Almond milk and cashew milk are two options in a sea of non-dairy milk alternatives. Almond milk has long been an incredibly popular choice, but perhaps you’re wondering if there’s a better option out there. Could cashew milk be the answer?
In this post, I’ll discuss how these non-dairy milks compare in terms of their nutrition profile, health benefits, sustainability, ethics of production, and best culinary uses so that you can choose between almond milk versus cashew milk with confidence!
What is almond milk?
Almond milk is a plant-based beverage used as an alternative to cow’s milk. In its simplest form, almonds are blended with water and strained to remove the pulp.
Store-bought varieties often add vitamins and minerals to improve the nutrition profile of almond milk. Brands may also include food additives meant to act as thickeners and emulsifiers, improving the texture and consistency. Sweeteners and other flavorings may also be added.
What is cashew milk?
Cashew milk is another popular plant-based milk. It’s made the same way as almond milk but uses cashews as the nut of choice.
Depending on the brand, cashew milk may also be fortified with vitamins and minerals and contain thickeners or sweeteners.
Almond milk versus cashew milk nutrition
To demonstrate how almond milk and cashew milk truly differ in their nutrition profile, let’s compare two versions from the same brand: Silk Unsweet Almondmilk and Silk Unsweet Cashew Milk.
Almond and cashew milk are nutritionally very similar, as seen in this chart. Per serving, they have virtually the same number of calories and are low in protein, carbohydrates, and fat. They’re also free from added sugars since these specific products are unsweetened. Almond milk does have a slight advantage in its potassium content.
Silk fortifies these products with equal amounts of micronutrients, so they both provide calcium and vitamins A, D, and E. Notably, neither is fortified with vitamin B12.
Store-bought isn’t the only option – many people make their own plant-based milk at home. While this allows you to control the amounts of added sugar and keep costs down, a significant disadvantage of homemade versions is that they aren’t fortified with the helpful nutrients listed above.
Unfortunately, neither almond milk nor cashew milk are good sources of protein. Soy milk, pea milk, and non-dairy milks with added pea protein are the best high-protein plant-based milks, so I typically recommend that vegans use one of these as their primary non-dairy milk.
The ingredients in Silk Unsweet Almondmilk are:
Almondmilk (Filtered Water, Almonds), Contains 2% or Less of: Vitamin and Mineral Blend (Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin E Acetate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2), Sunflower and/or Almond and/or Canola Oil, Sea Salt, Gellan Gum, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C To Protect Freshness), Natural Flavor
Silk Unsweet Cashewmilk has the following ingredient list:
Cashewmilk (Filtered Water, Cashews), Contains 2% or Less of: Almonds, Vitamin and Mineral Blend (Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin E Acetate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2), Salt, Locust Bean Gum, Natural Flavor, Gellan Gum, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C To Protect Freshness)
They have similar ingredients, with both containing their respective nut (almonds or cashew), water, a vitamin and mineral blend, salt, locust bean gum and/or gellan gum (both safe food additives used as thickeners), natural flavor, and vitamin C to act as an antioxidant. The almond milk also contains a small amount of oil, likely to improve the texture.
All things considered, almond milk and cashew milk are virtually identical in terms of their nutrition profile and ingredients. True differences will appear with different brands and products. Not all brands fortify their non-dairy milk with vitamins and minerals, and many “original” or flavored versions of almond and cashew milk have added sugars.
RELATED: Oat Milk vs. Coconut Milk
A major reason cow’s milk has been recommended for so long is its calcium content. Calcium is a crucial nutrient for maintaining strong bones and preventing osteoporosis, so it’s important that vegans and dairy-free individuals get enough of it.
Vitamin D is also a key nutrient for bone health as it helps us better absorb calcium. Dairy milk doesn’t naturally contain vitamin D; rather, vitamin D is added to milk.
Almond milk and cashew milk varieties that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D are a great, convenient way to get more of these nutrients in the diet and support bone health. Remember that not all brands fortify their products with the same amounts of these nutrients, and some brands don’t fortify their products at all.
It’s always best to check the nutrition label of store-bought plant-based milks to make sure you’re getting the best nutritional bang for your buck.
For vegans that prefer making their own non-dairy milk at home, you may need to prioritize including calcium-rich foods like calcium-set tofu, white beans, kale, and almonds in your diet. You may also need to consider a vitamin D supplement.
Vitamin B12 deficiency
If possible, I recommend that vegans choose non-dairy milk that is fortified with vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is largely lacking in plant-based foods, so vegans need to take a supplement, eat fortified foods, or combine both strategies to prevent neurological damage resulting from a B12 deficiency.
Unfortunately, neither of the plant-based milks we looked at above is fortified with vitamin B12, and other popular brands aren’t often fortified either. Cashew Dream is an example of a product that does have B12. If you choose almond or cashew milk without B12, it isn’t the end of the world – you may just be more likely to need a supplement.
Almond milk and cashew milk are both lactose-free, making them safe choices for vegans and people with lactose intolerance.
Almond and cashew milk can be used in many of the same applications, such as:
- Over cereal
- In smoothies
- White pasta sauces
Almond milk has a thinner consistency and a more pronounced nutty flavor, while cashew milk has a mild taste and is creamier. This makes cashew milk better for recipes and beverages that benefit from creaminess, such as ice cream, hot chocolate, coffee, and tea.
