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|Powdered Milk||Score||Weight per 8 oz Serving||Cal/oz|
|Best Tasting: Carnation NonFat Dry Milk||
|Runner-Up: Peak Full Cream Instant Milk Powder||
|Honorable Mention: Nido Powdered Milk||
|Best Milk Alternative: Z Natural Foods Coconut Milk Powder||
|Hoosier Hill Farm Whole Milk Powder||
|Meyenberg Whole Powdered Goat Milk||
|Milkman Instant Lowfat Dry Milk||
|Better Than Milk Vegan Soy Powder||
After subjecting 5 people, including myself, to a blind taste test of 8 popular powdered milk brands, the results are clear — Carnation NonFat Dry Milk is the best tasting powdered milk out there.
We’re an outdoor gear site, so we tasted and reviewed these milks with campers and backpackers in mind. Powdered milk is a popular way to add flavor to trail food or instant camp coffee, after all.
However, whether you’re an ultralight hiker or someone who just wants to know which powdered milk tastes best, our results will help you pick the right brand for your needs.
Read on for our reviews.
Best Tasting: Carnation NonFat Dry Milk
Carnation was the clear winner in terms of taste and aftertaste, receiving more 5-star ratings than any other brand. If you’re looking for the best tasting powdered milk brand, this is it.
“Tastes the most like actual milk,” wrote one tester on her comment card. “Rich, sweet, creamy,” wrote another.
The only real downside of this brand is related to backpacking — it has the lowest calories per ounce ratio of any brand we tested.
Overall, we figured taste would be the most important attribute for someone looking for powdered milk. And if that’s the case with you, Carnation is the brand we recommend. However, if you can’t find it or you want a dairy-free option, the other award winners are good alternatives.
Runner-Up: Peak Full Cream Instant Milk Powder
Peak received the second-best rating for taste and tied for the second-best aftertaste. One tester noted it was “creamy,” while another liked its “smooth” texture. It was also one of the easiest brands to mix together.
When would you choose Peak over any of the others?
We’d only recommend it if you already have an affinity for the taste or can find it for a good deal. Its 142 calories per ounce also makes it a solid option — but not the best — in terms of caloric density.
Honorable Mention: Nido Powdered Milk
When researching for this assignment, Nido was the most frequently mentioned brand in forums and other articles on the topic. It seems to be the most popular brand among backpackers.
While Nido averaged a lukewarm 3/5 in both taste and aftertaste, its mixability was among the best and, importantly for backpackers, it has the highest calories per ounce ratio of any cow’s milk brand we tested.
For lightweight backpackers who carry a lot of powdered milk, Nido is a good option. You get decent flavor for the weight.
For non-backpackers, there isn’t any reason we’d recommend this option over Carnation.
Best Milk Alternative: Z Natural Foods Coconut Milk Powder
If you’re lactose-intolerant or don’t like consuming dairy, we recommend Z Natural Foods Coconut Milk Powder. It was the highest-rated alternative milk powder in our tests.
What’s more, this brand would have likely received better ratings had testers known beforehand it was coconut.
One tester, once I revealed that this brand was coconut, admitted that “it tastes better now that I know it’s coconut.” Other testers shared similar sentiments.
It seems our testers were expecting a flavor akin to cow’s milk and — when they didn’t taste that — they were a little grossed out and rated this brand poorly.
This brand is also one of the top options for backpackers from a weight perspective. It packs a staggering 194 calories per ounce since it is mostly fat and contains very little sugar relative to the other brands. If you’re a backpacker who’s looking for a lactose-free option, we highly recommend this stuff.
As for cons, the overall taste was still worse than our two top brands, Carnation and Peak. And this brand was the hardest to mix together.
Reviews of the Other 4 Powdered Milk Brands We Tested
The remaining brands we tested ranged from passable to unpleasant. They didn’t win any awards because they simply didn’t taste as good as the ones listed above.
As such, we don’t recommend any of them, but we’ve briefly reviewed them here for the curious.
“Kind of tastes watery — smells like powdered milk,” wrote one tester. “Dry,” wrote another, though I forgot to ask him what he meant by that…
The Hoosier Hill Farm powdered milk was neither loved nor hated. In fact, it was almost perfectly average. All but one of its ratings for taste and aftertaste were either 2/5 or 3/5. And we rated it a middle-of-the-road 3/5 for mixability.
I can’t think of a scenario in which we’d recommend you go with this brand over any of the ones mentioned above. Bottom line: it’s not terrible, but there are better options out there.
