dedicated to plant-based milks, and my favourite baristas wielding endless fancy oat, soy and almond cartons, I’ve never tried them myself.

But now, with four cartons each of long-life oat, almond and soy milks hijacking my fridge, it seems I’m about to get a crash course in why these dairy substitutes have so successfully become a part of Australian life.

To test, each carton was chilled, shaken as per label instructions, poured into a glass then sampled straight (no coffee, cereals or other potential flavour masks). Each was assessed on the colour, aroma, creaminess, smoothness and thickness of the liquid, any aftertaste and, most importantly, the taste – whether the hint (or more) of nut, soy or oat flavour was pleasant enough that I would happily drink it again, or whether it made me long for a cow.

The alternative milks were assessed on their colour, aroma, texture and flavour. Photograph: Jessica Hromas/The Guardian

The test made a few things clear: soy milk, at its best, tastes closest to cow’s milk. Oat tastes like a sweetly nutty cereal milk while almond tastes like the water left in your sink after washing the breakfast dishes. I also learned imbibing 12 full glasses of alternative milk (a total of almost two litres downed in a single session without so much as cookie to keep from corrupting the data) makes for a queasy evening.

When the nausea had subsided and the spilt milk (thanks to the two cartons without an easy-open lid – an act of kindness in one instance) had been wiped away, a few contenders stood victorious.

The best overall

Bonsoy Soy Milk 1 litre, $4.80

Score: 10/10

Unlike most of the other cartons in front of me, Bonsoy fails to provide a cap for their carton, so I end up wearing more of their product than I drink. Spills aside, this is the best and most dairy-like of the 12 alt-milks tested. Richly creamy in its texture, neutral in flavour (aside from just enough sweetness) grit-free, and with no nutty or bean-y scent or aftertaste. I even find myself checking the label to make sure I haven’t accidentally bought long-life cow’s milk. If the goal is to perfectly synthesise the milk experience while avoiding dairy, then this is the gold standard.

The best value

So Good Soy Regular 1 litre, $2.20

Score: 7/10

The first pour of this soy milk gives no suggestion that it is anything other than a glass of perfectly white cow’s milk, with none of the subtle brown tones or mystifyingly pink hues I’ve discovered are common in the almond and oat milks. The aroma too has none of the nutty sweetness found throughout the other categories, just a creamy richness. A taste gives things away, but only just, with a faint hint of four-bean mix hiding beneath an otherwise completely neutral milk flavour.

The rest of the test


Vitasoy Oat Milk Unsweetened 1 litre, $3

Score: 8/10

While this might faintly taste like the milk that’s been left at the bottom of a bowl of cereal, it’s otherwise a striking simulacrum for the “real” thing. The creamy oat juice instantly coats my tongue the same way cow’s milk does, with only a faint, lingering taste of porridge. Though the label specifies no sugar has been added, this has the same neutral, gentle sweetness as dairy milk, and though there’s a hint of graininess to the texture, I’m guessing that’s only prominent in the unlikely event that you, like me, are drinking this straight from the glass.

So Good Barista Oat 1 litre, $4

Score: 7/10

A touch thicker than its oat competitors and with a fair bit more “bowl of cereal” aftertaste, this is still a richly textured milk, evocative of full-cream cow’s milk after it’s had one or two Weet-Bix bobbing around in it. While the label doesn’t reveal what barista-friendly innovations led this to being more amenable to professional coffee makers – only that it’s easier to froth with reliable consistency – it’s a delicious drop that doesn’t need coffee to make it drinkable.

Minor Figures Barista Oat 1 litre, $4.80

Score: 6.5/10

This London-based company has generated plenty of international buzz for both its oat milk and its ready-to-drink coffee products, and as with many buzzy start-ups, it has the price tag to match. Overall it’s a strong imitation of cow’s milk, but while it nails that creamy flavour and texture, there’s also a faint, odd hint of acidity. An inoffensive choice that’s sure to be someone’s favourite, but not noteworthy enough to match its asking price.

The Original Oatly Oat Milk Barista Edition 1 litre, $5.50

Score: 5.5/10

The joke-covered label (“It’s like milk, but made for humans … ”) announces this as a product of Singapore. A few sips in and this oat milk – the most expensive product of the whole test – tastes unmistakably, inescapably of oats. With a thicker viscosity, faint oiliness and more oat-y texture than the others, even a strong shot of coffee wouldn’t cover the oat flavour. Not one for me, but a clear choice for oat obsessives.


Australia’s Own Barista Soy 1 litre, $3.50

Score: 6/10

This proudly nationalistic soy milk reintroduces not only the off-white tinge to the taste test, but the nutty notes from the earlier, dark almond era. The word “barista” on the label implies this isn’t a milk to be sipped straight from the glass the way I’m doing, but it’s easy to imagine this thick, creamy and inoffensive example would make an OK – if nutty – cup of coffee.

Vitasoy Soy Milky Regular 1 litre, $2.45

Score: 5.5/10

While “milky” is a perfectly ambiguous way of describing this entry’s off-white colour and pleasingly creamy, mouth-coating texture, there’s something decidedly un-milky about the unusual dusty aftertaste I experience. Even in my small sample size, there are better soy milks available for less.


Almond milk, overall, tasted to me like a great choice for anyone keen to not only avoid dairy, but to never be reminded of it again.

So Good Almond Original 1 litre, $2.90

Score: 4/10

So Good performed well in the oat stakes, but their almond entry manages to be at once strikingly sweet, powerfully nutty and insipidly watery. It’s almost a scientific marvel that something can taste so overwhelmingly of almonds without managing to capture any of their creaminess. Recommended only for people who love the flavour of almonds but hate eating almonds. More “almond water” than “almond milk”.

Vitasoy Almond Milky 1 litre, $3

Score: 3/10

If calling this “milky” was a legal ploy to separate themselves from milk, it was unnecessary; one taste and the word “milk” is far, far from the mind. This almond effort might indeed look “milky”, but it tastes only like faintly nutty water, with an aroma and texture to match.

Pure Harvest Organic Almond Original 1 litre, $3.60

Score: 2/10

The gently pink liquid that emerges from this carton hints at something medicinal rather than milky, but ultimately this Australian-owned alternative milk – like all its almond compatriots – tastes to me entirely of water.

Bonsoy Almond Milk 1 litre, $4.80

Score: 1/10

Once again, Bonsoy fails to provide an easy-open cap, so once again, thanks to a fiddly battle with the spout of the carton, there’s milk on my hands and pants. Then again, the longer the packaging prevented me from tasting this thin, textureless, bland liquid, the happier I would have been.

This article was amended on 10 January 2024 to remove a reference that Original Oatly Oat Milk was the only product tested not to be made in Australia; the Bonsoy products are also made outside the country.

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