Coffee creamers come in a wide variety of flavors and styles, but at the end of the day, they come in two basic types: dairy and non-dairy.
So, if non-dairy creamers don't have dairy in them—and I've heard that they don’t—what do they have in them?
Well, the answer to that question is a little bit complicated.
My aim with this article is to avoid it being a basic "Look at all these ingredients you can't even pronounce!" piece, as well as to avoid implying that "drinking stabilizers and emulsifiers is fun and good, actually."
So, what exactly is in non-dairy coffee creamer?
The Carrageenan (Thickening Agent) Thickens
Truth is, I didn't know the answer until I started researching. I always assumed that since there was no dairy listed in the ingredients, it meant that the creamer was made with some kind of plant-based milk.
Turns out, that ain't it.
Non-dairy creamers are usually made from a combination of plant-based oils, water, and sugar. However, some non-dairy creamers also contain other ingredients like emulsifiers and stabilizers to help give them a creamier texture and taste.
Here's a quick rundown of some of the most common ingredients you’ll see on the label:
Vegetable oils: This is the most common ingredient in non-dairy creamers. The vegetable oil (i.e. soybean oil) is used to create the creamy texture.
Emulsifiers: Emulsifiers (i.e. monoglycerides and diglycerides) help to keep the creamer from separating. While those words certainly look like things you can't even pronounce (unless you try) there doesn't seem to be a ton of scientific evidence that these are harmful, while there's actually some evidence that some of them might have health benefits. Hey I'm with you, I didn't expect that one either.
Stabilizers: Stabilizers, like sodium caseinate, help to keep the creamer from separating. Sodium caseinate is derived from cow's milk, oddly enough. Some people have casein allergies, and should avoid it.
Carrageenan: Carrageenan is a thickener and emulsifier that is derived from red algae. Some people avoid carrageenan because of concerns about its safety. I don't, but hey, maybe I should.
Corn syrup: Corn syrup solids are used to sweeten, it's basically just sugar.
So, while non-dairy creamers may not technically have any dairy in them, they still might not be the best choice for those who are looking to avoid all animal-based products.
However, for those who are just looking for a dairy-free option, non-dairy creamers can make sense. Just be sure to check the ingredients list to make sure that you're getting a product that meets your needs.
A few years ago, if you had told me that non-dairy creamers were just like putting oil into your cup of coffee, I'd have said "gross" and walked away. But now with things like bulletproof coffee, MCT/coconut oil, and so on, it doesn't sound as outlandish.
Ah, pre-2020, back when you would worry about stuff like vegetable oil in your creamer.
Still, I think it's important to be aware of what you’re consuming when you drink your coffee—otherwise you end up with stuff with names like “Java Monster” in your pantry.
(P.S. For a healthier alternative, check out this ready to drink cold brew made of *drumroll* cold brewed coffee—optionally with a little natural cane sugar.)
Cold Brew Ready To Drink Coffee
GRAB A CAN, GET EXTREME This is not iced coffee. This is Extreme Caffeine Coffee, brewed for 14 hours over cold spring water to produce an all- natural, deliciously electrifying, 210mg caffeine kick. Smooth yet strong tastes of caramel, nuts,… read more