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What are the 22 Different Types of Milk (Animal & Plant-Based)?

Collage of different types of milk.

Quicklist: Types of Milk

  1. Whole Milk
  2. 2% Milk
  3. Low-Fat Milk
  4. Organic Milk
  5. Skim Milk (Fat-Free Milk)
  6. Raw Milk
  7. Lactose-Free Milk
  8. Flavored Milk
  9. Full Cream Milk
  10. Soy Milk
  11. Almond Milk
  12. Rice Milk
  13. Buttermilk
  14. Ultra-Filtered Milk
  15. Evaporated Milk
  16. Sweetened Condensed Milk
  17. Oat Milk
  18. Goat Milk
  19. Hemp Milk
  20. Coconut Milk
  21. Cow Milk
  22. Buffalo Milk

Milk, in its various forms, has been a part of human nutrition since ancient times and has a long, rich history.

The Agricultural Revolution around 10,000 B.C.E. changed the entire dynamics of ancient societies, during which nomadic tribes transformed into settled farming communities. The transition also saw the development of domesticated animals, increasing the use of animal by-products like milk, meat, etc.

Milk and other dairy products became prized commodity that was initially reserved for elites such as royalty, the wealthy, and priests. The most popular varieties of milk came from cows, sheep, and goats; however, as time progressed, other types of milk were also produced.

Related: Coconut Milk | Butter Alternatives | Types of Fermentation | Types of Soft Cheese | Types of Ice Cream | Types of Food | Types of MayonnaiseTypes of Plant-Based Milk | How to Store Buttercream

Below is a list of different milk varieties, each with its unique characteristics and health benefits.

Milk Nutritional Facts Chart

Milk nutritional facts chart

Whole Milk

A Bottle of Whole Milk

Also known as regular milk, whole milk consists of about 3.5% of fat content. The fat percentage typically ranges somewhere between 3.25% and 3.5%. 

Whole milk is considered to be very thick, creamy, and rich and pairs perfectly with a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast in the morning. In the words of the Dairy Council of California, whole milk is basically “the way it comes from the cow before processing.” Although it is pasteurized and probably even homogenized, the ratio of fat to milk in whole milk is the same as in raw milk.

In terms of calories, an eight-ounce glass of whole milk will contain around 150 calories, along with an average amount of eight grams of fat.

2% Milk

This variety is also referred to as ‘reduced-fat’, which basically refers to the fact that the fat content in this milk is actually two percent of the total weight of the milk. 

2% milk or reduced-fat milk goes through an important fat-removal process in which extra fat is removed from the milk. Many people prefer using this milk in their tea because it provides a very smooth texture to the beverage and offers that delicious, rich-milk taste. Not only that, but it also adds about 8 grams of protein per cup of tea which makes it an ideal type of milk to consume on a daily basis.

Low-Fat Milk

A Bottle of Low Fat Milk

Low-fat milk is often confused with ‘reduced-fat’ milk; however, they are actually different from one another. While the latter consists of a 2% fat percentage, low-fat milk has only one percent of fat content. 

Often, you will find low-fat milk with skim milk powder added to it, which boosts its protein and calcium content and also makes it creamier than before.

Low-fat milk undergoes a process called “centrifugation,” which refers to the removal of the creamy fat layer that typically comes with unprocessed milk. This removal of cream and fat globules results in thinner milk with a white opaque shade. 

Organic Milk

Fresh Organic Milk in a Glass

Organic milk comes from cows that aren’t given supplemental hormones and are produced by dairy farmers who use only organic pesticides and fertilizers. This milk has three key characteristics that distinguish them from other types of milk. Firstly, it comes from cows that get 30 percent of their diet from pasture. Secondly, the cows aren’t given any kind of antibiotics, and lastly, they aren’t fed any reproduction or growth hormones.

The term ‘organic’ primarily refers to the different processes that make the milk organic rather than the final milk product. The nutritional profile of this milk is almost the same as that of standard milk, so there is no significant difference in terms of the nutrients and health benefits provided by organic milk.

Skim Milk (Fat-Free Milk)

A Full Jug of Skim Milk

Skim milk is also known as ‘fat-free milk’ and is quite a popular choice of milk among weight watchers and health-conscious people. The sole reason for that is obviously because skim milk contains zero amount of fat. The lack of fat makes this milk thinner as compared to other types of milk.

