Do you take cream with your coffee, or coffee with your creamer? Perhaps you haven’t found the right blend, or your $20 coffee maker is incapable of producing a palatable crema, but either way, you just don’t do black coffee. You take your coffee somewhere on the color spectrum of deep brown to light tan, and you need a non-dairy creamer that won’t ruin your morning by breaking into an unappealing, curdled mess. We get it. There are a lot of vegan creamers on the market, but only some stand up to the dairy-based blends that got us hooked on java. Here is everything you need to know to set up your morning cuppa for sweet, creamy, caffeinated success.
What’s in non-dairy creamer?
As of 2020, the plant-based creamer market is valued at $394 million. The category experienced a 32-percent increase in terms of dollars over the previous year, according to the Good Food Institute. What that tells us is that—just like non-dairy milks—there are a ton of unique vegan creamer options, and not all are made with the same ingredients. Non-dairy creamer options parallel the dairy creamer trends—there’s sweetened, unsweetened, flavored, half-and-half, and even vegan keto creamers to choose from. Further, the vast range of vegan creamers also accounts for the variety of their creamy bases. If there’s a plant milk, we can virtually guarantee it’s been used to create a non-dairy creamer. Common creamy bases include oat, soy, almond, coconut, pea, and hemp milk.
It takes more than just non-dairy milk to make a creamer, well, creamy. Depending on the brand and style of creamer, you may find sweeteners (cane sugar, salt, stabilizers such as lecithin, locust bean gum, gellan gum, and preservatives such as calcium carbonate and potassium citrate). Now is not the time to demonize non-dairy creamers for their less-than-wholesome ingredients—dairy creamers contain similar additives. These ingredients are necessary to preserve the texture and shelf life of the product. Vegan or not, creamer isn’t a winner when it comes to its nutritional profile, but when consumed in moderation, it won’t derail your health goals. Keep in mind: if you enjoy multiple cups of coffee a day and use creamer in every mug, that can add up.
Is non-dairy creamer vegan?
Not all non-dairy creamers are created equal—not by a longshot. In fact, some non-dairy creamers aren’t even vegan. Before the plant-based trend really took off, it wasn’t uncommon to find creamers (particularly the powdered varieties) with a non-dairy label. How is that possible? It all comes down to Food & Drug Administration (FDA) labeling—or lack thereof. Currently, there is no FDA definition for dairy-free. While false advertising is frowned upon and can be legally penalized, there is no regulatory accountability for a company that wishes to use the term ‘dairy-free.’
The FDA does offer a definition for non-dairy; however, due to heavy pressure from various US dairy lobbies, the term allows for non-dairy products to contain certain casein-based milk derivatives. In regards to many powdered non-dairy creamers, sodium caseinate is a common ingredient. Coffee Mate is one of the most widely distributed powdered creamer brands, so if you see a tub of Coffee Mate powdered non-dairy creamer in your shared office kitchen, be sure to scan the ingredient label before adding a scoop to your coffee or tea.
Lactose-free is another deceiving term. Similar to lactose-free milk, lactose-free creamer still contains dairy. Enzymes (lactase) are added to the product to break down the lactose sugar found in cow’s milk. This term is most often found on liquid creamers, so if you see a product with just a lactose-free label, you can assume with 99-percent certainty that it is not vegan and contains dairy.
Beyond this perplexing (and deeply frustrating) loophole surrounding the non-dairy label and other terms, there are plenty of vegan creamers out there that truly are devoid of animal products. Of course, you can always look at the ingredient label and keep your eye out for milk derivatives—at the very least, companies are required to list these sneaky dairy ingredients—but there are other ways to ensure your creamer is vegan as well. Look for creamers made by your favorite vegan milk brands such as Califia Farms, Oatly, and Silk. If you’re enticed by a creamer from a non-vegan company—such as Coffee Mate or Starbucks—check to see if there is a plant-based or vegan label. More and more brands are capitalizing on these terms as a way to market their products to an increasingly plant-curious consumer base, and there’s no hiding any animal ingredients when an item is marked “vegan.”