Meyenberg’s powdered goat milk was the most intriguing option on the list for me. I love goat cheese and was excited to see if reconstituted goat milk would be as wonderfully creamy.
Overall, all our testers (including myself) weren’t thrilled with it. It scored 2.6/5 for both taste and aftertaste.
I should note, however, that this brand would have also likely received slightly higher ratings had the testers known beforehand that it was goat milk. One tester wrote down that this brand had a “very strong and distinctive flavor, kinda tastes like sour milk.” Yet when I revealed to him that it was goat milk, he said the flavor made “more sense” because he could place it better.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of powdered goat milk, then by all means go with this option. It does in fact taste like goat’s milk.
But if you’re simply in search of the best flavor or a high calorie per ounce ratio, we don’t recommend it.
Our testers gave Milkman the most 1/5’s for taste and aftertaste of any brand. (The only reason that it didn’t rank dead last was because one tester, interestingly enough, rated it 5/5 for taste and 4/5 for aftertaste.)
Really Extremely unpleasant aftertaste,” wrote one tester. “Couldn’t figure out the flavor but I didn’t like it,” noted another.
Personally, I thought the taste was awful. The aftertaste reminded me of the inside of the foil pouch the powder came in.
We decided to test Better Than Milk’s powdered soy milk after seeing a couple recommendations for it in this forum thread on Backpacking Light. We figured it might make a nice dairy-free alternative.
However, this brand received the worst overall rating for taste of all the brands we tested: 2/5. It had the second-worst aftertaste, too.
“No to the soy milk!” wrote one tester who identified it by its flavor despite not knowing which brand was which. Another tester thought it “tastes like paint smells.” I thought it was passable and gave it a 3/5 for taste — but that was the highest rating of any of our testers. The consensus was that this brand did not taste good.
If you’re a vegan or someone who doesn’t drink cow’s milk, we recommend the powdered coconut milk reviewed above.
Video of Taste Test Results
How to Choose the Best Powdered Milk for Your Needs
Of course, taste will be the most important consideration for most people. We’ve accordingly indicated our ratings for each brand’s taste and aftertaste.
It can be a minor annoyance to have to stir excessively to mix the powder and water together. This is by no means a major consideration unless it’s just a pet peeve of yours — or if you’ll be consuming your powdered milk on the trail and you don’t carry a utensil for whatever reason.
Calories per Ounce
This consideration applies to backpackers only. If you’re buying powdered milk to take into the backcountry, like any other food you take you’ll need to consider the calories per ounce ratio of your powdered milk brand.
Powdered milk in general is calorically dense, but some brands — Peak, Nido, and Z Natural Foods Coconut in particular — are a great mix of taste and caloric density.
How We Tested
This was the fun part.
To keep the results as objective as possible, I recruited 4 testers to participate in blind taste tests. I also tasted the milks myself in a semi-blind way (since I knew which milks were in the running, it was easy for me to pick out the soy, goat, and coconut milks the moment I tasted them, so my tasting wasn’t 100% blind).
The 4 testers I recruited were:
- Kevin, 27, a very occasional car camper and backpacker
- Max, 24, a former NOLS employee and backpacking guide and occasional car camper and backpacker
- Ann, 63, a very occasional day hiker and car camper
- Gardner, 24, an occasional weekend camper and backpacker
How We Conducted the Blind Taste Tests
I performed 3 of these blind taste tests — once with my family members and twice with two different friends. They were conducted in the same way:
1. First, I labeled 8 empty cups or glasses with the numbers 1 through 8.
2. Next, I prepared an 8 oz glass of each brand of powdered milk according to the instructions on the package.
3. Then I prepared some comment cards so testers could record their ratings for the taste and aftertaste of each glass of milk (on a 5-point scale) as well as any additional comments they wanted to include.
4. Then I let the testers have at it and taste the milks to their hearts’ content.
5. Once the testers had tasted all the milks and written down all their ratings and comments, I revealed which milk was which. This was an interesting part of the taste test because almost every tester mentioned how a particular brand — in particular the soy, goat, and coconut ones — tasted better after they learned what it was.
These blind taste tests weren’t very scientific and shouldn’t be treated as such. They were just a fun and informal way to get a number of differing opinions.
The greatest flaw in these taste tests that I didn’t realize until too late was that I didn’t standardize the amount of powder. I followed the instructions on each brand’s package which led to discrepancies since some brand called for 2 tbsp of powder while others called for 1/3 cup.
To account for some of this I told testers to rate the taste not on the strength of flavor but instead on the quality, however mild it may be. I can’t be certain they were able to effectively do that, though.