As the name suggests, this milk goes through the process of “skimming,” which refers to the removal of cream from the milk. 

Raw Milk

Raw Milk being poured in a Silver Bucket.

Raw or unpasteurized milk has not been heated to kill bacteria. It can come from a variety of different animals, including buffalo, sheep, camels, cows, and goats.

The fact that raw milk is not pasteurized raises several health concerns primarily because it may contain harmful germs, bacteria, and viruses that can adversely affect your health. However, advocates of raw milk argue that it is a ‘complete’ type of milk that is void of any harmful additives or preservatives and is, in fact, natural food with all its amino acids, proteins, minerals, and vitamins completely intact. They also suggest that the heating process simply kills the basic nutritional purpose of the milk, which makes raw milk whole and healthy.

Lactose-Free Milk

A jar of milk between two glass of milk surrounded by various nuts and a cloth gauze.

Lactose-free milk, as the name implies, is one that has lactose removed from it, making it a great option for those who are lactose-intolerant. Lactose is a type of natural sugar present in milk that many people are unable to digest.

Lactose-free milk is produced by food manufacturers by adding lactase to regular milk. Lactase is basically an enzyme that helps break down lactose in the body. 

Lactose-free milk contains micronutrients like phosphorus, calcium, and vitamin B12. It also has about eight grams of protein in a single eight-ounce cup.

Flavored Milk

Glasses of Different Flavored Milk

Flavored milk is a sweetened dairy drink that typically consists of milk, sugar, and natural or artificial food colorings. The most popular flavored milk is chocolate milk. However, there are many varieties.

Like any other kind of milk, flavored milk is rich in the essential nutrients required by the body to stay healthy. Namely, calcium, potassium, and Vitamin D. Research and studies have shown that children who drink flavored milk actually consume more milk overall, which results in healthier diets.

Flavored milk also has a longer shelf life as compared to plain milk due to the fact that it is usually pasteurized using Ultra-High Temperature (UHT) treatment.

Full Cream Milk

A Glass of Full Cream Milk

Full-cream milk is one with the highest percentage of fat in it, which gives it the creamiest taste and texture compared to other types of milk that have a lower fat percentage. The term ‘full cream milk’ is also used for milk that has the same fat content as whole milk, a characteristic that makes both types of milk very similar.

Full cream milk comes from the mammary glands of most mammals which makes it highly nutritious. A 3.5-ounce glass contains about 3.3 grams of protein, 4.7 grams of carbohydrates, and 3.9 grams of fat. 

Soy Milk

A Jug of Fresh Soy Milk

This milk is simply prepared by soaking dried soybeans and thoroughly grinding them in water. Soy milk is a variety of plant-based milk that is packed with essential nutrients.

Soy milk is often referred to as a sweeter and thicker version of almond milk and is considered to be an excellent dairy alternative. Since its main ingredient comes from plants, this milk is naturally cholesterol-free, contains no amount of lactose, and is also very low in saturated fat content. It is also ‘complete protein milk,’ which means that it consists of the same protein content as whole milk.

A study was conducted to compare the nutritional profile of coconut, almond, soy, and rice milk. Soy milk was found to contain the largest amounts of essential nutrients, which led to the conclusion that it is the second most nutritious type of milk after cow milk.

Almond Milk

A Bottle of Almond Milk

Almond milk is another very popular type of plant-based milk that consists of subtle, natural sweetness and offers an incredibly creamy consistency. It is a dairy-free milk product that is produced by first toasting the almonds and then grinding them with water until it combines into a well-blended mixture. The resulting product is rich milk that has a delicious nutty taste coupled with a thick, creamy texture.

Since it is nut-based milk, it has an abundance of healthy fats, namely polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. It is also rich in other key nutrients like magnesium, potassium, calcium, protein, fiber, and vitamin E.

Almond milk is ideal for those who are lactose-intolerant and wish to avoid dairy products because it is free from cholesterol, as well as lactose. It also has a low sodium content and only 30 calories in an average cup of almond milk with 0 grams of carbs and sugar.

