HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Soy Milk vs Cow's milk - the nation decides

OK folks - its time to decide - what is going in your coffee today?
Personally its tea without any milk - coffee - soy milk wins hands down.
But what about in cereal - again soy for me - and baking???? I dont do enough of it to have an opinion.
And what of the soy/rice hybrids - nice in muesli I find.
So why are there no little plastic pots of soy milk at McDonalds etc?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Basically, when flavour is really important, I choose soy.

    In coffee, I like a mix of milk and soymilk.
    In tea, soy wins, but I'll use milk if I have to.
    For baking, I usually stick to dairy because you can't taste it. Unless, of course, there are allergies or vegan diets involved - then soy again.
    Cereal - definitely soy.

    2 Replies
    1. re: piccola

      But soy is also a common food allergy.

      1. re: pescatarian

        I meant milk allergies. Obviously I wouldn't use soy for soy allergies.

    2. soy milk is nasty-tasting i think. in baking tho, i will use it, cuz id rather use soy milk than pasteurized animal milk. ive had great luck in most any baking application ive used it in. i even did a pumpkin soup once i think and that came out great.

      1. I dislike the taste of all soy milk that I've tasted and have been able to pick it out in cooked dishes as well. Haven't liked freshly pressed soy milk either. Can't figure out why it is so popular.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JudiAU

          I agree, Judi. Never got the soy milk love. Nothing better in a cup of coffee than whole cream, although that is a decadence I only enjoy once in a while. Otherwise, it's 2% for me, although another treat I love on occasion is the organic raw milk in glass bottles that they sell at Whole Foods -- it is so good!

        2. If I remember correctly some brands of soy milk have a lot of sugar in it, so read the label carefully.

          3 Replies
          1. re: malibumike

            Yes, I just had a soy mocha from my favorite local coffee shop, and it was delicious (I had to switch to soy...16 oz of milk makes my belly bloated) but if I order a soy mocha at Starbucks , it is too sweet to drink.

            1. re: danna

              Ugh, 16 oz?? Try ordering smaller drinks- a proper cappo should be about 5 oz, certainly not more than 8. You can get "short" lattes/cappos/mochas at Sbux even tho it's not on their menu. The cappo with my latte art on my sig pic below is 5 oz and it was DELICIOUS.

              1. re: John Manzo

                Yes, yes...i'm a pig, I know. They do make such delicious mochas at my local place. I considered giving up the "Sumo" size (20 oz) to be an exercise in moderation ;-) I indulge once a week on Friday morning.

                I agree, a small cappuccino is a work of art(even if they don't look like your masterpiece), but it doesn't survive the shlepping back to the office very well.

          2. tea - no milk ever (or soy)
            coffee - 9/10 - nonfat milk - 1/10 So Nice Vanilla Soy
            Very occasionally, I drink So Nice Vanilla Soy or one of the Almond Milks, but I read the ingredients carefully and try to avoid brands with added corn syrup, sugar, other undesireables.
            I never bake with soy milk, only dairy.

            1. yes,like a few of you pointed out, a lot of soy milks are full of HFCS, sugar, additives, etc. i think many people get into the habit of just thinking soymilk=healthy and ignore the fact that many of the makers load up the product with crap.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ben61820

                the freshly made soy milk at the chinese market is soybeans, water and sugar (though you can get no sugar version).

                1. re: choctastic

                  I always check the ingredients and get the "natural" versions, with nothing added except calcium.

              2. Whole Cows milk for:


                I dont drink coffee, or tea, so I have no opinion about those applications.

                1. I have concerns about the hormones in soy, even though I'm a woman. I started to research it when I saw menopause supplements that are soy-based. Just the fact that younger and older guys are specifically told NOT to use soy tells me that I don't want to substitute it for milk. People talk about HGH in animal feed, but there's no research to support the idea that it is passed on in milk. In fact, I read a very recent article (not sure where) that encourages low-fat dairy for lower blood pressure, osteoarthritis prevention and weight control.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mojoeater

                    I have concerns, but my motto, in general, is everything in moderation. Too much soy is not good for you. Too much dairy is not good for you either.

                  2. I've read many negative articles about the dangers of Soy Milk (Do A Search). It has to do with the method in which Soy is processed in the USA. I've since switched to Almond Milk which I use with cereals.

