12 Best High-Protein Milks Ranked (Dairy AND Vegan)

Glasses of milk on table

Milk—whether from the cow or the coconut tree—has long been celebrated for its nutritional benefits.

I mean, we all remember those “Got Milk?” ads from the 90s and 2000s, right?

From the creamy texture of cow’s milk to the nutty flavor of nut-based options, milk is a staple in many diets. But have you ever wondered which milk offers the most protein?

Or how plant-based milks stack up against regular cow’s milk?

If you’re on a quest for the perfect blend of calories and grams of protein, you’re in the right place!

In this guide, we’ll explore the world of dairy and non-dairy milk, ranking them to help you find the best sources of protein.

Whether you’re a fan of whole milk, vegan milk, or something in between, I’ve got you covered.

Is Milk a Good Protein Source?

Milk protein source

Milk has been a staple in human diets pretty much forever, and it is often praised for its rich vitamin and mineral content. But what about protein?

As you probably know, protein is essential for muscle growth, immune function, and overall health. Milk, both dairy and plant-based, can be a great source of protein, but not all milk is created equally.

Dairy milk generally contains complete proteins, providing all the essential amino acids your body needs (and are ideal for muscle building).

Plant-based milk can come from a variety of different sources, some of which are complete protein, but that is certainly not always the case.

Every milk is different. The protein content can vary widely, depending on the type of milk and how it’s processed.

That’s why it’s essential to choose the right milk for your lifestyle. Whether that means something dairy-based or vegan, it’s important to base your selection off of what is most important to you.

In this post, I’ll break down the best dairy-based and vegan milks, ranking them by their calories-to-protein ratio. Using this method ensures we find the best sources of protein, not just the highest protein content.

So, is milk a good protein source? Absolutely!

But choosing the right one can make all the difference.

Ranking Milk: Understanding the Calories-to-Protein Ratio

When it comes to evaluating the best milk options for protein content, I chose to rank them based on a specific metric: the calorie-to-protein ratio. But what does this ratio mean, and why is it important?

The calories-to-protein ratio represents the number of calories per gram of protein in a food or beverage. It’s a way to measure how efficiently you can obtain protein from a particular source while considering the energy content (calories).

In simple terms, a lower ratio means you’re getting more protein for fewer calories, which makes it a better source of protein.

Ranking milk by this ratio provides a balanced view of both the protein content and the overall nutritional value. If a specific option has a lot of protein but also a ton of extra calories, we don’t want to view that as the best source of protein.

Whether you’re looking for the creamiest option with the most protein or a plant-based alternative with a great balance of macros, understanding this ratio is key.

Best Dairy-Based Milk Options for Protein

Classic cow’s milk is the gold standard when it comes to milk, but it’s far from the only option. These days, we have a ton of additional options on top of the classic, so let’s explore them.

6. Horizon Reduced Fat Protein Milk

Horizon protein milk

150 Calories, 5g Fat, 13g Carbs (12g Sugar), 12g Protein

Horizon’s reduced-fat protein milk offers a rich, creamy texture with 12g of protein.

Though it ranks lowest on our list due to a higher calorie count of 150, it’s still a valuable option for those who prefer a fuller taste. Its calorie-to-protein ratio is 12.5 (1 gram of protein for every 12.5 calories), making it a solid protein source.

5. Low-Fat Goat Milk

Goat milk

100 Calories, 2.5g Fat, 11g Carbs (11g Sugar), 8g Protein

Low-fat goat milk offers a unique flavor profile with 8g of protein.

With a calorie-to-protein ratio of 12.5 (12.5 calories for every gram of protein), it provides a good protein source. It’s a delicious alternative to cow’s milk, especially for those looking to explore new dairy options.

4. Skim Plus Milk

Skim plus milk

110 Calories, 0g Fat, 16g Carbs (16g Sugar), 11g Protein

Skim Plus Milk stands out with 11g of protein and no fat, making it similar to skim milk, but not quite as good of a protein source.

The “plus” is in the taste, and this is much creamier milk than your standard fat-free milk. It’s also lactose-free, which can make it much easier on the stomach for many people.

With a calorie-to-protein ratio of 10 (10 calories for every gram of protein), it’s a solid option for protein intake. The higher carb content might be something to consider, but its unique blend offers a distinctive taste that sets it apart from regular skim milk.

3. Skim Milk

Skim milk

80 Calories, 0g Fat, 12g Carbs (12g Sugar), 8g Protein

A classic choice, skim milk provides 8g of protein with no fat, ranking it with a ratio of 10 calories-per-gram of protein.

It’s a good choice for those watching their fat intake and offers the familiar taste and nutritional benefits that we’re all familiar with.