Rice Milk

A Jug of Fresh Rice Milk

This is one of the most hypoallergenic options among all other milk types and also the sweetest of all. It is a type of dairy-free milk that is created by boiling brown rice and then mixing it with brown rice starch and brown rice syrup.

Rice milk offers a medium-rich sweet taste that is very pleasant to the taste buds. The natural sweetness of the milk comes from the rice grain itself rather than any added sugar. Since it is lactose-free and contains a very low amount of allergens, it is ideal for lactose-intolerant people and those who may have a great tendency to be allergic to milk.

This milk is also fat and cholesterol-free, which makes it the perfect milk choice for people battling high blood pressure and cardiovascular issues. However, the downside to rice milk is that it contains less protein and calcium as compared to whole milk. Per serving contains about 26 grams of carbohydrates which also makes it high in calories and sugars.


Fresh Buttermilk in Orange Pots

Buttermilk was originally a fermented milk product made from the residual liquid that was left behind from churned butter that came from cultured or fermented cream.

The modern form of buttermilk has no traces of butter in it, rather, it is cultured milk that is stored and sold in bottles. Commercially made buttermilk is produced by adding bacteria culture to sweet, pasteurized milk. The mixture is left to ferment for a few hours, after which stabilizers, salts, and sugar are added to the ‘buttermilk’.

The result is a lot thicker, acidic, and tangier than traditional buttermilk. 

Ultra-Filtered Milk

Ultra-Filtered milk, also known as ‘diafiltered milk’  is typically produced by running the milk through a thin, porous membrane that allows the contents of the milk to be separated. The process has been derived from the same technique that removes impurities from water. The act of filtration allows the final product to have more calcium and protein and less sugar content, and lactose.

Additionally, ultrafiltration allows water and small lactose molecules to pass through the membrane while proteins get left behind. One cup of ultrafiltered milk is believed to contain six grams of sugar, 13 grams of protein, and 370 milligrams of calcium.

Evaporated Milk

Evaporated Milk in a Green Bowl

Evaporated milk is often referred to as ‘unsweetened condensed milk’ and is basically canned milk with about 60 percent of the water content removed from it. The water is removed from fresh milk by simmering it over low heat. The milk then goes through a homogenization process that allows it to integrate all its fat molecules together, which gives it extended shelf life.

The process of slowly simmering the milk overheats results in a very thick, rich, and creamy final product that often consists of a mild, caramel-like flavor. Many people refer to evaporated milk as ‘the best of both worlds since it contains a very low-fat content and yet retains its creaminess. This makes it a very popular substitute for cream in dishes that require a substantial amount of cream as one of its ingredients.

Sweetened Condensed Milk

A Jar of Condensed Milk

This is quite similar to evaporated milk, considering how the water from cow’s milk is removed to produce sweetened condensed milk. The water-removing process leaves behind a liquid that is very dense and creamy.

Although it is a type of milk, it is actually very different from regular varieties in terms of taste, texture, and consistency. It tastes very sweet and has a darker color and thick and creamy texture and consistency.

Another difference between evaporated and sweetened condensed milk is that the latter has sugar added to it as a preservative in order to increase its shelf life. While it contains some proportion of naturally-occurring sugars in the milk, more sugar is added during the processing. 

Due to its ultra-sweet taste and super-rich consistency, this milk is usually added to sweet dishes and beverages rather than drunk on its own.

Oat Milk

Fresh Oat Milk with Oats

Oat milk is a blend of water and steel-cut, rolled, or whole oats. The mixture is carefully strained to create plant-based milk. The straining process results in slightly thin milk, making it a great option for coffee and pancakes.

Oats contain a large number of beta-glucans and soluble fiber, which makes oat milk an excellent drink for your immune system and metabolism. It has a mild flavor with subtle hints of sweetness, along with a watery consistency.

Oat milk is great for people with specific dietary restrictions because it is not only vegan and lactose-free, but it is also soy and nut-free. The presence of beta-glucans makes the milk good for cardiovascular health. It is also rich in calcium and vitamin D, making it highly beneficial for strong, healthy bones and a lower risk of osteoporosis.

Goat Milk

Girl Drinking Goat Milk

Many people find it hard to digest cow milk which has high lactose content and also consists of a large number of allergens. Goat milk is an excellent nutrient-rich alternative.

