The Good Ol' Days

dairy free protein powder

Many of you enjoyed thick and cold milkshakes whether they were strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, or some seldom encountered exotic flavor like mint chocolate chip. Later, as a teen I thrived off of a steady diet of whey and milk protein shakes, hoping to be like Arnie. I now live with dairy intolerance, so it was not long before I went to my kitchen laboratory and began concocting the ultimate dairy-free protein powder shake. Those days are long gone and it has been 5 years since I put any part of a cow anywhere near my lips. What's more is that have a recipe book stuffed with a dozen really healthy protein powder shakes and smoothies.


I still miss those shakes I had as a child, and truth be told, I still wouldn't mind looking a bit more like Gov. Arnie. So I had to figure out what I need to master the arcane art of dairy-free protein powder shakes.

The Basics: Getting to Good

The Basic Essential Equipment:

I have a set of good knives to chop my fruit and veggies, as well as a set of measuring cups. Don't assume that the tup of protein you buy will have an all-purpose scoop. Finally, you will need a food processor, hand mixer, or blender. I use an easy clean, shatter-resistant blender. If you want more info and product reviews on it, here is my 5 speed polycarbonate blender with a good motor and a blade that won't break, bend or dull.  Remember, You will be putting carrots and ice cubes in it.  A blender will have the best capacity for the smoothie/ shake mix the good ones won't leave half-chopped veggies or ice at the bottom. You want a quick even mix.

Since we are talking about dairy-free protein powder shakes and smoothies in this article I expect that some of you out there in readerland may wonder about one of the four most commonly raised questions:

  • Where does all the protein come from if I can't use dairy?
  • Doesn't dairy-free (DF) really mean creamy free?
  • Just how bad will it taste...really?
  • Are they more difficult to make by myself?

I won't lie to you. I made many bad tasting DF protein shakes fit only for the drain before I figured out some key ingredient mixes and basics. I was determined to avoid the alternative, though. On that note, I encourage you to really mess around once you do figure out a few basics. I will suggest a couple of recipies at the end of this article, but I think shakes are an art form. Use what you have, see if you can make it work... up to a point. You may surprise yourself.

Dairy-free Protein Powders

Introduction and Animal-based Powders

Let me begin this section by noting that I am both gluten-free and DF. I will briefly note several ingredients that I cannot tolerate for completeness, although I do not think there is any wheat or barley-based ingredient that is overly useful. Also, while I do not consider myself a vegan, all my shakes are vegan. Again, I will note one or two common ingredients that are animal-based for the sake of competeness.

Note that not all protein powders are created equal. Ok, this is the one semi-technical bit. Here are the two factors that are used to grade the quality of a protein in terms of human consumption:

  1. PDCAA: protein digestibility corrected amino acid score.
  2. BV: Biological value.

PDCAA is scored out of 1.0 and BV is scored out of 100. Egg and some soy dairy-free protein powders score perfect on both of these. Bodybuilders will go much more in depth into this topic. Essentially, key "take away" is that one shake with 25g of protein may completely different from another protein shake, both in terms of basic nutrition, and also in terms of how well your body can utilize that protein to build muscle.

Animal-based dairy-free protein powders:

  • egg albumen powder (egg white)
  • Hydrolized animal protein
  • Egg yoke/ whole egg powder
  • animal powder (*usually* used for animal feed)

Vegan Protein Powders

Based on the an evaluation using the PDCAA and BV scores the best vegan protein powder is soy protein isolate powder. Some readers may find my special notice of this dairy-free protein powder problematic. Let me note that I do use it occasionally, but it is not a staple of my day to day shakes. Pro- and Anti- soy camps have sprung up all over the internet. I do notice a negative side effects in terms of hormone disruption when using more than very moderate amounts of soy. I do however, find it to be a very valuable, high quality protein that can be a useful addition to a rich and varied shake recipe book.

Dairy-free Protein Powders (animal-protein free list)

I always hesitate to entitle a list as vegan since there may be a range of animal traces or animal harming processes used by certain brands of these powders. I would not want to presume.

  • brown rice protein (this is my staple)
  • soy protein isolate
  • pea protein
  • ground hemp (gaining in popularity)
  • ground flax (note that you need to grind it the get the maximum benefits so I think it is key to include it as a powder, not as a seed.). It also contains about 22% protein so shouldn't be overlooked.
  • Wheat gluten (obviously not gluten-free)

The Mix I

Some Like It Cold

Once you have one or more dairy-free protein powders in mind with enough grams per tasty glass, then you can get together the other ingredients.

Here are four easy cream bases that I like:

  • Soy, rice, coconut DF ice cream
  • Soy yogurt
  • Banana
  • soy pudding

Feel free to experiment and combine these. You can choose milkshake style if you add a scoop or two of your chosen dairy-free protein powder and mix it with coconut DF ice cream, for example. Or you could do fruit smoothie style instead.

The Mix II

Udderly Dairy-free liquid

Usually, I will add a DF liquid to the mix, which I will have in a blender at this point (or container that works will with a hand mixer). Here are a few options:

  • Rice milk
  • Soy milk (I recommend some research on this one, though. Also some taste great, while some taste like beans... but this is not a product review article, so no plugs. Email me for tips!)
  • Coconut milk (how about a fresh one:)
  • Hemp milk
  • Almond milk
  • Water

The Mix III

Taste and Nutrition

Sometimes you will want a quick and easy shake with dairy-free protein power and rice milk, right after a work out. Other times you may be thinking about healthy dessert, perhaps. On that note, I usually add fruit as well. Oh, and yes, veggies are in! Here are some quick combos that don't need a juicer to make:

  • banana + carob
  • kiwi + pear
  • orange + banana
  • spinach + apple  (use a blender not a hand mixer!)
  • carrot + spinach + kiwi (blender again)
  • berrie mix!
  • peach + nectarine + kiwi
  • Experiment!

The Mix IV

Bonus Ingredients

Totally optional and only just scratching the surface.

  • Mint/ peppermint extract
  • Maple syrup
  • Fruit jelly
  • DF chocolate chips (for those thick ice cream shakes)
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg
  • other random foods or ingredients that look like they could fit (sometimes you never know:).

Bonus Recipes

The Berry Basic

  • one scoop of rice protein (30 g)
  • one scoop of hemp protein
  • four strawberries
  • two cups of rice milk
  • four ice cubes

Directions: You can't mess this one up. In blender, then in mouth;)


Freshess Explosion

  • 2 scoops of rice protein
  • one cup of vanilla soy yogurt
  • half a cup of almond milk
  • a teaspoon of mint extract
  • Ten fresh rasberries
  • three ice cubes

Directions: put it all in the blender and course blend it  for a couple seconds. For best results put in freezer for a half hour before eating.

Dinner on the Run

  • one scoop soy isolate protein
  • one scoop dairy-free protein powder (your choice)
  • half a cup water
  • one cup rice milk
  • one medium carrot
  • one apple
  • three leaves of spinach
  • one tablespoon of real Canadian maple syrup.


I hope you enjoyed this article. I pulled these recipes out of a book that includes a whole chapter on dairy free protein powder shakes and smoothies. All are my creations and I usually tinker with them, so feel free to mess around with them to meet your tastes.

There are hundreds of other ingredients I could have added and feel free to add more fruit or dairy-free protein powder if you have a certain amount you eat each day. I may edit this article in the future to include some protein-related side effects (mostly from the soy proteins), but for now I leave you with the goods such as they are. Let me know if you have any questions!