Grocery Guides

Different Types of Milk: A Dairy & Plant-Based Milk Guide



Last Updated: Jan 31, 2022

Whether you add pour it over your cereal, add it to your coffee, or drink it straight, there are lots of uses for milk. There are also many different options – from a wide range of cow’s milk to plant-based milk and even other types of animal milk. Here’s a look at some of the different types of milk available in the United States.

Different types of cow milk

Cow’s milk is what most people think of when they hear the word “milk.” However, there’s a whole slew of options!

1. Whole milk

Whole milk, commonly known as “regular” milk, is thick and creamy. While it’s typically pasteurized and homogenized, it’s basically in the same format as it is when it comes out of the cow.

2. 2% milk

Also known as reduced-fat milk, 2% milk has a fat content that’s just two percent of the total weight of the milk. It’s thinner than whole milk and has a milder flavor.

3. Low-fat milk

Low-fat milk is similar to 2% milk, but it has only one percent fat content. This milk is thin and has a white, opaque shade.

4. Organic milk

Cows that aren’t given any antibiotics or supplemental hormones and are raised on farms that only use organic fertilizers and pesticides produce organic milk. To qualify as organic, the cows must also get 30% of their diet from the pasture.

5. Skimmed milk

Also known as “fat-free milk,” skimmed milk has zero fat. This makes it significantly thinner than all other types of cow’s milk. It often has a watery consistency and may have added milk powder or other additions to enhance its taste.

6. Raw milk

Raw milk is “unpasteurized” and/or has not been homogenized. This means it hasn’t been heated up for decontamination to ensure it’s safe for drinking.

7. Lactose-free milk

Since many people are lactose-intolerant, it’s also possible to get milk products that have had the lactose removed. It’s made by adding lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose, to regular milk. This has no impact on the milk’s flavor or texture.

8. Flavored milk

Kids (and kids at heart) often love flavored milk. This sweetened drink contains milk, sugar, and natural or artificial flavorings, and food colorings. Some of the most popular flavors are chocolate and strawberry.

9. Full cream milk

Full cream milk has the highest fat content of regular cow’s milk. It has a very creamy taste and texture and is often added to coffee.

10. Buttermilk

While it was once made with the liquid that was leftover from churning butter, today’s version of buttermilk does not contain any butter. Instead, it’s a fermented milk product that is produced by adding a bacteria culture to sweet, pasteurized milk. The result is a thick, tangy, and acidic milk that you can drink straight or use to make recipes such as buttermilk biscuits.

Different types of plant-based milk

From environmental issues to personal taste, there are many reasons why so many people choose to consume plant-based milk instead of animal milk. There’s a wide range of choices available. Here are some of the most common.

1. Almond milk

While there are several different types of nut milk, almond milk is one of the most popular. It’s made by toasting almonds, then grinding them with water. Almond milk has a creamy consistency and a natural sweetness.

2. Soy milk

Soy milk is a common type of plant-based milk. It’s made by soaking dried soybeans and grinding them. Soy milk is often described as a sweeter, thicker version of almond milk. It’s also considered a “complete protein milk” since it has the same protein content as whole cow’s milk.

3. Rice milk

Rice milk is very sweet and is one of the most hypoallergenic options. It’s made by boiling brown rice and then mixing it with brown rice syrup and brown rice starch.

4. Oat milk

Oat milk is made by combining oats with water, then carefully straining it to leave behind a milky liquid. While there are several different types of oat milk, most are quite thin. Oat milk is soy and nut-free, making it a good option for those who have allergies or intolerance.

5. Hemp milk

This vegan milk is made from soaking crushed hemp seeds in water, then blending them. It creates a thick, creamy drink that has a nutty, earthy flavor. Don’t worry—hemp milk is completely legal and does not contain any THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), so there’s no concern about mind-altering effects.

6. Coconut milk

Coconut milk has become quite popular as of late. It’s made from the white flesh of mature brown coconuts and has a thick, creamy texture. There are two main types of coconut milk – thick and thin. Thick coconut milk is made from boiling finely-grated coconut flesh, then straining it through a cheesecloth. The flesh that remains in the cloth is then boiled, creating thin milk that has a more water-like consistency.

7. Cashew milk

Similar to almond milk, cashew milk is also low in calories and carbs. It’s made by lightly toasting the nuts, soaking them in filtered water, then grinding them to a paste and blending it with more water. The result is a liquid that is thicker and creamier than cow’s milk and has a natural sweetness.

8. Pea milk

Pea milk is made from yellow peas and is a good option for anyone who is allergic to nuts or soy. It’s made by milling peas into flour, then filtering and purifying the powder and blending it with water and other ingredients, like sea salt or sunflower oil. Vitamins are also sometimes added to pea milk. 

If you’re worried about the taste – don’t be. Pea milk doesn’t taste like peas at all. Instead, this creamy-textured drink has a flavor that is very similar to almond milk. 

Other types of animal milk

You may be surprised to learn that people also drink different types of milk products that come from animals other than cows. Some interesting options include:

Each has a unique flavor, making them an interesting option for anyone who enjoys drinking cow’s milk.

Have fun trying different types of milk!

Are you curious about the different types of milk you can choose from? Now is a great time to experiment, and Instacart makes it easy! Just add everything you want to try to your shopping list, and a professional shopper will bring your grocery delivery right to your home. Try it out today.



Instacart is the leading grocery technology company in North America, partnering with more than 1,400 national, regional, and local retail banners to deliver from more than 80,000 stores across more than 14,000 cities in North America. To read more Instacart posts, you can browse the company blog or search by keyword using the search bar at the top of the page.

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