Goat milk is loaded with essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals and is rich in medium-chain fatty acids. It is easily digestible, easy on the gut, and also less inflammatory compared to cow milk.

One of the most important benefits of goat milk is that it has therapeutic benefits for heart health, where its fatty acids help lower cholesterol levels in the body and may even help treat conditions like coronary heart disease.

Hemp Milk

A Jug of Hemp Milk with Scattered Hemp Seeds

For anyone looking for a healthier alternative to cow milk, hemp milk is an ideal option. It is excellent vegan-based milk that is produced by crushing and soaking hemp seeds in water. The mixture is then thoroughly blended, resulting in milk that has a rich, creamy consistency along with an earthy, nutty flavor.

The consumption of hemp milk has always been associated with a lot of controversial statements, considering how the hemp plant is also used to produce marijuana. However, hemp seeds do not contain any THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), so there is no way that hemp milk can produce mind-altering effects.

On the contrary, hemp milk is an excellent source of calcium, iron, protein, potassium, manganese, vitamins, and zinc. All these essential nutrients and components allow hemp milk to deliver a plethora of health benefits, including improved cognition, enhanced heart health, excellent skin, improved bone density, and a strong immune system, to name a few.

Coconut Milk

A Glass of Fresh Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is one of those milk varieties that have gained significant popularity in recent times. It is a tastier alternative to cow milk with an incredibly thick and creamy texture.

Coconut milk is taken from the white flesh of mature brown coconuts and is completely different from coconut water. It is available in both thick and thin consistencies.

Thick coconut milk is prepared by simmering or boiling finely grated solid coconut flesh in water, after which the mixture is strained through a cheesecloth, resulting in fine and thick coconut milk. On the other hand, thin coconut milk is made from grated coconut flesh that remains behind in the cheesecloth after preparing thick coconut milk. It is simmered or boiled the same way till you get a thin, water-like consistency.

Coconut milk is packed with several essential nutrients, including calcium, fiber, vitamins, copper, potassium, selenium, and manganese. Some of the most popular benefits of coconut milk include weight loss, improved heart health, and an enhanced immune system.

Types of Cow Milk

Jug and Glass with Fresh Cow Milk

This is one of the most popularly-consumed types of milk that comes from the mammary glands of cows. In many parts of the world, cow milk is the primary form of animal milk consumed by most people. The main reason behind its popularity is its rich nutritional profile and a multitude of health benefits.

Cow milk is rich in protein which means it consists of all the essential amino acids required by the body to manufacture proteins. It is loaded with vitamin B12 – a vitamin that is vital for healthy brain function as well as for a strong nervous system. The high content of calcium in cow milk makes it exceptionally beneficial for maintaining strong bones, muscles, and teeth.

On the downside, though, it is high in saturated fat content and also contains high lactose, which means it is not meant for lactose-intolerant people.

Cow’s milk comes in almost all the varieties listed above: raw, whole, skim, 2%, condensed, flavored, etc…

Buffalo Milk

Warm Buffalo Milk in a Glass Cup

Buffalo milk is possibly the least popular variety or type of milk due to its extremely high fat content and the overload of calories. However, it does contain a fair share of health benefits and essential nutrients that help the body in numerous ways.

Milk comes from the mammary gland of a buffalo and is also a key component of a healthy diet in various parts of the world, including India and other regions of Asia. 

Buffalo milk consists of large amounts of iron, calcium, phosphorus, protein, and vitamin A, which boost your immune system, stimulate growth and development in the body, improve circulation and also regulate blood pressure.

Now that you are aware of so many different types of milk, it is time to stock your refrigerator with your favorite pick because, if anything, milk paves the way toward a healthy body and a strong immune system.

Best Type of Milk for Various Recipes

Best Type of Milk for Coffee

Milk being poured in a cup of coffee.

In order to get the full taste of your coffee, it is best to use full-fat milk to get that creamy flavor that you want. This may not be the healthiest option, so if you want to reduce calories and still get a creamy taste, opt for 2%. 

Best Type of Milk for Cereal

Hands holding a bowl of cereal.

Cereal works best with whole milk. When it is designed by different cereal brand companies, this is the standard milk used because it is the most popular. If this milk is too thick or has too many calories, 1% milk is another option. 