2. Fairlife Ultra-Filtered Milk Skim Milk

Fairlife skim

80 Calories, 0g Fat, 6g Carbs (6g Sugar), 13g Protein

Offering 13g of protein and only 80 calories, this ultra-filtered milk has a calorie-to-protein ratio of 6.2, which is one of the best you’ll see.

Fairlife makes some incredible products, and their ultra-filtered milk is no exception.

The ultra-filtering process enhances the protein content, making it an excellent option for anyone looking to maximize their protein intake. Plus, Fairlife is lactose-free!

1. Kroger Carbmaster Nonfat Milk

Kroger carbmaster milk

60 Calories, 0g Fat, 3g Carbs (3g Sugar), 11g Protein

Topping the list is Kroger Carbmaster Nonfat Milk with an impressive calorie-to-protein ratio of 5.5.

If you live near a Kroger grocery store, this milk is definitely worth checking out. Just like Fairlife, this is ultra-filtered, lactose-free milk, making it a great way to get your protein without the added sugar.

With only 60 calories and 3 grams of carbs, you won’t find a more impressive option out there.

Best Vegan Milk Options for Protein

In the past, the only real milk options were dairy-based. Coconut milk has been around, and then almond milk emerged, but there were not a ton of good vegan options for protein.

Well, that has definitely changed in recent years! Here are some of the best high-protein milk options for a vegan diet.

6. Protein Oat Milk (Califia Farms Protein Oat Milk)

protein oat milk

140 Calories, 7g Fat, 11g Carbs (1g Fiber & 3g Sugar), 8g Protein

Califia Farms brings a protein-packed oat milk that’s truly delicious. Oat milk generally doesn’t contain much protein at all, so this is a great change of pace.

With a calorie-to-protein ratio of 17.5, it’s the lowest-ranking vegan option on our list, but don’t let that deter you. Its unique oat flavor and thick consistency make it an awesome dairy-free choice.

5. Soy Milk

Soy Milk

110 Calories, 4.5g Fat, 9g Carbs (2g Fiber & 6g Sugar), 8g Protein

Soy milk is one of the most widely-known vegan milk options out there, although many people have begun moving away from soy and towards other options.

With 110 calories and 8 grams of protein, it put it on-par with goat’s milk in terms of its calorie-to-protein ratio.

4. Silk Protein

Silk protein

130 Calories, 8g Fat, 3g Carbs (2g Sugar), 10g Protein

Silk Protein is my personal favorite milk, and it has become my go-to option over all others.

This plant-based milk blends almond and cashew with added pea protein, resulting in 10g of protein per serving. While it may not be the best pure source of protein (with 10 calories-to-protein), its creamy consistency and rich taste really set it apart.

3. Ripple Milk

Ripple milk

90 Calories, 4.5g Fat, 6g Carbs (6g Sugar), 8g Protein

Ripple’s unique pea protein milk offers 8g of protein with a calorie-to-protein ratio of 11.3.

If you’re looking for dairy-free milk with a different twist, this pea milk is worth a try. Its smooth consistency and subtle flavor make it a very unique option, although it tends to come with a high pricetag.

2. Protein Almond Milk (Orgain Protein Almondmilk)

Protein almond milk

100 Calories, 3g Fat, 11g Carbs (1g Fiber & 7g Sugar), 10g Protein

Orgain’s Protein Almond Milk offers an impressive 10g of protein with a calorie-to-protein ratio of 10.

This almond-based milk provides a wonderful nutty flavor with the added benefit of pea protein to boot. It’s a versatile option for those seeking a plant-based milk with substantial protein content, and its creamy texture definitely puts it above regular almond milk.

1. Protein Flax Milk (Good Karma Flax Milk + Protein)

Protein flax milk

70 Calories, 3g Fat, 1g Carbs (0g Sugar), 8g Protein

Topping the list we have Good Karma Flax Milk. With a calorie-to-protein ratio of 8.8, Good Karma’s Protein Flax Milk is a standout option in the vegan space.

This flaxseed-based milk has just 70 calories and 8 grams of protein, making it a really solid option for anyone trying to keep their calories down.

Other Milk Options

While the dairy and vegan milks listed above are ranked for their protein content, there are plenty of other options that might not pack as much protein but still offer unique flavors and health benefits.

Let’s explore some of them…

Coconut Milk

coconut milk

Coconut milk is known for its creamy consistency and tropical flavor.

While it might not be the best non-dairy milk in terms of protein, it’s rich in healthy fatty acids and provides a great way to elevate creamy recipes.

Since coconut milk is generally high in fat and calories, it’s typically consumed on low-carb & high-fat diets.

