When you walk into a Starbucks café, their menu of tiny, white, foreign-sounding words can be very overwhelming, especially when you have a food allergy. No need to worry — I have a clear-cut system to help anyone who follows a dairy-free diet, whether by force or choice. Follow this Starbucks dairy-free guide and enjoy drinking coffee again.
As most would assume, the easiest way to avoid dairy is to order a simple black coffee or any kind of tea, either iced or hot. But I know that everyone craves a latte every once in a while. Luckily, Starbucks' menu is actually easy to navigate even with a dairy-free diet. There are three different options of alternative milks at most Starbucks across the country: soy, coconut, and as of recently, almond milk.
1. Skip the soy milk
In my experience, soy milk is not the best option for dairy-free milk. Soy milk, especially in the vanilla flavor, is thicker and sweeter than regular milk. The one time I ordered a vanilla latte with soy milk, I actually felt sick after drinking it as if I had just eaten a rich dessert. I've experienced regular lattes before I became allergic to dairy, so this alternative drink was traumatizing. Yes, lattes are supposed to be creamy, but not this thick to the taste.
I've also ordered a pumpkin spice latte with soy milk, which gave me the same unpleasant reaction. Not only is soy milk too sweet, it tends to hurt my stomach. Some of my friends have mentioned similar symptoms that pop up after drinking soy milk, which led me to do some research. I found out that it was in fact the milk that caused the pains in our stomachs because soy sensitivities are fairly common and appear through symptoms of sharp stomach pains.
The gist of it: I do not recommend using soy milk as a replacement to regular milk because I felt like I was drinking ice cream instead of coffee, and to top it all off, it made my stomach hurt.
2. Go for the coconut milk
Instead of soy milk, try asking for coconut milk. Coconut milk is slightly more watery in its consistency, so I find that it mixes better naturally in a latte. I personally love coconuts and all coconut-flavored things, but the milk itself does not have a very potent coconut flavor, especially when mixed with strong Starbucks coffee. So for those of you who may not like coconut as much as I do, try it before you form your opinion.
Not only does coconut milk taste better (in my opinion), but it is actually much healthier than the soy milk at Starbucks. On their website, Starbucks put a caloric milk calculator where you can see which type of milk is the healthiest in each drink they have on their menu. Just soy milk in a tall cup over ice is 210 calories, whereas the same serving of coconut milk is only 130 calories. This also goes for sugar content with soy having 21g and coconut only having 13g.
3. Know when to get the almond milk
If you are not a fan of coconut milk or soy milk, there's also the new option of almond milk at Starbucks (for those of you who are not allergic to nuts). I tried it in my go-to drink, a pumpkin spice latte, but I found that the flavors did not mix well. I also discovered that almond milk is the most watery of all of Starbucks' alternative milks, which made my coffee taste funky. But some people do enjoy the mixture of almonds and coffee, so try it to see what your taste palate says.
The best part about almond milk is that it is the best choice health-wise with only 100 calories and 6g of sugar in a tall Starbucks cup. If you want to drink a light and low-calorie latte, this is the milk to add.
4. Order Frappuccinos with no whip and no milk
However, this is probably the best opportunity to use soy milk, because this drink resembles ice cream, so the sweetness and the thickness would work in favor of the Frappuccino's taste. I would suggest staying away from the healthy option of almond milk here because it is just too watery for this creamy and icy beverage.
Don't forget that Frappuccinos come with whipped cream on top. Tell them no, thank you, and after this you should be able to enjoy a dairy-free Frappuccino.
5. Skip the protein smoothies
6. Enjoy the dairy-free munchies
Lastly, after you order your dairy-free coffee or cold beverage, you will probably look at the pastry display. I know I'm always hungry for a quick snack or dessert to go with my Starbucks drink. But sadly, a dairy-free diet means no cookies with icing or buttery croissants that look extra delicious in that display case. Have no fear, I did research on every Starbucks pastry to outline the dairy-free guide to eating at Starbucks as well.
One of the most surprising dairy-free treats at Starbucks is pumpkin bread. This pumpkin bread contains simple ingredients like oil, pumpkin, and flour. Even their banana bread and pumpkin muffins contain milk ingredients, so I honestly could not believe that dairy-free folks can enjoy this fall treat just like everyone else.
Some other great bread alternatives to pumpkin bread include their 8 grain roll, cinnamon raisin bagel, plain bagel, and multigrain bagel. While dairy-free bagels aren't too much of a shock, it is nice that Starbucks offers so many different flavors. This is a great option to pair with morning coffee for breakfast.
Starbucks' chewy chocolate cookie also contains no dairy ingredients, which is unheard-of for someone with a dairy allergy. The chocolate is not made with milk, but with cocoa butter and chocolate liquor. If you are in the mood for a dessert when you are near a Starbucks, this is a great dairy-free option.
To me, this is all really surprising and impressive. Starbucks really makes an effort to provide dairy-free drinks and food for its customers. They do, however, state that with products like the pumpkin bread, "We cannot guarantee that any of our products are free from allergens (including dairy, eggs, soy, tree nuts, wheat and others) as we use shared equipment to store, prepare and serve them." So beware if you have an allergy, especially to dairy, that will affect you even through traces or ingredient contact.
If you are lactose intolerant, allergic when ingesting the actual product, or on a dairy-free diet, Starbucks has options available for you that taste just as delicious as products with dairy. I say thank you, Starbucks, for being one of the few chain restaurants to step up to the issue of accessibility for dairy-free dining.