Over the past several years, almond milk has earned its place as the most popular milk substitute on the market. Though rice and soy milk have been on store shelves for what feels like forever, and other trendy contenders like cashew and coconut milk have emerged more recently, there's no question that almond milk is currently America's favourite dairy alternative. According to a consumer study by Nielson, almond milk sales increased 250% between 2010 and 2015, and in 2015, they raked in nearly $600 million more than the next most popular dairy alternative, soy milk. So, clearly almond milk reigns supreme, but what would it take to dethrone this milk substitute? If cashews, coconuts, and oats couldn't do it, what could? Perhaps one of the most basic and beloved nuts around. Yes, I’m talking about the peanut.
In January, Elmhurst Plant-Based Milks introduced “Milked Peanuts” to its lineup of grain, nut, and seed milks. Dr. Cheryl Mitchell, the food scientist behind most of the Elmhurst products, explained why the company decided to introduce peanut milk: “The peanut is a very good source of protein, it’s a relatively less expensive nut because it’s a ground nut, and we have plenty of growth potential in the U.S. for more peanuts,” she told Refinery29. Besides the practical reasons, though, Mitchell also noted the peanut’s popularity, and even mentioned her own fondness for the nut, saying, “[the] peanut was always one of the loves of my life.”
Given that so many people are fans of peanut products (namely peanut butter), America's first peanut milk stands out as one that could become a popular choice. As a peanut lover myself, I was eager to try out the product as soon as I heard it was being introduced, and guess what? It tastes like peanuts.
For good measure, I tried using peanut milk a few different ways. Just as I would with almond milk, I poured it in my morning coffee and over cereal, and even combined with these components, the taste was overwhelmingly peanut-y. That didn't bother me, since, as I said, I love peanuts and anything that tastes like peanuts, but I'm not sure peanut-flavoured coffee is for everybody.
I even baked vegan chocolate-peanut brownies using peanut milk, and this was where the dairy-alternative really shined: They were more decadent than perhaps any other brownie I have ever tasted. Instead of brownies that simply have chopped nuts sprinkled in, these had a strong peanut flavour infused into every single bite. They were fudge-y and dense and altogether delicious. After tasting the brownies, I suspect peanut milk would also be a great addition to other sweet treats like smoothies or a chocolate milkshake.
Peanut milk could no doubt be an enhancement to a slew of desserts, but is it the new almond milk? Probably not. The milk alternative is rich and creamy, sure, but it has such a strong flavour that it may not lend itself to being as multifunctional as almond milk. You really can't the intense peanutty taste. Another factor that holds it back from becoming the hottest dairy alternative on the market is that peanuts are an allergen and that tends to scare consumers (though, Mitchell did point out that 70% of households stock peanuts and peanut products).
So, perhaps peanut milk isn't destined to become the new almond milk, but according to Mitchell, that's not really the point, especially when the goal is sustainability. "We’re trying to have a diversified portfolio of grains, nuts, and seeds because as we look beyond dairy, we are really focused on providing a variety and this is all about sustainability. You don’t just want to hit on almond or hit on cashew," she said.
TL;DR If you don’t really like the taste of peanuts, you probably aren’t going to be using peanut milk as often as you might use other dairy alternatives. However, it’s never a bad thing to have options. Different plants, grains, nuts, and seeds have many different applications, so we definitely see the appeal of using more than one. We can use perfectly frothed coconut milk for our morning lattes, work with almond milked to create a vegan béchamel sauce, and save the peanut milk for next-level brownies.