                    1. There is very little in the way of scientific, peer reviewed research that attacks soy. Of the little that does exist, there are a couple studies that raise the possibility of a correlation between isolated soy protein (processed using hexane) and cancer. Note here: possibility and correlation. The best science can't show satistically significant correlation (let alone causation) in this. I have also read some inflammatory articles from scientists about links to male infertility and other issues that people have posted. Most of these studies are funded by, guess who, the dairy/meat industry.

                      If you want to read a small sampling of the scientific literature that exists linking dairy to various forms of chronic disease, try getting a copy of the China Study from the library.

                      Personally I make my own soy and almond/walnut milk several times a week and use both for cereal and beverages. Making it allows me to get the absolute freshest milk using organic ingredients and without additional sugar (though you can easily buy unsweetened, organic soy milk - check out Trader Joes for instance).

                      1. The use of dairy milk or substitutes for it, derived by processessing other products to simulate dairy milk, either as a beverage or with cereal seems to be a singularly American dietary custom. Asians, Latins, Europeans, and others seem to manage fine without high quanities of dairy. When used, it's generally the real thing.
                        We eat good artisal cheese, the best milk and cream I can buy for cooking, fine butter in moderation. Just like my grandmother. The imitation stuff never enters my home.
                        The less processed food you consume, the better off you are.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: MakingSense

                          South Asians consume the most milk. Milk consumption is highest in India and Pakistan, ranging for different districts 0.2 - 0.34 kg/person/day. US consumption for all milk products is 0.26 kg/person/day.

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            India has traditionally had a high consumption level of milk products, including liquid milk, but a lot of SE Asia is yogurt-like stuff.
                            Milk consumption is rising in all of the developing world and flattening out in the developed world. Who knows if that's good or bad. This wasn't a traditional source of protein for many cultures, was it?

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              Milk consumption has always (traditionally) been high in south Asia, low in SE and E Asia. The east African cattle-herding peoples (e.g., the Dinka, Neur if memory serves me right) have traditionally relied on milk and cattle blood.

                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              Sam Fujisaka, can you cite your source for the above figures? Thanks.

                              1. re: Non Cognomina

                                A small team of us work (and one of the things I do) with targeting and priority setting for two programs, one improving drought tolerance in major crops another breeding more micronutrients (Zn, FE, vit A) into major food crops. As a part of the work, we've put together quite a number of global data sets. The milk consumption data came from a combination of FAO and WHO data and is now a part of our (Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical 2007) project data sets.

                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  Sorry, the milk consumption data also came from World Bank figures.

                          2. My wife uses Silk soy creamer in her coffee. I stick with cow's milk pretty much straight across. Half and Half in coffee, nothing in tea, 1% milk in cereal and for sauces and heavy cream to finish off the bolognese. I don't bake very much but usually just use the 1% because its already in the house when I do.

                            1. Tea - No Milk
                              Coffee/Latte/-ccino - No Milk or Whole
                              Cereal (which I haven't eaten since high school) - 2%
                              Oatmeal (which I do eat) - 1%

                              I usually just drink black coffee, but sometimes I like a latte. I tried ordering lattes with soy milk a few times but they just didn't taste as good as whole. I once made a sauce using soy milk, however I had not looked closely at the carton to see that it was vanilla flavored...dear lord that was awful. In all honesty though, if there were no repercussions, I't just put unpasturized heavy cream in everything. Thus ends my stream of consciousness post for the day.

                              1. Milk for everything. I tried soymilk in my coffee for a bit when my boyfriend was drinking it, but the taste was just not the same.

                                1. I think Soy milk is an aquired taste--I like it with cereal;
                                  with coffee I really like half and half;
                                  tea I usually prefer plain with honey ;
                                  green tea I prefer as it is

                                  1. * tea - black
                                    * coffee - either black or with half & half or whole (preferably organic and even better, raw). less fat than whole milk & I'd rather have none in my coffee.
                                    * cold cereal (rare) or drinking (also rare) - Generally 2% pasteurized organic, dh's milk of choice.
                                    * most common milk ingestion for me: cappuccino. then I have the 2% or the raw, whichever's around. oddly, raw milk makes lousy froth. my friend looked up a bunch of the science behind it in McGee's, and theorized it should froth better when skimmed and less fresh, but experience says otherwise.

                                    I'm a soy avoider, but since I do eat out and a certain amount of processed food, I'm not kidding myself - I know I get some, and I can still sleep nights. I have heard fermented soy like in Chinese bean curd (tofu) is much different than the kind used in soy milk and many American processed foods, and that the kind traditionally eaten is not bad for you - in contrast to the heakth concerns we're running into now that soy items are such common additives. I am not familiar with the science behind that claim, but I'd love to hear more if anyone else knows about it.

                                    1. Nothing in tea. Coffee gets half & half or 40% cream, whichever I have. (I do often drink it black, though). In baking and cooking, I go with the recipe instructions, but never lower fat than whole milk.

                                      Soy "milk" is an abomination.

                                      Rice Dream is pretty good over Froot Loops if you are so inclined. ;)

                                      1. I grew up in French kitchens. You get yourself a freshly baked, buttery croissant or brioche, and you brew a rich, delicious pot of dark roast coffee. A small pitcher of fresh cream is at hand. The aromas of the coffee and the pastry are driving you skyward to heaven.

                                        And you really want to pour soy milk on that coffee? eew.

                                        1. Cow's milk (or cream or half and half) in everything that can benefit from milk. That would include lesser drip coffees, capps, cereal, baking, mkilkshakes, etc. etc.

                                          Soy juice in nothing.

                                          I attend coffee industry trade shows. I've sampled about every soy juice product out there. I don't get it, except for people who have no choice.

                                          1. a south american/caribbean thing: condensed milk in coffee and tea--I like this too

                                            1. I drink my coffee black unless I happen to have a little bit of cream or half-and-half left over from some recipe. Occasionally with certain kinds of tea I'll have a little milk, a little taste I acquired when I spent the summer in Ireland after I graduated from high school--I don't know if it's the case today but at that time (21 years ago) they still had a milkman who brought their milk to the door in little bottles every day. For drinking, cereal, and other applications we generally use 1%.

                                              When I was a kid--and when my mom was a kid growing up in Oklahoma--there was soy milk to be had. It was called Milnot (milk it's not--get it?) It was intended to be a cheap substitute for milk for cooking and baking. It came in a can and was truly vile. I can't quite get past memories of Milnot (yes, you can still get it), so I've never tried soy milk and really don't intend to.

                                              1. Gimme the cow. I don't drink tea. Cream in my coffee. Milk for everything else. I don't have anything against soy milk but some how cookies and soy milk just doesn't sound as good as the original. And those half-cap soy latte mochachino concoctions. . .I just don't understand.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: chigirl71

                                                  Though I prefer the taste of soy (can't explain it, that's just the way it is), I always need at least part cow milk in coffee - esp. when it's a cappuccino. Soy just doesn't foam right.

                                                2. No soy for me, ever. I foolishly tried going vegan for a short time when I was younger and I absolutely cannot stand the stuff.

                                                  If I'm having a latte or mocha or something with lots of milk, I'll go for skim. If I'm drinking regular coffee, a touch of cream is perfect.

                                                  1. I've taken to vanilla Silk in cold cereal. There's not much else that I would regularly use cow's milk or substitutes for. In cooking, I wouldn't substitute.

                                                    1. Heavy Cream in my coffee.

                                                      Proof of a loving deity.

                                                      1. Milk is food. Nature designed it to be food
                                                        Milk, cream, cheese, yogurt pasteurized are not just tasty and versatile but are a true expression that we indeed do inhabit a civilized world.
                                                        I grind my coffee beans each morning and fresh brew some delicious coffee, which I enjoy black, no sugar. Later on, if I'm filling my travel mug I'll add a splash of 18% cream. When I order a Macchiato or Cappuccino later on in the day, I'll insist on whole milk or move on to the next café. After dinner, it's espresso only, and if the Barrista can't produce a frothy head of crema, I'll send it back.
                                                        A downside of civilization is that we must tolerate a few, poor, lactose intolerant souls who have ganged up with the freaky, navel gazing, foaming at the mouth, raw food, granola heads who will try to force us all to consume some nasty, nutritionally bankrupt, horrible concoctions called soy and rice milk. This is purely an example of how otherwise useless people grab power in their lives for no other reason then to force their practices on others because they can.
                                                        Anyone who would put those evil liquids in their mouths voluntarily is no Chow Hound and is, quite possibly, on the wrong site. I think Woody Harrilson has a place for you on his.
                                                        Da Cook

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: Da_Cook

                                                          I'm gonna offer an apology for my over the top reply, above.
                                                          My distaste for soy and rice milk and their derivatives got me carried away.
                                                          Da Cook

                                                            1. re: Da_Cook

                                                              Actually, i was just about to congratulate you on the post. I don't really agree w/ your total dislike for soy milk, but I am onboard about otherwise useless people on a power grab ;-)

                                                              1. re: Da_Cook

                                                                I sort of enjoyed your rant. Just like I enjoyed watching the R&D folks come up with new ways to process soybeans into more and more different products that look nothing like what grows in the field. And then the marketing geniuses sell those products to the public with health claims and packaging to persuade them that soy beverages are indeed "milk," etc., and that they taste OK once you get used to them. Better living through chemistry and marketing.
                                                                I personally don't care what other people consume. I use dairy.
                                                                They can make lots of derivative products from real milk too. Velveeta, Kraft singles, Elmer's glue, face creams, milk paint, powdered cheese to spray on snacks, whey added to breads, and other processed products hiding in commercial foods. Doesn't mean I have to eat them any more than I have to consume highly processed soy products.

                                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                                  Um, there are a lot of things that "taste OK once you get used to them" and they're not all processed foods. Soy milk isn't fresh from the cow, but I think you should take a look at the dairy industry with the same eye that you cast upon the soy industry... milk ain't handed down from on high on a soft, satiny pillow. It's a polluting, pesticide, hormone and antibiotic ridden industry.

                                                                  Also there are a lot of soy milks (and other products) that aren't super-processed and not full of HFCS.

                                                                  1. re: kapuku

                                                                    Yes, you can find soy products without additives. But they are a drop in the bucket. Even my morning newspaper was printed with soy-based ink from the huge agri-business that soy production has become. Soy beverages are only part of the marketing effort by that group to sell their product and most of what is in the dairy case isn't additve-free.
                                                                    The increase in demand for organic and hormone/antibiotic-free milk is increasing and that's heartening. The means by which that is produced is more conservation-oriented than soybean culture, which doesn't lend itself to small farms. Now that the demand is there, agribusiness will fill it with increasing acreage, GM seed, chemicals, machinery, and processing.

                                                            2. Coffee - Black. Fresh-ground French press only, please.
                                                              Tea - Half&half.
                                                              Cereal - Whipping Cream. H&H if it's gone.
                                                              In a glass with chocolate cake- 2% works fine.

                                                              Soy??? Great bio-diesel.

                                                              One assumes that the question has to do with food taste preferences.

                                                              If it's about nutritional values, intellectual achievement or moral excellence then further research is needed.

                                                              De gustibus non est disputandum

                                                              1. Keep in mind that this is, in a way, an artificial comparison. It's interesting in the way that "Lemon vs. milk in tea?" is interesting, but soy milk is called "milk" only because shrewd marketers realized "soy juice" or "soy drippings" or "soy water" wouldn't exactly whet the appetite. To see the term spawn the retronym "dairy milk" is a tad repulsive.

                                                                Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I will say that 8th Continent makes a really nice vanilla or chocolate soy beverage.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                                                                  "dairy milk"
                                                                  "real butter"
                                                                  "red zinfandel"


                                                                  1. re: danna

                                                                    "Gin martini"!

                                                                    Hey, wanna start a Not About Food thread?

                                                                2. I would no sooner drink soy "milk" again as I would drink old & sour dairy milk- which is what soy tastes like. Give me the real stuff- moo! But I would still toast with those of you who enjoy it, to each their own.

                                                                  1. You cant beat fresh milk from a local farm. I put milk in everything or I'll just drink it by the glass. yum.

                                                                    1. Since I have a dairy allergy (not lactose intolerance) I use soy milk often in coffee and baking. I find the flavor of rice or almond milk nice sometimes, especially over cereal.

                                                                      My favorite brand tastewise is 8th Continent. Silk is ok, especially in the flavors like chocolate, vanilla, or spice which sort of tastes like eggnog.

                                                                      I think it's an acquired taste, but then again so is cow's milk. The average American or Western European is given it so young you probably don't remember adjusting to it from breast milk. ;)

                                                                      I will sometimes use goat's or sheep's milk as a substitution for cow's milk since my reasons are allergy not political or socially motivated. Sheep's milk is very milk in flavor, just a bit hard to find at your average megamart.

                                                                      1. Just curious - what are the reasons a person might use soy "milk" over cow's milk? Trying to figure out if I, an "average person", might have some reason for wanting soy over cow's. The ones I can come up with are:
                                                                        - ethically opposed - i.e., a vegan who does not agree with eating anything from animals
                                                                        - allergies - 'nuff said

                                                                        Are there health benefits that I'm not thinking of if those 2 reasons are ruled out? I don't have either of the above situations. I use organic (hormone & antibiotic-free) skim in my day to day life (my lucky 17 mo son gets organic WHOLE milk to drink....yum) with the exception of coffee. There I go with (egads!) fake creamer stuff - i know, for shame...

                                                                        So, is there any reason why I would use soy/rice milk? It's more processed which I try to stay away from (with the exception of fake creamer, apparently). The majority of the posts from people who use it seem to have people commenting on taste, i.e., what tastes best or most like "milk."

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: amyvc

                                                                          Soy and rice milk (both of which I don't consume) are not really processed much more than coconut milk. The process for each is fairly straightforward. The fake creamer, on the other hand, is probably the worse thing you have in your diet (and my admiration for your admitting so), although at the normal levels of consumption (i.e., in coffee) it is highly improbable that you would/could suffer any negative effects whatsoever. Enjoy the stuff.

                                                                          1. re: amyvc

                                                                            So, after a little searching, this is what I found:

                                                                            "Commercially available, soy milk is fortified to have nutrient levels similar to cow’s milk. Unlike cow’s milk, it is low in saturated fats and cholesterol. Although the calcium in soy milk is not absorbed as easily as cow’s milk, tests show that calcium levels in people who drink soy milk are maintained even with their lower calcium intake."

                                                                            Since you drink skim milk, I dont think that there is any reason to switch to soy milk for health benefits. Thats my 2 cents.

                                                                            1. re: thunderbug84

                                                                              That quote pretty well answers the question. Why would you possibly drink soy milk?
                                                                              It is inherently inferior nutritionally to cow's milk and has to be fortified. The calcium is not as easily absorbed. If you use skim milk, you avoid the saturated fat and cholesterol problems.
                                                                              This is a textbook triumph of marketing by the soybean industry. They have persuaded people who otherwise buy natural, often organic, whole foods, with little processing or additives to buy substitutes for perfectly acceptable dairy products.

                                                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                I think your reply has left an opening that brings us back to the original post. The preference for Milk vs Soy.
                                                                                I contend that the original question is inappropriate for this forum because, like all non dairy creamers: Soy, Rice or Kahlua flavoured modified oil products, they represent what Chowhounds shouldn't/won't/don't consume unless.... we are in a discussion about guilty secret pleasures where someone confesses to making a meal of Spray Cheese on Ritz Bitz with Double Tall, Non-Fat, Soy Milk Latté with Apple Pie Flavour Shots on-the-side. Then, and only then, I won't succumb to the need to point the offending Postee towards Woody Harrelsons' site: http://www.voiceyourself.com/
                                                                                Da Cook

                                                                          2. Soy Milk... no thanks I would rather avoid the estrogen like compounds.... I like mine black.

                                                                            1. Coffee - Black
                                                                              Cereal - Fat Free / Skim milk
                                                                              Baking Fat Free / Skim milk

                                                                              I do enjoy the Chocolate Soy milk, but haven't purchased it in ages because it is a bit too high cal./high fat in the amounts I would drink it. They do now have a light version I am thinking of trying.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: ArikaDawn

                                                                                Got the chocolate Silk Slender Soy today and am pleasantly surprised. 70 cals per serving and oh so yummy.

                                                                              2. Hershey's Lite Chocolate Syrup has just 45 calories, 0 of which are from fat, and 10g of sugar. Sounds like a low fat or skim chocolate milk will do me just fine.

                                                                                1. Well - this might be a first - I started this thread as a confimed soy milk drinker. After a couple of comments posted here, I looked into the health implications of drinking soy milk for guys of my age - (late 40's) - and I was quite taken aback by some of what I have found - so its no more soy milk or tofu for me - except very occasionally.
                                                                                  I'll still try to avoid the moo milk - just don't tell me rice or almond milk is going to make me grow udders.