Best Type of Milk for Chia Pudding

Chia pudding with berries.

When making Chia pudding, you want to gel your seeds in 2% milk so that they thicken but do not get too thick during the process. For healthier options or dairy-free, almond milk makes a great second option. 

Best Type of Milk for Cheesemaking

Flour, eggs, and milk over a wooden table.

In order to get the most cheese and the creamiest taste, you want to use pasteurized whole milk for your cheese. You can get great quality cheese, however, with 2% or 1% milk. Avoid fat-free milk because it does not hold up the consistency. 

Best Type of Milk for Cappuccino

A cup of coffee with coffee beans on the side.

A good cappuccino is all about foam. In order to achieve the best smoothness and creaminess that makes the drink, you need whole milk for your cappuccino. You may be able to use 2% if you really want to cut out some fat, but you will not get the same smoothness, and the foam will lose its form quickly. 

Best Type of Milk for Chai Latte

Chai latte with cinnamon rolls on the side.

In order to create the richness of the popular chai latte, you need whole milk to bring together all of the flavors in the latte. Any other milk type will not benefit the chai latte. 

Best Type of Milk for Tea

A cup of tea being poured with milk.

If you like to add milk to your tea, you do not want it to be too thick, so 2% milk works fine as long as it is pasteurized cow’s milk. This is especially true if you are using a strong tea and do not want to cut the flavor.

Best Type of Milk for French Toast

Making a French toast

Whole milk is a requirement when making French toast. This dish needs a creamy flavor added to the toast and keeps that flavor. Also, any milk less than whole milk is too thin for the bread slices, and they will start to rip apart before you can start cooking them. 

Best Type of Milk for Ice Cream

Scoops of Vanilla ice cream on a white plate.

In order to have thick and smooth ice cream, you need full-fat milk. This milk is the thickest and the best when it comes to forming ice cream and giving it that desired consistency. The thinner the ice cream used, the thinner the ice cream. 

Best Type of Milk for Kefir

Kefir with a pitcher of milk.

When you are making kefir, it should be whole milk that is used coming from either a goat or a cow. The most important thing about this milk is that it is organic and full of nutrients. You do not want any milk substitutes in Kefir because it will not thicken properly.

Best Type of Milk for Keto

If you are making anything keto, almond milk is your friend. You are staying in keto compliance with almond milk, avoiding all dairy aspects, and having minimal carbohydrates. 

Best Type of Milk for Latte

Man making a latte.

The composition of a latte requires a thickening agent to take the drink together. This is where whole milk comes in and is the only milk option for this drink. 

Best Type of Milk for Milkshakes

Chocolate and strawberry milkshakes

Milkshakes are meant to be creamy and flavorful, so make sure you add whole milk to them. You want milkshakes to be thick, and whole milk guarantees that consistency. 

Best Type of Milk for Protein Shakes

Protein shakes with powder

Most protein shakes are made with fat-free milk to keep them healthy and reduce the number of calories. Also, fat-free milk is thinner than other milk options, which is great for thick and heavy protein, giving it a necessary balance. 

Best Type of Milk for Pancakes

A plate of pancake on a wooden tray.

Whole milk all the way for your pancakes. Like French Toast, pancakes need a batter that is thick so that they hold together. 

Best Type of Milk for Smoothies

Smoothies in different fruit flavors

Because smoothies are meant to be a healthy snack, fat-free milk works great. It takes the flavor of the fruit and/or protein that you are using while giving a creamy texture. 

Best Type of Milk for Steaming/Frothing

Steam frothing milk from a coffee machine.

In order to get the full effect of a steamed drink or froth in your coffee, you want to use full-fat milk. This allows the froth to hold its shape, lasting for the drink and giving you that full cream flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are milk cartons recyclable?

Milk cartons are recyclable. Most are made from a biodegradable material that is perfect for recycling. You can include milk cartons in your recycling bin at home without any issues. There are two main types of milk cartons. Plastic milk cartons are larger and come with a handle.

Due to the type of plastic, it’s especially important that we recycle these as opposed to throwing them away. Paper milk cartons are smaller and easily collapse into a thin sheet. Keep in mind that this type of paper isn’t the same as printer paper; it’s closer to cardboard with strong fibers. Either way, you can recycle these milk cartons, and even bring them in for a monetary reward in some locations.

