Milking it: plant-based dairy alternatives

20th August 2020 | Eativity editors

This Saturday, August 22, is World Plant Milk Day. Yep, plant milks are so big now, they even get their own special day. Plant-based milk products have been on the rise for some time, and these days the scope goes so far beyond soy and almond milk. You can now get oat, coconut, cashew, pea, hemp, macadamia, rice, avocado, sesame and peanut milk… which is sure to make your local barista’s life that much more complicated.

But plant milks aren’t just handy for the lactose intolerant and lovers of complicated coffee orders. With more of us looking to embrace a plant-based lifestyle, these milks allow people to still enjoy the many pleasures that milk can offer – from baking and cooking to shakes and creamy cocktails – without the need to use dairy.

“Numerous studies have shown that a wholefood, plant-based diet is best for optimum health, and it’s also the single biggest chance we have in the fight against climate change,” says Greg Steltenpohl, CEO of Califia Farms, which makes a range of plant-based milks.

“Plant milks require much less water and land to produce than dairy milk, and given there are so many different delicious plant milks to choose from now, it really is easy for people to try dairy-free alternatives.”

To help you celebrate World Plant Milk Day like a boss, we bring you this recipe for a hearty and warming lentil shepherd’s pie with a creamy but dairy-free vanilla mash, courtesy of Califia Farms and Vegan By Eden’s Eden Gokkaya.

“A hint of vanilla adds such an amazing flavour to a classic mashed potato, and to do this I added Califia Farms’ unsweetened vanilla almond milk,” says Gokkaya. “They’re velvety, creamy and will melt in your mouth.

“I love the fragrant aroma of the vanilla almond milk, and when added to mashed potatoes, it can take your lentil shepherd’s pie to the next level. This dish can be enjoyed all year, but is especially perfect in winter.”

No shepherds were harmed in the making of this dish.

Lentil shepherd’s pie with vanilla mash

You’ll need:

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can lentils
1 carrot
½ cup frozen peas
1 cup vegie stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp oregano
Salt and pepper

For the mashed potato:

4 large potatoes
1 cup Califia Farms unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 tbsp plant-based butter
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add chopped potatoes, boil until soft and tender.
2. While boiling the potatoes, in a separate pan heat the olive oil at a medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant.
3. Add the chopped carrot and peas and cook for a further 4 to 5 minutes to soften the vegies. Add the drained lentils, the tomato paste and vegie stock. Stir together.
4. Season with the oregano, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to a low and cook for a further 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
5. Once the potatoes are very soft, drain and transfer to a bowl. Mash the potatoes to break them down. Add the vanilla almond milk, plant-based butter, nutritional yeast and salt and pepper. Stir together until the potatoes are very creamy.
6. Transfer lentil mix into an oven-safe baking tray, smooth top with the back of a spoon.
7. Add mashed potatoes on top and smooth the top. Brush top with extra butter or olive oil, bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, switch to grilling for a further 5 to 10 minutes until the top starts to turn a golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm.