Soy milk is blended to mimic the taste and consistency of cows milk. And there’s good reason for this.
People are already comfortable with and enjoy the taste of regular milk. This makes the taste of soy milk more acceptable to consumers, and has helped fuel its dramatic rise in popularity.
But is soy milk truly a dairy product? Or does it just taste and sound like one?
Definition of dairy
The dictionary defines dairy as “foods that are made from milk, such as cream, butter, and cheese.” As in: a dairy-free diet and I was advised not to eat too much dairy.
So, what are the ingredients in soy milk? Pure soy milk is made with only two ingredients: soybeans and water. Dry soybeans are crushed into a powder and dissolved into boiling water. Any undissolved solids are then filtered out.
So by definition, pure soy milk is not a dairy product. It doesn’t contain any milk. There’s reason I keep referencing pure soy milk, though. Because that’s the catch.
Dairy milk solids are often added to soy milk
If you check the ingredients list on a container of soy milk, there will usually be more than just the two fundamental ingredients of soybeans and water. To verify whether a particular brand is truly dairy or not, you have to comb through these ingredients to check if any milk products have been added.
Many soy milks have powdered cow’s milk (or other ingredients that are not wholly plant derived) added. This is to improve texture/thickness and overall taste. As stated, adding milk solids to soy milk generally makes the taste more familiar and pleasing to consumers.
Soy milks with these additives are therefore indeed dairy products. They are not suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Keep in mind that these dairy additives make up only a very small amount of the total ingredients of the soy milk. We are talking low single digits here, percentage wise. Even so, their presence makes soy milk a dairy product. Technically.
As a side note, manufacturers often fortify soy milk with minerals (such as calcium) and vitamins (such as vitamin B and D). Again, they are attempting to mimic cow’s milk and provide a similar nutritional profile. These types of additives do not come from milk, of course, and do not constitute dairy.
The bulk of the ingredients (percentage wise) in soy milk is simply soybeans and water. Decidedly non-dairy.
But if you are a vegetarian, lactose intolerant, or if it’s just important for you to avoid dairy, then you have to check all the ingredients to be sure.
I love soy milk and drink it almost daily. If you are new to soy milk, try using it as a replacement for dairy milk in everything from cereals, milk shakes, and smoothies. I personally enjoy and recommend soy milk as a coffee creamer, too.
In case you were wondering, soy milk is as healthy or healthier than dairy milk. And did you know that soy is one of the only plant-based sources of complete protein available, making it an excellent source of protein for vegetarians. You will appreciate its very long shelf life, too.