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Types of Milk – A Guide To All Varieties

Milk is a versatile ingredient. Not only is it a popular drink, but it is also added to a variety of recipes from breakfast cereals, hot beverages, or, as an ingredient in a sauce of baked items.

And of course, milk can be transformed into more staple base ingredients; cheese, butter, cream, yoghurt, and creme fraiche.

milk being poured into glass

Different kinds of milk have different uses. Whether dairy or non-dairy, each milk variety has varying fat and sugar levels, which will determine what recipe it is best suited to.

Different Types of Dairy Milk

Any milk taken from an animal is called dairy milk, and except for goat’s and sheep’s milk, dairy milk is most commonly taken from cows.

There are different types of cow’s milk: whole milk, skimmed milk, semi-skimmed milk, and cream.

bottle and glasses of milk with a dairy cow in the background in a field of green grass

Cow’s Whole Milk (Full Fat)

This is full-fat milk. It is the closest to a cow’s and has a high saturated fat content. This means it can be used for savoury dishes like stews, which require longer cooking times to break down the fats.

Whole milk has a 3.5 per cent fat content making it a good choice for baking.

Whole milk can also be added to hot drinks or poured over cereal and is often drunk by children.

Cow’s Semi-Skimmed Milk

The next level down from whole milk is semi-skimmed milk. This has a slightly lower fat content and can be used in most recipes.

Semi-skimmed milk has a fat content of between 1.5 and 1.8 per cent.

Cow’s Skimmed Milk

Skimmed milk is the lowest in fat content. It contains less than 0.05 per cent of fat.

Skimmed milk is good when used for frothing coffee drinks and making smoothies.

Goat’s Milk

Goat’s milk is a good alternative to cow’s milk, it is easier to digest as it contains less lactose (the sugar of milk), than cow’s.

Goat’s milk can be enjoyed as a drink, added to cereal or as an ingredient in recipes.

Sheep’s Milk

Sheep’s milk is less commonly used than cow’s and goat’s milk because sheep produce less milk than cows.

It tends to be higher in fat, but it can be used in the same way as other kinds of milk.

Different Types of Non-Dairy Milk

Non-dairy milk is not just for those who cannot drink dairy, but for anyone lactose intolerant, vegan, or looking to cut down on animal products.

And sometimes it’s just preferable to change things up and try a different taste!

Soya Milk

soy milk being poured into glass with soy beans next to it

The primary type of non-dairy milk is soya milk. There are numerous brands and styles available; sweetened and unsweetened, plain and other flavours, including vanilla.

Soya milk is plant-based milk made by pressing ground soya beans.

Soya milk is high in protein but low in fat and sugars.

Oat Milk

oat milk in a jar on a board with oat surrounding it

Oat milk is non-dairy milk made from oats ground with water and filtered, much like soya milk.

Many people add oat milk to their hot drinks, such as tea or coffee, although it can also be consumed on cereals.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is made by pressing the grated flesh of the fresh coconut with water.

Non-dairy coconut milk is high in fat and is often used to make vegan cooking substitutes (cakes or ice cream, for example).

Almond Milk

Almond milk in a bottle next to a bowl of raw almonds

Almond milk is made in a similar way to soya milk and oat milk; almonds are soaked in water and then blended with more water.

It has a light, nutty taste and can be consumed on cereals or in hot drinks such as tea or coffee.

Almond milk can also be flavoured with some vanilla extract of cocoa powder to vary the taste.

Cashew Milk

cashew milk in a jar next to raw cashew nuts

Cashew milk is another popular nut-based alternative to dairy milk.

It is made in a similar way to almond milk with the cashews soaked in water before being blended with more water.

It is similar to almond milk but has a slightly sweeter taste.

Rice Milk

Commercially made rice milk is made using a mill, but it can also be made at home. The process is slightly different where cooked rice or rice flour is blended with water and strained.

It has a light taste and can be consumed on cereals, used as an alternative to whole cows milk in tea or coffee, or enjoyed by the glass.

How Long Does Milk Last?

Milk is readily available at supermarkets and shops; it can be bought in cartons or plastic bottles, full fat, semi-skimmed, skimmed or soy-based.

When stored correctly in the fridge, all of these types of milk should last 5 to 7 days after they are opened.

How Can You Tell When Milk Has Gone Off?

There are key ways to tell when milk has gone bad. It can look, smell, taste, or feel differently, indicating that it should be thrown away.

Milk will begin to separate into curds. This makes it thicker but with an ammonia-like smell which can affect the taste. It is not advisable to drink milk that has curdled.

Can You Freeze Milk?

Yes, milk can be frozen. Milk should be used within three months of freezing, but it will remain safe to drink for up to 6 months if frozen correctly.

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