All vegan coffee creamers are non-dairy, but not all non-dairy creamers are vegan. Definitely not all coffee creamers are on the same level in terms of ingredient quality. There are plenty of reasons to choose a dairy-free coffee creamer – whether you’re one of 50 million lactose intolerant Americans, seek a healthier coffee creamer, or just dislike the taste of milk.
But beware: dairy-free creamers are definitely not all plant-based. For a long time, the top priorities for creating dairy-free creamers essentially boiled down to just texture, coffee “whiteness” (which is why you see coffee creamer sometimes described as coffee whitener) and flavor. That’s why several creamers are some combination of water, sweeteners, and thickening agents. With the rise in demand for healthier, plant-based food products, however, nut and seed milks have become increasingly popular alternatives, and we now pay a lot more attention to where these products come from in the first place.
Is non-dairy creamer vegan?
As mentioned above, all vegan creamers are non-dairy, but not all non-dairy creamers are vegan. Some non-dairy creamers like CoffeeMate, for example, use cow milk product but are still technically dairy free according to the FDA. If you take a look at some non plant-based creamers, you might find ingredients called sodium caseinate and micellar casein. They are also sometimes referred to as “milk derivative” because the “casein” in “caseinate” is, in fact, a milk protein. Under FDA labeling, however, milk derivative is considered dairy free and is also technically lactose-free.
If you’re simply looking for a coffee creamer solution for lactose intolerance, then all non-dairy coffee creamers should be fair game. But if you’re looking for coffee creamer brands that don’t involve cows in any step of the process, you should watch out for these tricky ingredients.
The best vegan coffee creamer should be a simple one.
The problem with a lot of non-dairy creamers is that in order to achieve the desired “coffee whiteness” and creaminess, manufacturers end up adding thickening agents and other ingredients that replicate the opaque creaminess that cream alone can achieve. This poses a problem because for a long time, many vegan milk brands would use ingredients like carrageenan to thicken and emulsify nut milks and creamers.
Unfortunately, carrageenan has been found to promote inflammation in the body and may even exacerbate bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, and glucose intolerance. Many plant-based brands have consequently moved to remove carrageenan from their formulations; it’s also why Coconut Cloud vegan coffee creamer powder has been carrageenan free since the very beginning.
Nut milks, like almond milk and coconut milk, tend to separate naturally. Separation is when more dense contents of the milk (protein, carbs) separate from the milk’s water content. While this problem can be solved easily by giving the nut milk a quick shake, some people don’t realize they need to do that. As a result, you should continue to be on the lookout for carrageenan and other types of additives that emulsify coffee creamers.
Some non-dairy coffee creamers also have hydrogenated oils or added fats in order to lend to a creamier mouthfeel. Coconut milk based creamers may not be anything to worry about, as we’ve covered on the blog how naturally occurring medium-chain triglycerides in coconuts may be beneficial for the brain and for exercise; however, creamers with water as the primary ingredient may use ingredients like “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” a ubiquitous trans fat in processed foods which is downright dangerous.
Vegan Creamer Singles On-the-Go
Coffee creamer – dairy or non-dairy – is also difficult to bring with you on the go because it might spoil. Some non-dairy coffee creamers have enough additives and preservatives that they don’t even require you to refrigerate it after opening. Yuck.
Most plant-based coffee creamers these days require refrigeration. Refrigeration is a pretty good indicator that the ingredients used in the product are minimally processed and aren’t saturated with preservatives to the point that they’ll take forever to go bad. There is, however, an alternative solution to the non-dairy dilemma of bringing vegan creamer on the go or in airports.
A portable, dried, vegan coffee creamer powder.
By simply taking out the water to produce vegan coffee creamer powder, you can extend shelf life from a couple of weeks all the way to a couple of years. Coconut Cloud coconut creamer, for example, features coconut cream powder as its primary ingredient and has a shelf life of 2 years. Eschewing water from the equation makes it so that you add all the rich, creamy fat and protein of coffee creamer directly into your coffee.
Read ingredient labels for your non-dairy coffee creamer and more!
Many of the limitations we’ve discussed also apply to conventional drink mixes like hot cocoa, too. Once you start observing your food nutrition labels more carefully, you’ll find that there’s a lot of “stuff” in your food that doesn’t necessarily have to be there. We believe that there should be less “stuff” in our food and simply more food in our food. Sounds pretty good. Are you in?