Is Pea Protein Milk Healthy? Benefits, Nutrition & A Recipe
Nondairy, plant-based milks have become increasingly popular in the past few years. Though oat milk and almond milk are arguably the most common, pea protein milk may be the most beneficial. To find out for sure, mbg consulted nutrition experts to learn how pea protein milk is made, the nutritional values and benefits of it, plus how to use it.
What is pea protein milk?
Pea milk, or pea protein milk, is a plant-based, soy-free alternative to dairy milk. Similar to oat milk, macadamia milk, or almond milk, it's made by blending peas and water together, then straining out the excess liquid.
While soft green peas may come to mind, this beverage actually requires dried yellow split peas—the same ingredient used to make pea protein powder.
There aren't many brands on the market yet, but Ripple and Bolthouse Farms are two options for anyone looking to purchase pea protein milk. Otherwise, with just a little bit of patience and the right materials, making pea protein milk at home is totally doable (more on that below).
Is pea protein milk good for you?
In a minimally processed, unsweetened form, pea protein milk is nutritious. That said, "It's important to remember that not all pea protein milks are created equal," says culinary and integrative dietitian Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, L.D. "Be sure to check the ingredient list for added sugars and other ingredients."
Pea protein milk is generally fortified in vitamins A, D, calcium, and phosphate. These will show up on the end of the ingredient list, and are healthy additions to the product, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics Julie Stefanski, MEd, RDN, tells us.
The USDA hasn't created standard nutrition information for pea milk. As an example of the nutrition breakdown, here's what you'll find in one cup of Ripple unsweetened pea protein milk.
Pea Protein Milk Nutrition
- Calories: 70
- Fat: 4.5 g
- Sodium: 110 mg
- Carbohydrates: <1 g
- Sugar: 0 g
- Fiber: <1 g
- Protein: 8 g
- Calcium: 465 mg
How does it compare to cow's milk or other nondairy milks?
Pea protein milk is higher in protein than most plant-based milks, Moore tells us. Oat, almond, and macadamia milks each have about 2 grams of protein, while pea milk has 8 grams. "This protein level is comparable to that in dairy milk and may help boost satiety when used in smoothies and other recipes," Moore adds.
Compared to cow's milk, pea protein milk does come up short on one amino acid. However, Stefanski says, "As long as you have a balanced diet, that's not a major problem."
No plant-based beverages are naturally high in calcium, Stefanski says. Many of them are fortified, though, which makes calcium levels similar across most plant-based and dairy milks.
What are the benefits of pea protein milk?
Unlike most plant-based alternatives, pea protein milk is much more allergy-friendly. It's an excellent option for anyone with a nut, soy, or dairy allergy, Moore explains.
It's also uniquely high in iron, compared to other alt-milks. "Iron deficiency is really the biggest nutrient deficiency we see in kids," Stefanski says, "especially for teenage athletes and teenage girls."
This is also beneficial for anyone following a plant-based diet, who may not be getting iron from red meat. "Iron that's in plants is not absorbed as easily as iron from animal sources," Stefanski explains. "That's why it's important to be getting iron from multiple food sources."
How to make pea protein milk.
Making homemade pea milk is an easy way to avoid unwanted additives, like excess sugars. It also allows you to personalize the flavor based on preference, like in the pea milk recipe below. The recipe was developed by Roxy Pope and Ben Pook, creators of the So Vegan blog and upcoming cookbook One-Pot Vegan. It uses dates, vanilla, and salt to enhance the flavor, but those ingredients are optional.
Not optional, however, is the addition of oil, which, according to the blog post, emulsifies the milk and prevents it from separating.
- 1 cup dry yellow split peas
- 2 tbsp. sunflower oil (or other vegetable oil)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 2 Medjool dates (pits removed)
- Add the split peas to a bowl and cover with 3 cups of water, then soak for 8 hours or overnight.
- Drain, rinse the split peas. Add to a pot with 3 cups of water. Boil, then simmer until the lentils are soft (about 45 minutes to an hour).
- Drain, then add to blender with 3.5 cups of water, oil, vanilla, salt, and dates. Blend until smooth.
- Pour into a nut milk bag or muslin cloth, then squeeze milk out into a bowl. Transfer liquid to airtight container, and refrigerate up to four days.
Or learn how to make it by watching the So Vegan Instagram video:
How can you use pea protein milk?
Because of its creamy and rich texture, Moore says pea protein milk lends itself well to baking projects and desserts. In terms of taste, Stefanski says it's quite mild and similar to other plant-based beverages.
Unflavored pea protein milk can be used in mashed potatoes, vegan macaroni and cheese, soups, smoothies, oatmeal, or anything that calls for milk.
For anyone who's worried about a pea-like taste, Stefanski suggests easing into it with half pea protein milk and half of another alt-milk. "But I've found that most people don't really notice a change in flavor or other taste attributes," she says.
Pea protein milk is naturally high in nutrients, including protein, fiber, and iron. It's a good option for anyone allergic to soy, dairy, or nuts and following a plant-based diet. While the market options may be more costly than other alt-milks, it can be made at home. Just remember, homemade pea protein milk will lack calcium and other fortified nutrients.
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