In short, not all non-dairy creamers are vegan. Be weary of the powdered options and lactose-free labels, and you should be in the clear.
Non-dairy creamer nutrition
Given the sweeteners, additives, stabilizers, and flavoring agents used in many commercial non-dairy creamers, these coffee- and tea-enhancers aren’t nutritionally dense. Granted, the label varies greatly depending on the brand and style of creamer. Some unsweetened varieties will weigh in at just 10-15 calories per one-tablespoon serving; other flavored options can climb up to 35 calories for the same serving size. In regards to fat content, creamers range from negligible fat to one gram. The rule of thumb: the more extravagant the flavor, the more likely it is to be higher in fat, sugar, and calories. Due to the tiny portion, you won’t gain any significant nutritional benefits from creamers. The purpose is to make coffee and tea creamy, not provide a source of vitamins, minerals, or macronutrients. Seek your fiber and protein elsewhere.
Best non-dairy creamers
Here’s the issue with the plethora of vegan coffee creamers on the market: if you purchase one and don’t like it, you’re stuck with 16 to 32 ounces of product that will likely go to waste. Save yourself the money and spare the earth some waste by sticking to these tried-and-true non-dairy creamer options.
1 Silk Vanilla Soy Creamer
There is an undetectable difference between this non-dairy creamer and our former favorite vanilla dairy creamer. If you’re looking for the same sweet taste that explodes into a beautiful creamer cloud the instant it hits your coffee, look no further. Silk Vanilla Soy is it.
Find it here
Sown Plant Based
2 Sown Organic Oat Creamer
This oat-based creamer isn’t as sweet as Silk’s soy counterpart, but it still cuts the bitterness of coffee with a hint of sugar and a reliable creaminess. In our experience, it stands up well to most hot coffees and doesn’t curdle easily. The one downside: Sown only comes in 32-ounce cartons, making it great for larger households but wasteful for those who don’t go through creamer as quickly.
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3 Ripple Half & Half
Looking for something creamy without the sugar? Ripple’s half and half answers the call. This pea protein-based creamer is stable and completely sugar-free, providing a milky cloud of cozy that lets the flavor of the coffee (or tea) shine. This product is also fabulous in both sweet and savory recipes that call for dairy-based half and half. Hello, vegan eggnog cookies!
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4 Oatly Barista Edition
While this product isn’t marketed as a creamer, it gets the job done. Oatly’s barista blend isn’t just for coffee artists—the same creamy cocktail that makes our favorite lattes and cappuccinos also works wonders in our home-brewed coffee. And by home-brewed, we mean we pressed a button on our clunky six-year-old coffee maker.
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5 Chobani Oat Coffee Creamer
The Chobani company really needs to ditch the dairy. It’s proved that it can produce fabulous products with its oat-based yogurts and creamers—there’s no need to continue with cow’s milk. The Original Oat keeps our coffee and tea light and sweet year-round, but when the holidays roll around, we vary it up with the Pumpkin Spice Oat and Peppermint Mocha Oat options.
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6 Coffee Mate’s Natural Bliss Plant-Based Creamer
Those who live by Coffee Mate’s inventive flavors don’t have to break their creamer addiction when they go vegan. The brand’s line of plant-based creamers—in almond, coconut, and oat—provide an easy swap. Flavors mimic the dairy-based versions with simple varieties like vanilla and sweet crème to more indulgent options such as brown sugar oat and pumpkin spice.
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7 Trader Joe’s Soy Milk Creamer
Despite the splendor of Trader Joe’s, it’s often lacking in one or two essential products that turn the errand of grocery shopping into a two-store ordeal. Fortunately, if you need vegan creamer, the Trader Joe’s brand will do just fine. We prefer the soy vanilla over the coconut-based creamer—it tends to be more stable, less oily, and won’t curdle in a scorching hot cuppa. Now that we have your attention, TJ’s stockists, please carry JUST Egg. Thanks!
For more on vegan coffee, read:
Starbucks Is Testing Whipped Cream Made From Lentils
10 (Mouthwatering) Frappuccinos at Starbucks
Here’s How Much Extra You’re Going to Pay for Dairy-Free Milk at Coffee Shops