Of course, this is all influenced by personal preference. I find almond milk in coffee to be too watery, but many people love their almond milk lattes!
An amazing benefit of any plant-based milk is that they all have a lower environmental impact1 than dairy milk. Even almond milk, often unfairly vilified for its high water usage, uses less water than the production of cow’s milk since cows need water both for drinking and for the crops required to feed them.
Cashews, on the other hand, must be imported into the United States from other countries, and therefore require more fossil fuels for transportation. There isn’t as much information collected on the environmental impact of cashews as there is for almonds, but it seems that cashews have a slight advantage due in part to the high water requirements of almonds.
That said, drinking either of these options in place of dairy milk can help reduce your overall carbon footprint and impact on the environment.
Unfortunately, the production of cashews and some brands of cashew milk is linked to ethical concerns such as poor working conditions and negative health effects for cashew workers, often women living in poverty. Cashew nut shells are actually quite toxic to human skin, but workers aren’t always provided with proper protective equipment.
For this reason, some people avoid cashew milk so that they aren’t financially supporting the poor treatment of workers. The good news is that some fair-trade cashews and cashew products exist, such as the Pacific Foods Organic Cashew Unsweetened Original Beverage.
How to choose between almond milk versus cashew milk
- Fortified with calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. Choosing fortified non-dairy milk is one of the easiest ways for vegans to get enough calcium and vitamin D to support bone health and vitamin B12 to prevent neurological issues. Keep this in mind if choosing between fortified and unfortified products.
- Sustainability. While both almond and cashew milk are more environmentally friendly than dairy milk, cashew milk likely wins out slightly due to its lower land and water use.
- Ethics. Cashew production has been linked to poor working conditions and the exploitation of female workers in some countries. It’s impossible to be perfect, but using cashew milk sparingly or choosing fair-trade cashew milk can help.
- Taste and texture. Cashew milk is creamier and has a milder flavor than almond milk. Almond milk has a thinner consistency and a stronger nutty flavor. Think about how you intend to use these non-dairy milks and what flavor/consistency combo would work best.
- Allergies and food intolerances. Almonds and cashews are both tree nuts, so avoid these plant-based milks if you have a tree nut allergy. Almond and cashew milk should both be safe for gluten-free and dairy-free diets.
- Age of the consumer. If purchasing for toddlers and young children, remember that neither almond nor cashew milk is considered an appropriate milk alternative due to their low protein content. Fortified soy, pea, and non-dairy milk with added pea protein are recommended instead.
- Added sugars. If you already consume a lot of sugar throughout the day, want to keep your added sugar intake low, or struggle to manage your blood sugar due to type 2 diabetes, choosing unsweetened almond milk or unsweetened cashew milk may be the best choice. Small amounts of added sugars in the context of a nutrient-dense diet aren’t a big deal for most people, but they can add up quickly if you aren’t paying attention.
Overall, almond milk and cashew milk are remarkably similar in their nutrition profile since they’re both made from nuts and water. The main differences will be between different brands and how much (if any) calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 they add to their products. Nutrition will also vary based on whether the product is sweetened or unsweetened.
Unfortunately, neither almond milk nor cashew milk provides much protein. For this reason, I recommend that vegans use fortified soy milk, pea milk, or non-dairy milk with added pea protein most often. This can make a meaningful difference in the nutrient density of your diet with minimal effort! If you’re already meeting your protein needs, however, fortified almond milk and cashew milk can still provide healthful nutrients.
The main differences between these plant-based milks are that almond milk requires more water to grow and has a larger impact on the environment (although still lower than cow’s milk), while there are serious ethical disadvantages to non-fair trade cashew milk as cashew workers often have poor working conditions and suffer negative health effects.
Ultimately, the best way to decide between oat milk and rice milk is to give both a try and see which one you prefer in terms of taste, texture, and how well it fits your dietary needs and personal ethics. For more in-depth guidance on choosing a non-dairy milk, read A Vegan Dietitian’s Guide to Non-Dairy Milk!
Found this article interesting? Check out my post comparing oat milk vs. rice milk before you go.
Almond milk versus cashew milk – FAQs
Is cashew milk better for you than almond milk?
The nutrition profiles of cashew milk and almond milk are virtually identical. If you’re trying to pick the healthiest choice, read the nutrition facts label and look for options that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D and that limit added sugar.
Which nut milk is the healthiest?
Most nut milks (cashew, almond, macadamia, etc.) are very similar in terms of their nutrition content. Where they will differ is whether they’re sweetened or not and whether they’ve been fortified with helpful nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.
One outlier is walnut milk, which provides much more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats than other nut milks, but isn’t fortified as often with calcium, vitamin D, and B12. Ultimately, the healthiest choice for you will depend on your dietary needs, preferences, and health goals.
Is cashew milk the healthiest?
When it comes to plant-based milks, ideally their nutrition content will match up closely to the beneficial nutrients in dairy milk. Soy milk, pea milk, and non-dairy milk blends with added pea protein that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D are considered the most nutrient-dense options for non-dairy milk. Bonus if they are also fortified with vitamin B12 for vegans!
Does cashew milk taste like almond milk?
Cashew milk has a milder, more neutral flavor and a creamier texture than almond milk.
The scientific information in this article was accurate at the time of publishing but may change over time as new research becomes available.
- Ritchie, Hannah. Dairy vs. plant-based milk: what are the environmental impacts? Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impact-milks. Accessed June 9, 2023.