Hemp Milk

Hemp milk

Made from hemp seeds, hemp milk offers a slightly grassy and nutty flavor that’s unique among plant-based milks.

Its texture is often described as creamier than almond milk but less thick than cow’s milk (similar to oat milk).

Rice Milk

Rice milk

Rice milk is a dairy-free option that’s pretty comparable to almond milk. While it doesn’t provide much protein, it’s often enriched with vitamins and minerals, making it a good option for those with nut allergies.

Cashew Milk

Cashew milk

Cashew milk is celebrated for its creamy texture and rich, nutty flavor. It’s often used in plant-based diets as a whole milk substitute, and though it might not have the most protein, its taste and consistency make it a very popular choice.

Unsweetened Almond Milk

Almond milk

Unsweetened almond milk is the go-to option when calories are limited.

In the fitness space, it’s often used to mix with protein powder to make protein shakes with a better consistency than water can provide.

If you want to keep your calories and carbs down, and don’t mind the lack of protein, this is the way to go.

Protein Quality in Dairy and Non-Dairy Milks

Protein quality is an important thing to consider, especially when comparing dairy and plant-based milk alternatives.

You may have heard the term “complete protein” flying around as it pertains to dairy or plant-based milk, but what exactly does that mean?

Dairy Milk Protein Quality

Cow’s milk and other dairy products typically provide complete proteins, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids. This makes dairy milk an excellent source of protein, with a well-rounded amino acid profile.

The protein in dairy milk is usually easily digestible, allowing for efficient absorption. Whether it’s whole milk or skim, the protein quality in dairy milk is generally very high.

This is one of the main reasons why whey protein is the preferred supplement for building muscle and plant-based protein often takes a back seat (that doesn’t make plant-based protein bad, just not as high in quality as dairy-based).

Non-Dairy Milk Protein Quality

Plant-based milk offers a different protein profile. While some, like soy milk, provide complete proteins, most others lack certain essential amino acids.

For example, rice milk might be lower in lysine, keeping it from being a complete source of protein.

Hemp milk provides a good balance of omega fatty acids, and nut milks, like almond and cashew, might be lower in protein but still provide valuable nutrients as well.

So, while the protein quality might not be quite as high as dary options, there are lots of other nutritional benefits to take into account.

Blended options, like Silk Protein, combine different plant proteins to create a more balanced amino acid profile. This approach enhances the overall protein quality, making it suitable for those on a strict plant-based diet who need complete protein.

Both dairy and non-dairy milk have their place in a balanced diet, whether or not they qualify as a complete protein.

Whether you prefer the creamy texture of cow’s milk or the nutty flavor of plant-based milk, there’s a protein source for your preferences.

How to Get More Milk into Your Diet

Milk, whether dairy or plant-based, doesn’t have to be limited to your morning cereal or protein shakes.

There are countless ways to incorporate this nutritious liquid into your daily diet, so if you need to increase your milk consumption, here are some ideas.

Cooking and Baking

Milk can be a star ingredient in your kitchen. From creamy sauces to moist baked goods, adding milk enhances both the texture and taste.

  • Use coconut milk to create a thick & creamy sauce.
  • Add milk to your pancake batter to increase the protein content and make them even fluffier.
  • Make homemade ice cream using only milk.

Smoothies and Beverages

Blend your favorite milk with fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients to make delicious smoothies and protein shakes.

  • Blend up any of the high-protein options with fruit for an instant high-protein smoothie.
  • Make plant-based protein fluff with almond milk, pea milk, or any other plant-based option.

Breakfast Bowls and Oatmeal

Upgrade your breakfast with a splash of milk. It adds a creamy consistency to your oatmeal or yogurt bowl.

  • Silk Protein can add an extra 10g of protein to your morning meal.
  • Mix your favorite milk with oats to create thick & delicious overnight oats.

Conclusion

Drinking milk in the gym

Milk, in its many dairy & vegan forms, is more than just a drink; it’s a protein powerhouse that offers a ton of options for every taste and dietary preference.

From the creamy consistency of cow’s milk to the innovative blends of plant-based milk alternatives, there’s truly an option for everyone.

Ranking these milks by their calories-to-protein ratio gives us some insight into the best choices for protein, but they are by no means the only options.

Whether you’re looking to boost your protein intake, explore new flavors, or find the perfect milk for your protein shakes or recipes, there’s something for everyone. Your local grocery store is likely loaded with options, so don’t hesitate to branch out and try something new.

Remember, it’s not just about drinking milk; you can cook, bake, blend, and create with it. Embrace the diversity of milk and find your favorite.

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