What is skim milk?

Skim milk is a variety of milk where all the fat has been removed. It is considered to be the healthiest version of milk that contains the least calories. Even after removal, roughly 0.1% of the fat remains, but this is still a low enough percentage to be labeled as skim milk.

Skim milk generally costs the same as other types of milk, although it is occasionally a few cents more due to the removal process. When searching for skim milk, you can often identify it by a distinctive pink cap or label.

How many calories in milk?

One cup of 2% milk has roughly 124 calories. A cup of whole milk has about 148 calories, and a cup of skim milk has about 83 calories.

What is homogenized milk?

Homogenized milk has been treated at a factory to remove any inconsistencies. Machines pound fat molecules into smaller particles, evening out the texture and making it resist separation. The milk has a smooth, silky taste, which is perfect for drinking as opposed to baking. When all is said and done, you can use homogenized milk and other varieties of milk for similar purposes.

If you have a young child who is resistant to drinking milk, try homogenized milk, which may be easier on his or her taste buds. Because the milk has been refined, a little goes a long way.

Homogenized milk is slightly more concentrated in nutrients and vitamins than regular milk. Again, if you’re averse to drinking a whole cup of milk, homogenized milk could be a good alternative for you.

What is half and half milk?

Contrary to popular belief, half and half milk isn’t two kinds of milk. It’s simply regular milk with an additive such as corn syrup to thicken it. Half and half isn’t typically consumed on its own; the milk is very popular in baking goods and kitchens.

Because it is on the thicker side, the milk settles quite nicely and won’t disturb the rest of your ingredients. Not all half and half milk is the same, as other high fructose thickeners can be substituted for corn syrup. 

How many cups of milk are in a gallon?

There are 16 cups of milk in one gallon. 

What is raw milk?

Raw milk is unpasteurized milk that has not been heated to kill harmful bacteria. There is a lot of discussion about the safety of raw milk and whether it should be served on a regular basis. Raw milk is less expensive to produce because it does not require any special treatments or packaging methods. In general, you won’t be able to find raw milk in the dairy aisle of your grocery store.

If you do want to purchase raw milk, it’s best to go to a supplier or a warehouse that sells raw animal products. Remember, this is the reason milk is served chilled; at room temperature, bacteria multiplies and becomes hazardous to humans.

What is the pH of milk?

The pH of milk is usually around 6.6. Mild gets its acidic nature from lactic acid. For other milk aside from cow milk, pH can range from 6.3 to 7.0 depending on the diet of the animal and how fresh the milk is. Other factors that can alter milk’s acidity are treatment methods at a factory, its fat percentage, and whether it’s been malted or supplemented with additives.

What percent of the fat is whole milk?

Whole milk is 3.25% fat. However, this percentage can vary slightly based on the manufacturer, region of production, and how thoroughly the milk has been purified of bacteria. Typically, this range consists of anywhere from 3% to 3.5% fat. Because whole milk is often processed in large batches, the percentages average out, and the end result is usually very close to 3.25%.

What is malted milk?

Malted milk is a type of gruel made from malted barley and evaporated whole milk. It comes in powdered form and is a common ingredient in other dairy products. In cooking, malted milk is used to help the dough rise without forming an overly hard texture. While malted milk can be consumed alone, it’s typically an additive that gives smoothies and shakes a distinct flavor.

How much does a gallon of milk weigh?

A gallon of milk weighs about 8.6 pounds. As mentioned above, this can vary a little bit, as skim milk is slightly lighter and whole milk is slightly heavier.

How much calcium is in milk?

A cup of milk has about 300mg of calcium. When milk is used for baking, it becomes slightly less dense in calcium due to the heat. 

How many flavors of milk are there

The most popular flavors of flavored milk are chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and banana. But there are endless flavors and creations that you can come up with.

Which kind of milk has the most calcium

Cows and goat’s milk have the most calcium. Low-fat and skim milk has the most calcium per cup. And if you can’t have dairy, almond, hemp, and fortified milk, alternatives can help you meet your daily calcium intake.

What is the thickest milk?

Evaporated milk, condensed milk, and coconut milk are among the thickest types of milk.